Pauly Graves of Gemini Bistro, courtesy Neil Burger
By Dennis Lee
Gemini Bistro in Lincoln Park recently celebrated its fifth year in business. I stopped by just after their anniversary to chat with head bartender Pauly Graves, who’s been with Gemini Bistro since opening day. Pauly has an easygoing demeanor, but one that also speaks to his seventeen-year experience behind the bar. He greets his customers like family, but also maintains his professional posture, making sure their experience is as comforting as the food and drinks he serves. I watched him serve drinks with a deft hand and a generous pour as he reflected on his five years at Gemini Bistro.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in terms of what you do now?
Reading people and giving them what they need, other than booze in a glass. The guy who wants to sit here, read his book, and not be bothered? I’m great at that. He doesn’t even know I’m there. The woman who just lost her husband and wants to talk; I got that in my wheelhouse too, no problem. I like to give more of a… bedside manner. I’m used to the Chicago drinker now. I know what they want. Everyone’s first words when they look at this menu, “Is it sweet, is it sweet, is it sweet?” Read the rest of this entry »
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 (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 »
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 »
By 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 »
By Stefan Castellanos
On the evening before opening day of the 2014 World Cup, something strange occurred. I was sitting at North Center’s The Globe Pub enjoying my customary Guinness. They were playing highlights from past tournaments all night long—a perfect primer for the match in Sao Paulo the following day—and I wanted all of it in me in time for kickoff. The story of 2002 Korea-Japan was coming to a close, Brazil and Germany lining up for the final in Yokohama, and memories turned visceral.
This was the first World Cup match I’d ever tuned into live, and I recalled thirteen-year-old me creeping down the stairs before sunrise to watch alone. Lord knows why. Even as the Americans dos a cero’d Mexico on their way to the last eight, I was apathetic. But for whatever reason, I risked being given a proper chiding for dozing off in church later that morning and I watched from start to finish. God’s wrath was temporary, I figured, but the wrath of Kahn (legendary German keeper and most outstanding player of 2002 Oliver Kahn, that is) would haunt me forever. He and Ronaldo (Brazil’s superstar striker and top scorer of the tournament) were the only players I’d heard of, and I still knew virtually nothing of them. I watched in puzzled silence as the bucktoothed Brazilian notched the only two goals of the match, and I tried to make sense of this story’s impossibly foreign plot, its faraway setting, and its characters, unlike me in every way. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
By Stefan Castellanos
A winter bar must have two doors. They can’t be French doors, which swing open to reveal the splendor of summering in the countryside, les enfants Jean-Pierre and Gaston playing petanque in the yard as Papa scans the hills before the partridge hunt. They must instead be one in front of the other—two single doorways several feet apart, forming an enclosed vestibule. This pocket of space deadens the incoming cold. Once inside, the view looking out through the plate-glass doors is bleak by comparison. In the frosty, refracted frame there is a young man playing a futile game of “Can I eat these cheese fries with gloves on?” as he waits a frozen eternity for the Clark bus. And there are no partridges; it’s so damn cold there aren’t even pigeons. No splendor in sight, only tempered struggle.
These doors allow us to keep the elements chained up outside. We’re always aware of their existence, but for the moment we’re unencumbered, even liberate, by it. They allow us to say, “Yes, Winter, I hear/see you knocking, and no, I won’t be out until I damn well please.” And although many places have them, there is no more deliberate set of “Chicago doors” than those protecting the Duke of Perth. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Big Joe’s turtle arena
By Stefan Castellanos
During the holidays, a merry malaise sets in. We can float along on ham sandwiches and movie marathons without ever fully achieving in-the-moment consciousness. It’s bliss, and the happy numbness tends to permeate our holiday conversation as well. Some Navidad novocaine turns a frustrating year at work into “a learning experience,” your crazy cousin into “a free spirit trying to find her way” and, most dangerously, your half-hearted plans for future self-improvement into “a great opportunity for personal growth.” Though well-intentioned, these statements are safe and empty, and they set a passive tone for the days to come. There’s nothing like a big pot of black-eyed peas and euphemism to ring in the New Year, right?
Luckily, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing, provided your execution is on point. Check it out. I made five New Year’s resolutions, each as unoriginal and armored in doublespeak as a cowardly breakup text. But to spice things up, I paired each goal with a “corresponding” bar—one for each of the five days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve—in hopes of enhancing my experience and kick-starting 2014. At worst, I have a few drinks, plus add some excitement and structure to this awkward chunk of time. And at best, I take tired clichés and turn them into actual progress toward self-improvement, thus cracking the New Year’s Resolution code. It’s a win-win. Read the rest of this entry »
Top 5 Gin & Tonics
Little Market Brasserie
Top 5 New Cocktails
Pappy Van Winkle barrel-aged Negroni at The Berkshire Room
Cease and Desist at CH Distillery
Tendron & Lime at Embeya
Cat’s Pajamas at Sepia
Rum River Mystic at Three Dots and a Dash