I’ve loved beer since my first sip of a Belgian kriek in Brussels, on January 2nd, 2007. I knew at that moment, for the next 2
weeks, I was going to have a beer with every lunch and dinner. It was as expensive as water sometimes, and tasted waaay better. Also, what better place to start drinking beer with seriousness than Belgium,
Austria, and Germany? I tried as many as I could and when I came back, despite still only being 20, I knew I must continue to try different beers at school. I found friends who liked me enough to listen to exact and strange orders for beer runs. One girl kept asking me if I was sure it was called an Oatmeal Stout, “Oatmeal? Really? Oatmeal?”. ::sigh::
I quickly exhausted Walmart and Gerbes’ selections, and found myself going with my mom to Binny’s, Sam’s, Cost Plus World Market and Trader Joes when I was home and Arena and Hyvee at school.
A consistent goal of mine has been to “complete” a brewery. I’ve only done this a few times, as good breweries keep releasing new seasonals or testing new beers entirely. My stipulation is not to include trying beers available on tap only, though that would be ideal, it’s not really feasible as my beer wall relies on cutting out the box. For bottled beers, I’ve only finished Leinenkugel, New Belgium, and Goose Island. I am really close on Schlafly and Boulevard (just missing some seasonals). Of course, some breweries don’t make that many styles, so for example, Berghoff is much easier to get through than Schlafly.
I have incredible pride in my hometown, Chicago, and consequently, one of my favorite breweries is Goose Island. I hold many great memories of those boxes. The first time I drank Honker’s Ale in a keg at a friends party in Wrigleyville, the refreshing sips of 312 had outside Cloud Gate at Millenium Park, and many more.
I can truly say the only one I didn’t immediately love was the Bourbon County Brand Stout, and to use someone else’s words, it tasted like Ted Kennedy’s ass. I wouldn’t go that far, but it did taste like a cigar and whiskey and licorice and was definitely the thickest stout I’ve ever had.
All other offerings are pure class though, and highly enjoyable. Imagine my delight to get handed free beer tokens at the IHA show on Sunday. I didn’t really need incentive to go the brewery for dinner, but that was just icing on the cake.
Let me make this simple. If you are ever downtown, and have even the slightest interest in good beer, or good american bar food, you must eat here. Not only is the building cool and the wait staff knowledgeable, the beer is as fresh as it gets, and the food is just phenomenal.
My first beer was brand new. Our waiter mentioned The Golden Goose Pilsner was added to the menu on Thursday. There was nothing super special about it. Hard to screw up, but hard to impress as well. It’s just a standard pilsner, not entirely crystal clear, but still delicious, and just enough flavor to hold me over till I got my Rillette Burger.
As I wrote in an earlier post, the burger was topped with shredded duck that was turned almost into a paste, with carmelized onions and a mild blue cheese. It was super rich, and super filling. Let me also add that when he asked how I wanted it cooked, and I said as rare as you can, he brought it out rare. That means they’re using good beef in the kitchen, and that means my tummy was happy.
To finish out my burger I got another take on an IPA, the Midway. Besides the play on words (there’s an airport that’s not O’Hare called Midway), it was a milder version of the Imperial IPA I’m so fond of. If I wasn’t so crazy full from the burger, I would have finished it, as I always feel bad leaving a “wounded soldier” (my cousin once called it that at a party when I was 17 and not yet drinking). As I rolled out the door, I made the obligatory stop at the merch table and got a pint glass with the logo on it to add to my collection.
All in all, I was incredibly satisfied. I am dissapointed that I missed the Stoutfest that was earlier in the day, but can’t be two places at once… yet. I hear they’re working on it. If my future pans out like I’m anticipating I’ll be back in Chicago in May and that means I can take a proper tour/ enjoy the beer academy they run.
If you’re in Chicago or just curious, join their mailing list for tons of info.