Putting Benjamin Cox and Neil Byers together with Jens Jensen and Dwight Perkins is a reach, but Beer in the Woods is a good ideal, though on a much smaller scale than the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
On a perfect fall Saturday at LaBagh Woods, Cox, executive director of Friends of the Forest Preserves, explained how he and Byers, owner of Horse Thief Hollow Craft Brewery on the South Side, wanted to do more than ask microbreweries for donations. Instead they combined tents for the breweries with live animals and nature walks.
“Cool thing is, [the breweries] want to come back,” Cox said. “They like this one.”
Beer in the Woods, which started in 2017, exploded this year with the general admission tickets ($45) sold out by Friday. Fortunately, non-drinking $15 admissions were available for my wife.
One role of FOTFP, founded in 1998, is promoting the forest preserves. At more than 60,000 acres, the FPCC are the world’s largest forest preserve and a monument to the vision of people such as landscape architect Jensen and the Prairie School architect Perkins more than a century ago.
When I asked Cox of what achievement he was proudest, he said, “The 2,000 alumni of Conservation Corps.”
That’s the summer program for high school kids.
Beer in the Woods is a family event with adult beverages and activities appealing to children: a crafts table, FrogLady Presentations and the Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab and Education tent.
“This is the favorite program I do,” said Deb Krohn, FrogLady. “I do a lot of kids stuff and I think that is great, but it is nice to be hanging with adults, too. I like beer. It would be nice to attend as a visitor sometime.”
Krohn had a sub-Sahara tortoise lumbering round, sometimes with a bearded dragon riding its back.
“They are not friends, but they are not enemies either,” she said.
When I stopped to talk with Cox, then to sample a Della, a Kölsch-style ale, from Old Irving Brewing, my wife went on a bird walk with Jeff Skrentny, a LaBagh Woods volunteer.
I did a mini bioblitz with Derek Ziomber, a North Branch Field Organizer. Bioblitzes, which can run for days, are attempts to find and identify as many living things as possible.
We had less than 20 for our walk, while dozens clustered around the Field Museum’s Todd Widhelm for a lichen walk. Apparently lichens are trendier than bioblitzes
The first first for me was when Ziomber identified a short’s aster.
“Probably we could find a dozen species of goldenrods and asters here,” he said as we walked the Weber Spur of an old railroad bed.
My next first was white snakeroot. Ziomber noted that Abe Lincoln’s mother died when she drank milk of a cow that had eaten it. Next came black knot, a fungus to cherry and plum trees, then blue-stemmed goldenrod. There was a honeybee on an aster and a massive white oak, one of the oldest oaks in Cook County.
It was time.
In time to sit in a massive traffic jam at I-57 and the Dan Ryan, a reminder why forest preserves matter.
Archery deer season opens Friday. As of Sunday, corn harvest was at 21 percent, vs the five-year average of 18.
Mike Jackson Outdoors ends a short retirement and returns at 9-10 a.m. Saturdays on a different station, WNDZ 750-AM. I will be one of the inaugural guests.
I’ve had minnow nets that were less effective sieves than the Bears offensive line.