Lagunitas Brewery, Chicago, Illinois, Saturday, June 6, 2015…
“Welcome! Step inside…
See all that you cannot unsee.”
Because I am a foolish schmuck who at times deserves to have his testicles squished in a vice I did not attend the first Chicago-based Lagunitas Beer Circus, shortly after the brewery opened here in 2014, but I made damned sure I wouldn’t miss the festivities this year. Accompanied by a large group of beer drinking buddies (one who even took a flight to Chicago from NJ for this occasion) I allocated time in my day for the wacky excitement, and space in my guts for the hoppy liquid love pouring from the temporary outdoor taps on the brewery’s grounds. Upon our arrival we scurried over to the Lagunitas beer pouring station, taking only a few brief moments to soak up the atmosphere, and indulged ourselves in a few malty suds just before my meeting and interview with Karen Hamilton (published last week). After gifting me with her time and a quiet, relaxing conversation, Karen launched me like a human cannonball back out into the roaring crowd and dizzying sights to enjoy the party.
And what a party this was. The theme of the beer circus is centralized on the early 20th century carnivals and circuses with contortionists, acrobats, clowns, shirtless muscle-men with handlebar mustaches, jugglers, hula-hoops, stilts, musicians, crippled dwarves, freaks, and “step right up” physical challenges for the intoxicated patrons to enjoy. A man fully costumed as an Oompa Loompa wound through the crowd on a bulky metal bicycle with a beer keg as the front wheel. Several women in face paint, wearing colorful formal wear and spinning matching umbrellas lurked awkwardly around on 5 foot stilts, visible to all. A lad wearing green and white leis and beads sat on a goofy contraption that looked like a twisted lifeguard stand, aligned with sprockets and pistons so drinkers could fill their mugs from the various bottles of Lagunitas “Hop Stoopid” that tilted and poured from their clamps as the man cranked and turned a lever on his beer stand.
On one end of the perimeter was a tent with two stages set for musical performances; punk rock, heavy metal, and psychedelic garage rock-n-roll. On the other end of the premises was the “Freak Tent” where various, odd displays of stage performances shocked and grossed out some of the more timid audiences. A heavily tattooed man, as well as a petite young lady, swung back and forth by cables that were hooked into the hides of their backs like a couple of freshly killed bucks; blood oozing from the stretched skin around their piercings. Another heavily pierced and tattooed bloke unleashed his Johnson from his trousers to stop the rotating blades of a metal fan (after he proved he could do it with his surgically forked tongue). Ouch. And a dwarf who played the electric guitar to provide a musical backdrop for these various proceedings wasn’t too shy to whip out his hog, either. I didn’t expect to see a dwarf penis, and I sure didn’t expect to see a penis placed into a metal box fan, but life would be boring without surprises, says I.
In the center of events was the most impressive set up of the festival: a steel triangular tower on a rotating track, donning ladders and platforms on which different musicians stood and sat to provide vibrant music. A crane cantilevered up and out away from the base of this circus’s centerpiece, and dangling from the top of the crane, on a chain, was another platform on which a pianist sat with a baby grand piano. And on the top of the piano, with legs dangling over the edge: a singing young broad. Musclebound men on the ground pushed the crane around the track like Roman slaves, sending the entire tower into a spin, swinging the pianist and his singing compatriot above the crowd on a 360 degree path. The piano setup was later exchanged with a drummer and his equipment, and later on again with a suspended, flexible acrobat; twirling, spreading, spinning, and flipping head over feet as she manipulated the looped, twisted nylon sheet in which she was entwined. What a spectacle!
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the antique carnival theme was infused with a hefty element of sex. Adult costume parties always prove to us that deep down inside we’re all cavemen (and women). The performers (and many patrons) wore leather fetish gear, garter belts, rubber skirts, shiny boots, colorful wigs, and lacy thongs. Corsets and PVC bras boasted round, busty boobs. Bare thighs shuffled past each other left and right. In many cases the outfits left only the pink parts to the imagination. Dancers in knee-high striped stockings climbed, dangled, and erotically twisted themselves around poles within the music tent while another young lady with clown face-paint and a leather bra danced erotically on a platform and used a diamond plated grinder to fire showers of glowing sparks from her steel plated bikini bottom onto the busty chest of her purple-wig-wearing, burlesque sidekick.
Terry Gilliam-esque steampunk contraptions, Clowns, heavy metal, wigs, leather, thighs, cleavage… and BEER. Holy shit. I’m surprised I didn’t ejaculate like a lawn sprinkler every 10 minutes.
Speaking of beer, Lagunitas not only served a wonderful selection of their pale ales, IPAs, and copper ales, they also invited several local breweries into the event to pour and pass out free samples of their own recipes until every keg was kicked. To leave this beer festival with the ability to pass a field sobriety test would have been akin to leaving the Bunny Ranch with a rock-solid boner and a pocketful of unused condoms.
I’ve been to more beer festivals than I can begin to count, and the Lagunitas Beer Circus is hands-down the most fun-filled and energetic beer event I can recall. As an added bonus, the proceeds benefit Paws of Chicago, a no-kill animal shelter dedicated to saving homeless pets. Therefore I conclude if you do not attend this festival you are singlehandedly responsible for the systematic torture and murder of a puppy or a kitten. See you next year!