#ChicagoCraftBeer – 3/7 – PorchDrinking.com
Most of the PorchDrinking.com audience is well aware of craft beer’s growth in recent years. However, one may not be aware that 59% of coffee consumed daily is classified as “gourmet,” according to the 2017 NCA report on National Coffee Drinking Trends. That was the first time in the report’s 67-year history that the number exceeded 50%.
Somehow, suburban Chicago’s Scorched Earth Brewing barreling program remains off the radar for most beer drinkers, which leaves this writer befuddled. Certainly those in the Chicago region with a nose for barrel-aged beers should make it a high priority to seek all forms of Scorched Earth brewing alchemy. One of the brewery’s latest releases, Barrel 76, is a Flanders red ale aged in French oak wine barrels with Montmorency cherries and Madagascar vanilla beans. Traditional, yet innovative. Sophisticated, yet rustic. Tart, yet a bit sweet. The beer serves as an example for what craft brewing is all about.
The inaugural Illinois Craft Beer Week (ICBW) replaced the former, annual Chicago Craft Beer Week (CCBW), but both the kick-off and closing festivals took place on Chicago’s north side, and most of the intra-week events occurred within the nation’s third-biggest market, which also happens to be where the vast majority of Illinois breweries operate. So, as they say, “A rose by any other name.” Nevertheless, the 2018 version is in the books and once again demonstrated that the enthusiasm for craft beer remains high. There are nuances to the industry and week-long festivities worthy of mentioning, so let’s take the time to note a few observations made during ICBW.
Haymarket Brewing in Chicago (and now also in Michigan) owes its name to one of the most notable moments in labor history: The Haymarket Affair. But, this is no time for a history lesson, this is a time to get to know a brewery renowned for creating beer intended for drinking, not sipping; for enjoying after a hard day’s work, not kept in cellars. And Pink Sock Monkey Raspberry Wheat Ale is one of those beers.
Haymarket commits itself to workers — no matter the color of the collar — and Pink Sock Monkey Raspberry Wheat reminds us all that artisans and craftspeople enjoy a long legacy of cherished American professions, from blacksmith to brewer. Haymarket deftly weaves its way through the craft beer world by creating beers that simultaneously exude refinement and also approachability. Yes, those are often overused buzz words, but in this case they are perfect descriptors.
The vast majority of craft brewers take immense pride in every beer they produce, and it shows in the exuberance they demonstrate while discussing their creations to patrons during Illinois Craft Beer Week. Sure, beer releases, festivals, events and tap takeovers during craft week are wrought with stressful, logistical challenges. Nonetheless, whatever might betide, in those moments when a beer fan inquires as to the details of a beer served, sheer joy routinely arises. In fact, all those associated with the brewery exude palpable excitement when presented with an opportunity to speak about their products.
All that hard work. All that cleaning. All that blood and sweat is worth it when it gets boiled down to the very essence of beer making — the beer, itself.
Revolution Brewing knows how to make damn good beer, and they know how to market it. With an overwhelming amount of quality craft options in the Chicago market, Revolution has been able to defend their sales turf by standing out through their unique marketing efforts – look no further than their League of Heroes variety pack.
The ubiquitous nature of craft beer fests suggests that the novelty of simply offering nothing but an array of craft beer has diminished; a lively competition among fests exists. As a result, festivals routinely engage in the “craft-plus” strategy, such as a “craft + a theme” or “craft + an appealing venue.” One such craft-plus fest occurred on May 5 in the Chicago area at the Schaumburg Boomers’ minor league baseball stadium — the 6th Annual Ballpark Brew Fest (co-hosted by Bigby’s Pour House).bot
The alluring venue coupled with breweries who brought A-game brews, mostly served by its all-star staffers, made for a successful fest and one for which has the potential to maintain its year-to-year viability.
Founders Brewing is bringing its freshly-released KBS and the entire Grand Rapids experience to Tribes Beer Co., located in Chicago’s southern suburb of Tinley Park, on April 3. Along with the 2018 KBS, there will be a special menu, live music and a host of highly regarded beers such as ’17 KBS, CBS, Doom, Backwoods Bastard and Frootwood.
The event starts 5 p.m! All you need is an appetite and a thirst for good beer.
Chicago’s Howells & Hood restaurant and pub, with its 119 beers on tap, lies at the confluence of two Chicago icons—the “Mag Mile” and The Tribune Building. Besides the lauded culinary program and extensive beer list (and draft wine, and cocktails and more), H&H boasts of a fabulous patio that provides patrons with an exceptional, photogenic view of the Chicago skyscape. On March 1, Howells & Hood raided the Bourbon County barrel cellars of Goose Island for its five-year anniversary. The Goose presence served to be somewhat symbolic, sort of speak, as is proved to be Howells & Hood’s Anniversary Party swan song; renovations to the Tribune building will force H&H out on September 30. That leaves fans of the pub (and tourists) one more summer to drink beer surrounded by Chicago’s architectural big shoulders.
Craft beer has a diversity problem. While there’s no easy fix to an issue that is prevalent throughout most industries in America, several craft brewers are making their presence felt by promoting diversity and inclusion from within their ranks. One of those breweries is Chicago’s Revolution Brewing, who employs 68 female employees throughout their expanding operation. To celebrate International Women’s Day, the women of Revolution came together to brew a special beer: Spirit of Revolt IPA.
Chicago beer drinkers, whose only hope of grabbing a Cigar City Jai Alai IPA involved a flight to Florida, can now save themselves a trip when the brewery begins Chicago distribution February 19.
Oh sure, you’ve let brewers please your palate and provide love to your liver, but have you ever let them entertain your ears? That’s what the Brewery Band Ballyhoo is all about. On February 2, for $10 (or $50 VIP), you can watch those brewers or brewing staff members get on stage and battle for the Ballyhoo Gold Record — your vote to determines the winner!
Although, in truth, the real winner is the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Proceeds will go the organization dedicated to keeping our Great Lakes pure. If you like beer, that should be important to you.
A principal attribute of craft brewing involves the confluence of creativity and tradition. The summer ‘18 opening of the newest Tribes Beer Company location—a brewhouse, tasting room and beer garden—exemplifies that characteristic. Tribes draws on tradition while simultaneously adapting to an ever-evolving beer industry.
Don’t think of LaGrow Beer Company as an organic brewery; think of it as a family-owned brewery dedicated to using the purest ingredients imaginable, from soil to suds.
At LaGrow, the ingredients used are pure, which results in a beer abound in flavor and exceptionally crisp, clean and fresh. Even if one doesn’t care about ingesting chemicals, the resultant flavor derived from chemical-free ingredients is sure to please any beer drinker, from beer geek to macro fan.
A lust for special release beers has increasingly dominated beer geek culture the last few years, and an abundance of Chicago beer drinkers share that trait. But, what about signature brews? While it’s fun to post pictures of whales on social media, flagships pay a brewery’s bills and their quality ultimately determine a brewery’s fortune.
It’s likely that nearly all of nearly 200 Chicago-area breweries have one or two (or more) beers worthy of making this list. And, you can be sure that we writers left a few of our favorites off this list, too. Nonetheless, we feel that these 21 beers are ones you should not miss in 2018.
The physical manifestation of American Craft Beer’s evolution exists with Imperial Oak Brewing Ragnarok Rum-Barrel-Aged Baltic Porter. It’s not just a craft beer; it’s a crafted lager. It’s not just any lager; it’s a Baltic Porter. It’s not just barrel-aged or aged in the bourbon barrels; it’s aged in rum barrels. I doubt even Ken Grossman could have envisioned a beer such as this back in the late 1980s. But, this is 2017, and this is how far craft beer has come.
Whenever I thought of Alarmist Brewing, its Entrenched IPA can stuck out. It’s probably the brewery’s most highly available beer and is distributed in the city. Located in the Sauganash neighborhood of Chicago – an area I typically don’t visit often, I had never been to the brewery before.
Maplewood Brewery & Distillery didn’t merely open a taproom and tasting space, it opened a thoughtful representation of the entire Maplewood experience — and that’s how all breweries should approach taproom designs.
Just when you think you know what to expect from a Christmas Ale, Around the Bend Beer Company comes along and provides a unique holiday surprise — the Pretty Lights Belgian Tripel with Cranberry and Almond. Although this beer is exceedingly capable of standing on its own, it would be tough to find a beer more suited for pairing with a holiday feast.
A raging-river’s worth of barrel-aged beer flows through Chicago during November and December. Breweries often release special beers and throw plenty of parties on both Black Wednesday and, even more-so, Black Friday. But, it all starts with the day before Thanksgiving, allowing beer drinkers an opportunity to party, as well as purchase some Turkey-Day goodies!
Events are listed as we received them