Beercation Two Parter! Chicago | Goose Island Clybourne

Howard fucking Johnson, here I come!

Chicago is curiously not windy at this moment in time. Curious, because my flight was a fucking rock polisher. I’m in rush hour traffic, seatbeltless, in a shuttle van that smells vaguely like a freshly returned Wookie costume. As we bounce around side streets like a bowling ball at a four year old birthday party, the driver, a middle eastern Kenny Powers, yells questions at us, “where you stay!” without a question mark. “Howard Johnson!” I say talking out of the side of my mouth so others won’t hear.  The lady next to me raises an eyebrow and checks her google navigation; 45 minutes away from downtown. Fuck. I’m going to miss the group meetup with the Beer Bloggers Conference. “Hey driver, what all the odds I’ll make it there by five?” He shakes his greasy mullet and sighs.

Fact: Kenny Powers is great fucking driver! Shockingly, we screech in front of the circa 1959 HoJo with ten minutes to spare. I check in, freshen up the pits, chonies, and batteries and head down to meet the absolute cream of beer bloggers. As is always my policy, befriend the blonde girls first. There’s a method to this theory, which boils down to them having more fun. I like to have fun too.

Wonder Woman!

The first blonde gal I spot is Amber Jansen, a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed beer blogger out of Massachusetts. Dipped in fresh pink Chuck Tailors and matching sunglasses,  shorts and a noticeable lack of a wicked accent, she’s been to the beer blogger conference before and is super friendly. Still woozy from the flight and no food for eight hours, we chat about a nearby ‘Foot Massage’ sign. “Are they really foot massage parlors? Is “foot” slang for “penis” in Asia?” I ask. Perhaps an investigation for a different blog.  “I’m part of 2beerguys.com, but obviously I’m not a guy, my husband is”. Relieved, I chug some water, then belch apologetically.

I must break you, American Beer Blogger.

We set out for Goose Island’s Brewpub in Clybourn via Subway, a method of transportation that has eluded me until today. I thought I was being rude by pushing myself in the crowded door, only to be ass-pumped by three well-built Russian guys before the doors finally shut. I reach back to migrate my wallet to the front pocket and man-graze the teen version of Ivan Drago’s junk. The only Russian I know is “dasvidonya” (until next time), which would have been awkward, so I simply say “excusé moi” in my best French accent. I must be glazed. Food and beer has eluded me. On the walk, I befriend the other blonde girl of the group, Elle from FAME, a PR firm that handles the Leinenkugel Brewery account. Based out of Minneapolis, I ask “ever run into Prince?”, “what do you think of the Zack Parise trade?”, also “how has Leiny been affected by the big guys purchasing them?” and other gems of a tired mind. Such a nice gal, I’m really looking forward to the Leinenkugel lunch just based on chatting with her. Plus, she is wearing white pants.

Beer Pairing Dinner | Goose Island Clybourn

Goose Island’s Brewpub in Clybourn is enchanting for any beer fan. A large wood crafted island bar resembling the one on the TV show Cheers (but nicer) is surrounded with tables, booths and side bars. The 10 barrel brewhouse is camped off to the side, down a small set of brick steps and plexied safely from the pub area. There’s also an overflow area, a banquet area and a place to purchase collectibles. Brewery tours are given by a well informed and passionate bunch and are highly recommended.

Here as part of the Pre-BeerBloggers Conference 2012, we are being treated to a four course beer pairing which is totally unexpected. Brett Porter (best master brewer name ever) welcomes us as we raise a pint of slightly warm and headless Sofie, their Farmhouse Saison. Being my first beer of the day after travelling 2,000 miles, anything is welcome.

The first pairing:  Trout and Tomatoes paired with Lolita was neither complimenting or contrasting. I tried different combinations of trout/tomato/balsamic with this American Wild Ale and simply didn’t get a relation. The complexity of the beer shines a light on the balsamic reduction with the acidity, yet over powers the rest of the dish. Lolita is a pretty beer, pinkish blushing rose, perhaps blushing for not working well with the pairing. I would be curious to try this delicate dish with Pepe Nero, offering some nutty/roasty notes without overpowering.

Second pairing: Pork Belly and Pasta with Matilda. Again, a beer that doesn’t play with the dish. Both on their own are spectacular, however Matilda’s Belgian spiciness argues with the Jus (gravy).  I was able to find it compliments the Camembert foam as cheese and Belgian style beer often do. Mixing the foam and gravy to get a relation with the beer only caused the Jus to overpower the foam. I would like to try this pairing with Goose Island’s Nut Brown Ale, which may play off of the gravy and have solid enough body and bitterness to cleanse the palate from this rich dish.

Third pairing: Leg of Lamb with Juliet. This pairing again, is not heightened by consuming together. The Lamb and Juliet are easily my favorite of the night yet she fails to make me a star-crossed lover when paired. Where for art thou food pairing skills, Goose Island? I savor Juliet, sip by sip. Inhale and exhale. The tart blackberry essence followed by smooth oak seduces me as I roll my eyes until she’s gone. Luckily I got her digits! As for the pairing, Lamb usually goes great with a nice Porter, but in this case I would have liked to contrast the dish with Goose Island’s Summertime Kolsch or IPA.

Dessert: Chocolate and Cherries – Flourless chocolate cake, seedling Cherries, and Black Dog Malted Gellato paired with Madame Rose. This worked stunningly well, as the cherry in the beer really brought the chocolate and cherry in the dessert to a whole new level. Alone, they were half-chub; together, full salute chub with finish. A shower might be necessary.

Overall I’m humbled and grateful for the opportunity to try the pairing. I’ve heard so much about Goose Island from the west coast and admire their line up of award winning beers. I’m a bit confused as they said multiple times that the food is developed around the beers. I simply didn’t get it. Perhaps they are eager to show off their vintage style Sister beers to a well informed bunch. Whatever the reason, I’d be more than willing to go back the next time I’m in town and try some standard menu items with them. Sofie with a cheese and charcuterie plate? Lolita with the Black Earth Short Rib Sandwich? Matilda with the Oyster Po’ Boy? Juliet with the Duck Reuben? My mouth is watering thinking about it, and I’m sure yours is too! I can’t wait to go back!

Many thanks to Goose Island and Zephyr Adventures for organizing this pre-conference excursion! Not so fine print: Goose Island was kind enough to cover the dinner for fifty or so bloggers and give us direct access to the brewer for questions and photos. They provided swag bags that included beer samples, mugs, a hat and a bottle opener. Bloggers paid a nominal fee for the side excursion and Goose Island is a sponsor of the conference. Contrary to popular belief, the brewpub isn’t owned by the big guys. The brewpub operates independently of the big guys. Cheers!

Coming soon: Part 2, the Beer Blogger Chitown Party Bus hits Piece Brews, Revolution and Haymarket. 

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Dan On Tap
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Wish I could have been there…

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