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a most refreshing syndicate

By on Aug 2, 2014 in craft, libations | 0 comments

If you drive west on Diversey Avenue in Chicago, you might be looking for the on-ramp to the Kennedy. And as you madly look around trying to figure out where on earth the actual lanes are, you might clap your eyes upon a low brick building, nestled against the embankment shoring up the sides of an old train track that used to run at this same place. Once upon a time, it was a station for the trains that used to chug through. At one point, it was an auto parts store. And now it houses Ale Syndicate, a lovely little craft brewer here in Chicago, founded by brothers Jesse and Samuel Evans. I know, I know. You hear “syndicate” in association with Chicago, and your mind goes all Al Capone. Mine certainly did, and I blunderingly asked Samuel about the name. He looked a little pained at the question, and rightfully so. He began to explain that it had nothing to do with mafia stuff at all, and...

distilled

By on Apr 28, 2014 in craft, libations | 0 comments

Back in October, Koval Distillery here in Chicago let me come on over, but unlike my other local craft food things, this has become a bigger operation, so I did not have the luxury of hanging out and chatting with the few people there that day (there was a lot of whiskey quietly aging in barrels that day, so not a lot of activity.) But I did get a few pictures, and then promptly forgot to write about them. So my apologies to you and Koval, but I have no write-up, no waxing poetic over the almost mythic sounding combination of “heads, hearts, and tails” that comprise all distilling, that I first learned about at a Koval Distillery tour years ago before they expanded into the operation they are now. No pithy little homage to their way of looking at a grain and saying “I can distill that!”, resulting in whiskeys very specifically based on a single grain, like oat,...

shhhhhh… science is happening here

By on Sep 25, 2013 in craft, libations | 0 comments

“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it…” Long have I been entranced by the entrapments of brewing and distilling, all the gizmos and whirlygigs, bits of tubing glinting in the light as they curl round and round, shiny metal vats holding the promise of future cocktails, all of it making me reference “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Every single time. But never have the lyrics to my favorite song from the Gene Wilder Willy Wonka movie actually popped into my head while gazing at all the equipment. Until now. Enter CH Distillery. Founders Tremaine Atkinson and Mark Lucas were kind enough to let me come into their shining new distillery, the latest entry into the craft spirits world, and hang about. They are brand spanking new, having only been open for a few months. When you first walk by, you see the giant plate glass windows, with the...

billy goat grilled

By on Sep 22, 2013 in craft, process, sustainability | 4 comments

Behold a sizzling rack of goat ribs. Lovingly marinated in olive oil and a mix of fresh herbs, licked by flames until the surface becomes that beautiful crusty brown that causes an instant salivation for those of us in the human omnivore sect. It does not, by any stretch, taste like chicken. This is not about a recipe for goat ribs.   On a warm dry day on a mesa in Colorado, surrounded by scrub brush and mountain vistas, I was for the first time in my life brought directly into contact with knowing where my meat came from.   Before the ribs arrived on my grill, they were a part of a goat. That seems like a redundant piece of information. Of course ribs came from an animal. But this is the first time I met the animal. This was a goat owned by Ron and Pam Brown, a lovely rancher couple who were generous enough to let me watch the process and carefully explain everything they...

a half acre of beer

By on Sep 9, 2013 in craft, libations, love | 0 comments

OK, not literally a half acre of beer. That would be ludicrous. It would go flat far, far too quickly. Imagine, if you will, it is a sleepy Saturday morning, and you find yourself strolling around the quiet of Chicago’s Lincoln Square. You round a corner and suddenly come across a crowd buzzing with anticipatory energy. A few more steps and it seems like they are all excited about… a giant garage door. A deep rumble, and the door opens, everyone surging gently forward in anticipation. A gentleman steps out and shouts directions, dependent on if you want the tour or the tap room. You have found Half Acre Brewery.   Gabriel Magliaro and Maurizio Fiore of Half Acre were kind enough to let me come in on two occasions to take in the brewing process. The first time involved the tour of their facilities. While they are bigger than some of the craft brewers around town, this is still a...