Pairing Beer and Animal Sightseeing at Lincoln Park Zoo

The Lincoln Park Zoo recently played host to a unique event: a craft beer festival featuring more than 120 beers from more than 40 breweries. The heat did not keep people away, and the zoo was plenty crowded as throngs of bearded beer lovers (plus a healthy number of clean-faced folks) took in the zoo’s attractions while moving from stand to stand. Given the event’s unique setting, here’s a rundown of which animals to look at while enjoying a few of the evening’s brews.

Howdy Neighbor Kolsch from 350 Brewing. Drink while looking at: Flamingos

Credit: Matt Bucher The Howdy Neighbor Kolsch comes in a can as pink as a flamingo (assuming, of course, that the flamingo has a balanced diet). It’s a strawberry lemon Kolsch done in collaboration with Hailstorm Brewing Co. (both in Tinley Park). This citrusy beer reminded me a bit of a Capri Sun, and was perfect for walking around the zoo early on when it was still quite hot outside.

Haz’D Juice New England IPA from BrickStone Brewery. Drink while looking at: Dwarf Crocodiles

Credit: Matt Bucher The dwarf crocodile packs less of a bite than its full-blown cousin. So, too, does the hazy IPA when compared with a standard, more bitter IPA. It’s a smoother, fruitier, and dare I say, safer choice. Credit: Matt Bucher

Heller Bock from Great Central Brewing Company. Drink while looking at: Zebras

For those used to seeing a dark-colored bock (think Shiner Bock), a heller bock presents a different color with a similar body—much like a zebra, which presents a completely different coat, but similar anatomical features, to a horse.

Sungasm Belgian Pale Ale from Finch Brewing Company. Drink while looking at: California Condors

Credit: Matt Bucher Scavengers like the California Condor clean up a predator’s kill. Sungasm, was, for me, a refreshing mid-fest palate cleanser that prepped me for heavier beers ahead. Side note—the pleasant young woman pouring the beer had a field day with people awkwardly deciding whether or not to say “I’ll have a Sungasm.” Credit: Matt Bucher

Why You Trippin’ Belgian Tripel from Will County Brewing Company. Drink while looking at: Giraffes

Why You Trippin’ wins the Let’s Be Careful Out There Award for best combining a high alcohol content (9.2%) with a deceptively smooth taste. It’s a tall order, and best drunk while gazing at the tallest living land animal.

Sire De LaSalle Lager from Tangled Roots Brewing Company.  Drink while looking at: Monkeys

Credit: Matt Bucher This was one of the most surprising beers of the night - a pale lager with a robust, slightly nutty flavor. It was out of the box, yet still enjoyable. Best enjoyed while looking at an animal both fun (and a bit nutty) itself.

Black Currant Kolsch from Greenstar Brewing. Drink while looking at: Penguins

Credit: Matt Bucher This brew from Chicago’s Greenstar Brewing uses black currant in the brewing process to create a truly unique citrus Kolsch. It’s a fun idea that’s best paired with animals who always look like they’re having a blast. Plus, like penguins, I suggest serving cold.

Bleacher Seat Pale Ale from Alter Brewing Company. Drink while looking at: The Nature Boardwalk

Credit: Lincoln Park Zoo This last one, admittedly, is where I must show my bias. Alter set up shop in Downers Grove in 2015, not ten minutes from where I grew up. I was thrilled to have a DG beer that I really enjoyed while at the festival, and feel a local beer is best enjoyed while looking at local flora and fauna. Combining a bit of hop with wheat malt, this beer is surprisingly diverse, much like Chicagoland’s natural ecosystems.
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Nicholas Blashill

Nick Blashill is a native of Downers Grove who has recently returned to the Chicago area. By day he works in market research, but he is looking forward to sharing the experiences with Chicago’s craft beer and music scenes that fill his free time.