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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3 Floyds visit

I had a chance to swing by the brewery that I feel is the best in the world; I have a lot of others that agree with me on this one. I wanted to try new offerings and had their Topless Wytch, Mistral and Barbarossa.

The one thing you always get from the Floyds is the beer is never what it claims to be, i.e. it is alway much more. Such is the case with these three beers. The Wytch is an over the top Porter done in the American style. Really well balances with coffee and chocolate notes, but neither in such abundance that it crushes the base line. Perhaps the reason for this is because the ABV is big.

My first taste of Mistral had me think immediately of passion fruit. A good beer, but definitely not a Kolsch. A Kolsh should be a CLEAN effervescent beer and this had way too much going on. Ironically, it was the Floyd’s Gorsh Foch Kolsch that had me exclaim, “They fooled me once again, for the first time, the beer was exactly what they said it was!” I first and for now last for 3 Floyds.

Finally I had their Barbarossa IPA. Now 3 Floyds is the King of the IPAs, or rather the Emperor!, but this IPA which uses an experimental Hop, I assume Barbarossa, just didn’t do it for me. It had an off taste, which I assume is the hops. I will just move on from here. So I bought a bomber of Gorsh Foch and Arctic Panzer Wolf DIPA and will drown my disappointment in those.

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Crown Brewery

I had a chance to visit Crown Brewery in Crown Point IN this past weekend to play a few games with old pals and check out their latest beer offerings. I was most interested in their Porters. I have been trying to find the “perfect Porter” for pairing with foods. It seems that in the USA all we do, by and large, are monster Porters that often have strong coffee or chocolate notes. These are often north of 6% alcohol as well. While great for a cigar or as a stand alone, these are not so good when pairing with foods. So what I want to find, is a lighter neutral Porter that would be ideal with a steak.

So with that in mind, I had two of their Industrial Porters. Almost there, but at 6% ABV, it lacks the quaffable aspect I want. Still a worthy effort and one to look up when found.

I had their Maysie Cream Ale, Nothing special, but perhaps their best offering to go with their decent Pizza.

Finally, I had their Shoe Corner ESB. This is perhaps the closest thing to a real ESB that is made in the USA. So the question is: do you like ESBs? If so, this will rock your world. As for me, it was just what I had hoped for.

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Empirical Parts 1 and 2

While I have’t commented much about this, my buddies and I have frequented Empirical Brewery and Taproom for a while, originally because they ran a trivia night. The brewery is along the thriving strip of Ravenswood street that includes the other breweries of Begyle, Band of Bohemia and Dovetail. From Foster on the North to Irving Park on the south, this is beer heaven. Empirical is a very specific vibe , however. It is a spacious area that have the locals pop in and out often with their dogs. Welcoming and laid back, it offers 10-15 brews created in house on every visit. The menu changes frequently but usually includes several standards.

Recently I have tried their outstanding El Dorado Brown, which is one of the best in the midwest. Sadly their Kolsch is gone for now, as it was only rivaled by the Floyds Foch Kolsch. They have a Cream Ale, Cold Fusion, that rivals Spotted Cow which is unavailable in Illinois. I have enjoyed their Heliotropic Pale Ale, which is a great session beer. Their Double Helix is a solid Double IPA. There is nothing particularly special about their Infinity IPA, but still it is solid. This is a great place to while away a lazy afternoon.

So it was with great interest, that I saw that they had opened a Bar a few miles away in east Rogers Park on Morse Ave. This is a completely different vibe. It is a beautiful tavern that has a fabulous oak bar. It also has a full menu that is a cut above many rivals. There are several TVs that allow you to watch sporting events without requiring you to watch several sporting events; if you get my drift. Friendly and professional, it has many, but not all of the taproom’s beers. It does however, offer other brewery’s beers and cocktails, neither of which are available at the taproom. It is a great opportunity to take a date to, as it allows much more privacy than the open flow of the taproom.

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. Try them both, you will be back.

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Well we headed out to a joint we have gone to over the years that is likely not in your wheel house, Lunar Brewery. It appears to be a local joint, which it is with a good beer list. It is all of that and a brewery to boot. We chose to head that way to be there for their first can release. Their three offerings are:

Moon Dance IPA: which I remember from our first foray into the western burgs. This has a profile similar to Alpha King in that the malt is in balance with the hops. Since you know I am a big fan of AK, you might think I like this; and you would be right.

Aggro Crag Double IPA: This is a monster Double that we both thought came very close to our favorite DIPA in the whole world: Dreadnaught. Since the later is often unavailable and sold out, this is a real find.

The last of the offerings in a can was Dino Destroyer Double IPA. This was a unfiltered beer with peaches added and lactose. While I found it interesting, it is not in my favorite of what Lunar has to offer. However, it packs a punch and was likened to a milkshake.

I finished with Lunar’s Wit IPA. While not available yet in cans, I recommend you swing on over to give this a try. It is top notch!


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Food Pairings

As I mentioned in my last post, I was given a misguided suggestion concerning a beer to drink with my dinner. This got me to thinking about the whole subject concerning pairing food with beer.

As many of you may know, I have a degree in wine and have occasion to dine at fancy meals in which the wine has been carefully chosen to drink with dinner. As is true with wine, there are many people that will drink their favorite beer with everything they eat. I have several friends that really only drink red wine and others that only drink white. This is a shame in my opinion. For unless it is a case where they simply find the alternative undrinkable, they are missing all the benefits of drinking a wine that compliments the food in front of them. Red wine with a mild white fish, for example, will bury the subtle flavors of the fish. You might as well be eating tofu.

So it is with many beers. While it is no secret that I am drawn to IPAs i find that the best pairings with them is a salty snack. Most foods are not improved by the bitter hops so forward in IPAs. It is no secret that Lagers and mild Ales pair well with most foods, and it is for a very good reason. The mild character of a lager makes for a refreshing pairing with most foods without overwhelming the foods flavors.

This is not to say that a dunkel or a rauchbier would not pair wonderfully with a smoked ham, but this is an exception to the rule. Mild Stouts, such as Guiness also go well with broiled meats and stews, but a Guiness has no place at the table of sushi, for example. There a Japanese beer such as Kirin is perfect. Who would have thought. As they say in Italy,” if it grows together, it goes together.”

But now you have the Imperial stouts, the kriek beers, the sours, the IPAs; these are best drunk with few accompaniments. Perhaps Doritos, potato chips or peanuts are a good choice, as they clear the palate a bit for the next sip. But the object of this exercise is to enjoy the beer in hand, not find the perfect compliment to a meal. While there are a few food items that pair well with the afore mentioned beer styles, it is by and large, the beer you are drinking that is the object d’etre. 

So if you are looking for a change from your MDG or Bud to try with your next meal, why not try a Kolsch beer or a mild Belgium. This will expand your dining horizon, without ruining your meal.

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