Half Acre Pub

So BL and I stopped in for a quick drink at the newest offering by Half Acre. HA has built a massive facility in the corridor of breweries on the Ravenswood strip in Chicago. This whole thing is beginning to boggle the mind. I count 8 spots within a block of Ravenswood. Its beginning to look a lot like heaven. Still, this is an excellent addition. The food is solid and the beer fresh and cold. I stuck to the lighter IPAS and lagers trying to pair it with Spanish Anchovies; and of course succeeded. I did sip their Big Hugs, a sweet Imperial stout that I think would go well on my pancakes. Delicious, in a candy sort of way, but not something I would suggest guzzling.

Still, check out their Balmoral pub for a good view of what’s new and exciting. BTW, it is just off off Balmoral, so check your google map.

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Looking for that perfect Porter

So I have been going very esoteric for a while looking for the “Perfect” Porter. Perfect, in this sense, is a beer that pairs with food, as opposed to that Chocolate/ coffee, super ABV fare that dominates the American seen. Beerlieder turned up Original Flagship, a Porter whose yeast and recipe comes from a 1825 shipwreck. This is getting real close to the beer that I am looking for. Perhaps slightly more prune hints that I would deem perfect; it is about as close to the target as I have tasted since starting on this quest. I will revisit some of the Porters that I had in the past to compare it to, but as of now, Original Flagship is leading the pack. The biggest issue is that since it comes from England, it ain’t cheap. Still, if visions of sitting around the hearth singing Ladies of Spain and Over the hills and Far away, while munching haunches of beef or mutton while quaking beer appeals to you, this be the place, me boyo.

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I was reminded today that there are times I prefer to have a very clean beer to pair with my food. Eating sushi is just such an occasion. To drink a heavy hopped beer would bury the subtle flavors of the meal. Much better to drink a Japanese beer such as Sapporo that is low sugar, high effervesce, and a clean after taste.

I just got back from Italy where I spent two weeks drinking the northern Italian wines. Man does not live by beer alone! We had a chance to drink several of the best Barolos and Barbarescos as well as many of the Venetian whites. I tried several of the local beers and the reason why Italians are wine drinkers is abundantly clear.


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What Was,Is, and might have been

The time was that the world of Craft beers was owned by several amazing companies; Dogfish Head, Stone, Victory, Three Floyds, Lagaunitus, Goose Island, Two Brothers, and of course, Sam Adams. They were kings of the world. Over the next ten years, many, in this bloggers opinion, lost their way. And yet, others came on to take their place.

I feel that 3Fs remains the greatest brewery in the world, even if their brewpub is often pretentious and haughty. I was pleasantly surprised, by having one the Victory standards, Hop Devil, and being reminded how very good it is. My experience at their brewpub is first rate and almost everything thing they serve is outstanding, if a bit unadventurous.

Two Brothers has played Icarus and fallen from the pantheon. Not only have they sold out by turning much of their production toward turning out insipid offerings, while taking their best beer, Cane and Abel and shoving it to the back of the shelf and making it a seasonal. They have sold out, much as Goose Island has, without having the excuse that they were bought out by INBEV.

Stone found their métier years ago and stick to it. They consistently turn out great IPAs and do what they do best. They are not avant guard and they know it.

Dogfish is perhaps the saddest story of all. They were the cutting edge for years, throwing “Hail Mary’s” and often missing. Oh, but when they hit! For ten or so years now, there has been nothing out of them that warrants a road trip. So disappointing for one of the giants.

Lagaunitus has opened a second brewery in Chicago, and while that venue is a bit too, too hip, it does do what they do best. Turn out solid, first tier beers. They may not be cutting edge any more, but they still keep their nose to the grindstone and keep their quality up, while many in their class have slipped.

Finally, you have Sam Adams. Many of you may know the story of how they saved the craft brew industry some years ago, very unselfishly. For this reason, no one in the industry will ever bad-mouth them. Like Stone, they know what they do and keep it between the lines. They will never be the beer de jour, but if you want to introduce your nephew to craft beers, you could do far worse that giving him a Sam Adams. They will never be mistaken for the latest “thing’, but they made this whole thing possible, and for that I will be forever grateful.

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One of the pleasure/pains in this world for me is going to the local Whole Foods and watching my beloved Bears while enjoying their great list of craft beers. On my last visit, the excellent offerings included and new beer from Half Acre; Tuna. This IPA is a real solid beer; smooth, balanced, refreshing and a real surprise. While Half Acre is a consistent maker of very good IPAs, this is their acme. It has it all. Go out and get it before it is gone.

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I have had a chance to have Gatecrasher and Escapist IPAs several times over the last week. BL and I had it at a Marianos on Touhy where they have an outstanding happy hour of $2.5 a pint. I also dropped by the Taproom on Dempster In Evanston where I introduced the place to another friend. This place has a good vibe and every time I have dropped by, I have found them to be friendly and open. I like both of these IPA and I would encourage you to try the Gatecrasher as it models itself as an amped up English IPA and it hits the mark.

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Moter Row Brewing

BL and I headed out to an increasingly busy part of the growing craft brew field; Chicago’s south side. Moter Row is located in the old levy, Al Capone’s old stomping grounds. Unfortunately for MR, the road they are on is going through the seemingly unending Chicago construction and is closed coming from the north.

Our visit was made better by the affable barkeep, Denson. He chatted us up and brought us up to speed on the brewery’s creation. I opted for the flavor du jour, their New England style ale, Transcontinental Wedding Ale. This cloudy brew is light (5.6 ABV), and should pair well with many foods. While not a showstopper, it seems to hit the middle spot of what is a very vague category.

I also tried their Red Wheat ale, Out of the Loop. The most curious thing about this beer is that there was no trace of red to its coloration. Perhaps it was the light in the room, but it was faint at best. However, it was a very nice Weiss beer (6% ABV) and one that deserves seeking out. I hope that this very nice establishment survives the Chicago proclivity for making business as difficult as possible. Check it out at 2337 S. Michigan Ave.

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