The Fest was somewhat of a disappointment, yet fun at the same time.
Now I had only been to one other brewfest, I believe it is called the Great Lakes brewfest and it was held in Racine, WI last year. It was great. It was held at the festival site by the lake, more beer than I could possibly try in one day, and spread out nicely with glass rinsing stations spread throughout the fest. Lots of the breweries were selling pint glasses or shirts, etc. Very cool event.
The Barrington BrewFest was held in a parking lot with a large tent thrown up. They had tables down the midle you could sit at and most of the beer along one side of the tent. Unfortunately instead of moving to the side and drinking or sitting at the tables people would instead form circles to talk...in the middle of the aisle, blocking access to the samples. Often they would stand right at the table where they got the sample and block that. That is SO annoying.
Most of the vendors there were BrewPubs, and the non brew-pub beers were mostly provided by distributors, not the brewerys themselves. There were still a decent amount of brews to try, unfortunately about 75% or more of them were wheat beers. Now I know it's summer, and don't get me wrong, I really like wheat beers, but I would have liked more variety.
They had a pretty decent band playing on one side, which was nice, but made it very hard to hear any conversation in the tent.
Got a second chance to try Fat Tire, and maintained my first impression of it...merely okay. The upside was that since they were serving them from the 22 oz bottles we were able to score a case of empties to take home for bottling. They're commemorative labels celebrating the 'First chance to try Fat Tire (legally) in the Second City' or something like that.
Biggest surprise for me was an Apricot Wheat by one of the Brew Pubs...damned if I can remember which one. I got a flyer but don't have it handy, I'll post it later. Anyway, I would have never thought to make an Apricot Wheat, but we all agreed it was damn good, very smooth. It was thick with a strong Apricot taste, almost like drinking juice. A dangerously easy to drink beer, good if SWMBO doesn't like your hoppy brews.
Also tried Bell's Oberon, another very good Belgian White.
So it was a good time and well run, just a bit crowded, and could have used a more diverse selection.