Booze Muse

The art and craft of liquid inspiration

Sort of the College of Cardinals Conclave for the Wine Industry: Spending a Night at the Wine Spectator Grand Tour

Drinking Events (yes, redundant, we know), Wine is Poetry in a Bottle No Comments »
Wine Spectator Grand Tour/Photo: Camilla Sjodin

Wine Spectator Grand Tour/Photo: Camilla Sjodin

By Harris Meyer

Corina Alfaro and Carissa Emery, who only recently turned legal drinking age, stand holding sparkling wine in their expensive Riedel wine glasses, looking excited and a little tipsy.

The two young women had won free tickets from the B96 radio station—which otherwise would have cost $225 each—to attend the Wine Spectator Grand Tour 2015 at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom. They obviously are enjoying the three-hour event, featuring sips of 228 of the best and most expensive wines from sixteen countries and four American states, with retail prices up to nearly $500 a bottle for top-of-the-line Bordeaux. It’s Alfaro’s and Emery’s first-ever serious wine tasting.

They both say they prefer sweeter white wines and sparklers to the drier, more tannic reds. “We used to drink boxed wine, whatever, give us the cheapest thing,” Emery says with a giggle. “Now this has opened our eyes to a lot of different wines.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Stout Blowout/Small Bar

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Here in Chicago, winter months are meant for drinking a beer that’ll stick to your ribs. A tall pint of stout as dark as the 5pm sky and a head of chocolate frosting foam will nourish the heart and warm the soul against biting winds and seasonal captivity. Small Bar on Division is getting a jump on welcoming winter’s tonic with a Stout Blowout—an event featuring more than a dozen different thick and frothy brews. Read the rest of this entry »

Drink Before You Eat: Black Wednesday Events

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Bar Umbriago

Bar Umbriago
All you can drink for three hours? Now if that’s not how Chicagoans celebrate Black Wednesday I don’t know what is. It’s happening at Bar Umbriago. For $40, guests will enjoy unlimited drinks starting at 9pm and ending at midnight, and a live DJ until closing time. The only drinks this special will not include are shots, which means all of Bar Umbriago’s signature cocktails and house-infused vodkas are up for grabs. Bar Umbriago, 6 West Hubbard, (312)494-1200, 9pm-12am, $40.

Read the rest of this entry »

Macho Madness: Booze and Beatdowns at Farmhouse Tavern

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A half-hour after opening on a Sunday, every seat in Farmhouse tavern is filled and general manager Rob Diaz was amazed by the turnout. “I never, in my wildest dreams, expected it to be this busy,” he says. “We’ve sold more beer today than we’ve ever sold. We’re gonna have our biggest Sunday of all time.”

The reason for the packed house? The third annual Chicago Craft Beer Week and the wrestler Randall Poffo, better known as ”Macho Man” Randy Savage. The event was Diaz’s idea. He wanted to celebrate craft beer, and when he realized Sunday would be the one-year anniversary of Macho Man’s death, he knew he had to put something together. Read the rest of this entry »

Cachaça Wins: No More “Brazilian Rum”

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Over a year ago, Booze Muse published an article about the uphill battle that cachaça was fighting with The United States Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau over the commercial name of their national spirit. The liquor was labeled “Brazilian Rum,” to the detriment and embarrassment  of fans, connoisseurs and producers, who argued that although cachaça bore some resemblance to the Caribbean favorite, the denomination was, as Leblon’s Steve Luttmann, stated then, misleading to say the least. “The issue is when consumers read ‘Brazilian rum’ on the label, they expect it to taste like rum,” he said. “Consumers taste it and find out that it really isn’t rum, and this creates a lot of consumer confusion.” Both liquors originate from sugar cane, but rum is distilled from molasses, whereas cachaça is distilled from fresh sugarcane.  Read the rest of this entry »

411: Just Poggle It

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Fueled by the phenomenon of Groupon, deal-of-the-day marketing is changing the way people live. Every morning tens of thousands of Chicagoans wake up to an email offering an outrageous bargain for anything from a boot-camp exercise class to parachuting out of a plane. Even the lazy acrophobic is persuaded to purchase these deals because of the enormous price reductions. While the discounts are remarkable, those who prefer to maintain a steady lifestyle of drinking with friends are more interested in saving money on things they already do regularly. is a nightlife destination site that focuses on drink, food and event specials in Chicago bars and restaurants. Unlike web-based deal-of-the-day competitors, Poggled offers “real deals in real time” with its new iPhone application, explains the company’s co-founder Joe Matthews. Because “people don’t like to make decisions until they are walking out the door,” says Matthews, a deal can be discovered, purchased and instantly redeemed while already sitting comfortably in your local neighborhood tavern. For the more adventurous social drinker, registered users can search for deals by day of the week as well as GPS location using the Poggled iPhone app to scout out a new bar scene adding a splash of spontaneity and savings to their recreational routine. Read the rest of this entry »

411: First Beer

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Seventy-seven years ago this week, the United States repealed prohibition and Chicago’s brewmaster community wants to celebrate. That’s why Encore Liquid Lounge will be teaming up with Chicago’s Two Brothers and Metropolitan Brewing for a five-course “beer dinner” prix fixe, featuring locally brewed beers and German-style fare on December 6.

Encore, 171 West Randolph, may be uniquely suited to host the dinner: it’s located at the Hotel Allegro on Randolph between LaSalle and Wells which, when it was known as The Bismarck, served the first legal beer in Chicago post-prohibition. As part of the commemoration, they will be serving a beer called “The Bismarck,” a Munich Dunkel brewed by Doug Hurst of Metropolitan and Andy Pishko of Encore, brewed especially for that dinner.

“It will not be distributed anywhere else, and there are no plans to brew it again,” says Pishko. “I wanted this dinner to focus on some of the great beers being made in the Chicago area, and I think (we have) a good representation.”

In addition to “The Bismarck,” Encore will be featuring other beers brewed locally by Chicago brewers’ Metropolitan and Two Brothers, as part of this special German menu “specifically designed to be paired with the beers.” (Jonas Simon)

For reservations, contact Andy Pishko at or (312)325-7121.

411: Beer by the Barrel

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Beer here! Not just any beer—no Budweiser, Sam Adams or PBR—but rare beer, brewed in tiny batches by meticulous brewers with fidelity to old wooden barrels. More than 100 breweries will participate in the Eighth Annual Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer on Saturday, November 6, hosted by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.

“It’s the only event of its kind,” says Pete Crowley, president of the ICBG (and head brewer at the new Haymarket Pub and Brewery in the West Loop, expected to open early this December). “Only 10 percent of beer in the United States is craft-brewed, and this event is an opportunity for the public to taste them all under one roof.”

What’s with the barrels? Craft brewers pride themselves in their attention to detail, to subtly mixing exotic flavors with topnotch hops, and most of all, preparing a limited amount to maintain the high quality of flavor and complexity.

“Some of these beers are so rare,” Crowley says, “there’s only so much of it. We can’t ask brewers for more than five gallons. Sometimes they only brew one barrel.” Read the rest of this entry »

411: A Herd of Lambic

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The brew kettle at Lindemans

Not enough spontaneity in your beer life?  Typical brews can’t match wits with your wild side?  Well, the yeast will be wild and the fermentation spontaneous this Saturday with the Lambic Beer Festival at Delilah’s, 2771 North Lincoln. Lambic is a Belgian variety of beer specific to a region near Brussels made by a process of spontaneous fermentation where wild yeast within the brewing environment makes a beer a lambic.  “It’s one of the oldest types of beer in the world, and it’s fundamentally still brewed the same way it always has been,” says Mike Miller of Delilah’s. Lambic beer uses the wild yeast and bacteria of its native Belgium and is often aged for three years, mixed with other ingredients, and then aged another year in bottles. Miller says the festival is designed to please both seasoned beer intellectuals and inquisitive beer novices open to trying this complex tasting beer.  “There’s a high acidity in these beers,” Miller says. “Some are on the sweeter side, and some are bone dry… basically, this event is meant to be an educational beer study.” Read the rest of this entry »

411: Beer Fest

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As part of the 2010 World Beer Cup, the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and & Towers will be hosting the Craft Brewers Conference & Brew Expo America from April 7-April 10. The conference, the largest of its kind in North America, will bring craft brewers from all over the world to Chicago. Unfortunately, unless you are a beer-industry professional, you will not be able to directly partake in the festivities. But even though many Chicago beer geeks will be shut out of the presentations on brewing craft beers and will miss keynote speaker Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon—yes, really—there are plenty of chances outside of the Sheraton to roll up your sleeves and get down to drinking some of the best beers in Chicago and the world. Numerous bars throughout the city and even Whole Foods Lincoln Park are holding craft-beer-inspired events and specials. Moonshine in Wicker Park, which brews six of its own craft beers, will be celebrating beer all week while Chicago is at the center of the serious beer universe. New executive chef Matt Wilde is trained in French cuisine but has embraced the challenge of experimenting with beer in his dishes. “Food and drinks follow trends, and beer in cooking is a big trend right now. People like the idea of having beer in their food,” says Wilde, who will be introducing six new dishes for the celebration that will each incorporate one of Moonshine’s original craft beers. For Wilde, a chef’s “vision with food always has to stay evolving.” (Andrew Rhoades)