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Entries from January 2007

Bad Beer

January 26th, 2007 · Comments Off

It is inevitalble that if you drink enough beer, you’ll drank some bad beer. I don’t mean the Blatz or the Budwieser Ultra-Ultra lights. I mean you’ll get a beer that once was a good beer.

A month ago, I thought it was cool that I knew where you could find Fat Tire on tap. Every place in Chicago Seems to have the big bottle of New Belgium’s product, but I hadn’t seen it on tap yet. I had tried Fat Tire a few years ago in Phoenix, and heard of the successful word of mouth campaign that got it placed in any bar that had space for the oversized bottles. It’s malty sweetness and popularity quickly made them available everywhere. I had one on tap in December in a bar called Citizen, at 346 Eire in River North and was going to talk about it here until I started this challenge. I’d link to their site at but they have a browser halting Shockwave music player.

So I stopped by the Citizen and got one. But what I got was a pint of slightly putrid benzene. It was the right color, a little flat looking, with the same thin, but standard head, but was a concentrated glass of plastizers and whatever enzymes managed to mantain their molecular structure through whatever torture this liquid had been through since its birth. It smelled like denatured alcohol and melted vinyl.

The staff was in some sort of meeting, and I think this is one of those places that doens’t consider themsleves open until very late, when the clubbers come around the neighborhood, so it took way too long to get someone to acknowledge that I wasn’t going to drink this stuff. The bartender finally returned and gave me another choice. I ordered a Peroni, knowing that at least I’d be able to knock another uncommon tap off the list. Until I realized I wouldn’t be able to fulfil the official rules of drinking 4 ozs. The melted polymer flavor was in this beer too. At first I thought it might be a chemical reaction with whatever was left in my mouth, but It was unmistakably repeated. Whether it was the lines or glasses not properly washed, I couldn’t tell. Normally this offense would make me never return, but since I’m reporting it, I might try them again in a few weeks to let everyone know if it was a one day fluke.

Luckily, the Green Door Tavern is around the corner. And I was pleasantly surprised to find Fat Tire on tap there too. Fat Tire the way it was supposed to taste – malty and ‘biscuity’ slightly carmelly and very drinkable. Its popularity is probably due to its approachability. Not overly hopped or overly alcoholic like many micro styles, it’s a good choice for beer drinkers moving up from the macros.

As for the Green Door, I’ve worked directly across the street from the place for years, and while I’ve been in there enough times, I’ve never officially become a regular. The reason is its popularity – whenever I want a beer after working late, all the bar stools seem to always be full. But other than that, the Green Door is a great bar, a true Chicago tavern, around since just after the Fire (one of the few wooden framed buildings in Chicago) with good food. I’m a fan of their chili and their ribs, served with a slightly orangey sauce. They have a good selection of other tap beers, but nothing really unusual. I’ll probably head back when I go to cross Hacher Pschorr off the list.

I’ll write up reviews of some others, but here’s some updates to the list of tap beer I’ve had so far this year:

7. Maredsous 8
8. Lagunitas Censored
9. Unibroue Maudite
10. Guinness
11. Goose Island Christmas Ale
12. Rogue Dead Guy
13. Goose Island Matilda
14. Fat Tire
15. Peroni
16. Smithwicks
17. Fuller’s London Porter
18. Fuller’s London Pride
19. Fuller’s ESB
20. Trumer Pils

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Tags: Beers on tap

Buchwald’s Regret

January 20th, 2007 · Comments Off

“I know I have not eaten all the eclairs I always wanted.”

From Art Buchwald’s last column Goodbye, My Friends.

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Tags: Food News and Links

Food links

January 13th, 2007 · Comments Off

Ethanol’s effect: Expensive tortillas “Tortilla prices have jumped nearly 14 percent over the past year, a move the head of Mexico’s central bank called “unjustifiable” in a country where inflation ran about 4 percent.”

Excellent set of articles on Oysters from the Reader: The Oyster Whisperer and The Oyster Manifetso “He once hooked a few cold-water oysters to an EEG machine—along with a sea urchin, a snail, and a king crab—at the end of a long evening involving a fistfight, bailing a drunk chef out of jail, taking him to the ER, and then bribing an intern with free food. His experiments with shellfish and medical equipment aren’t over yet; Fulton’s is bringing in a defibrillator that Mavrantonis thinks would be perfect for searing live scallops: “Instead of the gel they rub on the panels, I could use some nice olive oil.”

Part II: The Alchemist A chef in Chicago wants to blow your mind. The second part on MIT’s Tech Review’s story on Achatz.

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Tags: Food News and Links


January 12th, 2007 · Comments Off

For those who think I might have given up my beer quest, never fear, I’m still going, with an average of one a day, I just haven’t had time to write them up. 365-beer is back up for a few privigled drinkers, but closed to the masses of drunks that first attacked it, so I’m tracking my progress there and will be adding a list to this site shortly.

I did want to mention that the Ukrainian Village Draught Beer Preservation Society is having a Pub Stroll tonight. That’s definitely an area I need to explore more.

Check out the other neighborhoods’ Draught Beer Preservation Societies. The Society is having a bike ride to Three Floyd’s Brewery tomorrow. The 32 odd miles to Indiana sound easy, but the ride back would be very difficult.

I should mention that Patrick’s, a bar I mentioned last week, is closed and dark. I’m not sure if that’s temporary or not.

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Tags: Beers on tap

A few food links

January 9th, 2007 · Comments Off

MIT’s Technology Review profiles Grant Achatz in The Alchemist – A chef in Chicago wants to blow your mind.


Poochie’s makes a top five hot dog list I love Poochie’s but I seem to always get the Burger. I need to try the dog next time. Here’s my review of a recent visit.

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Tags: Food News and Links

Another on-tap beer

January 9th, 2007 · Comments Off

6) Three Floyds Alpha Klaus Xmas Porter. I tried one of these at Clark Street Ale house back in December, served in a big snifter and it quickly became my favorite Christmas Beer. Last night I had it on the hand-pull at Twisted Spoke on Ogden, and it was just as tasty. Although I’m not going to complain that I got a full pint, this deserves a glass you can stick your nose into. Served on the hand-pull it was just the perfect temperature – just about cold. It’s dark, really dark, with a tanish head and a piney hoppy, coffee aroma. It’s creamy, with lots of roasted malts like a porter but really nice and hoppy, with the pineyness that reminds you it’s a Christmas beer. 7.50% ABV.


The owners describe Twisted Spoke as a ‘family biker bar’. They’ve got a good on-tap selection and the place has just enough of an edge to make it interesting. This is the only place I know that has bourbon on tap. Not bourbon beer, real bourbon. I’ll be near the Ogden location every once in awhile for a few weeks, so I’ll be back in to see what else they have.

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Tags: Beers on tap

More on-tap beers

January 7th, 2007 · Comments Off

Sadly the 365 beer page has gone away It was great idea which became popular, but the creator understandably couldn’t handle the flood of drunks heading his way. He probably should have cut off new drinkers by the first few days of January.

In any case, I’m still resolving to continue on my quest to find as many different on-tap beers as possible this year. A few people have expressed an interest in joining this quest, including a bartender who exclaimed “My life has meaning again!” So, if you’ve started on this quest, keep on keeping track, and I might set something up where a few select others can share their progress.

In the meantime here’s a beer…

Winters Bourbon Cask Ale at Bar Louie

5) Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale. I ordered and drank this beer without the slightest idea it was an Anheuser-Busch product. As I drank it I was saying to myself “how could any self-respecting brewer spend the effort and expense on this style and release this?” Not that it was bad, just not very refined, way off balance and tasting more like it was flavored, rather than crafted. My answer came when I later looked it up and realized it wasn’t a self-respecting brewer. The style involves taking a strong beer with the ability to age, and storing it real bourbon barrels, to take on the naunces of bourbon and oak. Goose Island has a few great examples of this.

This beer has a sweet caramel vanilla nose with almost no head, just a thin ring around the glass. The flavor is sweet, cloying but drinkable, with vanilla extract and caramel, ending with a burnt caramel finish. Faint hints of bourbon, but more of fake bourbon flavor that might be concocted in a flavor factory, not like real, complex single cask craft bourbons. 6%ABV. Not bad, but not worth wasting “all-imported hops”, “toasted bourbon oak casks” and “madagascar vanilla beans” on if you’re not going to create an over-the-top beer.

If you’re an adventurous beer drinker, it’s worth giving this a try, because it’s interesting attempt by AB, just not interesting enough to have a second one.

AB has produced a few other reserves aged in casks – Michelob Celebrate and Brew Masters’ Private reserve, both at higher ABVs. I had seen these in a liquor store somewhere, but they seemed rather expensive to me at the time.

The Bar was Bar Louie, in Evanston. If you’re unfamilar with this chain, it’s a fairly decent restaurant/bar that I’d compare to a more urban, hip, Applebee’s. Okay, not that bad. I’ve been a fan of their wings since I tried them in their first location near my office on Chicago Ave. They’ve always had a good on-tap list, although they do tend to stay reasonably mainstream with the larger macros. There was a time when they were a little more expensive than most taps in Evanston, but it seems everyone else has caught up. I’ll be back for a few of their more uncommon taps to watch them change seasonaly. I noticed they have Goose Island Christmas and a Paulaner which I’ve put on my to-do list.

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Tags: Beers on tap

Food news

January 6th, 2007 · Comments Off

Inventor of instant noodles dies at 96The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum” opened in 1999 in Ikeda City in western Japan commemorating his inventions.”

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Tags: Food News and Links

361 beers

January 5th, 2007 · Comments Off

A couple more beers for the 365 beer challenge. As I mentioned, I’m not really going for 365, but for as many different on-tap beers as possible.

I’ve talked about Prairie Moon in Evanston, before, and it’s great that there’s a good beer on tap within walking distance of my house. The Moon has several American micros/macros on tap as well as a tap they change around once in awhile for special stuff. They’ve also got a great bottle selection, with new ones added regularly. And they’ve got really good food – I’m a big fan of their painted soup and shrimp and crawfish po-boy. Here’s a couple of their tap beers, that you don’t see everywhere.

Pranqster on tap at the Moon
3) North Coast Brewing Pranqster is a Belgian Style Golden Ale made with “antique yeast strains”. It’s tasty, fruity, citrusy, hiding its 7.6% ABV well. Maybe it’s not as complex as the ‘real’ Belgian Goldens, but there’s certainly a lot going on in a goblet of this stuff. It quickly became one of my favorite beers, since it’s both special, and available near by. They sneak up on you, so lingering over just one might be a good idea.

Belhaven on tap at the Moon
4) Belhaven Scottish Ale I was a little unfamiliar with this style, but it’s a very enjoyable ale. Poured from a nitro tap like a Guinness, it’s creamy with a nice thick foamy head. Notes of honey nutty malt with a watery finish. The brewery lists it as 3.9% ABV, while Beeradvocate lists it as 5.2% (which I think is what my bartender said it was, so it might be the export strength). Here’s a little bit of info on the Scotch and Scottish Ale styles.

I’ll be back to the Moon for a few more, including the awesome Maredsous.

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Tags: Beers on tap

365 beers

January 4th, 2007 · Comments Off

Last year I was inspired by Nick at 365 Days of Beer who drank 365 different beers in a year, and thought it might be interesting to attempt a similar quest.

I also wanted to do something in the spirit of 1000 bars, the inspiring story of a man who went to 1000 bars in one year. I calculated the cost of that adventure, at the absolute minimum, with lousy tips at around 5 grand. Not to mention transportation, rehab and loss of income from not being able to ever work. I, like the bar man, will put off such lofty goals until retirement.

However I do have a project – to seek out as many uncommon beers on tap in and around Chicago as I can in a year. 365 is do-able, but 200 is reasonable at around 2 a week, and more affordable. And it makes it sound less likely that I have a problem.

This project will have the benefit of discovering or trying many of the bars that appreciate and cater to the real beer drinker. While not every bar can hold as many taps as a Hopleaf or Maproom, there are plenty of bars that devote a tap or two to a regional seasonal, or specially imported brew.

And now Chicagoist tells me about a similar, where drinkers can log off beers drank in a big database.

So without anymore delay, here’s 2 beers I’ve had on tap already this year.

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Tags: Beers on tap