That Toddling (and Chilly) Town

The weather on our final day in Chicago was quite pleasant…if it was January maybe! Friday’s rain and thunderstorms had passed through and Saturday dawned windy and cold. Of course, this had to be on the day we planned on walking around town. After some bitching and moaning about the weather, the beer traveling foursome was back on the train headed to Wrigleyville.

It’s didn’t feel like summertime

Our first stop was Goose Island. With two locations in Chicago, we would normally go to the Clybourn location because it was the the original. But, I chose the Wrigley brewpub because I wanted to see Wrigley Field. I thought it would be a good backdrop for the introduction to our beergeek.TV episode. Moreover, all the other places on the list for Saturday were in the same general part of Chicago.

After recording the introduction at Wrigley and a comedic wandering around the back alleys of the neighborhood, we finally located the front door of Goose Island. Not being beer garden weather, we settled for seats at the ornate wooden bar.

Our Goose Island Beer Sampler

Merideth and I can sum up our previous Goose Island experience in five beers; 312 Urban Wheat, Honkers Ale, Matilda, Sophie and Bourbon County Stout. Obviously, we were excited to get a beer sampler to finally try a wider range of their brews. After some deliberation, we settled on our four samples; Summertime Kölsch Bier, Green Line Pale Ale, IPA and Opening Day IPA. Admittedly, we lost out on the ‘wider range’ with my three choices.

Enjoying an IPA at Goose Island

While we had some brunch, we tried our sample beers. I enjoyed the IPAs but neither had the ‘WOW’ factor that my West Coast palate desires. The Kölsch, the beer Merideth selected for our sampler, was the star. Too bad it didn’t feel like summertime and we were sitting out in the beer garden.

Post brunch, I also had two of Goose Island’s specialty beers: Pere Jacques and Pepe Nero. The first, Pere Jacques, a Dubbel, was a bit too sweet for my taste. Pepe Nero, on the other hand, was very interesting. A Belgian-style Farmhouse Ale, Pepe Nero is brewed with black peppercorns, a beer ingredient that I am loving more and more.

With the crappy weather, I think we could have spent the afternoon at the bar drinking beer, but we had an appointment to keep. So, we were back on the train headed to Metropolitan Brewing.

Half Acre beers at their Craft Beer Emporium

We had time to make a quick stop at Half Acre Beer Company. Located in a busy shopping district, Half Acre seemed more like a gift shop than a brewery. The only indication that there was brewery behind the Craft Beer Emporium was the row of taps built into the wall. And the staff kept talking about  a brewery tour.

The five beers we sampled were all competent with the Daisy Cutter Pale Ale and Gossamer Golden Ale the standouts. But Merideth was the brave one and tried the cucumber, jalapeno and thyme soda called Flash of Beauty. I did have a little sip. Imagine what a cucumber soda would taste like. Yep. That’s what Flash of Beauty tasted like with the jalapeno giving it a little bite.

Metropolitan Brewing

The unexpected gem of the trip was our visit to Metropolitan Brewing. Located in an industrial building in a residential neighborhood, Metropolitan Brewing stands out in the craft beer world of hop bomb this and barrel-aged that. They brew German-style beers. Despite the ‘crazy’ idea of not having and never will have an IPA, Metropolitan has been well received in the Chicago area. Owned by the husband and wife team of Tracy and Doug, Metropolitan is a hands on operation from brewing to packaging.

Metropolitan’s tool chest beer festival tap setup

Visiting on one of their non-regular brewery tour days, Tracy was kind enough to take time to show us around the brewery. From second one, we got a sense of real passion for not only Star Trek but also making great German-style beer. With enthusiasm, Tracy told us a story we have heard a hundred time but never get tired of; people simply wanting to make great beer for their local market.

Merideth had already tried Metropolitan’s seasonal beer, I-Beam Alt, our first night at the Map Room. As Tracy showed us around the brewery, we enjoyed their two flagship brews, Flywheel Bright Lager and Dynamo Copper Lager. The Flywheel, which had that great German hop bite, was my favorite. The only disappointment was that I couldn’t buy any six packs at the brewery.

Just before we left, the other half of the Metropolitan team, Doug, returned from a beer tasting at a sausage store.  The quiet part of the team, we chatted with Doug for a few minutes and then bade farewell.

Our last stop…

Our short, crazy, beer-filled journey was coming to an end. The culmination of our time in Chicago was another well known beer bar, Hopleaf, in the Andersonville neighborhood. A few minutes walk from Metropolitan Brewing, Tracy had warned us that it was going to get jam packed on a Saturday night.

Saturday evening at the Hopleaf

Walking in, we could tell we were in a good beer bar. Hopleaf just had that feel. Unfortunately, it also appeared that we were too late to beat the crowds. We walked in to find the front room filled with fellow beer drinkers enjoying an early Saturday evening.  The hostess, who we found in the equally crowded back room, lead us upstairs to the balcony which overlooked the diners below. Disappointment and worry about finding a place to sit immediately changed to happiness at a comfortable table.

One last beer in Chicago

Once settled in on our perch, the beers started flowing. I was excited because there were a number of beers and breweries that I had never tried. On Matt’s recommendation, I ordered Crooked Tree IPA from Dark Horse Brewing in Michigan. With our cheese and sausage plates, Surly’s Bender, a hybrid Pale Ale/Brown Ale was my brew. My last beer of the trip was Oud Beersel’s Framboise, an absolutely amazing beer.

Visiting a dozen breweries and a trio of beer bars, we did a pretty darn good job of getting a taste of what the Windy City and its environs has to offer. Obviously three days isn’t enough time to fully experience the Chicago beer scene. Now that we know what lies outside airport security, we’ll definitely be back. Hopefully, we won’t pass through ORD another dozen times before we do it.

Thanks to Doug, Tracy and Phelps for a great tour at Metropolitan