Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chicago 2013 Day 2

Urine Trouble collaboration
at Northdown

Chicago 2013 Day 1

To start Day 2, we were on the hunt for a Surly collaboration ale with Three Floyds called Urine Trouble that Al read about that morning.  We found it online at Northdown and decided to head out before it opened.  We were happily rewarded with it still on tap:

Three Floyd/Surly Urine Trouble: Heather liked the hoppy funk of the smell but the grassy taste put her off. Lemon and orange without the grapefruit integrated well with the clean and bright brett. Burnt orange ale with a delicate white film after the tightly bubbled head fell. Very fun and interesting beer from two of the industry's best hoppy breweries.

To follow up the first pint, I recognized a brewery that I liked from my Denmark trip: To Øl.  Brewmance, an Imperial bourbon Barrel Aged Wild Honey Stout is a collaboration with a brewery new to me, Omnipollo.  Brewmance has a deep black body with a dark head in the tiny pour of this 12% stout to start the day. Alcohol in the nose without being overly hot and plenty of barrel, fig and a hint of dark cherry chocolate. Sweet and winey on the tongue and then the stout, wood and liquorice hits on the back of the tongue to counter point the sweetness.

Northdown is a nice local with a small but well curated selection of very cool beers. Unfortunately I will have to leave the 't Gaverhopke Quad for another day since we're planning to have lunch at the Local Option with a friend a mine, a former debater from my days teaching in LA.

Mural at Local Option
Local Option feels a lot like Triple Rock in Minneapolisa pissed off punker vibe except that the beer selection is much stronger.  Unfortunately, the kitchen didn't open until 3 p m, so we were only able to drink but not get any food.  Looking at the website later, it doesn't it make it clear on the menu or the front page that food and operating hours differ, so I feel a little better that it wasn't my research that left us starving through a few beers.

Local Option brews its own beers at other breweries.  Today, we sampled the La Petit Mort brewed at Central Waters and Militiagan brewed at Dark Horse.  At one time this would have stigmatized this very good beer, but Local Option categorizes itself (rightfully) as a brewery since they brew their beer themselves on someone else's equipment because. Since I believe the art is in the brewer and not the equipment being on site, I praise them and wish more places would follow their example and make use of brewing capacity that already exists.  We followed this up with an excellent Dark Horse draft of Old Man aged in Templeton Rye barrels and shared a bottle of Iron Throne by Brewery Ommegang, the latter brewed in connection with the show Game of Thrones. While not a watcher of the show, maybe I should if it's half as good as the beer.
Half Acre brewery front

Hungry, we headed off to find food and add local friends from the speech world.  En route, we happily stumbled upon a pizza by the slice place called Chicago's Pizza, a micro-local chain of three restaurants in this part of town. I had just said I wish I was in New York and could just grab a slice and there appeared our salvation. Since it was thick slice, they asked if we wanted to sit for our slice; odd, but it sounded nice so we did.  I ordered a Metropolitan Krankshaft Kolsch and Al got a Finch's Golden Wing. Both are Chicago breweries I haven't had yet; Al won this one, picking the better of the two.  Pizza was good, but not a slice I would go out of my way for in the competitive deep dish pizza market of Chicago.

Next stop was the taproom of Half Acre Beer Co.  We've seen a lot of Half Acre around town and they seem to be the up and coming brewery of Chicago.  While I like the beers I sampled and all were well brewed, my initial evaluation was that the beers were all of the same mold with little variation. From what I tasted, Half Acre seems like a one trick pony that happens to have a very good trick. Next time I see Half Acre on tap, I will start with their draft early to give them a better shot.

The Bad Apple draft and bottle lists
The Bad Apple Bar is just down the block from Half Acre. Very cool local bar with a wide selection to drink.  We were in full social mode at this point, so my lone note besides my drafts was that the beer battered cheese curds are light and fluffy. For dinner, I remember having a Strange Famous, a mushroom and seiten veggie burger that was tasty and unique. On the stop, I finally added Spiteful Brewing to my database with their Bitter Biker and expanded my sampling from Solemn Oath with the Snaggletooth Bandana, both very good brews and well served.

With the help of some local friends, we took the 50 Bus to the famous Hopleaf, avoiding a longer trip toward downtown on the L and back out on another line.  An altercation between the bus driver and a rider (not us!) cut into our drinking time as we filled out incident reports so the driver could prove that he was in the right.  Not what we expected but an interesting story for the weekend.

Back bar at Hopleaf
Walking into Hopleaf, I found it impossible to resist starting with Atomium by Brouwerij van Steenbergh because I visited the incredibly over hyped namesake of the beer last summer (Atomium in Brussels created for the 1958 World Fair ). The beer disappointed nearly as much as the tourist trap. Al then bought bottles of De Cam Oude Geueze 2000, a decade older version of the extremely excellent beer I tasted for the first time last last summer at the Lambic Discovery Center, which was absolutely sublime when aged, and De Ranke XX Bitter, also excellent. My local friend Ben and I responded with two bottles of Founders from the "special" case: Doom and Bolt Cutter, each living up to Founders' fine reputation. I ended the evening with a Ballast Point Sculpin, a legendary IPA that I've never been able to taste before.  To top off the evening, a former student who was training downtown for her job was able to meet up with us at the stop as well. Overall, Hopleaf provides the beer geek (for a price) with the option for a truly transcendent experience and I look forward to spending more time there in the future.

On the day, two of my former students, one from LA and one from Minnesota, plus speechie slash beer friends from Minnesota and Chicago, all gathered together for various parts of the day to hit some excellent beery spots without a single clunker. In short, a near perfect pub crawl with friends old and new.

Chicago 2013 Day 3


  1. We've just started getting a fair amount of Ballast Point into the Portland market, which makes me happy. Up until a month or so ago I had to rely on friends who had brought some back. Let me know if you have need for more.

  2. I was just telling that story about the bus last night; a crazy moment in a good night of beer tourism. ;-)

  3. Kris--thought about doing some trading with you. I will let you know.

    Scott--just told Gloria the story while in a bus in SF and witness a "disruption" on our bus. Interesting night.