evolution festival headline performer brandi carlile photo courtesy of amy harris/invision, via associated press

Evolution Festival brings bourbon, barbecue and live music to Forest Park this weekend

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Forest Park will host the inaugural Evolution Festival this weekend, Saturday, Aug. 26, Sunday, Aug. 27. The festival is an ode to three of life’s best offerings: food, music and drinks, and will be located on the green near the Dwight Davis Tennis Center. The festival grounds will be outfitted with two stages for live music performances and a bourbon bar with appearances and tasting opportunities with renowned bourbon writer and expert Fred Minnick. The Black Keys, Ice Cube, Brandi Carlile and Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals are just a few of the 18 artists slated to appear across two days of performances. 

Evolution Festival will be a showcase for the best of St. Louis bourbon and barbecue. Featured on the Sauce VIP stage performing live demonstrations will be acclaimed chef “Phil the Grill” Johnson, Sugarfire Smoke House pitmaster Zach Dingman and James Boatright of Boatright’s BBQ. Diners who are interested in getting a glimpse at the process can find live cooking demonstrations by the pitmasters. 

Boatright described spending time with his parents and uncles barbecuing during his childhood as the origin of his fascination for the craft. “What little boy doesn't like playing with fire and not getting in trouble? So, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna have some fun with this,’” he said. Boatright’s BBQ will be featuring their signature rib-eye with chimichurri as well as shrimp with garlic butter. Additional barbecue offerings will also be provided by Treaux’s Cajun BBQ, Five Aces Bar-B-Que and more. Attendees can also look forward to food and beverage tents with offerings from more than 30 vendors, including St. Louis favorites like Hi-Pointe Drive-In, Strange Donuts and Mission Taco Joint

No party is complete without great drinks, and Evolution Festival is zeroing in on bourbon. The all-star lineup features 11 bourbons and whiskeys from top distillers including local favorites like Switchgrass Spirits, Still 630, 1220 Spirits and more. Bourbon aficionados and newcomers alike are sure to find something to love. Fred Minnick, bourbon expert and the host of the podcast series The Fred Minnick Show, will make appearances both days of the festival.

Minnick said the Evolution Festival is an ideal place to get into bourbon because “you can get it in a lot of different forms,” he said. “You can add ice to it, you can add water to it, you can get it in a cocktail.” Cocktails are what he recommends for those just beginning their bourbon journey. Minnick’s bourbon cocktail of choice is a Brown Derby, a combination of bourbon, honey syrup and grapefruit. For VIP ticket holders interested in learning more about the intricacies and delights of bourbon, Minnick will be leading a guided bourbon tasting aimed to teach attendees to “learn to taste like professionals.”

To ensure there is something for everyone at Evolution Festival, Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. is providing a beer garden under a furnished 40-foot tent for festivalgoers to relax, get some relief from the heat, and of course enjoy great local beer. Urban Chestnut will be providing two fan favorites, Zwickel Bavarian Lager and Urban Underdog American Lager, along with a specialty brew, the Evolution Fest Wheat, which features a light wheat flavor accompanied by notes of orange. Attendees can also find Wormboard, a St. Louis-based small business specializing in uniquely designed and handcrafted skateboards, in the beer garden. 4 Hands Brewing Co. also created an exclusive Evolution beer, a City Wide pale ale, and they will have a 40x40 activation near the Lindenwood stage. In addition, Hippos Dispensary will be on-site to meet and greet attendees. Stop by the Chesterfield location to pick up a discounted limited edition festival pack filled to the brim with goodies.

Additional information about the festival and vendors can be found on the official Evolution Festival website. General admission and VIP tickets can both be purchased on the website.