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The Boozehound Strikes Back: Why Drinks Over Dearborn needs to be saved

News and Dish, Spirits Just Sound Happy, Don't They?, The Fine Art of Mixology, Wine is Poetry in a Bottle No Comments »

By Michael NagrantBeer_Wall-200x149

“Second floor retail is murder,” says Kyle McHugh, aka “The Boozehound” and owner of boutique wine, beer and spirits retailer Drinks Over Dearborn (DOD). Though McHugh learned this truism in business school, he opened DOD on the second floor of an old office building called The Raleigh on Dearborn between Erie and Ontario anyway.

It wasn’t that he was the Evil Knievel of liquor retailers interested in spitting on MBA textbook theories. Rather, a greater truism trumped all: rent prices in the Gold Coast (an area he preferred for its affluent traffic) were a straight-up serial killing. McHugh figured he could better avoid the death of his business by executing his business plan the right way: get a bigger space to conduct classes, tastings and host a wide variety of interesting stock instead of compromising and blowing his life’s savings and small-business loan on a dinky little box on the first floor.

And in a business climate where faux anonymity and cloak and dagger is the new version of the Vegas-style blinking neon sign, who could discount McHugh’s decision? After all, the Lincoln Park restaurant Alinea doesn’t even have a sign and the popular Wicker Park cocktail lounge The Violet Hour looks like a graffiti-covered abandoned building.

If you build it, they will come, right? Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond Beer Nuts: Sommeliers break out the brews

Beer Rhymes With Cheer, Wine is Poetry in a Bottle No Comments »

By Michael Nagrant

The complexity of beer is underrated. There are infinite combinations of malted barleys, herbal hops and brewer’s yeasts that can be combined to yield uniquely crafted beers. Harvested barleys are roasted like green coffee beans, yielding different taste characteristics. “Terroir,” the character of the earth in which a plant grows, is important to beer, and also like wine, there is probably a beer for every food or occasion.

We decided to ask some of Chicago’s top sommeliers, wine directors and beverage experts how they would steer a customer who might be a beer enthusiast, or who didn’t particularly like wine, in three classic food scenarios:

Steak with a red-wine reduction sauce like merlot

Foie gras  on brioche toast with a fruit sauce like cherry or huckleberry

Lobster in a white wine butter sauce

We also asked the sommeliers to recommend their favorite personal “go to” or “under the radar” beers.

Alpana Singh, Director of Wine and Spirits, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

Steak Pairing: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout—“It’s heavier and richer with the same weight as red wine. Any beer that you can’t see through, that’s got more of a brown chocolatey color to it, or a dense mouth feel that can stand up to the intense red wine reduction is good.”

Foie gras: Hoegaarden white ale—“It can act like a Burgundy white.”

Lobster: Lindeman’s Gueuze—“It’s light and crisp to counter the butter sauce.”

Go To Beer: Stella Artois

Brian Duncan, Wine Director, Bin 36

Steak: Bell’s Stout

Foie gras: Bosteel Tripel Karmeliet

Lobster: Mendocino Red Tail Ale—“It’s got a creamy consistency that will play up the richness in the lobster.”

Under the Radar: Three Floyd’s Alpha King

Matthew Gundlach, Sommelier, Moto restaurant

Steak: Summit Great Northern Porter—“I think of a porter, the bold flavor going with the bold flavor of the steak. We used the Summit in a wine progression paired up with a black bean soup with chocolate marshmallows.”

Foie gras: “I would probably just grab a mix-and-match six pack and have a lot of fun with this.”

Lobster: New Glarus Spotted Cow—“It’s an amber with light fruity flavors.”

Under the radar favorite: New Glarus Uff-da Bock

Joe Catterson, Wine Director, Alinea restaurant

Steak: Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

Foie gras: Binchois Reserve—“It’s a Belgian beer, off dry, rich with a nice touch of spice.”

Lobster: Pilsner Urquell—“It’s light and clean”

Go to beer: Guinness Stout

Adam Seger, Wine Director/Bar Chef, Nacional 27

Steak: Chimay Blue—“I’d go towards Belgium, because you get the higher alcohol like you would with a full-bodied wine.”

Foie gras: Lindemans Kriek

Lobster: Anchor Steam—“Nothing too hoppy. I’d go more towards a lager because of the lighter acidity.”

Under the Radar: Goose Island Pere Jacques