AboutMathew Powers – PorchDrinking.com
Once deemed “Black Out Wednesday,” to differentiate it from Black Friday and because the day before Thanksgiving ranks as one of the busiest drinking nights of the year, Black Wednesday has grown to become one of the craft beer industry’s biggest days. Chicago’s breweries and bars are regaling patrons with plenty of special beer, most of it as black as a winter night. So, to help you navigate Black Wednesday in Chicago, we’ve compiled a list to help you.
We can’t detail every event, but we tried to hit on the big releases and offerings. Did we miss something grand? Let us know via comments here or on social media. Have a great Thanksgiving Week!
The first shot of Jeppson’s Malört induces a reaction akin to sucking in one’s entire face, and that’s followed by a look of despair as one hopes and prays the aftertaste resembling something close to insect repellent will give way to something better. It doesn’t. Malört is awful. It’s vile. It’s nasty. And it’s beloved by an abundance of Chicago drinkers. The cult-like drink is part “bad decision,” part “right of passage.” These days, craft breweries and craft-friendly bars in Chicago regularly pair Malört with craft beer—or offering it to you after a night of craft beer. A communal sharing of Malört forges friendships and kinship. Simply, Malört is bonding in a bottle.
Born of the Great Depression, Jeppson’s Malört (now owned by Chicago’s C.H. Distillery ) was developed by a Swedish immigrant in Chicago (although it dates back to medieval times). The Swedish-style Bäsk liquor (Swedish for bitter liquor) flavored with “malört” (Swedish for wormwood), has been known to offer medicinal benefits such as settling one’s stomach. Indeed, our Midwest Editor, Mike Zoller, can confirm this — he swears it recently worked for him.
“Cider is too sweet. Cider isn’t beer.” If that’s your thought on the matter of ciders, I would implore you first to refrain from comparing cider to beer. Beer is beer. Whiskey is whiskey. Wine is wine. And cider is cider. Yes, the packaging and crafted nature of the business has often allowed the two imbibe industries to converge, but they are not the same. I would then suggest next that you explore ciders as its own entity; you’ll find that the ciders of today are nothing like the jugged-cider sold at family pumpkin fests, and they differ greatly from the hard cider that first emerged fifteen to twenty years ago. Cider today is innovative, nuanced and balanced, demonstrated exquisitely by Stem Ciders‘ Chile Guava Apple Cider.
Brickstone Brewery has won medals at FoBAB, the World Cup, and GABF. One can find Brickstone at every Jewel, several Buffalo Wild Wings, throughout Guaranteed Rate Field (White Sox games), at beer fests — and even gas stations these days. It’s tough to find a Chicago-area bar without some tap handles adorned by Brickstone artwork. Yet, most Chicago-area beer fans have never been to Brickstone. Born of a family-restaurant in the 1990s, the Bourbonnais business added a brewery in 2006 and has since evolved into a dually-located, full-fledged, 9k to 10k barrel-per-year brewery (with a capacity for 18k) and, as it always has been, family restaurant. Located 45 miles south of downtown Chicago, Brickstone has simultaneously discovered a way to cater to its local clientele while also existing among the biggest names in Chicago beer.
The first annual Far & Away festival hosted by Chicago’s Half Acre Brewery and held at the city’s popular Millennium Park offered beer fans a ‘27-Yankees level brewery and beer lineup; heavy hitters that did not disappoint in October. For the two PorchDrinking.com writers who attended each session, the immediate discussion afterwards included the comment, “best ever.” Granted, immediate conclusions can be wrought with over-reactions, but the mere fact that we both said that speaks to the festival’s sheer excellence.
Solemn Oath Brewing, located in the large and populous Chicago suburb of Naperville, has remained a stabilizing force within the broader, changing Chicago craft beer market. Since opening in 2012, the brewery has adapted to internal and external changes without ever losing its identity, nor its popularity among beer fans; that’s what good people serving well-executed beer will do for a brewery.
Solemn Oath is now ready to take the next step in its craft beer journey by expanding to a second location and joining a slew of breweries in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. But first, a pop-up bar is in the works.
With the baseball playoffs at-hand, one can now toast both the Atlanta Braves’ division crown and newly inducted Hall of Fame Braves player Chipper Jones with CJ10, a beer conceived by the prolific switch hitter and the folks at Terrapin Beer Company.
CJ10, an easy-drinking Kölsch-style ale, emerged from Terrapin’s unique ATL Brew Lab found at SunTrust Park in Atlanta during the summer. And, what better way to honor a switch hitter than with a beer that’s made with ale yeast, but is fermented like a lager?
Six years ago, only about 80 breweries operated in Illinois. Now, approximately 200 breweries create heavenly ales and lagers within the Chicago metro area alone. Coinciding with that eruption of breweries has been an ever-increasing amount of recognition, including Chicago-area breweries winning Great American Beer Festival (GABF) medals and winning them in highly competitive categories.
Granted, Chicago has consistently been able to boast about its bourbon barrel aging prowess—after all, it was conceived at Goose Island during its pre-ABI days and celebrated each year at the Festival of Barrel Aged Beer. But few people outside of Chicago seemed to notice the Chicago brewing scene until recently. However, at the 2018 GABF, Chicago definitely made its mark in the Mile High City.
The Great American Beer Fest is more than just the festival held inside the confines of the Colorado Convention Center; it’s a week-long celebration of beer with events held throughout the Denver metro region. In fact, there are events occurring throughout the city even as hoards roam the GABF booths. The truth is simple: one not need purchase a ticket to the main event to experience GABF, in a manner of speaking. If by some chance you can’t obtain a ticket next year, but still want to embrace the grandeur attached to GABF, there’s a way — several ways — to achieve that goal.
For example, even though I attended the main festival, I also partook in several open-to-the-public events that proved just as fun as the big party. I also had to forgo numerous other events simply because one can only be at one place at a time. Here’s a few of those events, as well as a few I missed, which demonstrate the fun one can have even if unable to grab tickets to the main show.
Some argued that the Jameson Whiskey presence at GABF may at first seem almost hypocritical, given the Brewers Association stance on companies such as Anheuser Busch InBev (ABI). As a writer who full-time covers both spirits and beer, I can confidently argue that one should never confuse the two industries. As liquids, they may be similar. They are not industry siblings, however, but instead distant cousins. Moreover, whereas companies like ABI seek to confuse the marketplace, actively targeting craft beer drinkers and even paying fines for unfair practices, Jameson has never hidden from its name and the distillery consistently champions and collaborates with craft breweries, both in the U.S. and Ireland.
(For my short commentary on Jameson and the spirits industry—vs. the beer industry—see the two paragraphs at the bottom of the story.)
Enter the BuckleDown Brewing taproom and you’ll find, among other elements, an arrangement of leather furniture around a table (barrel) that makes one feel as if they have been invited into the BuckleDown home. It’s a fitting setting for an inviting brewery where the people matter as much, if not more, than the beer served to them. Ironically, BuckleDown opened with a production mindset in place rather than a brewpub or any concept intended to draw people through the door. Nonetheless, people arrived and relationships were forged. Catering to people isn’t a business strategy at BuckleDown: it’s organic and genuine.
Only Child Brewing may not enjoy the street cred afforded to breweries located within the city limits of Chicago, but with its 3rd Annual Barrel Birthday Bash it’s abundantly clear that the skill needed to convert water into wine-barrel-aged beer (or any other BA beer) has nothing to do with a brewery’s geography. Indeed, the barrel aged beers proved to be spectacularly executed and artistically conceived. Throw in some terrific food, fun music, excellent weather, friendly staff and a lively crowd, and it’s easy to see why Only Child continues to grow more popular each year.
To describe each beer would be exhausting, but here are five beer experiences from the day (six beers total) that shed light on the Only Child bash.
Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Chicago’s Burnt City Brewing is making waves. The brewery already boasts of a chic brewpub and bowling alley on the always-hip Lincoln Avenue, a brewhouse located in the locally-famous, former Jay’s plant, eye-catching label artwork and a recent collaboration with Chicago’s illustrious Art Institute. But now it’s also churning out a diverse, impressive collection of beers including its Brett and Yeast friendly “Wildfire Series.”
Anchor Steam®. Those two words serve as a metaphorical window into a world filled with a veritable wealth of American beer history.
To view Anchor Brewing is to observe three distinct stages of American brewing: 19th Century to Prohibition; the resurrection of American craft and the establishment of craft as a business worthy of significant investment. To drink the beer is to enjoy a historical brewing process that afforded West Coast brewers an ability to brew successfully without ice; it also helped remind later-twentieth-century beer drinkers that beer need-not be clearish-yellow and full of adjuncts.
Denver’s Avanti F&B (Food & Beverage), presented by Shinola, is throwing a New Belgium Brewing Beer Cocktail Party on Monday, August 13, from 6 pm to 9 pm, and you are invited. Guests receive a complimentary New Belgium Beer upon arrival, taste the 10 competitors cocktails and help select a winner.
The grand prize winning bartender receives a spectacular Shinola watch. But the night is more than about winning and losing: “This contest was designed to be low impact for contestants, and a fun celebration of our community,” notes Avanti.
Rogue Ales & Spirits Dead Guy Ale first emerged in 1990 during a special November 1 Dia de los Metros (Day of the Dead) celebration at Casa U-Betcha, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Portland, Oregon. For the rest of us, the beer came into our lives in 1994 during the Clinton Administration, the first season of Friends, and 14 years before Facebook arrived. Nevertheless, even after its nearly 25 years of roaming the craft world there’s nothing dead about Dead Guy Ale.
The beer received an extra boost in early 2017 when Rogue decided to can the beer for the first time and update its label artwork. Indeed, the beer has grown so iconic that one will not find the name “Dead Guy” anywhere on the cans because most every drinker knows the beer simply by the Dead Guy imagery.
Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) has an affinity for beers that also tell a story, be it history, weather or paying homage to its local, Cleveland sports scene. For instance, GLBC released its Rally Drum Red Ale brewed in honor of the well-known Cleveland Indian bleacher-seat drummer, John J. Adams. Come September, Cleveland fans can sip on 73 Kolsch, brewed with Cleveland Browns hero Joe Thomas, an offensive linemen who played in an amazing 10,363 consecutive snaps during his 11-year career. Hence, GLBC describes the Kolsch-style beer as “A Brew Fit For An Iron Man.”
While we can’t pretend to list every new beer release, here are several tasty tidbits that have come across the PorchDrinking.com desk from around the nation. Founders, New Belgium and Rogue recently announced beers that will hit the shelves across much of the nation. Get ’em while you can!
“Soon I shall be drinking ale from curved horns.” ~Ragnar Lothbrok, Vikings.
The History Channel’s globally-popular Vikings is set to return for its Season 5, Part B this fall. While the drama takes creative license with history, the show itself is captivating and as a bonus, the show sheds light on Nordic (including Viking) culture, which has inspired many to investigate Nordic history. Mostly, it’s just a fun TV show and perfect for pairing with beer. Here are six themes (mostly derived from seasons 1-3) coupled with both beers and history books that are meant to help enhance your Vikings-viewing experience. So, binge watch the old shows and then get ready for some more action this fall.
About 60 miles south of Downtown Chicago, in a town of roughly 18,500 people, one will find a superbly crafted American Pale Ale (APA). You remember APAs, right? Craft beer drinkers used to consume multitudes of them a few decades ago. Well, they still exist, and they are as good as ever, exemplified by Brickstone APA from Brickstone Brewery in Bourbonnais, IL.