Monday, June 18, 2012

Beer Filled Weekend

This tale of ale begins because my wife was made a Matron of Honor at her best friend's wedding and so we sallied forth to Chicago for the weekend. Most things happened at the Drake (um, WOW!), but as my wife had any number of responsibilities to attend to, this left me with quite a bit of free time in between scheduled activities. Needless to say, I got my Chi-town drink on.

Thursday: To be honest the weekend seemed to give me a preview of things to come when I received my Maker's Mark "newborn" notification. I became a Maker's Mark Ambassador back in October of 2011. This is simply a neat program they have where you can learn quite a bit about the Maker's Mark process, get some cool promotional items, your name on a barrel of whiskey, AND purchasing rights to said barrel. Well, more than half a year later, I finally received notice that my name is on a barrel and aging as we speak. You also get rights to purchase your barrel plate with your name on it. To check out more about the program (or to sign up) you can go here.

They even throw in business cards!
Friday: We headed to Chicago.  One of the first things that needed to be done was to take the wife and the bride to get their nails done (technically, they were "Mani pedis," but I can never bring myself to say, or even type, the phrase "Mani pedi" without feeling like a complete idiot.  I was informed that this would take an hour and a half, so on the recommendation of a good friend (@vmoon54) I left in search of The Pour House.  This was a really nice, big place.  If you have a Granite City by you, the interior is decorated sort of like that.  There's lots of dark wood, exposed limestone, stainless steel, etc.  It's very modern and clean.  There are also TV's covering virtually every square inch of wall.  They were all Panasonic and one was easily the largest TV I've ever seen that wasn't a projector or lots of smaller screens piece together to make on big screen.  Oh, and then there was the beer.  I counted 72 (6 bunches of 12) taps close to me, then there was a break, and then there were another 72 taps.  I don't know if they were duplicates, but I can only assume some were different since they advertise 90 taps.  I had the good fortune to wander downstairs to the restroom while the door to the cooler room was open.  The cooler room is about 9 feet wide and seemed about 50 yards long, all filled with kegs, lines, and pumps.  Since I don't generally bring my camera with me to the rest room I was unable to take a pic of this.  While there, I tasted a Jolly Pumpkin ES Bam (WOW!), a Lexington Brewing Co Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale (like a boozy creme brulee!), and my very first Sixpoint Resin!  Let me say that it's reputation is well earned.  Oh, and Old Town Pour House also gets bonus points for showing Euro Cup soccer matches.  Not that I'm a big soccer fan, but there were a ton of England fans there drinking, cheering, and making for a great atmosphere.  I couldn't help but get into the game! The rest of the night was an open bar at the rehearsal dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant call Le Colonial. While their food was ridiculously tasty, their beer selection was subpar (Amstel, Stella, Heinekin, something else, and thankfully Sierra Nevada) so I mostly stuck to rye and whiskey the rest of the night.

Look at that monstrous TV!
Saturday: The day of the wedding. My wife was needed first thing in the morning so I had a bunch of time to kill. The first thing I did was show up at the Map Room. It's just a little corner place that seemed like it could barely contain the reputation it has. Funny story about how I came to choose this location. About a week or two ago, I posted on Facebook if anybody had any Two Brothers - Hop Juice Black for sale or trade. I was unable to attend their Hop Juice Festival this year, but still had a yankerin' for that once-a-year, festival released brew. I get an email from a good friend saying he saw some on Craigslist Chicago. Long story short, I bought 4 bottles of Hop Juice Black from a guy off of Craigslist AT COST. If there are any BeerAdvocate folks out there, you can do a trade with "dlello2" with no problems. He couldn't stay long, but we shot the bull a little bit and I continued to drink beers that I normally do not have access to, namely: Stiegl Goldbraü, Ommegang Abbey Ale, and Unibroue Maudite. Well, we have access to some of these beers, but only via bottle. Also, because I see these bottles all the time (with the exception of the Stiegl), it's harder to make that purchase. When I get bottles, I want to try something new or that I might not be able to get again - to jump on those opportunities. In any case, it had a pretty casual vibe with great beer at good prices. They even have pint glasses full of pretzel rods at each table. Nice touch. My only complaint is with the bartender that day. He recommended to me the Ommegang "double." I asked what it was called since I didn't know Ommegang had a beer called a "double." He looks at me and shrugs, "Just double." Clearly, that is not accurate. If you don't know, that's OK, but please say so. Also when a customer at the bar (I was eavesdropping from one of the tables) asked what dry-hopping was, he gave the long answer of someone who doesn't know but is doing their best to BS it. His answer revolved around an analogy between fresh herbs and dry herbs vs. fresh hops and dried hops. This, of course, is completely false. Maybe he was new, but Map Room still needs to make sure their people know their stuff. Even on a Saturday around noon. In his defense, he was very nice and even offered me a few unusual coasters they had lying around.
Stolen from

Sweet, sweet, Hop Juice Black.

While I was sitting in the Map Room, I happened to get a message from the Twitterverse saying that I should come to the Haymarket Brew Pub.  My first experience with Haymarket was at the 2011 Midwest Brewers Fest in Plainfield, IL.  They rocked my socks off at that time, so I figured this was as good of an excuse as any to venture over there.  I picked up some friends en route and we got ready to sip some brews.  We had gotten our first drink when I finally met @ChicagoCousin from the Twitterverse.  His name is Gary and not only was Gary a pretty cool guy, he's also enough of a regular that he proceeds to give me a full tour of the place!  I even got to meet Brewer Pete Crowley.  Very cool!  We had to leave all too soon, but I bought a hat, had some brews, and know that I'll be back there again.  Thanks Gary!

Sort of a back room area.  To get to this separate room, you must pass
through a corridor which shows off all their brewing equipment and tanks.

Sunday:  Fortunately, that is not the end of my weekend of craft beer related fun. When I arrive home Sunday afternoon, inside I find a monster 26.4 lb package that has been awaiting my arrival home since Friday. This is the first half of a tremendous beer trade from trading buddy Eric. I'll just let the picture do the talking.

L to R: Baudelaire Beer, E.S. Bam, Bam Biere, Weizen Bam,
Fuego del Otoño, Calabaza Blanca, Maracaibo Especial, &
Madrugada Obscura
That's right, there's 8, count 'em, 8 bottles of Jolly Pumpkin for my drinking enjoyment! This is an enormous haul for me, especially since I have absolutely none of this in my area. Needless to say, I'll have to find a way to make it worth his while. This is kick ass!

Note: After I was packing up all these beer post-photo, I discovered an ADDITIONAL beer tucked away amongst all the bubble wrap and packing peanuts!  I've been wanted to try this and  will be reviewing it very soon.

In Chicago & its surrounding burbs, there is a huge beer scene waiting to be discovered, place by place.  Don't pass that up!  Especially if you live there!  You never know what new cool thing lurks through the next doorway: unusual taps, cool bartenders, raucous customers, knowledgable acquaintances, different ambiances, and  maybe even some new friends.  There's still lots of places I need to see (Finch's, Publican, Metropolitan, Hopleaf, Rock Bottom, Wild Onion, etc), but this was a darn good start.  My kind of town....


  1. I've has great experiences at Hopleaf!~Anytime you want to go beer exploring, call me up :-)

  2. These are the kind of stories you can share on a boring, Sunday afternoon car trip home to keep us alert and awake instead of having to stop and nap in the parking lot of a Best Western.

    That was a good nap though.