Booze Muse

The art and craft of liquid inspiration

No Angry Orchard: The Northman Stocks Craft Cider From Around the World

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Cider/Photo: Photo: Nick Murway

Photo: Nick Murway

By Rosemary Lane

The Northman (4337 North Lincoln), Chicago’s first cider bar, stocks more than one-hundred unusual craft drafts, bottles and cans from around the world. You’ll find ciders from Australia, Lithuania and Texas; ciders mixed with saffron, habanero pepper, rhubarb, caramel and bacon; ciders aged in bourbon barrels. What you won’t find are some of the more easily recognizable ciders like Angry Orchard or Magners. The North Center bar offers only beverages from craft cideries, places where they know the producers and their stories.

Even with all these options, The Northman smooths out the ordering process, especially for the uninitiated. Not only do they offer a house-blend sampler to help patrons gauge their preferences, on deck, they also have a human dictionary, a cider director: Brian “Cider Brian” Rutzen. Read the rest of this entry »

The Battle of Clark Street Bridge: How Lager Helped Elect Lincoln

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Clark and South Water Streets

Clark and South Water Streets

By David Hammond

“The beer riot has either been overlooked or underestimated as a turning point in Chicago history.” So says Judy E. Brady, who along with her husband, John F. Hogan, wrote “The Great Chicago Beer Riot” (The History Press, 2015).

Around 160 years ago, at the Clark Street Bridge, angry bands of beer lovers, outraged at Mayor Levi Boone’s prohibition on Sunday beer sales, and seeking to help free jailed bartenders who continued to pour the stuff, went to war, resulting in one death, nineteen injuries and sixty arrests. But this was more than a battle between beer lovers and temperance advocates: it was a confluence of many social forces, including the emancipation of slaves, women’s rights… and beer.

It’s April 21, 1855. I’m standing on the Clark Street Bridge. What do I see?
Hogan: You would have seen separate mobs of angry men headed toward the courthouse, armed with muskets, pistols, meat cleavers and other weapons. The first gang of about 200 was subdued. Following a retreat back across the bridge, a second wave re-formed and increased to approximately 500. These marchers, similarly armed, were intent on engaging the police who surrounded the courthouse and the jail that held liquor-law violators the mob had come to free. Read the rest of this entry »

What Pairs with a Superdawg? Lake Effect’s Supershake, That’s What

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Clint Bautz/Photo: Eric Lutz

Clint Bautz/Photo: Eric Lutz

On a quiet weekday morning in early January, Clint Bautz  sat at his desk in a dimly lit alcove of the Northwest Side warehouse that’s home to the Lake Effect Brewing Company. Lake Effect, the microbrewery he co-founded four years ago, had just released one of its most successful beers yet: Supershake, a milk stout inspired by the chocolate malts at Superdawg.

It was their third collaboration with the iconic Chicago drive-in, part of what Bautz calls a “trilogy” of beers that began with Superbier (a Kölsch) and Whoopskibier (a German amber ale). Supershake, which was released in mid-December, was one of their fastest sellers yet—and perhaps a harbinger of big things to come from the up-and-coming brewing company.

“We wanted it to be symbolic of their shake,” Bautz says. “It ended up going really fast.” Read the rest of this entry »

This Bud’s for Who? The Enduring Appeal of Macrobrews

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Andy Ashby of Memphis Made/Photo: David Hammond

Andy Ashby of Memphis Made/Photo: David Hammond

By David Hammond

On a mid-May Monday at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, beer makers from all over the world represented at the Glunz Global Beer Expo. There were many, many small, craft brewers, whose numbers are clearly growing. There was also a booth pouring Schlitz, Stroh’s and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

We are living in a golden age of beer. Perhaps at no time in world history have there been so many brewers, professional and home-grown.

When you go out for a beer, or crack one at home, we’re guessing it’s usually a small producer’s brand that you select. But you’re special, because craft beer accounts for only a little over ten percent of the market and America’s most popular beer is Bud Light.

Sipping some quality suds with the boys from Memphis Made (768 South Cooper, Memphis, Tennessee) which, like many microbreweries, distributes only in its region, Drew Barton, president/head brewer/co-founder said something that surprised me by saying, “Mega-breweries have some of the best brewers in the world.”

“Oh, yeah,” I said, encouraging him to say more. Read the rest of this entry »

Driven to Drink: Motor Row Brewing Revs Up in Historic District

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Photo: Kelly Kuritar

Photo: Kelly Kuritar

By Ben Kramer

In recent months, the Near South side has been dominated by sports headlines like “Sox Land Melky Cabrera” and “Jay Cutler Benched. Will He Be Traded?”

In the midst of these triumphs and tragedies, Motor Row Brewing (2337 South Michigan) has been quietly working its way toward January 14th, its opening day.

Owner/brewer Frank Lassandrello has been involved in the industry for more than a decade. Graduating from Seibel Institute of Technology, America’s oldest brewing school, Lassandrello worked at Goose Island before moving to Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery to become their Quality Control Manager. As Lassandrello explains, “You can’t make good beer if your tank’s not clean.” Read the rest of this entry »

Fierce Ale: Three Local Beers for Halloween and Beyond

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Usually, white wine is for warmer weather and red wine for cooler. Beer, on the other hand, is year-round. Still, there are somewhat heavier-weight beers that are brewed for autumn-winter. With fierce weather predicted for Chicago in the coming months, you might want to lay in a few cases of these three local ales to see you through the colder season (you don’t want to get snowed in without liquid bread on hand).

The following brews—good for Halloween and beyond—are listed in order of increasing heaviness.

Scylla's Grasp

Scylla’s Grasp (Urban Legend)
Pulling through the scary theme of the season, Scylla’s Grasp from Urban Legend is a crisp pale ale made with a “mosaic” (i.e., collection) of hops that make for a lot of dimension in each sip. There’s pronounced hoppiness, but also some light citrus, a pleasing combination that would be welcome on an autumn evening. The first sip tickles the buds with light astringency, and the backend pays off with layers of taste, some bitter, others floral. The different angles of light flavor in this brew make this a good food beer: it’s likely that any dish set before you will contain flavors that will complement the many, though uncluttered, tastes in Scylla’s Grasp. If you like hops but recoil from the current trend toward over-hopped beers, this is a good one for you. Read the rest of this entry »

The Levee Rises? Vice Is Brewing In The South Loop

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Quinton Cole/Photo: Lilly Carey

Quintin Cole/Photo: Lilly Carey

By Ben Kramer

When the snowmageddon of 2011 hit Chicago, it shut down schools, businesses and even Lake Shore Drive. The storm also managed to form a friendship that would eventually lead to the birth of Vice District Brewing. “We met as neighbors, ” co-owner Quintin Cole recalls on meeting fellow co-owner Curtis Tarver II. “He helped dig me out during the snowmageddon, and that’s how we met.”

Three-some years after that historic winter, Vice District Brewing and its taproom are set to debut August 22, with their Black IPA, Extra Special Bitter, Blonde, IPA and Molasses Porter. Opening with unique styles was a conscious decision. “We decided to come out with something that’s a little different,” explains Cole. “Most people are unfamiliar with some of the styles we’re coming out with. Black IPA is not something a lot of people are familiar with…we just felt like we wanted to have a nice mix of beers that represent what we like, but also complementary to people coming in who if they want an IPA we have one.” Read the rest of this entry »

Hop Stop: Can Beermiscuous Be the Coffeehouse of Beer?

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unnamedBy Stefan Castellanos

A young man journeys to a faraway land, its culture sparking a passion deep within, one that would go on to shape the man’s life in ways unimaginable. This familiar story could involve all manner of discoveries—language, the arts, sport, siesta. But as it did many Americans in the early nineties, it was a fascination with beer that took hold of a young Paul Leamon during his travels through Europe. Aged for more than two decades now, during which craft brews have gradually achieved omnipresence in our taverns and liquor marts, Paul’s relationship with beer has deepened in complexity, spilling into new and unforeseen walks of his life. An avid home-brewer, a connoisseur of food-beer pairings, and now an entrepreneur, he seeks to further startup ventures and a greater appreciation for craft beer via his newest project, Beermiscuous. Read the rest of this entry »

The Beers of Summer: Drinking for the Home Team

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By Ben Kramer

Beer brings bliss. Summer is bliss. Pair them and you’ll have a wonderful time. Since we are blessed with such a beer-conscious city, Chicago breweries produce hundreds of ales and lagers, all easily accessible to our taste buds and many now use the hot season to release some cool limited releases. For each beer we’ve highlighted one of, in most cases many, places to taste it.

Rosa Hibiscus Ale (Revolution Brewing)

Available at Revolution’s brewpub, 2323 North Milwaukee, until September

Named after Civil Rights hero Rosa Parks, this beer was a tag-team effort by Revolution owner Josh Deth and head brewer Jim Cibak. Deth suggested brewing with hibiscus flowers (along with coining the beer’s name), and Cibak crafted the recipe. Carrying a floral aroma, with hints of cherry and cranberry, the hibiscus provides a natural tartness, which is subtle in the mix.  A crisp, refreshing beverage, Rosa bears a pinkish hue (achieved by steeping the flowers in the wort before fermentation), which gives it an appearance that’s well, Rosie. Read the rest of this entry »

Far From Gin-eric: Half Acre Trots Out the Gin Pony

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Matt Young/Photo: Lilly Carey

It’s safe to say people are familiar with the pairing of gin and juice, but the pairing of gin and beer? In a bold, tasty experiment, Half Acre lead brewer Matt Young decided to couple Half Acre’s Pony Pilsner with gin barrels from Kentucky-founded micro distillery, Corsair. The concoction: a gin-barrel-aged beer entitled Gin Pony.

What sparked the experimentation?

“The idea for aging a beer in a gin barrel was mostly born from the opportunity to do so,” Young says. “Corsair had the barrels, and my good friend Steve Whitledge at Corsair was really talking them up. I think he even suggested aging a pilsner in the barrel.”

This suggestion became reality, leading Half Acre to age a small batch of their Pony Pilsner in Corsair barrels. Read the rest of this entry »