It seems like only a few days ago that I was sitting at the computer writing a post about arriving in Chicago. Well, the time really does fly when you’re having fun. With just over three weeks under my belt, it already feels like I’ve lived here forever. If forever was only a day.
The first week of class went swimmingly, I must say. I did manage to write a little piece about it for The Hop Press over at Ratebeer in case you were wondering. We spent pretty much the entire week on raw ingrediednts, starting with barley and malt and moving on to hops and hop products, and finally finishing with water. No yeast you may be wondering? Well, it turns out fermentation is a completely different module and we left that for later. Malt finally makes sense to me. It was always one of those things that was a little difficult to grasp, so I never really tried. Want to know what modification is and how it affects the brewing process? Call me. We actually got to take a trip up to Briess Malt in Wisconsin during week two, but I’m leaving that for the next post. For hops and hop products, we had Mike Babb from Kalamazoo Spice Extraction Company or Kalsec for short, and formerly from Coors. I had never really considered advanced hop products before now, but I may just dabble in them in the future. I have a nice sample bottle of hop oil extract in my fridge that is the perfect size for a nice pale ale when I get home. Mike was cool because after all his professional experience with Big Brewing, he is still psyched on hombrewing and traditional German beer styles.
I got to check out some fantastic local beer spots that first week as well. Brewpubs Piece and Revolution are both fantastic. Piece is a pizzaria as well as quite the award winning brewer of German and Anglo-American beers. I stopped by on a Friday night with a couple other Siebel students and caught some of their live band karaoke which was one of the more entertaining musical acts that I had seen in awhile. Revolution is rocking the gastropub thing and does it quite well. The restaurant is one of the better looking places that I’ve seen. Lots of carved wood and blown beer bottle chandeliers. The beer is a relatively typical American-English-Belgian mix, with a notable barrel aged wheat wine, strong porter, strong brown ale, and witbier. Awesome guest beers and a vibe that you just have to experience are already drawing me back for more.
We also made it to the famous Hop Leaf bar which is a horrible bus ride north up Clark. Also a gastropub of sorts; they gain points for a great Belgian beer selection and Goose Island Green Line Pale Ale for $3.50 a pint, (it’s $6.00 at the brewpub) but lose spoints for having rabbit on the menu and no real veg options. While we’re on that, Revolution has some nice veg stuff including a very tasty tempeh reuben that is almost Chicago Diner territory.
Oh, the Chicago Diner Radical Reuben. It’s delicious. I’m getting another like right now. Chicago is overall a fantastic city for vegan dining. When BabeInSoyland comes out later this week for a well-deserved vacation, I’m sure we’ll be hitting plenty more. Even the Whole Foods in Lincoln park just kills it with the vegan food compared to the usual Whole Foods. It’s only a Five minute walk from school and I’ve pretty much fallen into the habit of eating lunch there every other day. With Vegan burgers, pizza, seitan and marinated tofu burritos, Chicago-style hot dogs and the best Kale salad ever, can you blame me? And to top it all off, Whole foods also has a beer bar pouring 15 quality craft draught beers at a time from the likes of Stone, Two Brothers, Three Floyds, Great lakes, Dark Horse, Bells, and even Lost Abbey. My mind has been thoroughly blown by this place. They even had an Oktoberfest with actual Hofbrau liter mugs and a bunch of oktoberfestbiers on tap including the king of them all, Ayinger. Now I have a giant liter mug in my tiny studio apartment kitchen and I have no idea what to name it.
So how’s Goose Island you may be wondering? Well, I do spend eight goddamn hours a day at the place for class (our class is too big to fit in the normal Siebel classroom across the street). We have a mural of Orval on the classroom wall. That’s pretty badass. After trying a few of their pub-only beers, I’m pretty impressed. Nothing mind-blowing yet, but Bourbon County Vanilla Stout is coming out soon… We’ve had their IPA and Harvest Ale on tap at the bier stube over at Siebel for the past week, and I can’t say I can complain about either. The IPA has a great hop character from a mix of Goldings, Styrians, Centennial, and Cascade. All pale ale malt doesn’t hurt either.
Well, that’s a dirty rundown of my first week and other random later stuff. I’ve got plenty more to come, starting with a wild bus trip to Chilton, Wisconsin with forty-four brewing students and six coolers full of beer. Tomorrow is the Stone Total Tap Tower Takeover Tour at Small Bar, and I’ll be attending for my first semi-official event coverage for West Coaster Magazine. Look out for the first issue to drop next month if you are a craft beer fan in the San Diego area.