Sunday, July 8, 2007

Chicago...the, Windy City

The McGerik's, Kris, and I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Chicagoland to attend a Tiki event, Exotica, and sample as many beers as our livers would allow at the area's many fine breweries and brewpubs. In five days we hit 9 breweries/brewpubs and three different beer bars. Now, considering two of the five days were spent driving to and from Chicago, that's not a bad count. The breweries we hit, in order, were Emmett's Ale House (West Dundee), Piece (Chicago), Taylor Brewing (Lombard), Two Brother's (Warrenville), Lunar (Villa Park), Goose Island (Chicago - Clybourn location), Mickey Finn's Brewery (Libertyville), Flatlanders (Lincolnshire), and Moosejaw (Wisconsin Dells, WI). The beer bars we hit, which were highly recommended to us by "those in the know" were The Map Room (Chicago), Clark Street Ale House (Chicago), and Firkins (Libertyville). Highlights and lowlights of each:
  • Emmett's Ale House: All-around great place for a beer and a meal. Friendly staff and nice joint. The brewmaster, I think his name was Ryan, actually did some of his novice work at Town Hall. We also hit Emmett's in Downer's Grove, but I recommend going to the West Dundee location as I think it was the first.
  • Piece: The service was a little slow (I guess the place WAS hopping) and the beer was very flavorful and pretty good. I didn't find any session beers, though, and they were out of some of the beers I thought I'd enjoy most. The 'za was pretty damn good too. Worth the visit.
  • Taylor Brewing: Meh. They charged $10 for a f%#king pint class and seemed their brewing focus seemed designed to please your Miller crowd. Overall, if you're driving by, hungry and thirsty, and you happen to be driving down the right side of the street...well, you decide for yourself.
  • Two Brothers: This was a brewery in a light industrial building. We couldn't get a tour and they didn't do any tastings. By and large, they seemed put out by our visit. They sent us to a local bar, John's (great place, by the way), to taste some of their beers. We all enjoyed most of the Two Brothers that we had at John's and other places. They definitely do a great job making interesting and tasty beers. That being said, unless you need a souveniour, don't bother stopping in. Find a nice bar to knuckle-down at.
  • Lunar Brewing: This may have been the highlight of the trip. The place probably falls into the dive bar category, which adds to the allure. The bartender was very friendly and helpful and there wasn't one beer there that we didn't enjoy. Lunar is worth going out of your way to visit.
  • Goose Island: I had my expectations set low and I was proved very wrong. We visited the brewpub on Clybourn. All in all, great beers, great food, friendly staff, and nice atmosphere. Unfortunately, this was the last place we hit on 7/5, so we were a bit beered out and didn't sample the full offering, but we had enough... A must see.
  • Mickey Finn's: When we first got here, we let out a collective groan due to the service, but our server ended up doing a fine job and we were surprised by the quality of the beer and food. Worth visiting.
  • Flatlanders: We got a tour of the brewpub from Art, the friendly brewmaster who went out of his way to make us feel welcome. Flatlanders was surprisingly large and looked to be a newer establishment. Art does a pretty good job with the beer and had a well-rounded selection (from grand cru to dunkel to stout).
  • Moosejaw: We decided to hit Moosejaw on our way back from Chi-town although we were all a bit leery given that it's located smack-dab in the heart of breeder country in Wisconsin Dells. Needless to say, we set our expectations low. We were wrong. They carried a large and varied selection of beers, most of which were pretty damn good. We also learned that the brewmaster is a woman. This is the first place we've been to where the brewmaster was female. We were also informed that this is the only such brewery/brewpub in WI where this is the case. Right on. Well worth the stop.

As an aside, The Map Room, Clark Street Ale House, and Firkin are all great beer bars, both in terms of selection/quality and atmosphere and worth checking out, although Firkin is the only place with a menu.

All in all, the trip was a lot of fun. Kris and I got our first taste of Tiki. I was happy to find that the Tiki crowd is just as geeky and friendly as the beer crowd with which I'm already familiar. Good folk. Anywho...this is too much already.

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