Booze Muse

The art and craft of liquid inspiration

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 »

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 »

Cheers! A British bartender reviews Chicago’s English pubs

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English, an English pub, reviewed by an Englishman, in English

By Ben Small

Trends come and go, change and evolve, but one thing has always remained a constant: what makes an archetypal English pub English. The taste of a hand-pumped cask ale; the sense of age and history, that if the walls could talk, they’d certainly have a few tales to tell; the worn-down Persian carpets that have a musky smell after absorbing years of spilt beer; the polished wood surfaces and overhead exposed beams that provide the source of many bumped and bruised heads; the wholesome experience of pub fare; that comforting feeling that you’re relaxing in a stranger’s front room. “Pub” is an abbreviation of “public house,” and that explains the crucial tenet of what makes a pub a pub, to feel a comfortable belonging in a place that feels like a home. If that means there’s a pub dog nestling up against your legs or that there’s a roaring fire to keep you warm in the winter, then so be it. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Duke of Perth

Beer Rhymes With Cheer, The Nighthawk 1 Comment »

A disclaimer should be lodged before I begin discussing the Duke of Perth: It is a Scottish pub, and some may find it slightly audacious, maybe even a little offensive, that an English chap is making evaluations on intended Scottish cultural imitation. I am no expert on pubs in Scotland, although I have certainly frequented a few of the establishments north of the border. Regardless, the Duke of Perth has an aura akin to any given English pub, only with a much larger emphasis on men dressed in kilts and whisky.

The Duke of Perth really feels like it has been around a long time. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Elephant & Castle

Beer Rhymes With Cheer, The Nighthawk 1 Comment »

There is something about the dark brown hues of the Elephant & Castle at 185 North Wabash, one of three locations the chain inhabits in Chicago, that is distinctly off. Yes, they’ve got the aesthetic of an English pub spot on, but there is something ostensibly lacking in the pseudo-used floral carpets, stained-glass windows and exposed brickwork that looks like it goes back about an inch before reaching plaster. Perhaps it is harsh to judge a downtown pub for being inauthentic in its decor; the bottom floor of a skyscraper is hardly akin to a centuries-old countryside village home-cum-pub with a roaring fireplace and a ceiling that was built when the average height of the human race was a few inches shorter. Regardless, for the uninitiated, Elephant & Castle looks the part. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: English

Beer Rhymes With Cheer, The Nighthawk 1 Comment »

English, you say? There could not be a name for a pub that is quite so unashamedly barefaced about its intentions than one that simply names the nationality of its stylistic and inspirational forefathers. Sadly, however, this River North bar’s name is where the transatlantic connection abruptly concludes. There is absolutely nothing English about the English beyond the most banally contrived and token gestures.

For a start, the staff uniform designer seemed to miss the memo about the bar being inspirationally English. The Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, not the St. George’s Cross of England, tarnishes the back of the shirts with the catchphrase “God save the cuisine” across the middle. This may be a slightly pedantic criticism—the Union Jack is certainly a more recognizable emblem than the white and red of the St. George’s Cross—yet it still comes across as rather amateur and poorly thought through.

Read the rest of this entry »