Booze Muse

The art and craft of liquid inspiration

The Levee Rises? Vice Is Brewing In The South Loop

Beer Rhymes With Cheer, New bars and clubs No Comments »
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 »

A Sense of Decency: Moscow Mules and DIY Drinks at the Highball Lounge

New bars and clubs, The Nighthawk No Comments »

Photo: Philamonjaro

At first, walking up the stairs into the Highball Lounge is a little jarring—the shiny, clunky metal stairs are loud and modern, not what you would expect from a retro bar like this. But walking into the dimly lit bar, the atmosphere and music soothe the nerves. The walls and decor are fifties and sixties-inspired, and while they reach into the past, the bar is definitely in the present. It’s like a dream, a mixing of two eras, a surreal place to cut loose and not think about reality for a while.

Read the rest of this entry »

411: Paddy O’Fegan’s Opens, and Isn’t It Always News When an Irish Pub Opens in Chicago?

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Patrick Fegan (Paddy) and his team of chefs and bartenders are a bunch of characters, the type of people who always seem to have a few jokes in the chamber and a flattering interest in the people they encounter. They are also an ambitious lot, as they prepare for their August 15 opening of Paddy O’Fegan’s, the Fulton Market District’s newest Irish, Canadian, and American (Camerish?) neighborhood pub.

When you first walk into the pub, you will be greeted by Chef Jack Austin’s river rock mosaic floor, which reads “Céad Mile Fáilte,” Gaelic for 100,000 welcomes. Read the rest of this entry »

411: The Minimal Mixology

New bars and clubs, News and Dish, The Fine Art of Mixology No Comments »

When asked whether he considers himself a bartender or a mixologist, Peter Gugni answers with a grin and a nod, “I’m a bartender. I take care of my bar.” Gugni is also the general manager of The Bedford. Once the Home Bank & Trust, the basement of 1612 West Division is now a late-night kitchen and bar. Gugni designed the bar to be “built for speed,” he explains. “I wanted to make it so you don’t have to wait fifteen minutes for a drink.” Taking a minimalist approach when creating the original cocktail list with more than a dozen options, Gugni used “the fewest ingredients—but with the most flavor.” Such strategizing allows bartenders to carefully create beverages without having to cut corners to meet a busy crowd’s requests. Yet an overwhelming grand opening and a noticeably swamped bar staff led Gugni to rethink The Bedford’s offerings. With more than thirty wine  and twenty beer options, there are only three cocktails on the menu. To offer the highest and most consistent quality drinks, Gugni decided to take a step back.  “I don’t want to say we are a cocktail bar,” admits Gugni, “but we are a bar that does great cocktails.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Winter’s Ail: Alcohol cures the uncommon cold

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lMost people I know save barhopping for summer, when the temperature agrees with crowds and the night air rumbles with tension, with perspiration, with sex.

I drink in winter. The shedding of winter dress upon entering a dark and musty room feels like abandoning the torture outside. Rooms are empty, tables thin. You get to know your bartender. You’re the only sad bastard within range.

I have a half-dream of someday opening a tavern called Scar Bar—“scar” as in “emotional scar,” not “physical scar,” though bikers will always be welcome—where the soundtrack consists solely of Joy Division, The Smiths, Velvet Underground and Elliott Smith. You get it. When I heard the people behind the old Thursday night dance party at Neo were opening a bar in the Logan Square area, the neighborhood where I live, and they had the audacity to call it Late Bar, I was terrified. Terrified because I can actually imagine the Planet Earth people improving on my inevitably out-of-reach fantasy. Read the rest of this entry »

411: The Earth stays up late

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duran“Whenever two DJs open a bar, music is going to be a big part of it,” says Kristine Hengl, co-owner of the newly conceived Late Bar, set to open December 26 in Logan Square. “It’s part of our existence. There’s a whole bunch of music that we love, but sometimes it doesn’t really bring a crowd. We just think this is a great place to showcase that.” Located at 3534 West Belmont, Late Bar was created by Hengl and her partner Dave Roberts, a seasoned DJ in the Chicago nightclub scene. Open Tuesday through Friday from 9pm-4am, and Saturday until 5am, Late Bar’s flagship night, dubbed “Planet Earth,” will be every Saturday. “You’re going to think we’re really nerdy for this, but our name, ‘Late Bar,’ is actually from the b-side to Duran Duran’s single ‘Planet Earth.’ And we’re open till 4am, so it works.”

Yak Yak Yak: Lincoln Park institution Yak-Zies gets a makeover

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mGranite floors, two custom-fitted bars and gleaming cherry wood walls are some of the highlights of what used to be a “basement dive bar” just two years ago.

The original Yak-Zies at 506 West Diversey has reopened its doors after being closed, due to the death of its owner, Kenny Miller, in 2007. The “facelift,” as general manager Dan Schack describes it, began in November.

“People walk in and they’re like ‘wow,’” says Schack. “The response from the neighborhood has been unbelievable.” Read the rest of this entry »

Nighty Night: Inside the new resto-bar from the owners of Lula Cafe

Bars of Summer, New bars and clubs No Comments »

nightwood_001When Jason Hammel describes his experience of opening Nightwood in Pilsen, he draws similarities to being the new kid in town. “It’s a process to get introduced to a neighborhood and the people here,” he says. “To be a newcomer is not easy, it’s like the first day of school for us.” Yet in terms of popularity, this summer has proven that Nightwood is poised to become one of the neighborhood’s favorite upscale haunts.

The restaurant/bar has been garnering attention since its opening in late May, which is no surprise considering that it is the latest venture for Hammel and his wife Amalea Tshilds, the duo behind Logan Square’s Lula Café. They teamed up with Matt Eisler—owner of Empire Liquors, Bar Deville and Angels and Kings—and Kevin Heisner to create the minimalist space within Pilsen’s gallery district. “We had been looking here for a while; I think that it is a unique neighborhood,” Hammel says. “There are a lot of artists that live here, a lot of young people that are doing creative things. There is a geographic otherness in the same sense that Logan Square feels cut off from the rest of Chicago and I like that about it.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Violet Hour: The New Wicker Park lounge raises spirits

New bars and clubs, The Nighthawk No Comments »

From the outside, new Wicker Park lounge The Violet Hour appears to be just another dive bar. There’s no sign, and the plain wood paneling nearly obscures the door, except for the bright yellow light bulb hanging overhead. But the line outside on weekends arouses curiosity about this secretive new hot spot where the cocktail reigns supreme.

Named after a line from T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland,” the elegant setting inside The Violet Hour is a striking contrast to the outside. Theatrical, blue curtains divide the three rooms and ornate chandeliers accent the lofty ceilings. Candles and soft lighting illuminate the pristine rooms, reminiscent of a Prohibition-era social club in a metropolitan hotel. Tall, regal blue chairs and cushy booths beside a fireplace provide a comfortable spot for sipping chic cocktails made with the utmost care by the expert, well-dressed bartenders. Read the rest of this entry »