Beer. Bacon. Bluegrass. Need we say more?

Good drinks (and good food) return for a good cause this October.

Beer, bacon and a side of bluegrass are returning to Woodstock for the fourth annual Woodstock Ale Fest.

The festival, a 21-and-over event at the corner of Clay and Bartlett streets, will take place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Adult and Child Therapy Services, a Woodstock-based nonprofit outpatient facility. ACTS works with insured, underinsured and uninsured men, women and children of all ages and all income levels. For 65 years, ACTS has provided physical, occupational and speech therapies to help individuals achieve independence.

John Buckley, executive director of ACTS, is also head organizer of Ale Fest.

“There’s a bigger draw from outside Woodstock than inside Woodstock. We love Woodstock to come, but it’s also a great event to pull people into town.” Buckley said.

Thirty breweries from all over the country will be represented with beer for all palates, as well as ciders.

Beers from Crystal Lake Brewing and Scorched Earth, an Algonquin-based brewery, will represent for McHenry County.

Half Acre Beer Company from Chicago and its popular “Daisy Cutter” pale ale is a popular offering, and one of Buckley’s favorites, too. He is also excited to have Surly Brewing Co. from Minnesota available this year.

Although Ale Fest has yet to have favorable weather in its short history, Buckley is hopeful this will be the year for good weather. The first year, in particular, was the roughest weather-wise, but attendance was still good. The undesirable weather has continued each year, but the event still grows — by as many as 300 people annually.

“It’s a rain or shine event. Or, as it turned out the first year, it’s a snow or shine event. And a sleet or shine event,” Buckley said. “There are definitely die-hards out there. But I’d prefer to have a great-weather day.”

Last year’s event attracted about 1,000  attendees and netted ACTS about $8,000.

Buckley said some people take the train out to enjoy the fest, and the hope of organizers is that the visitors will head over to the Square for dinner when the fest concludes.

No festival would be complete without tunes, and Ale Fest will feature Cheryl Niemo and the Down Home Boys. The group, with players from McHenry and Boone counties, jams to county, folk, bluegrass and country blues.

While fest-goes are rocking out to the mandolin and fiddle-fueled tunes, competitive yet causal games will be played. A beer pong competition that was popular last year will return, along with bags.

And last, but certainly not least, don’t forget the bacon. Each food vendor will offer a bacon feature, in addition to their regular menu.

Buckley described why he chose Woodstock as the ideal home for Ale Fest.

“This is a community with great community events. There was nothing like this at the time anywhere in the county. It seemed like a good fit,” he said.

General admission tickets are $40, which includes 18 drink tickets, each redeemable for a 3 oz. sample. If you haven’t had your fill, additional drink tickets are available for purchase for 50 cents each. Each ticketholder has access to more than 80 craft beers, and receives a sampling glass to take home.

For the more passionate beer-drinking crowd, VIP tickets are available for $70. A portion of the fest is reserved for VIP guests, and will feature limited quantities of special VIP-only beers. The perk also comes with a swag bag not offered to standard ticketholders and access to private, upgraded port-a-potties, which were appreciated perks to those who splurged on VIP access in previous years.

Designated drivers are treated to complimentary soda and water and a take-home sampling glass. DD tickets are available for $15. For $30, a VIP experience for DD’s provides access to the VIP area and, yes, the upscale port-a-potty experience is included.

Tickets and information are available at

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