Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Headquarters Beercade What the Firk? Firkin Fest Recap

Many thanks to HQ Beercade, Skirt PR, and Heather Christian of Windy City for organizing this event, keeping all of us judges in line as best they could, and to all the breweries for some very excellent beers. It was hard to judge 25 firkins in one day - I will say I was very impressed with the three that won (listed below), and just wanted to spotlight a few others that stood out.

People's Choice--Goose Island Brewery Coffee-Aged Barleywine

Blogger's Choice--Lakefront Brewery IPA with Grapefruit Peel

Industry Choice--Solemn Oath Brewery Most Important Beverage of the Day

The Boozy Beggar Spotlight!

Overall Favorite
Thornbridge Kipling - A "south pacific pale ale;" think smooth tropical fruit flavors and a malty creaminess from cask-conditioning. You can find this in bottles sometimes too. Hop varieties are probably Australian and/or New Zealand, given the name and flavors, but this had a very classic british cask pale feel to it, and every week there's more and more indications I love the classics and their inspirations.

Best American Hop Forward Beer 
Brickstone Hop Skip N I'm Drunk (w/ Galaxy hops) - Galaxy hops tend to be a mix of tropical flavors and classic IPA notes. This beer's excellently balanced for cask-conditioning, with enough bright hop flavors and a smooth malt-backed body. Impressive, since many of the hop forward beers either didn't taste all that different from their non-cask varieties, or hops couldn't save their body not conditioning as well as Hop Skip N I'm Drunk.

Best Dark Beer
Bell's Special Double Cream Stout (just edging out the Goose Island and Solemn Oath beers above) - this beer is going to appear here again and again for years to come, because I've had it on cask twice this winter and in bottles a few time. A stout like this is a no brainer on cask, AND letting the cask-conditioning shine with no additions is the way to my cask-loving heart. Since when did cask come to mean "infused"? I love how smoky and almost tannic this beer gets from the cask versus bottle, with hints of cocoa powder and roasted chicory. Big stout flavors that finish clean and slightly sweet. You'd swear there's lactose in this like a milk stout, but nope, just finessing a lot of textures and flavors out of 10 different specialty malts.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dawson's Not Another Beer Dinner w/Evil Twin (4/24)

That little Dawson demon guy is so damn cute, isn't he? Very fitting for a unique beer event with Evil Twin Brewing,  twisted brain-child of Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø (one of my favorite interviews with Jeppe is here). There's a place for the traditional beer dinner, where we sit down, get a coursed out meal, perhaps a beer for each course plus a welcome or dessert beer. It's fine. It's nice even, you talk to your neighbors, hear a few beer descriptions, etc. BUT, it is missing something that is a huge part of beer - the socialness of having a pint, talking to not just your neighbors, but to anyone and everyone drinking the same thing. It lacks the camaraderie of drinking. At Not Another Beer Dinner, you can have that camaraderie. Hell, you can go pick a beer, pick a plate, chat with whomever along the way, shuffle up your table partners (I think), AND maybe ask Jeppe what inspired the beer in your hand.

$60 includes tax and gratuity
April 24th - 6-9 PM
5 food stations
6 Evil Twin Beers
At your own leisure.
Live DJ.
Free High Fives from me, The Boozy Beggar.
Chat with Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Infusions of Grandeu

Infusions of Grandeur. More recipes for ingredients than actual cocktails, this book is something I need.

via Cocktail Recipes http://ift.tt/1kjSUDo

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Beverage Director/Beer Manager/Etc Series, #1 - Luke LeFiles of The Bluebird

I don't have a good name for this just as there's no consistent name for the position across Chicago's many craft beer bars and restaurants...but there are people, friends of mine, friends of yours, really, friends of everyone, who dedicate their time and careers to shaping that beverage menu you're perusing just before you plan your meal. They put time into studying boozology and mixology and zymurgy, and wizardry, and fermentation and so on. They get certified geek certificates, they mediate chef egos, they train staffs (sometimes, ha!). They get talked about in terms of their current achievements, and they get Eater/Timeout/Chicagoist/Chicago Reader pieces occasionally, that chart their successes and failures, but rarely do they go to the root of "how'd you end up with the job of picking beers for a beer-centric gastropub?"

As someone who one day plans on wearing this title (I hope), I wanted to chat with and introduce you all to a deeper, hopefully even a little bit darker side to these celebrated beer heros and heroines. Starting off with a veritable pirate of the Southeast, Luke LeFiles, who does the beer buying for The Bluebird, Telegraph, Reno and wears the title of Beer Director. He's also the CEO and Founder of the Barstool Evangelical Society (I need to renew my membership actually).

Tell us a story Luke, how did you end up in the food & beverage industry, in Chicago, and behind the bar…

You want the abbreviated version? I come from a long line of grease monkeys, grew up in an auto shop. That’s not to say the kitchen wasn’t an active part of the picture, or booze for that matter. First restaurant in my late teens. An independent locally owned steakhouse, a hub for business owners, families, weddings, local shenanigans in general. It didn’t take long to conclude that people enjoy eating and drinking infinitely more than navigating the automotive industry. That epiphany didn’t necessarily keep me away from the family business though. Despite that, over the years I bounced in and out of kitchens and dining rooms soaking up what I could. Eventually, after an endeavor in Albuquerque, NM went sour I made my way to Chicago. Balancing a front of the house position with a kitchen gig for some reason made sense to me so that’s what I did. Gradually being behind the bar took priority and the beverage program followed, suddenly the white coat days were behind me. All for the better I’d say, because by most standards I was a hack in the kitchen. Certainly not to say I’m any better at the latter, but definitely happier.

What was the first boozy beverage you realized you appreciated not just for the alcohol buzz, but because it was delicious?

As a child, a very young child, taking a sip off my father’s ice-cold can of Busch comes to mind. The fascination far outweighed the appreciation. Possibly due to it being my father and his brothers’ beverage of choice, lore absolutely had way more to do with it than flavor.

How did you discover craft beer?

Craft beer was an emerging entity in the Southeast and North Carolina in particular as I was growing up. The existence was mostly concentrated in the mountain communities of Asheville and Boone. County to county the laws can be a little fickle regarding alcohol so the brewing community had to adapt over the years to be able to produce. Limits on production locations, level of output, alcohol percentage, packaging- all of these things were legislated in a very constrictive manner making it difficult for brewers to produce and distribute in general. On top of that, the state’s lobby continues to stonewall the privatization of liquor. One would think the state would want the tax revenue but for the alcohol business -many times the religious right’s got the might. Consequently, the business of booze remains devil to a few. Craft beer was like this far away entity until I discovered how well it had been embraced in the Midwest. Accessibility I feel is the cornerstone of any artisan craft getting the attention and focus it deserves. Can’t really taste beer by reading about it, web nerds. When it comes down too it, I can hold the Maproom responsible for a huge portion of my early beer discoveries. That’s really all it took at the time, having a great corner bar ran by people that care about beer. Argh- kids these days have it so easy!

How did you discover craft cocktails, mixology, whatever you want to call it?

It was one summer in the early nineties at a Six Flags somewhere in the Southeast I believe. Along the way at some point an unreasonable amount of Gordon’s Gin found its way an extremely exotic flavor of Gatorade. Served at a comfortable backpack temp in a blazing August sun… I have to say it was life changing. Mixology unearthed!
You’ve been involved in a few programs as beverage director/beer dude, and each of course is different - do you have some overarching philosophy or does it depend on the restaurant concept?

Focusing on tailoring experiences with the guest in mind is the most important. Every situation is different there’s no blanket solution for every challenge. If you hold on to the ideals of preserving quality service along with integrity of product everything else should fall in place.
What’s the driving philosophy behind The Bluebird’s beer program? (compare if you want to Telegraph and Reno too)

At Bluebird we’ve always strived to be accessible to the neighborhood while offering items that may be a bit off the beaten path. We try not to limit our focus in any way- maintaining integrity of product would be our priority. This gives us broader reach to undiscovered pockets of craftsmanship. Supporting smaller producers who we believe in is very important to us, but with the rising costs of booze inevitable it isn’t always the easiest feat to pull off. Too many times that cost is passed off to the consumer, which makes showcasing relevant product slightly more difficult. We remain diligent in supporting the esoteric while remaining approachable for the broader public. Webster Wine Bar now in it’s 20th year is a great example of how that mentality has forged a stronghold in the Chicago community. Those ideals resonate within our family rather strong in all four venues.

What’s your favorite beer pairing and why?

Once upon a time there was this unicorn of sandwiches I happened to meet. It was a braised pork belly rueben on fresh baked pumpernickel. That with the Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier can be placed in my coffin prior to burial. There are so many pairings and so little time, that’s the first that jumped to mind. A belt of American bonded whiskey chased by a fresh pint of Alpha King is tough pairing to beat, I don’t always lead by best example though.

What would be your ideal, beer-focused meal?

Thanksgiving dinner is one of my favorite times to break out sour beers. So many pairing possibilities depending on who is doing the cooking and what corks you’re pulling. There’s nothing better than opening up a bunch of weird large format bottles with a crowd that would never in a million years go that route on their own. Formal beer dinners have their place but a great group gathered around a table breaking bread holds much more value in my mind.

Do you have a go-to craft beer or craft brewery? Or a go-to style?

Circumstantial drinking is usually my MO. I think Cristiana DeLucca over at Bangers coined that term first though so I can’t claim it. Every situation calls for different beverage companions. There’s so much going on in the world of libation right now it’s foolish to stay limited. Easy, but foolish.
Are there any Bluebird-brewery collabs we need to know about?

Yes, but I’d have to kill you.

What are some trends in craft beer you’ve noticed and are excited about? Do you have a least favorite trend?

It’s not really a craft beer trend per say but the whole energy drink meets beer thing is rather disturbing. It was said once that energy drinks are the cigarettes of today’s generation. I can’t say with good faith that products like stimulant-spiked beers are helping anything. The fact that there are people in these big money board rooms signing off on these products, with full knowledge that their children are in the exact demographic they’re marketing towards –that’s crazy to me.

Not sure if it’s a trend or not but the idea of gypsy brewing is pretty rad to me, at least when the brew is done well. Just the idea of being a nomadic brewer of sorts seems pretty cool if one can pull it off. Almost like being a graffiti artist of brewing. Make your mark and move on.

You’re a southern dude - what would you pair with fried chicken? with bbq?

I like it simple. A good crisp clean lager suits me just fine with fried chicken although a Straffe Hendrik along side a bucket of Gus’s out of Memphis has always been a dream of mine. BBQ may be a bit more tricky. What region, who’s making it, what cut is going down? ….too many variables to get pinned down on that one. Rodenbach Grand Cru with slow smoked meat hasn’t failed me yet though! At the end of the day it’s really about the right people and the right spirit for sharing the table. With our friends all the right beverages always seem to end up on the table.

The Bluebird beer wall - taps, featured single-serve bottles, featured large format "sharing bottles." I've always loved chalkboard beer lists and how they connect you to the people serving and choosing. Photo from The Bluebird facebook, uncredited.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Speed Rack Chicago 2014

Chicago's bartending scene brims abundantly with some of the best female bartenders to shake and stir anywhere, and if you aren't supporting them year-round, you can make up for it at Speed Rack Chicago 2014. Speed Rack is a national tour/bartending contestant where female bartenders battle in both speed, accuracy, presentation, and so on, raising money for breast cancer charities with every shake, stir, AND spill.

Contestants will compete in timed heats to make rounds of cocktails, culled from a list of 50 accepted industry-standard classic recipes, in front of a panel of judges and a crowd of excited viewers. Judges rate each drink. The judging panel at Speed Rack Chicago will feature: Paul McGee, partner and beverage director of Three Dots and a Dash; Charles Joly, beverage director of Aviary and founder of Crafthouse Cocktails; Chef Zoë Schor of Ada Street Restaurant, and Bridget Albert, regional director of mixology for Southern Wine & Spirits and president of USBG National Charity Foundation. The evening will be hosted by Chris Patino, director of Trade Education PRUSA.

WHERE: Joe’s Bar, 940 W. Weed Street, Chicago, IL 60642

WHEN: Sunday, April 13, at 3pm

COST: Tickets are $20 in advance; $25 at the door
With suggested donation, attendees receive cocktails from our premium sponsors.

WHY: To date, Speed Rack events across the country have raised more than $150,000 for breast cancer charities, including: SHARE Cancer Support, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Susan G. Love, The Helen David Foundation and others.

The Contestants:
Emily Bohn Maple Tree Inn, Chicago

Jacyara de Oliveira The Sportsman’s Club, Chicago
Cristiana DeLucca Bangers & Lace, Chicago
Brenda Eval Three Dots & A Dash, Chicago
Erin Hayes Three Dots & A Dash, Chicago
Susanna Hoyt The Silver Dollar, Louisville, KY
Jess Keene The Barrelhouse Flat, Chicago
Allie Kim Sable, Chicago
Paige Lane King + Duke, Atlanta, GA
Mea Leech RM Champagne Salon, Chicago
Danielle Lewis Celeste and Pour Souls Mixology, Chicago
Shannon Lewis Hubbard Inn and Chop Shop, Chicago
Julia Momose The Office, Chicago
Whitney Morrow Drumbar, Chicago
Jenna Murray Celeste, Chicago
Emmie O’Connor The Rail and Malibu Grill, Bloomington, IN
Liz Pearce The Gage, Chicago
Nina Pilacoutas Trenchermen and Maude’s Liquor Bar, Chicago
Rachael Smith-Vollbrecht Bar Deville, Chicago
Amy Starr Naha and Brindille, Chicago 

PRIZES: Miss Speed Rack Chicago, as well as her fellow winners from each city from the tour, will receive several prizes, including a $500 honorarium toward travel to the National Finals in New York provided by St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur.

FYI: Speed Rack, Inc. was created by nationally acclaimed bartenders and industry ambassadors, Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix. Additional information can be found on the Speed Rack website www.speed-rack.com, on Facebook http://www.facebook/speedrackinfo and on Twitter @speed_rack.

Check out the antics at last year’s regional heats by visiting: http://www.speed-rack.com/videos and http://bit.ly/1cIrwLH; videos by Le JIT Productions.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Bluebird Spring Equinox Party with Allagash Brewing Company, 3/20

Spring is Here. No seriously, it is. According to um, science? Arbitrary cultural tradition. I don't know. It's going to be in the 40s on Thursday, so it's not winter. But I don't know, I don't do meteorology unless it's a Dark & Stormy. But, The Bluebird's teaming up with Allagash to say goodbye to Old Man Winter, with a tap takeover (of three very special beers), cellared rare bottles, pairings with food from Chef Dave Ford, Marion Street spring cheese offerings, AND a rare bottle raffle to benefit Wine to Water, a group dedicated to providing clean water opportunities to rural communities around the world.

Three Allagash taps including:

the brand-new Saison, 6.1% ABV - so intrigued to see what their interpretation of this very open style ends up being

Avance Strawberry Sour, 10.8% ABV - Aged with strawberries for three years in bourbon barrels, this strong, sour ale has the aroma of strawberry preserves and toasted oak. How many imperial strawberry bourbon barrel sours have you tried?

Fluxus 13 Blood Orange Porter, 6.4% - orange and chocolate and coffee all go together in one, bottle conditioned I believe?

As of yet unknown Allagash "cellar dwellers."

Marion Street Cheese Market is one of my favorite cheese places in the city, and they've rocked it at a lot of beer festivals and other tastings. They also carry beer, wine, spirits, and charcuterie.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Fermented #26

Ale Asylum, Madtown Nutbrown 5.5% ABV

Brown ales hold a special place in my heart. They're under-appreciated in the craft beer world. No one holds a party for them, as far as I can tell. But they're at a great intersection between dark and amber, they're versatile because they have roots both English (nuttier, fruitier) and American (hoppier, nuttier, bolder), and they're very food friendly (from dessert to meat-driven dishes, especially braised ones with fruit involved). The Madtown Nutbrown from recent Chicago-entry Ale Asylum falls into a creamy, nutty, sessionable (and very food friendly) part of the brown ale spectrum. The sweetness of the malt is well-balanced, the finish is earthy, lasting but not cloying, and yes, hints of toasted nuts. Hints of cocoa and caramel in the middle would work with dessert, but I also hear it is great with thick, dark gravy.

La Trappe, Trappist Witte, 5.5 % ABV 

Turning to a different kind of seasonal beer, Wittes are the definition of spring and summer drinking for me, many of them working well all year with their hints of spice and wheat and effervescent bite. This Witte uses Saphir hops instead of the traditional orange peel and coriander combo. Makes for a different, less intense aroma. Crisp upfront with a smooth finish, and very easy to drink.  Great with salads, grilled or even fried fish, and shellfish. The only Trappist-made White Ale, incredible construction from frothy head to thirst-quenching finish.

Four Hands Brewing, Reprise Centennial Red, 6.0% ABV
Showcasing the Centennial hop variety, originally looked at as a Super Cascade (read as American IPA/pale ale hero). The Centennial variety combines some of the citrus (orange and grapefruit peel) that you expect from American hops, with a nice floral bouquet. This works well with maltier pale ales, IPAs, and amber/red ales, where the sweetness of the malt and the floral bouquet get balanced against just enough citrus. Here, biscuit malt shines, giving a bready, toasty flavor to the finish, which ends with a bang (malt + sticky hop notes + just zippy enough carbonation drying out). At 40 IBUs, the focus is still more on the hop flavors and not on actual bitterness, and that balance makes this a great hoppy beer for spring drinking (i.e. drink two of these on your porch when it's 50 outside, and thank me later).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fork Charity Dinner for Imerman Angels featuring Revolution, Local Option, Ten Ninety, Half Acre, Virtue Ciders

We all know someone affected by cancer, and the Imerman Angels help connect fighters, survivors, and caregivers, providing people with one on one cancer support. How about a beer dinner to raise money for a good cause? Fork's got you covered. This Lincoln Square spot is more than Boozy Beggar-approved; I'm there once a month at least, and love that they're doing something that gives back to those in need in our neighborhood and beyond. Not on the flyer below, Virtue Ciders' Red Streak is kicking off the night, with beers from Local Option, Revolution Brewing, Ten Ninety Brewing, and Half Acre.
5 courses for 50 dollars to raise money for Imerman Angels.
Call (773) 751-1500 to make a reservation. Check here for possible menu updates/hints.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fermented #25

I've neglected writing about actual beers I've enjoyed while trying to gather up beers for home for some old school style reviews and for a series on the history of craft beer. While that stuff all stews at home and in my head (I had no tastebuds for a few weeks), I think I need to share some

Off Color Brewing - Dino S'mores, American Imperial Stout 10.5% ABV
I noted my love for Off Color's Scurry in Fermented #18, and this Imperial Stout brewed with graham crackers, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, and marshmallows. Be very very frightened of the ABV, because this goes down like an easy-drinking dessert, and you can easily put down 30 oz before you realize what you've done (trust me, been there, done it, dinosaur sized hangover). It tastes like it sounds. Look for more around town, I've had it in a couple of places.

Greenbush - Star Chicken Shotgun, American IPA, 6.8% ABV
This is on tap at Bar Deville, but I'm not even sure when this was made - a delicious IPA with 5 hop varieties, and a tropical fruity zip. Bitterness comes off clean, there's some maltiness too to balance it out and sweeten the beer enough to let the fruitiness of the hops shine. Quick googling makes it seem like a beer from their brewpub that might be making itself known more in Chicago. Maybe ask the Greenbush staff about this one next week at Jerry's?

Maine - Zoe, American Amber, 7.2% ABV

Big amber that I mistook for a Black IPA after it got poured for me at The Bad Apple last week. Just because of color, not because of anything else. Where a Black IPA in my mind requires some roasted malt notes, this Amber is all kinds of interesting baking sugars - darker bread, raisins and caramel, hints of nutty cake, balanced against some very classic, American hop pine and fruit peel from Columbus, Simcoe, and Centennial.

Greenbush/Journeyman Dinner at Jerry's Sandwiches - Wicker Park, 3/19

This is how it ends folks. Michigan successfully invades Illinois by lulling us into a false sense of security..aka Greenbush/Journeyman tipsy. Then they'll cross the Skyway with no one looking and we'll be (insert political joke here - we don't do those around here). Just remember, it was Jerry's and the staff that turned coat and allowed the Michigan invasion to begin. Jerry's Sandwiches, more like Benedict Arnold sandwiches.

(BB Note: None of my dumb jokes will be afflicted upon you tomorrow night, I promise).

NOTE (the below flyer is wrong, the dinner has been moved to March 19th due to the incoming, and hopefully final shitsnowstorm of the season)

The 5-course menu:

Welcome: Greenbush Traktor Golden Ale w/shot Journeyman Ravenswood Rye

BB note: Traktor is a blond/cream ale with a fine, smooth balance of malt, german hops, and booze. Journeyman Ravenswood Rye is my favorite small/craft rye whiskey in the Midwest.

1st Course: Roasted Red Pepper Corn Chowder w/
Humdinger Island Cocktail

BB Note: Not sure if this is the Humdinger Mule from the Jerry's menu, OR a new cocktail just for tonight.

2nd Course: Avocado and Herb Deviled Egg Crostini w/Bourbon Bacon w/
Journeyman Federalist 12 Whiskey

3rd Course: Fresh Greens/Frisee Salad with Almonds, Asparagus, 400 Divine Rabbits Vinaigrette w/
400 Divine Rabbits Wheat Beer

Main/4th Course: Beer Braised Beef Rib on Red Mashed Potatoes with Charred Leeks in Humdinger/Apple Brown Sugar reduction w/
Greenbush Distorter Porter

Dessert/5th Course: Sweet & Hot Mustard Chocolate-covered Pretzel Truffle w/
Barrel Aged Doomslayer

BB Note: New, Barrel-aged Maple Brown Ale aged in a Journeyman Whiskey barrels

RSVP deposit required! Will be applied to the total $65 for dinner. Welcome beer and shot at 630, Dinner at 7. Staff from both the brewery and distillery will be on hand to chat and answer questions!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bitters, Continued (a list of and notes on various bitters, etc, etc)

I recently got asked by a humorist lawyer website run by ex-lawyers to put together a quick guide to what bitters are and what to consider when ordering cocktails. There's never enough space in a short article to explain EVERY Italian amaro that might show up on a menu, or what it means when Aperol replaces Campari in a Negroni (besides that it won't be as bitter), or why I don't use Fee's bitters very often, but here's a link to the original post. Following is some additional bitters information and opinion:

Amaros, Italian bitters, are everywhere, and here's a short list and description of the most common, but also of my favorites. Also, a link to the somewhat useful Wikipedia entry on amaros

Campari - bitter orange, cinchona bark, probably gentian, rhubarb, and many other ingredients

Gran Classico - similar to Campari and often used as a replacement, no food dye used

Aperol - half the alcohol as Campari but the same level of sugar, less red, very similar aroma to Campari

Cynar - artichoke and 12 other ingredients, viscous dark body, big favorite of mine, made by the same company as Campari and Aperol (the same company also owns Wild Turkey and their distillery)

Fernet Branca - Fernet is a type of amaro, Branca is the specific brand/producer of the most successful (luxardo, mentioned below, makes one, Fernet Stock is popular, and there's a Fernet made in Mexico getting quite popular now too). Bitter, with hints of anise, usually include myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and especially saffron,[1] with a base of grape distilled spirits, and colored with caramel coloring. black licorice hints (probably from a combo of anise and other ingredients) tend to dominate the aroma.

Branca Menta - mint-flavored, menthol-y, a little sweeter than Fernet Branca.

Averna - a favorite on the rocks, bittersweet, viscous like Cynar but not as bitter. Definitely includes citrus peel in the load of spices, herbs, and other ingredients. Great in a Manhattan instead of vermouth.

Luxardo Amaro - cinnamon-driven, but with a half dozen other spices

Luxardo Amaro Abano - mint, grapefruit, anise, pine, cinnamon, cardamom (the last two seem less pronounced than the regular Amaro)

Braulio - bitter Alpine amaro, with 20+ herbs and spices from the mountains of Italy-Switzerland. Bitter floral aroma that sweetens mid-palate, but unique finish of tea and honey. Oak aging, and I thought I got notes of that as well. Have had a lot of fun mixing this with Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao (an orange liqueur), and a mix of rums for an up, rum cocktail.

Nocino - bittersweet unripe walnut liqueur

German/Austrian/Czech bitters (krauters)

North Shore Silver Lining - presumably never to be made again (I hope not)

Becherovka - another boozy beggar favorite, secret recipe of local and imported herbs, cinnamon-driven in taste, 38% ABV. Fantastic with whiskey, and I recently mixed it into a Boulevardier-like cocktail 1.75 oz bourbon, 1 oz becherovka, 1 oz Dolin Sweet Vermouth, 1 full dropper of Bitters Old Men Gangsta Lee'n (smoked almonds, bacon-washed bourbon base, bitter orange peel), served over a ball of ice

"Non-potable" Bitters - this is the stuff like Angostura, Peychaud's and a whole host of other small apothecary-looking brands in little bottles, which are heavily concentrated and used in dashes.

- I don't use Fee's because I tend to avoid artificial flavors and sweeteners; the old-fashioned and whiskey barrel-aged bitters are fine, but a lot of their fruit-flavored bitters taste like funky fake candy fruit flavor

- Bitters Old Men
  • Gangsta Lee'n -

  • Prickled Pear -

  • Great in 28 -

The Gage, Great Lakes Brewing Company, and the Oriental Institute of U of C present...The Sumerian Beer Project

The Sumerian Beer Project is all about producing ancient beer. Great Lakes has teamed up with The Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago to demonstrate how Sumerians from ancient Mesopotamia brew in clay vessels. A few points to add of my own (I have a Sumerian ziggurat temple tattoo on my arm if that lends any authority to my ramblings). Beer residue on 7,000 year old pots from what is now present-day Iran indicate beer is at least that old, and evidence suggests whenever a culture began cultivating cereal grains, beer soon followed. This makes sense, as all you'd need is some grains that get wet, soak, and get introduced to wild yeast (which is everywhere). Sumerian beer brewers were typically women, by the way, and were protected by the Sumerian goddess of beer and fermentation, Ninkasi (only profession such protected apparently). There was also a goddess of the beer itself, and of the enjoyment of beer. Holy trinity of lady beer goddesses, if you will. Celebrate this unique origin (a tablet dating from approximately 3900 BCE contains the oldest beer recipe to date) with The Gage on March 19th.

Doors at 5pm for a cocktail hour.
Dinner and presentation at 6pm.

Three courses paired with Great Lakes Brewing Company beer.

Tickets ($70): http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/595152


Dortmunder Gold paired w/Crispy line caught black bass, salad of market greens with sesame-honey vinaigrette

Conway's Irish Red Ale (I love this beer people!) paired w/ pork two ways with crispy glazed belly and grilled tenderloin, hay roasted potato puree, red cabbage slaw, rye, pork jus

Edmund Fitzgerald Porter paired w/peanut-milk chocolate nougat, vanilla short bread, burnt caramel ice cream

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

High Dive Beer of the Week Food Pairing (tonight and tomorrow) - Half Acre


High Dive is doing a Brewery of the Week food pairing, where one or more of a breweries' beers get paired up with stuff on their menu (once my regular dinner spot before weekend work til I moved up north).

This week - Half Acre!

Featured dish: Grilled Pimento Cheese sandwich with green tomato jam (see the picture, don't drool on your keyboard though)

Featured beer: Half Acre Heyoka IPA, 7% ABV, the delicious "winter" IPA that is Half Acre's first packaged IPA after all these years of canning hoppy beers. West Coast style, bitter as this winter.

Monday, March 3, 2014

What the Firk? Firkin Fest

What's a firkin you ask?
It's actually the most common size of English pub keg/cask, but now more specifically refers to cask-conditioned beer both
unfiltered and unpasteurised beer which is conditioned (including secondary fermentation) and served from a cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure.
Read more about cask ale, also called Real Ale, here.

25 breweries, 25 custom firkins (check back here as styles/names/information becomes available).

$40 General Admission - 20 samples
$60 VIP - All 25 samples available, catered fare from DMK Burger, extra hour of drinking time
AT Headquarters Beercade. Tickets Available now (they just went on sale this morning).

I'll be one of the blogger judges (I guess they've split between blog judges and industry judges, can't really decide where I fall anyway either!).

Brewery list: Two Brothers, Solemn Oath, Half Acre, Revolution, Brickstone, Surly, Great Divide, Victory, Bell's, Great Lakes, Founders, Vander Mill (cask cider?), Lagunitas, Brooklyn, Tallgrass, Local Option, Ale Syndicate, Jolly Pumpkin (cask sours are very special people), Arcadia Ales, Metropolitan Brewing

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Hey Citronella! Cocktail and Distillerie de Biercee

Most people know I do some beer tastings and samplings and even pouring at festivals for Artisanal Imports, an importer of excellent, small/family/craft Belgian breweries that also includes La Trappe (Netherlands), Sunner (Germany), Meantime (England), Aspall (English cider), and others. Artisanal now imports some well-crafted Belgian spirits from the Distillerie de Biercee, in Thuin, Belgium (that's in French-speaking Wallonia). These include an excellent genever (barley and rye all-grain alcohol aged in Chateau d'Yquem sauterne wine oak barrels with juniper berries), plus Eau de Villee, Noir d'Ivoirie, Orangine, and Griotte.
Eau de Villee - lemon-centric. Blend of lemon distillates with 4 (secret) fruit brandies, all made at Biercee.
Noir d'Ivoire -  distillation of two types of cocoa bean, one natural and the other roasted, both from the Ivory Coast
Griotte - morello cherry liqueur, aged and blended with the following season's fresh harvest juice
Orangine - blend of orange liqueur and cocoa eau-de-vie
The Artisanal Imports Bishop of Beer Tomfoolery tasked me with some cocktail creation, for events and tastings around town, and I took this to heart, occasionally just whipping out these bottles because I needed something to soothe away the troubles of the day. This is one such concoction you might see around town at a Binny's tasting, OR you might just need to buy your own Eau de Villee bottle to put this together.
1 oz anejo or reposado tequila (I used Gran Orendain anejo)
0.75 oz Cynar
0.75 oz Eau de Villee
2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
Orange peel expressed over the top, used as garnish
Stir the first four together with ice in a mixing glass for 15-20 seconds.
Strain into coupe.
Express orange peel and drop into cocktail.
The aroma is of citrus and tequila and hints of spice from the Cynar. Upfront you taste tequila and citrus, the Cynar and the aged agave in the middle, and it ends with a thicker lemon-y body balanced by some of the vegetal notes of the Cynar. Cynar's a favorite of mine, and goes quite well with tequila and mescal.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Learn to Brew with the Ladies of Chicago, March 8th, International Women's Day

Hail 2 the Ale, the Chicago Beer Gals Collective, and Brew Camp present:

Learn to Brew with the Ladies of the Chicago brewing scene.
Celebrate International Women's Day!

Live beer making demos from 11-4with:
Nancy Rockwood of CHAOS Brew Club and nancybrewchicago.com
Mary Clare Crabtree, winner of the 5 Rabbit Iron Homebrew Challenge and designer extraordinaire
Laura Lanford, homebrewer and procurer of Movies on the Roof (moviesontheroof.com)

Special Pro Brewer Guests talking about their experiences and sharing beer.
BYOB bottle share with snacks provided.
Tickets: Brewcamp.com
*Donations from ticket proceeds will go toward women in need through the Chicago Chapter of Dress for Success
*This event is open to everyone - men, women, kids - the more the merrier!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sustainable Speaker Series at Dolce Casa Cafe, 2/27

Great little event at my neighborhood coffee shop, featuring Ravenswood newcomers River Valley Farmer's Table, masters of mycology. They've opened up in the former City Provisions space, and are great heirs to the principles Cleetus pushed there.

Great assortment of speakers and knowledge to be gained by a couple of hours in a coffee shop on a cold Thursday night.

Composting, pest maintenance, beekeeping/gardening tips, + learning plenty about River Valley (their mushrooms based food is amazing, their mushroom veggie burger one of my favorites ever).

RSVP information is at the bottom of the flyer, 5 bucks if you're an RCC member, 10 bucks if you're not (perhaps you can join while there...).

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Monkey's Paw - Pipeworks Beer Dinner - 2/27

5 course, 5 beer dinner at The Monkey's Paw with Pipeworks Brewing.
The Monkey's Paw, for those not aware, is a farm-to-table restaurant with a fantastic beer and whiskey selection, in the heart of Lincoln Park.

Reserve your spot by calling the Monkey's Paw at 773-413-9314

A Bit More About the Beers:

Amarillo Imperial - Amarillo's a hop variety that goes great in IPAs and Imperial IPAs, add a floral orange bouquet and spice notes

Ninja v. Unicorn - A big double IPA with a very complex assortment of hops (and a ridiculous label)

Blood of the Unicorn - Imperial Red/Barleywine big malts meet some hefty hops

The Might Thor - an imperial porter

Game of Jones - Imperial Milk Stout w/Cacao Nibs and Vanilla Bean

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Solidarity Beer Fest: Darkside

What: A Beer Fest of Epically Dark Proportions (but no goat or human sacrifices, promise)
When: Next Sunday, February 23rd, 12 - 5 pm
Where: Emporium Arcade Bar (previous sacrificial note does not included simulated sacrifices in video games)

$25 dollars. Includes beer tastes, a bag of tokens, some swag.

Get a taco or two next door at Antique Taco, btw.

Carnitas and Dryhop's Porter.
Baume and the Rib Eye.
Dark Horse Special Black and the Sweet and Spicy Chicken.
Ballast Point's Victory at Sea and the Mexican Pop Tart.

Why: Two-year anniversary of Solidarity, because cold weather = beer and video games.

BEER LIST (full pours available of some of these, on top of your sample - all parentheticals mine):

HALF ACRE BEER (duh, home town northside favorites)
- Big Hugs Imperial Coffee Stout (Dark Matter coffee, my favorite)
- Baume
- Porter Jumper Ancho Chili Porter
- La Grippe Imperial Black Saison
- Shady Aftermath Porter
- Deth's Tar (aged in 4 different bourbon barrels and blended)
- Bean Gene (more Dark Matter coffee, bourbon-barrel aged version of Chicago's best porter)
ONE TRICK PONY (one of the newer suburban breweries)
- Kisber Felver Black IPA
- Marsh Tacky American Stout
- Hey, Careful Man, There's A Beverage Here! (+1 points for Lebowski reference)
- Reserve Special Black Ale (this one is like an old friend, seriously good stuff)
- Plead the Fifth Stout
- 2011 Stone Imperial Russian Stout (drink while wearing hazard blinkers)
MEANTIME BREWING CO. (england's best brewery)
- Russian Imperial Stout
- Guanabara Russian Imperial Stout (intense caramelized sugar punch)
- Obsidian Stout on NITRO
- The Abyss Imperial Stout (one of America's first and best, one of those beers people used to seek out, and still should)
- Mammoth Weizenbock
- Ursus Winter Old Ale
- Miles Davis' Bitches Brew
- World Wide Stout
- Bona Fide Imperial Stout
- Volume 1 : Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout w/Cocoa Nibs & Coffee (I hear this goes fantastic with cookies)
- Victory at Sea Imperial Vanilla Coffee Porter
- SPECIAL CASK :: Victory at Cereal : Victory at Sea w/ Cap'n Crunch Cereal

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Recommended! The Loop...

The Recommended! Series - Instead of just maintaining a rather long list of restaurants, bars, bottle shops, and coffee shops, plus other spots essential to imbibing and eating, I'm doing a neighborhood page for each. The blog's going to take a big twist soon to a better format, but the information contained in these posts will be available and always growing. Don't feel like it's definitive for an area and thus shocked it doesn't list YOUR favorite place yet - just hit me up with a suggestion or even that we should meet at said place.

Each of these entries will grow - both with more restaurants and bars and shops and so on, and with specific recommendations, links to on-going events, nods to favorite bartenders and so on.

Let's get this series started with what is kind of an easy one (at least initially).

Monk's Pub - Going to keep it simple. This is the best beer spot in the loop, in terms of variety, changing taps, little beer events, friendly staff. The food is well-executed classic bar favorites, but you're coming here for the beer - the bottle list is great, if you ever get away from the extensive tap offerings.. Great tavern feel, lots of stained glass chandeliers and "character."

Intelligentsia - Until say 4 or 5 years ago (if not even more recently) this was the GOLD standard of coffee in Chicagoland. Best roasters, best baristas, best business practices in the industry. I suppose that all might have changed (I just like good coffee, can't really talk to the rest anymore), but not in the Loop. Hard to even find a place serving another independent roaster. I hope I can find some gems this year hidden amongst the Starbucks and Caribous, but for now it's a walk to Randolph St or the Monadnock Building on Jackson to get well-made, Chicago-roasted coffee.

The Gage - Upscale Tavern. That phrase used to be a turn-off to me, signifying higher prices and clashingly clean tavern décor, with the same old song and dance for food and beverages. Not at The Gage. This is my favorite place to hit up with out-of-towners staying near Millennium Park because I don't have to worry about what they like, they'll find something here. Solid beer list if not a bit predictable, delicious cocktails from my bud Thomas Mooneyham, and my understanding is that there's plenty of good wine options. And nice whiskey. If you want to get a little geeky after work, get one of the Spirit Flights, then wash it down with a pint and some food. IF you want to show off, get some from the Cabinet Collection of rare spirits.

Henri - Elegant place. It's very much stepping away from the energy of the loop into a quiet and transformative space. Classic dishes get updated by Executive Chef Chris Gawronski, their pairing events are out of this world, and the wine list gets a lot of accolades. Cocktails from Michael Page bring your palate to life and there's plenty of specialty spirit options for the more aggressive drinker. Great lunch place when you want to liven up a shitty day.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sweets for My Sweet: A Cookies & Beer Extravaganza at The Map Room, 2/11, 6-9 PM

This is how the Map Room celebrates St. Valentine's Day.
They get cookies.
They get beer.

You come and eat them together.

Ale Asylum - Mad Town Nut Brown
Allagash Brewing Company - White (I have a sour cream lemon cookie recipe I should try with this some day)
Central Waters Brewing Company - Satin Solitude Imperial Stout
5 Rabbit Cerveceria
4 Hands Brewing - Chocolate Milk Stout (see this tweet for pairing details!)
Goose Island - Pere Jacques
Great Lakes Brewing Company - Edmund Fitzgerald
Lagunitas Brewing - IPA
Ska Brewing - Euphoria Pale Ale
Wells & Young's - Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale

Friday, February 7, 2014

Ale Asylum at Fountainhead - Vegetarian (VEGAN) Beer Dinner

Chef Cleetus Friedman and the Fountainhead crew are teaming up with Ale Asylum for their first ever Vegetarian Beer Dinner. Not sure why I capitalized that, but it looks very serious. So does the menu below. Just had a Hopalicious the other day, and that's one solid pale ale. The Fountainhead team isn't going at these vegetables all on their own though - they're bringing in reinforcements in the form of Chef Nathan Sears from The Radler. Because, who else to conquer some veggies than the guy behind a Bavarian beer hall (I kid, there's some crazy awesome vegetarian items on the very vegetarian friendly menu over at The Radler).

When: 2/12, 7pm
Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/571863
Price: $50

On the Table
White sweet potato hummus, mad town brown onion orange jam, buckwheat crostini

Celery & potato pave, roasted fennel & kale, fried parsnip

Bedlam IPA
chick pea vindaloo, roasted multi color carrots, pickle leeks, braised pearl onion, sorrel & honey vinaigrette, black lentil, dehydrated carrot

Mad town brown
Roasted royal trumpets, sun choke, pickled blood orange, apple & smoked chestnut charosseth, arugula purée

Big Slick Oatmeal Stout
Malted beer berry waffle, coca nibs & Munich malt, white chocolate malt anglaise, dehydrated strawberry
Ale asylum

Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Beer and Pizza: A Love Worth Celebrating"; Anti-Valentine's Day at Dimo's Pizza featuring Greenbush Brewing

All those great Greenbush beer names just came in super handy for this mash-up of Dimo's crazy pizza and Greenbush beer...

Tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/559509

Yeast for the pizza: one of the Greenbush house strains!
The event will also officially debut a limited-release Dimo's-inspired Mango IPA beer named "Regret" and brewed at the Greenbush Brewery in Sawyer, Michigan.
Tasting menu below:
Closure // american pale ale, 6% ABV, 40 ibu.
Resentment // macaroni, chipotle peppers, hot pepper cheese

Retribution // belgian-style ale, 8.3% ABV, 28 ibu.
Mercy // rutabiya lamb, datess, pine nuts, ras el hanout

Regret // mango IPA
Pride // braised pork belly, soy citrus glaze, pickled radishes, blistered chilies

Anger // black IPA, 7.6% ABV, 85 ibu.
Ecstasy // coffee-infused jerk chicken, fennel, pineapple

Pain // imperial cream stout, 11.2% ABV, 78 ibu.
Pleasure // cherry sauce, candied cocao nibs, whipped ricotta

The Revel Room - Virtue Cider, Aspall, E.Z. Orchards, and Farnum Hill

Honestly, the poster says it all.
4 amazing Cider-makers.
Virtue - Michigan (by way of Chicago, sort of)
Aspall - Suffolk, England
Farnum Hill - New Hampshire
E.Z. Orchards - Willamette Valley, Oregon
Virtue does crazy things with barrels, as you should know by now, Chicagoans. They've just released this year's The Mitten takes the best of last seasons fermentation and barrel ages it in an assortment of whiskey barrels. Redstreak is a single-varietal aged on a little bit of oak, Lapinette gets French oak, and many of their other ciders run along funky lines like some of the stuff mentioned below.
Aspall does an amazing line of balanced ciders ranging from their dry-finishing Draught and Organic brands, to the sweeter but balanced and effervescent Imperial brand. In between that there's a demi-sec and a blush with blackberry juice, and just released John Barrington literally tastes like an amazingly complex white wine, with a sweet middle, a floral aroma and some tannins leading to a really interesting finish.
E.Z. Orchards makes cidre in the French tradition, and the end product is remarkably akin to champagne, with a secondary bottle fermentation creating a final product in your glass that practically evaporates as the carbonation hits your tongue. There's a very art-in-the-glass approach to Kevin Zielinski's Cidre line.
Farnum Hill makes higher acid ciders than typical French cidre because of how they feel it brings out the depth of character in the fruit they grow - you end up with a funkier, tart, yet still champagne-bodied cider. Think light, efferverscent, Belgian-style tartness in a way. Huge emphasis here on blending; when they can't hit the notes of one of their bottling label varieties, they put out a Dooryard version that showcases the variety you can achieve with cider apples.
The Cider Conference may come and go, but look for more Apple Sauce events in the future, featuring these brands and others, especially as Chicago becomes Cider Central by the end of 2014.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Warehouse Liquors - Only Child Brewing (3rd Thursday) and the Windy City Patty Wagon (2/20)

http://www.warehouseliquors.com/February 20th Warehouse Liquors Third Thursday series started back in November, showcasing a local craft brewery (so far, Begyle, Flesk, and Spiteful) and pairing them up with a food truck or two outside. This month they're featuring Only Child Brewing, a new brewery out of Northbrook in the suburbs. First enjoyed one of their beers at the Chicago Beer Festival at Union Station, and been looking forward to trying more; now's my chance (and yours, duh). The Windy City Patty Wagon plus a rumored dessert-focused truck will be outside. Customers receive 10% off anything they buy from the tasting. February 20th, 5-7 PM.

Furthermore Viking Afternoon Tapping at Crew Bar + Grill

Chicago's best straight-friendly bar, Crew Bar + Grill, taps the only (so far) Chicago kegs of Furthermore's Viking Afternoon tomorrow night at 7pm. On hand will be Furthermore reps and their head brewer, Aran Madden. Furthermore's delicious Knot Stock (pepper brewed pale ale) is a Boozy Beggar favorite (hard to describe the way the pepper and Northern Brewer hops sit on top of a great malty base). Viking Afternoon continues the unique Furthermore approach to beer, combining Simcoe hops, a bitter but light body, and cherry wood smoke, to make a sessionable ale that pairs with bacon, smoked lamb, brisket, and so on.

Pints of Viking Afternoon for 3.50!
Other Furthermore beers either on tap or in bottles as well.