AboutPaul Lewis, Author at PorchDrinking.com
With innovation and experimentation at the forefront, Energy City Brewing in Batavia, Ill. has something new brewing every week. Without an operating taproom and in the middle of a still-surging pandemic, they have still found a way to keep the sophisticated beer drinkers’ attention and stay relevant in times of uncertainty. While their mainstay offerings continue to be popular around the Chicagoland area, their one-off offerings, available only for curbside pick-up at the brewery, are the main attraction, drawing people all the way from Chicago to make the long drive two counties over for a chance to get their hands on this week’s concoction.
There are only a few short weeks left until the beauty of the fall has faded away and the realization that a Midwest winter is on the horizon. While many states in the Midwest still struggle with high cases of COVID-19 outbreaks, that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to safely enjoy Wisconsin’s autumn brews and views before brisk fall weather and and its beauty gives way to winter’s chill.
Even in uncertain times, craft breweries and American ingenuity continue to create unique new ways to drink and enjoy craft beer. In Chicago, finding an establishment to sit outside and enjoy a cold one can still be hard to come by. Outdoor dining is limited, and people are lining up at the door to get a small dose of what feels like normalcy. However, with ample green space in and around the city, there is no shortage of places that provide some shade and plenty of space to spread out if relaxation and quiet are what you crave.
Just in time for the dog days of summer, Hop Butcher For The World released their highly sought after Blazed Orange Milkshake IPA, giving Chicagoland craft beer drinkers an IPA reminiscent of childhood summers and simpler times. Inspired by the classic frozen treat, Hop Butcher used their American ingenuity to bring you a Creamsicle in a glass.
My hometown of Griffith, Indiana is lucky enough to have two breweries that have seen strong support from the locals during the quarantine period. While other states have seen a spike in reported cases, the Chicagoland area and northwest Indiana have seen a much needed, steady decline in recent weeks. Many of the area’s smaller towns are starting to bustle with an activity that feels reminiscent of the days before a pandemic disrupted our lives. New Oberpfalz is a quintessential small-town brewery with a twist. Located in an old 1930s Main Street storefront building that has been renovated, the small taproom and patio is a cozy and comfortable place to spend an afternoon. While the main focus continues to be old-world German-Style Ales and Lagers, they do offer a variety of American style varieties as well.
For those of us still living in many major U.S. cities, we’re still in a state of near-complete lockdown. While we can finally start breathing a cautious sigh of relief here in Chicago soon, the experience of dining out, eating pizza and drinking a cold one at one of Chicago’s famous pizza joints may never look the same. However, a similar, all-day experience can still be had in the comfort and safety of your own home in the form of pizza making.
Since there is always something new to try in the golden age of craft beer, some folks (this Porchdrinker included), rarely drink the same beer twice. However, in a time of great stress and fear of the unknown, it can be comforting to revert back to things that are familiar and comforting, and this consistently satisfying beer has earned its rightful place in your beer fridge.
I travel all over Chicagoland for my job, and work trips out to the suburbs offers me the chance to stop by a local brewery off the beaten path that I otherwise would overlook. Recently, I found myself lost in Bloomingdale, Illinois and it was here that I discovered the hidden gem of Wolfden Brewing, located in an old, haunted, building built-in 1851.
Coffee is a vitally important part of my life. Those long cold Chicago nights staying up late with an infant calls for coffee by the pot full, and if my body wasn’t dependent on caffeine before, it sure is now. I’ve always been a big fan of coffee stouts, and Uppers and Downers is one of my favorite Chicago beer festivals during the winter months. As breweries are experimenting more with how coffee and different beer styles and mesh, quite a few different and unique offerings are becoming more readily available, such as Kentucky Coffee Barrel Cream Ale, and it’s a goldmine for both coffee and beer lovers.
As summer comes to an end, I would like to look back on some of the fond memories of 2019. While the birth of my son, Alexander, has to rank as one of the top moments of my summer, a close second has to be my discovery of my new summer beer, Dancing Man Wheat–a Hefeweizen from New Glarus Brewery out of New Glarus, Wisconsin.
Pizza comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms, and all of it is generally good. Chicago is a city saturated in pizza joints, but pizza in the Windy City is the real deal. While many tourists visit Chicago for its deep-dish style pizza, most Chicago locals will tell you their preferred Chicago style pizza is “tavern-style.” What is tavern-style pizza? While there is no strict criteria, any proper Chicago establishment that claims they serve this type of pizza share a similar method. The crust is very thin, better known as “cracker crust.” The pizza is cut into squares, not slices. Pineapple is not a choice on the ingredients list. Using this as a canvas, there are many Chicago pizza joints outside of the tourist traps in the Loop that deliver solid pizza offerings that go great with a nice cold beer on a warm summer day, and here are my favorite Chicago pizza and beer pairings for you to try, whether you’re a tourist or a local.
Summer has finally arrived, and in the Midwest, we only have a few short months of sunshine and warm weather. What better way to enjoy the summer than to take a quiet stroll away from the concrete jungle of Chicago? In honor of Indiana Dunes receiving National Park status, I decided to dust off my hiking boots and head to northwest Indiana to see what fun a craft beer nerd and nature lover can have in Porter County.
A Saturday filled with thunderstorms and unseasonably cold weather did not stop a large crowd of craft beer enthusiasts from descending upon Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo after hours to enjoy the annual Crafts Brews at the Zoo.
The event featured several local Chicagoland breweries including a select few from across the country and beyond. VIP ticket holders were welcomed with a half hour-early admission complete with access to a light appetizer bar and special tappings from Pollyanna Brewing (including a thick, delicious Malted Milk Ball Pastry Stout). As we’ve come to expect from a Lou Dog Events! festival, the event was very well organized with brewery pouring stations located throughout the park, embedded into many of the zoo’s animal exhibits. This allowed ample space to move around, see some animals and sample some great beer.
The weather kept a few of the animals indoors, but festival attendees had the opportunity to see an eastern black rhinoceros, Japanese Macaque and, of course… penguins! In addition to entertainment, we had some great beers being poured from breweries both local and beyond.
Chicago’s iconic Lincoln Park Zoo is a popular tourist destination in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and is one of Chicago’s few free attractions available to the public. The zoo is home to 1,000 animals from 700 different species including zebras, giraffes, kangaroos and even a polar bear. It is a wonderful place to explore, learn and drink craft beer!
Back for its 5th year on Friday and Saturday, June 14 and 15, 2019, Craft Brews at the Zoo is a true Chicago experience for the craft beer and nature lover in all of us. This Lou Dogs Events! experience will feature more than 150 brews being poured by over 60 craft breweries including local favorites Revolution, Maplewood and Three Floyds. Pouring stations will be positioned around the zoo so guests have the ability to explore while they sample; special events with animals, like a polar bear feeding and aardvark chat will also take place.
To all the hard-working dads out there just waiting for their opportunity to crack open a cold one after a long day of doing dad stuff, Happy (early) Father’s Day! I wanted to showcase the perfect beer for such an occasion that just so happens to hold a very special place in my liver. Dad is a malty, heavy Red Ale that comes out of Rhinegeist Brewery in Cincinnati, Ohio. Yes, I know it’s June and this is a technically a Winter Ale, but hear me out. A good friend of mine who lives outside of Cincinnati sent me a couple six packs a few weeks ago as a way to celebrate my introduction to fatherhood. My wife and I are expecting a baby boy in July, and this was a wonderful and very fitting way to welcome me into my new role.
If you needed strong ales to keep you comfortable and warm in winter, then warm weather calls for light, crisp, flavorful session ales that keep you satisfied throughout a day of yard work. Let’s face it, mowing the lawn and pulling weeds are much better with a cold beer in hand, and Chicago’s Revolution Brewing is ready with just the beer for the occasion!
Located 60 miles south of Chicago, the quiet village of Bourbanais, Illinois, might be the last place you’d expect to find an award-winning brewery and brewpub. Brickstone Brewery is well-known nationally for its award-winning APA, and the brewery emerged well before Chicago became the brewery capital of the nation. Recently, Brickstone began experimenting with the new “trendier” styles of IPAs to great success. Brickstone’s Shak’d Up series of Milkshake IPAs gives the brewery a chance to have some fun and experiment with this new style.
Burn ‘Em Brewing is located in Michigan City, Indiana, not far from the entrance of Indiana Dunes National Park. They have slowly made a name of themselves in the area as a brewery to be reckoned with, as the competition in the South Shore communities increases. The tourist destination in northwestern Indiana has quickly become a destination for nature lovers and craft beer enthusiasts alike. One of their most popular offerings is an easy-drinking cream ale with a uniquely Indiana twist. It should not come as a shock to you that the state of Indiana has a lot of corn, and Burn ‘Em Brewing found a very good use of the state’s abundant supply.
While I can’t say anything bad about the Chicago beer scene (we DO have the most breweries per capita), everything else about this city is exhausting, to say the least. From the rampant corruption, violent crime, high taxes and crumbling infrastructure, there is no shortage of issues that make a resident of Cook County want to drink. When I am in need for some fresh air, fresh ale and small-town charm, my day drinking location of choice has always been my hometown: Griffith, IN, located right over the border, 30 minutes south of Chicago.
Griffith’s downtown has the charm of a small town, but also the amenities of some of Chicago’s most sought-after neighborhoods. It’s no wonder people are leaving Illinois in record numbers; many of them are moving here. Real estate is hot and the secret is out—Griffith is a pretty hip(ster) place to be. The town of 17,000 now boasts a small but bustling downtown complete with a bowling alley (with a large outdoor patio area), gourmet popcorn shop, meat market, coffee house, arcade bar, vegan hair salon and three microbreweries. All of the three microbreweries are within a short walking distance from one another with plenty of cool local businesses between to browse, shop or grab a snack to soak up some of Griffith’s fine local beer. On a personal note, I grew up here (my most of my family still lives here) so this small town and its breweries have a special place in my liver. It’s my pleasure to bring you a drinker’s walking guide of downtown Griffith, IN.
March is here; and by this point many of us in cold weather states have gotten sick of the sub-zero temperatures, potholes, and unseen sheets of ice that cause us to fall on our ass. Rather than reaching a breaking point and going postal, it may be a better option make your way towards southern Florida for a short getaway in weather that teeters between the mid-70s to mid-80’s to get some much needed vitamin D.
My wife and I recently reached our milestone of traveling to all 50 states, ensuring we visit the local brewery in each of the places that we visit. While I am an avid meat eater, my wife is vegetarian. So, the places we choose to eat during our travels had to be well researched in advance to ensure they have a vegetarian menu that met the expectations of my wife, who can be quite a picky eater. Luckily, nowadays, that isn’t hard. Many breweries and brewpubs offer at least one vegetarian option on their menu, to various degrees of success and creativity.