Saturday, November 9, 2013

Beer Scene: Chicago (Musings From Chi-Town)

Continuing my travelogue of a recent trip to Chicago, and in no particular order, here are some more great places to try out if you love beer and food.

Revolution Brewing:  I have heard great things about this brewery over the past couple years, and my friend Chris suggested I check them out when in Chicago.  So I actually made this my first stop on our trip, dragging Sj with me into a somewhat shady area at night.  This is the main brewery site on Kedzie Avenue in a manufacturing district on the Northwest side, but they also have a more accessible brewpub site that I will visit on a future trip!  Upon arrival from our cab, we were not entirely sure we had found the right place, briefly worried we had been dropped off in The Hood--soon to be found rotting in a dark alley with empty pockets. 

The building is in a large warehouse with only a small, difficult to read neon sign above a small entry door to betray its identity.  Climbing a set of stairs past a wall mural that indicated we were on the right track, we came to a large open tasting room.  We arrived in the early evening and the place was pretty quiet at that point.  About half of the room was sectioned off for a private event for cyclists that was just starting, but there was plenty of space for all of us.  A large stack of bourbon barrels sat against one wall, filled with beer and awaiting their turn for bottling.  We could have just made a guided tour, but had an appointment with friends and couldn't linger too long...I was more interested in getting time to try all their beers than seeing more stainless steel fermenters!  From where we settled into the long bar, we had a nice view through glass of the brewery proper.  They are a pretty sizable brewery (60 barrel) and keg and can at the facility. 

Our servers were very helpful and gave me some light-hearted crap for not bringing them some Surly beers when they found out I was from Minnesota.  We were able to try individual sample glasses of all the beers, varying in price depending on the beer.  They had about 15 different beers on tap and we did not have the time (or capacity) to try them all...I was very impressed with the variety offered.  Beers ranged from Bier de Garde, to rauchbier made with 100% smoked malt, to several bourbon barrel aged concoctions.  I really enjoyed the Working Mom: an Imperial brown ale aged on Appleton Rum and Woodford Reserve Whiskey barrels--complex, sweet and boozy!  Also quite nice was the Red Skull Imperial Red ale and the Deth's Tar bourbon barrel aged Imperial stout.  We were able to pick up a bottle of the latter to take home with us!  I also picked up a large black fist shaped tap handle for my collection, that may have been the reason my carry-on bag was rechecked at the airport on the way home. 

Within 45 minutes of getting there, the large tasting room was getting crowded, loud and filled with folks wearing skinny jeans and touting ironic facial hair.  An old fashioned popcorn popper provided free sustenance to the hungry beer drinker (me).  We asked our server what the options were for getting a cab out of the area and he didn't outright laugh at us, but did offer advice on what streets to walk up to get back to civilization.  Hand on wallet we marched outside ready for a cautious hike.  Luckily a late-comer to the hipster bike event pulled up in a cab at that exact moment and we were able to both direct them to the proper entrance and snag their cab for ourselves.  I've become soft living in the country.

Swank bar at Fountainhead!

The Fountainhead:  This is a beer and spirits bar lined with tons of dark mahogany wood that conjures up feelings of old world pubs, but less cluttered.  My good friend Bryan took us here in between events.  The beer menu is freaking 14 pages long!  14 pages!  Whiskey and Scotch take up another 8 pages or more, so if that is your thing...drink up.  They have a small back Barrel Room for extra seating and events.  By all reports, the food is excellent as well, but we just stopped in for a drink.  I was impressed with the vibe of the place--comfortable and upscale, but not pretentious, everyone there seemed to be very relaxed and having a good time.  Service was very knowledgeable and quick when needed.  It took us a while to make our way through the huge beer list (which included tons of beers I'd never heard of) and eventually tried out some of the stranger ones.  There was a whole group of beers that had been collaborations with local breweries and chefs (including Stephanie Izard from Top Chef/Girl & Goat, as well Fountainhead's own Cletus Friedman.)  I would love to come back here again and strongly
recommend it to serious beer geeks.

The beer menu!

Bangers & Lace

Bangers & Lace:  This is a place that Shea and Kathleen clued us into, taking us there for Sunday brunch prior to our flight back to Minnesota.  We also got to meet up there with Michael, another friend and local librarian. This restaurant and bar specializes in (surprise!) sausage and beer.  They have 32 beers on tap a ton more in bottle to choose from.  Looking at the oh-so-subtle sign out front, I would never have even noticed this place much less stopped in.  They have an old fashioned long bar and a bunch of old poorly taxidermied animals on the walls, giving it a 1940-50's feel.  Tin ceilings and truck-stop stools complete the picture.  I tried a couple of great beers here, including two different Gose beers!  The brunch food was all amazing: can you say foie gras corn dogs?  And bacon sausage!  Sausage made out of bacon--the best of both worlds!  I would come back for the food alone, but the varied tap list would keep me here a while!  I was only sad that we had a flight scheduled and I couldn't hang out here as long as I would have liked. 

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