[This is the sixth installment of an ongoing series by Adam Draeger, an experienced homebrewer and engineer transitioning to the world of professional brewing through coursework at the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology.]
Another quick week in Chicago and it’s not showing signs of slowing for my last two weeks left in town. We didn’t have any tastings in class, but I made up for it by having a sampler of beers at three brewpubs in town and we had a tour of the Goose Island packaging brewery as well.
I knew that Goose Island <http://www.gooseisland.com/> had a separate facility for its bottles and kegs but I didn’t realize it’s size. A 70-barrel brewhouse that cranks out about nine batches a day and fills fermenters that are five times the size of a batch. We were bussed to the brewery and split into three groups for the tour. No tour is a true tour unless you have a beer in your hand, so we headed up on the brewhouse brewdeck to grab a pint and begin the tour. It was neat to be able to recognize 99 percent of the equipment without being told what it was (depth filter and centrifuge for instance were easy to pick out).
This week we had Gary (ex-maintenance manager from Miller) and Michael (instructor at Doeman’s <http://www.doemens.org/> in Munich) for the whole week. They piggy-backed topics that covered: packaging (bottles, cans and kegs), filling, pasteurization, cleaning techniques, returnable bottle washers, valves, detergent components, etc. Even though it makes a crappy beer storage container, we covered PET bottles. This was a fascinating topic for me, but after learning the ins-and-outs…I won’t be using PET for my beer someday. I’m sort of surprised that even soda can get away with it for how much CO2 can transfer through the walls.
So the three new places I checked out were Rock Bottom <http://www.rockbottom.com/chicago%20> , Haymarket <http://www.haymarketbrewing.com/> and Moonshine <http://www.moonshinechicago.com/> .
Rock Bottom used to have a brewer by the name of Pete Crowley <http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/metromix-blog/2010/02/pete-crowley-leaving-rock-bottom-to-open-new-brewery.html> , but he left to form Haymarket Brewpub. RB was quite big at three stories and several rooms per floor. They also had live solo guitarists the night was there. (in series, not simultaneously). The first guy’s name was Brian and he didn’t suck. Played a lot of Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews but sounded and acted a lot like John Mayer. He even pulled out a Radiohead and Paul Simon song. Oh, the beers…yeah, that’s why I went there. All good, but nothing quite spectacular…not sure I’d have another for the price.
Haymarket brewpub is really new, like it opened a few weeks before I got to Chicago. They had 10 of their beers on tap and 12 guest taps. This didn’t stop them from putting in 32 taps in the front and 16 in the back (duplicates of the 22 I mentioned), I think the reasons are basically the wow factor, and it helps when the place is busy. I tried six beers and my favorites were the pilsner and the imperial IPA made with citra hops. They had about four IPA’s and three Belgian styles, so they are definitely catering to the current American craft beer scene’s tastes. Nothing I had was flawed, so they know what they are doing. The prices were a bit high, but I think they know what they are doing. Pete Crowley’s name has been dropped many times since I have been in Chicago and I suppose there is some celebrity factor going on as well. My bartender said he completed the master brewer program from Siebel last fall and is still working his way up the ranks for his chance to brew. Good luck Dave.
I’m actually writing this as I sip away at the Moonshine brewpub sampler. I hope nobody is reading over my shoulder…the beer isn’t all that great. Drinkable, and not really bad, per se, but I’ve brewed better. I’m tempted to try something to eat though as everybody here seems to be having a good time and the atmosphere is pretty cool. Wood and stone floor, glass garage doors on one wall, a lower and upper bar, lots of chalkboards and b&w artwork on the walls. Atmosphere=9, beer=2. If I could get Piece Brewpub’s beer and this place’s atmosphere together we’d finally have a great one between the two.
This weekend my brother Brian and sister-in-law Shannon came to visit with my family in Chicago. It was planned this weekend since Chicago celebrates St. Paddy’s Day this weekend by turning the river GREEN <http://www.greenchicagoriver.com/> . Not the normal dull green that it is year round, but a bright leprechaun green by adding food-grade dye and stirring it up with boats. I wish I had a picture of the crowds…they were massive and all dressed like they were ready to get drunk.
After seeing the river turn green, we walked all the way to the Shedd Aquarium <http://www.sheddaquarium.org/> for a day filled with all things aquatic. Fortunately my wife pre-paid for tickets and we got to skip the two-hour line and head to will-call (which still took a half hour). My brother Brian has always been a bug and slimy critter guy and for the last few years has been keeping a coral reef tank as well as being an officer in their reefer club <http://www.foxvalleyreefclub.com/> . The girls loved everything and after a little reluctance from Raven to approach the first tank, she was banging on them with her hands in no time. Brian took me on a private tour of the reef section and was telling me which coral was real and fake (I couldn’t tell) and all the mistakes that staff had made when labeling them with their photos. He also was criticizing them for having “beginner” coral when they were real and alive. I had to laugh and asked my brother, so is this like when a person drinks a “Budweiser” and thinks they are drinking heavy beer? lol.
Brian and Shannon left and the family and I headed to Mirabell <http://www.mirabellrestaurant.com/> for some authentic German food and beer. The owner is a purebred German and was practically giddy when he saw our two girls. He went into the other room and got his own 13 month year old daughter to show us. What a proud papa! We had excellent service and the food was really great too. Since it was daylight savings we called it a night and on Sunday we finished the weekend by having beer and pizza at Piece Brewery <http://www.piecechicago.com/> . I still love the food and beer despite the poor craic.
No more tours planned until Germany, but fortunately we have another styles tasting this week. Until next beer…Prost!
Adam “Basscat” Draeger