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Booze Muse

The art and craft of liquid inspiration

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 »

Baderbräu Redux: Chicago’s Original Craft Beer is Back

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What’s old is new again, as Baderbräu, Chicago’s original craft beer, makes its triumphant return to the city. Chicago’s craft beer scene wasn’t always as vibrant as it is today and, in the early 1990s, Baderbräu was one of the only locally produced beers on the market. But just as quickly as it rose in popularity, so too did it deflate, all a matter of growing too big too soon. However, a Baderbräu renaissance is afoot, and it’s all thanks to beer savior Rob Sama.

Baderbräu was founded in 1989 by Ken Pavichevich, a former Chicago police officer with an ardent passion for beer. After falling in love with European-style beers, the burgeoning aficionado started raising money to build his own brewery in Elmhurst and give Chicago the kinds of craft brews he came to love in Europe. At its peak, Baderbräu was responsible for seventy-five-percent of Chicago’s craft beer consumption, wooing beer-lovers such as Sama, a finance student at the University of Chicago, who was getting into craft beers just as Baderbräu was hitting its stride. “If you could walk into a bar and see a Baderbräu handle, it meant you would be drinking good beer that night,” says Sama on the state of Chicago’s beer landscape at Baderbräu’s apex, wherein their beers were sold at more than 200 bars and restaurants throughout the city. Read the rest of this entry »

Barrels of Flavor: Goose Island’s Bourbon County Line Returns and Expands

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Bourbon and beer. They’re awesome, bold and delicious. Put them together, and you get something strong yet flavorful. Case in point, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout. Released November 29, Bourbon County Brand Stout, Coffee Stout and three new additions to the BCS family (Backyard Rye, Proprietor’s and Barleywine) hit Chicago’s liquor stores where they will remain for a limited time only. Goose Island Brewmaster Brett Porter gave Newcity some insight on the craft and characteristics of the beer.

What’s the flavor profile on Bourbon County?
If you sat down with a sheet of paper and wrote down all the different flavors, you could probably fill a page with it. People taste cherry, vanilla, chocolate, coffee, people taste burnt wood… people taste hot alcohol flavors, a distinct bourbon flavor. Read the rest of this entry »

Buy That Woman a Beer: Lager Lovers Turned Lady Bloggers

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Sarah Stegeman

Sarah Stegeman started beer blogging to save her marriage.

She and her husband were in counseling when their therapist recommended they find a hobby to enjoy together. The two settled on sampling new beers each week to keep up quality time, and before long, they had trouble keeping track of their discoveries.

So in April of last year, Stegeman started her blog, Hoppy Beer Girl, which has since evolved from a digital chronicle of date-night beer explorations to a dedicated outlet for her beer enthusiasm.

“I had looked around at other beer blogs just to get ideas, but I wasn’t really following anything,” the twenty-eight-year-old Stegeman says. “Once I started to blog, there was such a huge outreach from the beer community. I know people across the country because of our shared passion for beer.”

As Chicago experiences its own craft-beer renaissance—many local breweries are less than five years old, and more than a dozen are opening in the next few years—the online beer community has also taken on a life of its own. Now, beer-blogging women like Stegeman are a bigger part of the conversation, both across the country and here in Chicago. 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 »