With the right attitude, any festival can be a beer festival. OctFest, however, puts the beverages on the main stage with nearly 90 breweries pouring their fiercest IPAs, wildest sours and biggest porters. Plus, you know, sessionable stuff. While the beers are the headliners, they're chased with a diverse musical line-up packed with downright legends alongside thirsty up-and-comers. To guide you through your experience, we've mapped an itinerary that pairs beers with their musical equivalents. So get ready to drink up and don't forget your earplugs.
2:30 p.m.: Madison McFerrin and Live Oak Brewing’s HefeWeizen
Madison McFerrin's breezy acapella R&B starts the day off soft and smooth, so resist temptation and hold off on those monster IPAs. Founded in Austin in 1997, Live Oak was one of the city's trailblazing craft breweries and their HefeWeizen is a category-defining wheat beer, with refreshing notes of clove and a hint of banana.
3:30 p.m.: Hatchie and Pirate Life Brewing’s IPA
Hatchie is only 25 years old, but the Australian singer-songwriter's mix of 1980s hooks and dream pop sounds is beyond her age. Going to school in Brisbane, it's likely she drank plenty of Australia's Pirate Life. They're pouring a trio of IPAs, but it’s still early, so stick with something subtle. Their traditional IPA packs Mosaic and Cascade hops, but the caramel flavor and creamy texture keeps it from blowing out your taste buds.
4:15 p.m.: Standing on the Corner and Collective Arts Brewing’s Mash Up the Jam
Just like their namesake implies, Standing on the Corner seem like they have the potential to do just about anything. The hazy pastiche of sample-heavy music can't be caged in as just hip-hop, much like Collective Arts Brewing's Mash Up the Jam defies the typical ideas of a sour beer by dry hopping with Nelson Sauvin and Vic Secret, a pair of hops that also make great band names.
5:45 p.m.: Preoccupations and Monkless Belgian Ales’ Peppercorn Imperial Wit
You'll have a wide choice of fruited beers ot OctFest, but only one will have a dash of pepper. Oregon's Monkless adds four types of peppercorns to its traditional Belgian Witbier. Compared to old-school brewing purity laws, it's basically a post-punk move, and one that matches Preoccupations' mathy drum meters and spiraling guitars.
7:15 p.m.: NAO and LIC Beer Project’s Higher Burnin' IPA
By the time funk and R&B songstress NAO takes the stage, you'll be ready to move past sample sized beers to full-sized beer territory. Take a trip to Queens, via the OctFest can bar, with a Higher Burnin' IPA tallboy from Long Island City Beer Project, or “LIC” to the cool kids.
8:00 p.m.: Jeff Tweedy and Goose Island Beer Co.’s Hombre Secreto Mango
Now that Kanye has been canceled, Jeff Tweedy may be Chicago's most beloved musical native son. Honor the Windy City with a beer from its most iconic brewery, Goose Island. Since you've likely tasted their year-round offerings, go with the super-limited Hombre Secreto Mango, a Belgian ale aged in tequila barrels.
9:00 p.m.: Vince Staples and Cerveceria Urbana Blonde Ale
It's a natural inclination to end a night with something easy-drinking—maybe it’s a PBR, maybe it’s a glass of water—but this is a craft beer festival after all, so do that with a beer you'll rarely see stateside. Baja's Cerveceria Urbana's Blonde Ale is the move, best consumed as Vince Staples closes out the night with an encore of “Big Fish”.
2:45 p.m.: Julie Byrne and Founders Brewing Co.’s Breakfast Stout
Thus begins the second consecutive afternoon of day drinking. Hope you ate a big breakfast. If not, Founders has you covered with their classic Breakfast Stout. It's best savored slowly, much like the delicate, ethereal pop of Julie Byrne.
3:15 Shopping and Camden Town Brewery’s Wilkin St White Pilsner
Shopping invoke classic no-wave tunes like ESG's “Moody”, but with a manic UK energy instead of effortless LES cool. Pay homage to their hometown of London with a beer from Camden Town Brewery, who have one of the largest offerings at the festival with nine beers to choose from ranging from a white pilsner to a tropical sour.
5:15 p.m.: Girlpool and Bira 91’s IPA
When October chatted with Los Angeles-bases duo Girlpool, they revealed they're not huge beer drinkers (but do have a weird fascination with breast milk). Were they big craft beer fans, maybe they’d want to explore some of the exotic options. You'll likely down plenty of India pale ales, or IPAs, over the weekend, but there's only one in attendance from India—it’s brewed by Bira 91, the country's largest craft brewery.
6:45 p.m.: Nile Rodgers & CHIC and Karbach Brewing Co.’s Love Street Kolsch
CHIC can't kick that feeling when it hits, and you know the feeling—it's time to move past samples to the can bar, where you’ll find Love Street kolsch blonde from Karbach, largely considered one of Texas's premiere craft operations and one that played a huge role in revitalizing their community after Hurricane Harvey. It'll go down easy alongside legendary disco tunes like “I Want Your Love”, led by superstar guitarist Nile Rodgers.
7:45 p.m.: Yo La Tengo and On Tour Brewing Company Cities Mexican Lager
Yo La Tengo are one of those perennial indie rock bands that are always touring, so enjoy their set with a beer from a brewery that shares that nomadic mentality. On Tour Brewing is all about that sense of road worn freedom. The brewer ditched his day job in 2015, after crushing National Homebrew Competitions, and relocated to Chicago from Denver to open a taproom. Since you're likely already a dozen samples deep, take a break from the monster IPAs with the easy-drinking Cities Mexican Lager.
8:45 p.m.: Flaming Lips and a beer with confetti floating in it
The Flaming Lips shows are the stuff of legend. Hits like “Do You Realize” and “She Don't Use Jelly” sound great live, but you're really there for the spectacle. Expect a stage is full of costumed animals, Wayne crawling over the audience in an inflatable hamster ball and more balloons than a Nena song (at least 99 red ones). If you're anywhere near the stage, good luck protecting your glass from the inevitable downpour of confetti—you're not at a beer festival anymore, you're at a party.