Your Ultimate Guide To The 2016 Pastoral Artisan Producer Festival

April 27th, 2016

Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine’s sixth-annual Artisan Producer Festival is Saturday, April 30, at the Chicago French Market. This awesome event features a huge lineup of cheesemakers, charcuterie producers, gourmet food makers, wineries, distilleries and more. If you’ve never attended, this year’s event promises to be cheesier than ever. But it can be overwhelming!

Years of attendance and extensive, um, journalistic research have laid the foundation for this guide. But to get a full rundown on this year’s beverage offerings at the festival, I consulted with Pastoral’s beverage buyer & educator Mark Wrobel over a glass of wine at Pastoral’s new Andersonville restaurant, Appellation, and got all the great tips and details I needed.

1) Get there early.

Lines at the APF are long, no matter what time you show up to Ogilvie with your drinking shoes on. Add to that—surprise!—the NFL Draft, which also happens to be taking over downtown April 28 to 30. That means Ogilvie will be crawling with the suburbs’ finest football fans leaving their Metra trains and heading east toward “Draft Town” in Grant Park. Plus, vendors do occasionally run out of samples, so if there’s anything you’re dying to try, make sure you arrive early — and visit them first.

2) See everything.

Don’t forget to cruise both vendor areas at the festival. You’ll see the first when you walk into the French Market; the other is inside near the food stalls. Many permanent French Market vendors will be offering samples of their wares as well, so be sure to explore the whole place.

3) Take home your favorites.

Riding the Metra home or in the mood to keep drinking after the French Market closes up shop for the day? Pastoral will have all the beer, wine and spirits — cheese, too! — that you’ve tasted for sale at their retail stall in the northwest corner of the French Market.

4) Plan your route in advance.

Using the comprehensive (and honestly, kind of intimidating) brochure below and plan your attack. Note the vendors you want to make sure to hit, map out a route and plan which stage presentations you want to see. There are some great chefs presenting, including Paul Fehribach of Big Jones and Erling Wu-Bower of Nico Osteria.

5) Don’t miss these great vendors

Here are some of my favorite, don’t-miss vendors who will be at the festival.

Alloy Wine Works

Poured by Andrew Jones, known as Mr. DBA (Doing Business As) in the Central Coast. He’s got his hands in a bunch of different projects. Jones singlehanded launched the canned wine revolution with canned Fiction Rosé at the 2015 Artisan Producer Festival — and this year, he’s back to feature Alloy Wine Works, focused on cans of popular varieties like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Jones will be pouring Tin City Cider and and Alloy’s canned pinot noir and rosé of grenache.

Artisanal Imports

The original recipe for Tripel Karmeliet, an award-winning, high-alcohol Belgian beer, has been around since the 17th century. The APF is a great opportunity to taste a true classic that’s been exploding in popularity since it took home the Best Pale Ale crown at the 2008 World Beer Awards.

CH Distillery

Located just down the street from the French Market (with a cocktail bar on site), CH Distillery is pulling out all the stops. Head Distiller Tremaine Atkinson will be at the Artisan Producer Festival pouring samples of CH’s Key Gin (perfumed with key lime, white pepper and lavender), vodka, pepper vodka, and aquavit. Straight stuff not your thing? CH will be bringing samples of cocktails featuring their spirits.

Firelands Winery

Wine from Ohio…yes, you read that right. Ready for some science? Most of Fireland’s wine grapes are grown on Isle St. George in Lake Erie, where subterranean limestone caves retain enough warm water through Ohio’s to nurture varieties like cabernet franc and pinot noir.

Giornata

Giornata blends old world and new, creating beautiful “Cal-Italian” wines from varieties grown in Italy but adapted to California’s warmer climate. Stephanie Terrizzi, Giornata’s co-owner and wine grower, is flying in from Paso Robles to pour the winery’s Il Campo Rosso and Il Campo Bianco at the festival. (She’ll be right at home; modern legend has it she fell in love with wine after working at a wine bar right here in Illinois.)

Journeyman Distillery

Festivalgoers who love the hard stuff won’t be disappointed. Journeyman Distillery will feature its Featherbone Bourbon, made from all-organic, Midwest-grown corn, wheat and rye.
It’s made in a historic Michigan building that housed the Featherbone corset factory, formerly owned by EK Warren, a known teetotaler and prohibitionist. (By the way, if you get a chance to visit Journeyman’s distillery and tasting room in Three Oaks, don’t pass it up!)

Letherbee Distillers

Robby Haynes, formerly of the Violet Hour, helped developed the recipe for Letherbee’s Besk — a wormwood-based liquor similar to Malort that packs a punch but is sweeter and more complex than its Jeppson’s counterpart — and will be at the festival to pour samples. Lethererbee’s Besk features a fine-tuned recipe that can be used in more craft cocktail applications instead of just a hazing ritual for Chicago tourists. (Play your cards right, and Letherbee may have samples of its to-be-released 2016 Vernal gin for you as well.)

Moody Tongue Brewing Company

Jared Reuben, brewmaster for Moody Tongue, worked at New York’s Per Se and brings his culinary background to the brewing of beer. The Artisan Producer Festival is one of your first chances to try the brewery’s new Applewood Gold, which Moody Tongue suggests pairing with Kumamoto oysters, fried chicken, lemon-poppyseed doughnuts…and whatever free cheese you can wrestle from your fellow festivalgoers.

Uncle John’s Cider Mill

Brian Rutzen from North Center’s Northman will be pouring samples of Uncle John’s seasonal release, Apricot Cider, which is their signature cider blended with juice from Michigan apricots. This patio pounder is gluten-free and comes in at 6.5 percent ABV.

For more details on the festival and all the other featured vendors, visit Pastoral’s Artisan Producer Festival site.

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