Wednesday, December 23, 2015

ABV Chicago Holiday Party Episode 100!

For the BIG 100th Episode ABV Chicago threw a holiday party, and we were honored to be included. We drink a handful of delightful beers, give our somewhat humble opinions, and catch up on 2015 happenings. Plus some random shenanigans and detours, per usual. Thanks for listening and happy holidays!

Guests of honor included us (Kim) (Hail to the Ale), Ken Getty (CHAOS Homebrew Club), Nick Burica (Middle Brow Beer Co.), Chris Betts (Transient Artisan Ales), Marie Cummins (Down the Hatch), Dennis Lee (The Pizzle), MC Johnsen (Worth 1000 Beers) and Matt Johnsen (Horse Thief Hollow and The Beer Cellar). 

LISTEN HERE: ABV Chicago Episode 100 – Holiday Party 2015

Beers Reviewed

  1. Kane Brewing – Cortijo (Agave Nectar Saison Aged in Tequila Barrels)
  2. OEC Brewing – Malefactus (Wine Barrel-Aged Stout)
  3. Transient Artisan Ales – Black Raspberry Maigre (Berlinner Weisse)
  4. Lake Effect Brewing – Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel-Aged)
  5. BrainDead Brewing – Bent De Garde (Wine Barrel-Aged Biere de Garde)
  6. de Garde Brewing – L’Hiver Melange No. 2

About ABV Chicago:

ABV (Another Beer View) is a podcast about beer and life. But mostly about beer. Beaming out from Chicago, IL. You can subscribe to their podcasts on iTunes and follow them on facebook, twitter and instagram at ABVChicago.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Guide to Glassware Series: The Goblet

In continuation with our "Guide to Glassware" guest blog series with Lakeshore Beverage, we focus this month on the goblet, or chalice. Click on the link to read the full article, which highlight's the goblet's rich history, as well as the sensorial benefits of its various designs.

The full beer glass guide infographic:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cider Talk with Broken Nose Cider Maker Paul Cade

A few weeks back we stopped in to visit the Begyle Brewing taproom and were excited to find Chicago's newest cidery, Broken Nose, not only on draft, but sharing the location for cider production. We had the pleasure of talking with owner and cider maker, Paul Cade. We loved his story – homebrewer, turned cider apprentice, turned professional cider maker, on a mission to bring European-style ciders to urban Chicago. But beyond that, the cider we tasted was beautiful, complex and dry. Attributes we aren't yet seeing a whole lot of in US made cider. 

This Thursday, December 17th he will be at the Begyle Taproom for a meet and great, as well as a sampling of his three current ciders. All will be available on draft to purchase or take home in a growler. These European-style ciders are perfect for holiday meal pairing, so we hope you'll stop by and taste for yourself.

Can you tell us about your background and what let to the passion for cider making?
Well I guess it started when I was a home brewer, back in 2010. I was lucky enough to try a bottle of tasty English cider – to this day I can't remember what kind of cider – but I do remember loving the sourness, the dryness and the flavor. It was like nothing I had ever had before. From there I kept trying ciders, but was incredibly disappointed in most of the U.S. ciders that I tried. As a home brewer I thought to myself "If I can't find any ciders that I want to buy, I'll make my own." The first ciders that I made were, quite frankly, terrible, but that idea started me on this 5 year journey.

How would you describe the objectives you see for Broken Nose as an urban cidery?
Well, being an urban cidery is pretty unique. Historically cider was made by farmers as way to store their apples and to maybe add value. Even today I think that for the most part cider making is a rural endeavor and that the best cider is being made where the apples are grown. However I strongly believe that even though most of the best ciders are made by orchardists, being an orchardist it is not a prerequisite to making great cider. I think that with some care when it comes to sourcing raw materials and a good understanding of fermentation we can make world class cider right here is Chicago.

What was your experience like making cider in France and England and what has the biggest takeaway you're applying to your cider making now?
It was an incredible experience. I met incredible people, worked hard and had some of the best cider I have ever tried. I think that the biggest single takeaway was the palette that I developed. Just being exposed to those ciders and drinking them at least once, if not three times a day, every day for months really gave me an understanding of what I liked and didn't like in ciders. That has really brought me to where I am today. If going to Europe did nothing else, it gave me the ability to know when cider isn't up to snuff. Now this can be a bad thing too, because it's been about three years since I got back from Europe and Im just now making ciders that really impress me.

What influence has your experience as Cellarman for Begyle Brewing contributed to starting a business yourself?
It's been really incredible watching Brendan, Kevin and Matt run Begyle. The biggest thing that I have taken away from watching them is that making a great product is only part of the equation, you also have to be able to get it to people, and that is harder than it sounds. Luckily Begyle is helping me get my cider to people and that is amazingly helpful!

What projects or experiments are you most excited about in the upcoming year?
Mixed culture fermentations. This is really the future, and the past, of cider making. All the ciderys that I worked on in Europe had amazing microbiological cultures built up from years, if not centuries, of cider making. These cultures are the reason for the incredible complexity of good European ciders. And that is something that we are really trying to master.

If there was one cider or cider style that was a turning point for you as a drinker, do you recall what it was?
Well there was that first one I tried that I can't remember, and I think that I was very lucky to have a great cider as my first, because so many people write off ciders because the first one they tried wasn't good. I could have been one of those people who dismissed all ciders, but like I say I was lucky. The next time I had a great cider was at Owen and Engine over on Western. This was important because it made me realize that the first cider wasn't a fluke or a dream, there really was good cider out there! That one was a French cider and if I remember correctly it was Cidre Bouché from Domaine Dupont. That cider really made me realize that Europe was the place to go to if I wanted to learn to make great cider.

Broken Nose Cider is currently producing three ciders – Old Hat, their flagship cider with crab apples, Bright Lights hopped cider and Bog City cranberry cider. They are on tap at Begyle Brewing which is located at 1800 W Cuyler Ave in Chicago's North Center neighborhood, just steps off the CTA's Irving Park Brown Line stop.

Meet Paul and sample Broken Nose ciders tomorrow, December 17th and their "Meet the Cider Makerevent. 7pm, Begyle Brewing Taproom, 1800 W Cuyler Ave, Chicago. No charge to get in, all ciders will be on tap to purchase, including growlers to go.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hoppier Holidays With Our Handmade Ornaments

This year we're excited to introduce a few NEW holiday items to our Etsy shop for the beer lovers and homebrewers on your gift list. 

• Our unique, hand crafted hop ornaments made from silk flower components and decorated with rustic twine and ribbon. These ornaments are available for purchase online for a limited time in our Etsy shopHops vary slightly in shape, size and shade of green. Dimensions: approximately: 3" x 1.5" x 1.5"

• A new series of folded beer-themed holiday cards, including "Hoppy Holidays", "Christmas Cheer" and "Happy New Beer." Cards can be purchased individually, or in packs of 6 or 12 cards. Cards are 4.25" x 5.5" and come with an accompanying A2 (4.375" x 5.75") envelope.

For custom orders please send us a message via our Etsy shop and we'll be happy to accommodate your requests. Cheers!

Monday, November 30, 2015

20% OFF our Etsy Shop for CyBEER Monday!

Hey beer lovers – It's CyBEER Monday over here at Hail to the Ale. We have t-shirts, bottle bags, holiday cards and ornaments!

Get 20% OFF of beer gifts TODAY ONLY on our Etsy shop. Use code: CYBEER20

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Author and Beer Icon Randy Mosher on Mastering Homebrew

Beer brewing attracts a wide range of folks from the uber creative and crafty, to highly technical and scientific-minded. If you're lucky, you have a mix of both qualities, or at least colleagues to collaborate and balance strengths. For the most part, the published resources lean toward the very technical (we'll say it – DRY) side, leaving a significant void for those of us who benefit from graphic/visual learning. With a background in design and creative direction, a stellar palate, and a gift for developing "radical" recipes, author and beer icon Randy Mosher has taken the lead at filling that visual text book void. His latest, Mastering Homebrew, is chock full of concise and well designed infographics, covering aspects of the brewing and recipe building process – a must-have resource for brewers at any level.

As a fellow homebrewer and label designer, we've had a number of conversations with Randy over the past two years leading up to the release of Mastering Homebrew, revolving around the process of writing and designing a visual guide to beer. So when it was finally complete, we could not wait to get our hands on a copy. We also had some label designs featured, which was quite an honor.

We grabbed a few pints with Randy to discuss not only the book itself, but his thoughts on beer styles, changes in brewing culture, and the future of craft beer.

HttA: It's been 6 years since your last book, Tasting Beer. The forward of Mastering Homebrew touches on a global beer journey – what have you seen change in that time?

RM: The last homebrew book was Radical Brewing (2004), so a lot has happened since then. American-style home brewing around the world has exploded and that's been exciting. People in Europe, South American and Asia started looking around like we did in the 70's 80's thinking – Man, this beer is boring! They've traveled around, seen good beer and can go back with examples of how to do it. And they also know that it is possible to change the marketplace, that those industrial beers don't have to be the only beer. People who are passionate, work hard and make good beer can create a culture and make those beers sustainable.

It's also exciting to see people getting beyond the basics – researching local ingredients and creating recipes that express their own personalities.

HttA: What do you think it is about homebrewing that makes it such a popular and approachable hobby?

RM: I think a lot of it has to do with the social aspect of beer, that's it's just fun to drink beer with your friends. You look at the hobbies that revolve around consumption – beer is the most social. For the amount of money and effort spent, it's a pretty good return. Once you get comfortable with recipe design and seek out resources, it can be such a creative outlet with a blank slate every time.

HttA: How do you think all of the experimentation is going to affect or change the integrity of classic beers styles? Where do you see the future of beer evolving to?

RM: We have this illusion that these styles are fixed and timeless, but once you start looking at the history of them, they're shifting sands. The beer I'm drinking is a London Porter, but I don't know if it's a London Porter from 1850, or 1800, or earlier. Every generation the styles evolve into something different. We need styles to be fixed beacons because we try to brew for competitions, but its an artificial construct that's not as permanent as we imagine.

Working with two breweries, making beers that are not to style, I can see that there are people who have a hard time drinking a beer that's a style they don't know, because it forces them outside of their comfort zone. Others love that. As a brewer trying to sell an IPA – how do you do that? Is yours really better than Lagunitas or Firestone Walker? Who's handle are you going to take? There are only so many ways to make something "to style" and that can be limiting.

HttA: The book starts out talking about brewing with both sides of the brain. Why is this important and what are pitfalls of one-sided brewing?

RM: I was always kind of a science geek with poor arithmetic skills, so I didn't end up in science. Because beer is an art you can't have science alone tell you what's good. You can't have a completely scientific approach that's going to taste good. So you have to make judgement calls and ask yourself – what's cool, what flavors would I enjoy?

"The soul, the point of view, trying to share and express something is what people crave, in craft beer and in homebrewing."

But on the other hand, if you're a super creative person that doesn't care about the technical side, you're going to have a hard time controlling the outcome of the beer, as well as manipulating and mastering it. If you don't have a basic understanding you're going to have a hard time getting anywhere.

HttA: What do you think one of the biggest misconceptions of the brewing process is?

RM: I don't think people give yeast enough credit. Managing temperature is difficult and some people tend to not be in tune with how much it can do. People build their models around one experience, lock it away and don't replenish and rebuild. The best brewers I know are constantly tasting the malt, smelling the hops, replenishing memories and reminding themselves of the nuances. It takes work and time. You gotta know the ingredients. You can't make assumptions.

"If you're really going to be an artist, you have to master your medium. You have to know what you're painting with and how it works."

HttA: How did you approach the creative process of writing this book in particular, which has a very graphic-focused communication style?

RM: Being a visual person and artist, geometry was the easiest math class because it involved pictorials. Whenever I can make translating numbers into something you can look at I feel like it helps better get the idea across. First I started with the charts. Mastering Homebrew is a descendant of my first book, Brewer's Companion (which is currently out of print). I was homebrewing during that time and made worksheets documenting the colors of malt. And then I made a chart for hops, and one for water. I had stacks of graphic displays of numerical information I created, and I felt like a lot of that content still had validity.

Second, I wanted to depict the brewing process graphically. So we walk through each of the mashing and sparging processes, lining them up side by side, so that you can visually see the differences in technique.

Third, I was trying to make the book feel human. It's homebrewing - I felt like it needed to be fun, it had to look like something you wanted to do – by having quotes from notorious brewers, but also being able to show pictures of everything. When people absorb that stuff visually, it is a different type of learning. And then because they wanted each chapter to start on a right hand page, there are these dead pages at the end of the chapters and I wanted the end pages to be filled with some lively stuff. I sent out requests to people i knew and forums all over the world asking for labels in exchange for a copy of the book. It got a lot of interest and great label designs from Eastern Europe, Poland and Czech Republic. It would be cool to do a show of some sort of show at least get them up on a website to give people proper credit. Label design has always been one of things I loved most about homebrewing. As soon as I started I was copying old cuts out of Dover books, xeroxing, stamping and it was totally fun. Beer tastes better in a cool bottle, there's no question about that. You don't have to do it – but it makes people more interested. And it's part of the self expression.
A sampling of homebrew labels contributed from around the world.

HttA: People like to throw around the term "craft beer bubble." As someone who has seen a few decades of the ebb and flow of the beer industry, what’s your reaction to the term?

RM: Simple: it’s bullshit. These things flow in hundred year cycles. If you think about the 19th Century, people got involved in this idea of progress. We don’t have that any more –you grew up in an era of no progress. I was growing up in the 1960’s, we thought we’d be flying cars around the sky and living on the moon. The Jetsons wasn’t just a cartoon, it was the belief. We thought the future was going to be so great and unlimited. Clearly that was an unrealistic thing. 

As the food supply starts getting further from the supply and more processed, there's more chemistry, less food. People were sharing "culture" by eating Campbell soup and drinking Coca-Cola – that was our culture for people to all feel like "real Americans." It was convenient and easy, there wasn’t that sense that we were losing something from it. 

That mentality turned around in the 1960’s with the counter-culture “whole earth catalogue,” an alphabetical catalogue of stuff that wasn’t modern – maple syrup buckets, cheese making kits.... 45 years later they're mainstream hipster stuff that’s all coming back. It never really went away, but they were the last surviving examples of agricultural and manufacturing traditions that were squeezed out because of modernism. Part of the boomers contribution was to bring back the things of meaning, like food that taste good. Homebrewing is one of those expressions – good beer, good coffee, fermented foods. I don’t see any way of putting that notion of unlimited progress back in the bottle. 

"Modernism is oppressive. I think when it comes to food and drink people want the sense of humanity, something that’s real and complex. That’s the thing that the big brewers are grappling with – they can have the skus on the shelf, but being large doesn’t offer the advantages that it used to." 

Right now there's a paradigm shift of what people want. Your generation is not only not sold by advertising, but there’s a feeling of – if it’s advertised, it must be bad. And suspicious. They [macro breweries] can leverage the power that they have, which they certainly do – but it can’t make them cool. They’re hoping that you just close your eyes and keep drinking it. It must be an incredibly frustrating time for them. 

About Randy Mosher: Randy is the author of five beer and brewing books. He also writes a regular column for All About Beer, called The Taster. Mosher is a member of the faculty of the Siebel Institute and teaches for the Doemens Beer Sommelier program. Mosher is also a creative consultant specializing in new product development and design for craft breweries, and is a partner in two Chicago-area breweries: 5 Rabbit Cerveceria and Forbidden Root. For more, visit (Photo credit: Nancy Cline)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Beer-Lover's Guide to Maui

Recently we had the opportunity to spend a week at Kaanapali Beach on the west coast of Maui. Having visited a few times before, our "no-longer-tourists" itinerary looked much different this time. In summary: Eat local, drink local, and swim with the amazing sea life. We couldn't get enough of these three things each day. Below are the "best of" from our time in Maui.


The Fish Market, 3600 Lower Honoapiliani Rd, Lahaina
We HIGHLY RECOMMEND this stop!! Hands down our "diamond in the rough" find this trip. A modest seafood market hidden in a strip mall with the freshest daily catch for sale – raw from the deli counter, or prepared (sandwiches, tacos, plates, soups). We were on a mission for fresh poké and were blown away by the flavor and quality we found here. We took some containers of seafood goodness home to enjoy on our lanai with a cocktail of Maui made Ocean organic vodka, and pineapple juice.

Aloha Mixed Plate, 1285 Front St, Lahaina
A beachside barbecue for authentic Hawaiian cuisine. They offer a number of "mixed plates" that include local favorites such as kalua pig, lomi salmon, coconut prawns, and shoyu chicken. Wash it all down with a famous frozen cocktail (the Lava Flow is our favorite!) or a local craft brew.

Leoda's Bakery, 820 Olowalu Village Rd, Lahaina
We had a number of beer industry people recommend this place, so we knew it had to be worth the stop. Quaint roadside restaurant and counter-serve pie shop that's easy to pass by if you aren't on the lookout. We recommend Olowalu lime pie paired with Kona's Lemongrass Luau.

Cool Cat Cafe, 658 Front St, Lahaina
Voted the "Best Burger in Maui" 10 years in a row, with lots of creative toppings. They feature a rotating selection of craft beers and tons of Hawaiian cocktails. We highly recommend the fish menu – they take the daily catch and offer 5 different options of preparations. The Ono tacos paired with a Maui Brewing Bikini Blonde Ale were amazing, and you can't beat that second floor view of Front Street and the ocean.


Hawaii is slowing gaining presence in the craft beer industry, with 10 year veteran Maui Brewing leading the way. They recently expanded to a larger 28,000 sq. ft, 55 bbl production brewery, built from the ground up with a number of eco-friendly features. We had the opportunity to meet with Owner, Garett Marrero – stay tuned for an upcoming interview post.

Maui Brewing, Production Brewery & Tasting Room, 605 Lipoa Pkwy, Kihei
Expansive bar area with indoor and outdoor seating. 30 beers on draft, featuring the flagships, seasonals, limited releases and uber special beers like Imperial CoCoNut Porter. Highlights: Oktoberfest, Haleakala Sunryes, Doppleshot Dopplebock and Pueo Pale.
Open 7 days, 11am-10pm. Tours 3x daily.

Their Brewpub in Lahaina has a full service kitchen, opened 7 days a week at 4405 Honoapiilani Highway

Primo Beer, the scoop: "Hawaii's original beer" heritage cans were everywhere. Suckers for beer history, we were curious to find out what the story was. The short version: started by Honolulu Brewing in 1897, re-opened post-prohibition as Hawaii Brewing in the 1930's. Acquired by Schlitz in the 1960's, production was moved to CA. Acquired by Stroh in the 80's, production was discontinued until the rights were acquired by Pabst in 2007. Primo sold in HI is brewed in Kauai by Keoki Brewing Company. It's a pretty standard light lager. Nothing crazy spectacular, but delivers as thirst-quenching on a hot day.


Front Street Lahaina is an easily accessible area along the coast with a concentrated shopping and dining area. Many resorts offer a free shuttle service.

ABC Stores, 724 Front St, Lahaina
The best place (and best prices) for vacation-y trinkets, Kona coffee, Hawaiian sea salt, macadamia nuts, booze and any other vacation necessities you may have forgotten. They have locations scattered throughout the island.

Honolulu Cookie Company, 695 Front St, Lahaina
Gourmet cookies hand-made with local ingredients, baked daily and packaged beautifully to boot. The pineapple shaped shortbread cookies come in a variety of flavors, garnished with fruit and chocolate. Available per cookie or in gift boxes. Chocolate chip macadamia paired with a Maui Brewing CoCoNut Porter = perfection!

Tilly Timms clothing, 703 Front St, Lahaina
Great place for all things boasting Maui pride – t-shirt, hats, cover ups, sunglasses.

Chapel Hats, 705 Front Street, Lahaina
Hats, hats, hats... well-made and unique styles to suit everyone. SPF and cute cover ups are key for pale mainlanders!

Sir Wilfreds Coffee & Cigars, 707 Front St, Lahaina
100% pure Kona and Hawaiian coffee varieties by the pound, Hawaiian hand-rolled cigars and other gifts.


Take a picture at Banyan Tree Park, the trees are epic!!

Maui Adventure Cruises for snorkeling, dolphin and whale watches. We did an unbelievable 4.5 boat snorkel trip around the island of Lanai'i to two preserved tropical reefs. Snacks, drinks and equipment included.

Snorkle Bob's, 1217 Front St.
Best spot for renting or buying snorkel gear and apparel. They also can set up boat cruises, helicopter tours and other Maui adventures.

Snorkeling can be found beachside to most resorts or public beach areas, but the best snorkeling are preserved reef areas, accessible by boat tours. If you like snorkeling, the islands like Lanai and Molokini have some of the best – the tours are worth every penny.

If you're driving East on route 30, there are some beautiful look out points north and south of Maalaea Bay. Stop and take it all in!

If time allows, we highly recommend taking a day trip drive around the island. The breath taking views, waterfall hikes and hidden beaches are more beautiful than words could describe. If you're lucky, you may see a rainbow over Haleakala. Getting away from the resort areas and seeing the real Maui will give you a whole new appreciation for island life.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Design Trends in Beer: Line Craft

Over the past year we've seen a pretty significant showing in the design and branding world of a technique described as mono-line or line craft. It is defined by a consistent pen stroke throughout the illustration or logo. This style, which has been a popular way of illustrating infographics is making a strong appearance in craft beer, cider and kombucha graphics.

What does it communicate?
When diving deeper into what attracts craft brands to this particular visual aesthetic, we found the following words used to describe their brands: Precision, care, pride, craftsmanship, passion, commitment to quality, balance, consistency

Fleeting or enduring?
This style has quite a bit of range in how it is executed, from very technical and pragmatic to hand-drawn and expressive. With an ability to communicate many things – and provide significant clarity and readability at shelf – we think line craft has some longevity in the category.

Below is a collage of examples we found particularly interesting. Have thoughts, drop us a line!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bell's 30th Anniversary Funvitational

On September 12th, 2015, 4,000 craft beer fans took to Homer Stryker Field in Kalamazoo, to celebrate Bell's Brewery 30th Anniversary of brewing beer in Michigan. The "Funvitational" brought over 100 beers from all around the country, giving us the rare treat to try offerings not distributed in our area, such as Creature Comforts and Cigar City. Bell's re-brewed a number of out-of-production recipes, like Batch 1000 through 5,000 as well as limited releases like Double Two Hearted, Spruce Two Hearted, Larry's Stupid Quadrupid IPA, Coffee Mustache, Sherry Bull in a China Shop, to name a few. And of course – the 30th Anniversary Imperial Stout.

We have been brewing in Kalamazoo for almost 30 years and we are extremely proud of where we got our start. This festival is a celebration of that heritage, our community and our fans.” - Bell's Vice President, Laura Bell

One of the highlights – an appearance by guerrilla brass band, The Detroit Party Marching Band.

As with any festival, you just can't taste them all, but here are our favorite stand outs:
  • Double Two Hearted, Bell's Brewery Double IPA, 11.5% ABV
  • Batch 1500Bell's Brewery  - American Barleywine recipe from 1994, rebrewed for the fest, 10% ABV
  • Crazy Brewer BeerBell's Brewery - American Strong Ale brewed with cinnamon, ginger, salt, dark brown and turbinado sugar, 9.2% ABV
  • Bourbon Barrel-Aged Expedition StoutBell's Brewery  
  • Liquid Lunch, Terrapin BeerPeanut Butter & Jelly Porter, 7.7% ABV
  • Tropicália, Creature Comforts India Pale Ale, 7% ABV
  • Athena, Creature Comforts Berliner Weiss, 4.5% ABV
  • Imperial CoCoNut Porter, Maui Brewing Porter, 10% ABV
  • Brombeere, Odell Brewing Blackberry Gose, 4.8% ABV
  • Barrel-aged Neopolitan Stout, Saugatuck Brewing Bourbon barrel-aged Milk Stout, 6.5% ABV
  • Wine Barrel-aged Burn the Witch, Tapistry Brewing Weizenbock aged in Chardonnay and Merlot barrels, 9% ABV
  • Paris, Brewery Vivant - Sour ale aged in red wine barrels with Brett, 5.5%
  • Autumn Maple, The Bruery Dark Ale brewed with yams and spices, 10% ABV
  • Zwickel, Urban Chestnut German Lager, 5%
  • Daymark, Rising Tide - Pale Ale, 5.5% ABV
  • Abraxas, Perennial - Imperial Stout, 10% ABV
  • Blå Spøgelse, Mikkeller/Three Floyds - Blueberry barrel-aged Lambic, 7.7% ABV
  • Mélange Á Trois, Nebraska Brewing - (Reserve Series) Belgian blonde ale aged in French oak chardonnay barrels, 10% ABV

The food was just on a whole other level of satiation. The grill area featured a number of beer infused meats. We tried the
Two Hearted Infused Hot Dog w/ Potato Salad and the infamous Bear Claw Burger (topped with mac & cheese, pulled pork and cole slaw in a Sweetwater donut bun). There was also a wood fired pizza oven serving 5 options, including a Porter Pork Belly Pizza and a Vegetarian Oberon Chili Pizza. There were a number of desserts, but we never made it that far.


Bell's Brewery, Inc. began in 1985 with a quest for better beer and a 15 gallon soup kettle. Since then, we've grown into a regional craft brewery that employs more than 333 people over a 20 state area, in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington DC. The dedication to brewing flavorful, unfiltered, quality craft beers that started in 1985 is still with us today. We currently brew over 20 beers for distribution as well as many other small batch beers that are served at our pub in Kalamazoo, the Eccentric Cafe. Our ongoing goal is to brew thoughtfully, creatively and artistically. We strive to bring an authentic and pleasant experience to all of our customers through our unique ales and beers. For more information, please visit

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Best of Belgian Fest 2015

By guest contributor MC Johnsen

On Sunday, September 13th, Goose Island Clybourn played host to 19 breweries and a crowd of beer-loving fest-goers at Belgian Fest 2015

The markedly casual fest was held in four connecting rooms of the Clybourn pub, creating a mini treasure hunt of beer upon which I was happy to embark. The lobby welcoming committee included crowd favorite Transient Artisan Ales, Middle Brow Brewing, and offerings from homebrewers from C.H.A.O.S. Brew Club. Up the steps and to the right awaited a handful of local taps (Revolution, Ten Ninety, Atlas, Moody Tongue, and Haymarket) plus DeSthil and Side Project Brewing’s booths. If you headed left off of the lobby, Goose Island Clybourn’s taps greeted you at the bottom of the stairway at the room’s end. Up the stairs from there were another handful of handles, including Goose Island Brewing Co.’s “ladies” – beers with female names and Belgian flair, that is – plus Perennial, Flossmoor Station, and others. 

In addition to the casual feel, this event was also uniquely small, affording everyone the opportunity to try each beer at the fest. The event’s uncrowded, relaxed atmosphere allowed attendees the chance to actually hold conversations with brewers or brewery reps without feeling like they were holding up the line behind them. In fact, lines only existed in front of the Transient Artisan Ales booth, where brewer Chris Betts uncapped special offerings every hour from bottles that he’d brought in addition to his kegged choices. After having personally attending quite a few fests with thousands of drinkers and lines galore, this was a refreshing change!

Brewers served up a lot of liquid creativity. I counted many uncommonly used herbs and ingredients (amaranth, matcha tea, elderberries, lavender, Indian plum sugar, and pink peppercorns, to name a few), and a variety of blending, barrel-aging and souring techniques. Purely traditional Belgian beers were few and far between; the American spirit of individuality was alive and flowing at this “Belgian” fest. 

Standouts included: 

Thicket, Side Project 
This deliciously juicy wine-barrel-aged Missouri Wild Ale with blackberries drank more like a wine than a beer with a sticky berry juiciness, and significantly tart finish. (6%)

Oktoberfunk, Transient Artisan Ales
This totally unique twist on a traditionally malty, sweet, and bready beverage drank as expected at first, but finished with a tart twist and a hint of sweet vinegar. Described as a Bier de Garde (means “Beer for Keeping”)

Saison du South Loop, South Loop Brewing 
This saison was brewed with lavender, and hopped with Nelson Sauvin. Herbal, crisp, clean, and earthy, the hops and lavender blended together in an enjoyably effervescent way. (5.9%)

Savant Beersel, Perennial Artisan Ales
This puckeringly tart Belgian Pale Ale was fermented with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis in Chambourcin Wine Barrels with Chambourcin Grapes for eight months. Cloudy red with a tannic raspberry taste to match. (8%)

Plum Blonde, Goose Island Clybourn
This plum-infused Belgian Blonde ale had a juicy, bright personality and a quenching finish. Aged in wine barrels with Brettanomyces Claussenii, this tart and tasty beverage had me back for seconds. (6%)

MC Johnsen is a professional graphic designer and illustrator based in Chicago, IL. She is also the artist and author behind beer blog Worth a Thousand Beers. In her spare time MC enjoys homebrewing, taking on DIY projects, CrossFit, and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix. Her favorite coffee beverage is an Americano, and she shares a home with her husband Matt and their dog Dallas in Lombard, IL. You can find her on Twitter @worth1000beers

Friday, September 11, 2015

Maßkrugs in Milwaukee

By Guest Contributor Eric Zeigler

As the first day of September clicks off on the calendar, I begin to get very excited for my favorite time of the year — Fall, and Oktoberfest! Let’s put it this way, being almost entirely of German descent and a lover of all things Teutonic, Oktoberfest to me is like St. Patty’s Day is to someone named Patrick O’Malley. I own lederhosen and I love drinking beer in them. After several years of attending various Midwest Oktoberfest destinations (and having celebrated the actual Wiesn in Munich), I humbly consider myself a good judge of the “authenticity” of the fests available.

Chicago has no shortage of street festivals, but when it comes to celebrating Oktoberfest, they make a half-hearted attempt. All in all, most people are drinking from a plastic “stein” and eating bratwursts from the local grocery. Granted, the Germanic populace isn’t as influential as the Irish and Italian communities in the city, but wearing green felt hunter’s hats and drinking Beck’s does not an Oktoberfest make. So, in an effort to expand your horizons and appeal to the European sense of adventure — you need to go to Wisconsin.

With 42% of the state of Wisconsin of Germanic descent, they take Oktoberfest very seriously. And Milwaukee is the city you want to visit, with two festivals standing head and shoulders above the rest.

The first stop should be "Oktoberfest Milwaukee" (9/11-10/3) at Old Heidelberg Park in Glendale, Wisconsin. This suburb of Milwaukee hosts the oldest and most authentic Oktoberfest outside of Munich itself. Wearing the traditional lederhosen and dirdls at this festival is like someone putting on jeans and a T-shirt to go to a regular bar. Everything from the Oktoberfest beer (Spaten, Hofbrau, Paulaner and Franziskaner) to the food (Spanferkl, Rollbraten and Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)), to the polka music and traditional Schuhplatter folk dancing puts a smile on your face and a general feeling of Gemütlichkeit (geniality and friendliness). Meanwhile, you can try your hand at various smaller carnival-like games or enjoy a large Bavarian pretzel or bag of hot, roasted candied nuts. It is truly an epic experience.

You may also want to try downtown Milwaukee’s "MKE Oktoberfest" celebration (10/1-4). Situated in the beautiful Pere Marquette Park across from the Hofbrau-franchised Old German Beer Hall (one of the sponsors), this equally exuberant festival is initiated by none other than the Mayor of Milwaukee, tapping the first wooden keg to get things rolling. This harkens back to the same tradition in Germany of the Mayor of Munich tapping the first keg. At any festival in Wisconsin patrons are even encouraged to bring their own Maßkrug steins to be filled with the glorious beers produced by Hofbrau. Later, if one is so emboldened, you can try your hand at Maßkrugstemmen (beer stein holding). See how long you can hold a 1-liter glass stein full of beer (about 6 pounds) straight in front of you. Think you can beat the world record of 19 minutes? You’ll be lucky to get to one. At any point, you can retreat from the tent’s festivities by walking around the gorgeous park scenery right on the river.

I may be slightly biased, but will hazard to guess if you take my advice and venture to Milwaukee for Oktoberfest and try one of these Fests, you will not be disappointed. They truly are an experience straight out of Munich.