Revolution Freedom Fest 2023
Revolution is no stranger to staging an event. Typically they focus on two – their yearly Deep Wood releases (which are actually four separate events with only one in the summer months) and their Oktoberfest Block Party on Milwaukee Ave. outside of the brewpub. What Revolution really needed was a summer event that didn’t focus on high-gravity, barrel-aged beers. They seemed to have hit on something with their Freedom sour series and its attending festival, the Freedom Fest.
Held for the first time last year the first weekend of July, Freedom Fest this year featured some changes. Gone are the mullet competition (bummed on that) and the Malort-Barrel Aged Freedom Lemonade (thank god). This year’s fest focused on the LGBTQ community, with ticket sales benefitting Chicago House and 4 drag queens – Irregular Girl, Neutral Gina, Chanel Mercedes Benz, and Secret Queen – both performing and having a collaboration sour on at the festival. And speaking of those sours, Revolution upped their game this year, featuring 18 different takes on their Freedom Sours (up from last year’s 15) as well as the unofficial release of their hop water Super-Zero.
Summer Craig attended this year’s festival (but not last year’s) so of course he set the bar high – try all 18 Freedom sours at the festival and rank them. I’m proud to say that I completed my goal with 20 minutes to spare! I broke the rankings down into tiers named after popular streaming series so some non-beer related hot takes forthcoming. Two additional beverages did not get ranked but will be discussed after the sour rankings.
THE SUCCESSION TIER
18. Irregular Freedom – Spicy Limeade Session Sour
17. Pickle Gose – Gose with cucumber and dill
I honestly tried to like Succession but struggled through one season before I stopped watching. I hated everyone on that show and wanted no one to succeed at all. These beers I could not finish dumping them and never went back. I knew Irregular Freedom would be a spicy, ruining my palate, so I saved it for the middle of the fest; 3 sips and dumped. Some people like spicy beers but I’m not one of them. The pickle gose kind of leaned into the pickle aspect but not nearly enough as, say, DESTIHL’s Dill Pickle Sour Beer. Great as a pickle back, however.
THE DEXTER TIER
16. Freedom of Speach – Session sour with peaches
15. Freedom of Press – Session sour with currants
14. Freedom of Assembly – Session sour with blueberry and ginger
13. Gena Palmer – Freedom Lemonade with black tea
12. Freedom of Expression – Session sour with strawberries and rhubarb
I get it. Dexter’s a serial killer that works for the Miami Police Department. Did I finish the series? Yeah, but I don’t really need to revisit it unless someone else is watching it or I’m really in the mood for it. This tier features all the session sours available in the Freedom Variety Pack as they lacked the punch of some of the other variants at the festival; still drinkable and worth finishing, but not really worth revisiting. Gena Palmer joins this group, as the tea predictably cut back on the session sour’s refreshing finish and replaced it with a dry one. Not bad, but I want to be quenched when finishing one of these.
THE GAME OF THRONES TIER
11. Apple Orchard – Apple cider and freedom sour co-fermented with champagne yeast (collab with Eris Cider)
10. Pursuit of Freedom: Paloma – Freedom session sour with grapefruit, lime, and agave
9. Freedom Sangria – Freedom session sour red grape, pineapple, lime and orange
8. Pursuit of Paradise – Freedom session sour with passionfruit, banana, and a dash of cinnamon
7. Freedom Strawberry Lemonade – Freedom lemonade with strawberry
6. Freedom Lemonade – Freedom session sour with lemon and cane sugar
5. Secret Freedom – Blackberry lemonade session sour
The tier with the most additions and one where every beer is worth revisiting if you’re into it, a la Game of Thrones. Revisiting again may also help it make sense and give you a greater appreciation for what was being done as well! Apple Orchard basically mimicked the Gina Palmer, but that champagne yeast let to more effervescent and refreshing finish with a little dryness around. The sweetness from the Eris’ apple cider helped things along as well.
The produce section of Paloma, Sangria and Paradise all nailed most of the fruits listed but may have been just a little too aggressive (Paloma and Sangria) or things were absent (the banana and cinnamon of Paradise). The Strawberry Lemonade has the added strawberry but the strawberry adds some unnecessary bitterness to things, moving it just below the absolutely wonderfully delicious original. In contrast to the Strawberry Lemonade, Secret Freedom’s blackberry addition adds a bit of tartness and sweetness, elevating it above the base Freedom Lemonade.
THE BREAKING BAD TIER
4. Freedom of Chanel – Blue raspberry session sour
3. Pursuit of Freedom: Grape Blueberry – Freedom session sour with Concord grapes and blueberry
2. Flower Bouquet – Freedom session sour with Revolution rooftop honey
1. Freedom Tepache – Freedom session sour with pineapple, cinnamon and brown sugar
Sure, I’ll have another pour. Much like watching Breaking Bad (again and again and again), the beers in this tier I had multiple times and would eagerly like to see these packaged (one already is/was, while two look like they could be and one might be a challenge). Freedom of Chanel aggressively added blue raspberries which resulted in a sweeter session sour but one that still finished like a beer making it repeatedly drinkable. The aqua color helped too. Grape Blueberry brought a lovely amount of grape juices and just the right amount of blueberry, making it crushable without being overbearing.
My top two are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The simplicity of Flower Bouquet astounds me with only the rooftop honey being added yet producing a winning session sour. The honey added just the right amount of sweetness while adding some body to the beer that gave it some perceived heft. My wife repeatedly asked for this one and she does not like sweet things so you know it’s a winner.
Tepache has three additions, including much more successful attempts at pineapple (Sangria) and cinnamon (Paradise). The pineapple stars, being aggressive yet restrained by the cinnamon and brown sugar. The cinnamon provided some spiciness as well, while the brown sugar added a bit of sweetness and body. The three combined together to form something bigger than their parts. I know an ambitious brew like this has little chance of being canned and sold but if it is I’m in. Heck, I’d be in for the much easier to produce Flower Bouquet as well.
Revolution’s foray into the burgeoning hop water category, Super-Zero features Sabro and Nectaron hops. I’m not a hop water expert by any means, but I’ve had a couple of them and Super-Zero blows them out of the water (pun intended!). While the typical coconut notes I get off the Sabro hop in beer didn’t manifest itself, the Nectaron more than made up for it, providing a bounty of citrus and tropical notes. A tinge of bitterness ended things (kind of like seltzer water in my opinion) with a crisp, dry, and refreshing mouthfeel finishing things off. If you’re into hop water, get this when it comes out. If you’re not, at least try it. It made the walk to The Beer Temple afterwards seem like nothing in the sun.
Dread & Breakfast
One of the recently canned upcoming Deep Wood beers happened to make an appearance at the festival and I happened to be close by when it did (and knew the individual pouring). While there’s no way I could pull any nuance or blend characteristics after having had 10+ sour beers before this, two things stood out – the coffee and maple syrup. Coffee makes sense since there’s 2.5 lbs. per barrel of Dark Matter coffee in it and the roast makes itself known. I had to check the description and blend of the beer on Instagram as I swore maple syrup was added after taking a few sips. Nope, just the coffee. My guess is the DBVSO Lumberstruck (at 20% of the final blend) plays an outsized role in that. Guessing VSO Boss Ryeway and VSO Gravedigger (both at 10% each of the final blend) contributed as well.
My sour-palate-wrecked assessment of this beer – boozy with big roasty coffee and maple syrup notes but doesn’t finish sweet, possibly due to the coffee added. Definitely made me glad I scooped up a season ticket but one that I want to try by itself with no sour interference.
All in all it was a great, laid back and fun festival. Lines for the four stations pouring the sours got long at times but someone would almost invariably come around with a pitcher of something on tap to pour for you so you weren’t dry too long. The face painting and balloon animals were a nice touch, as was the beach ball/inflatable pool pit that matched our attire.
The three food options (Fat Shallot, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, and Happy Lobster) featured something for everyone. Somehow Honey Butter Fried Chicken somehow did not have a chicken sandwich available. Vexing! The drag queens really stole the show, especially Irregular Girl who poured a whole pitcher of one of the sours all over their body. I’ve done similar on the show before and I hope there was a shower available for cleanup. I plan to be back next year unless a scheduling conflict arises!