Friday, December 31, 2010

Grateful for plenty this year

Image found at

The closer the new year gets, the more i realize how good i have it here in Chicago for multiple reasons.

Chicago's beer scene is continuing to expand with the opening, or planned opening, of a few new breweries/brewpubs such as
The breweries that were & have been here before 2010 began have continued to push themselves, and in the process, they have expanded their offerings.

Beer undertook a greater role in the restaurants around town, and a few opened that gave it a prominent place in their business.
In short, Chicago's beer scene had a great deal going for it in 2010, and things appear to be looking up for things to continue in 2011. Happy Holidays!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My trip to Founders

A few weeks ago my friend Mike, and I made a pilgrimage to Grand Rapids to visit a favorite brewery of ours: Founders Brewing Company. This trip had been the top item of our beer to-do list for nearly 4 months. So, saying we were excited to get to Founders would be a grand understatement. We eventually decided that to make it happen, and to avoid spending an entire weekend in Grand Rapids (no offense intended), an early morning bus trip to Grand Rapids coupled with a late afternoon return would be our best bet.

Our bus ended up arriving in Grand Rapids around 10a (after having departed Chicago at 230a). Unfortunately, Founders does not open until 11a on Saturdays so we had some time to burn, and breakfast to find. Luckily, Mike found a joint called San Chez, which was a convenient place to grab a bite to eat (they also make a great french toast btw). After that, we spent some time wandering around downtown Grand Rapids where it became evident that art is a big part of this city’s identity. We saw at least two murals every 3rd or 4th block, and a real eye grabbing piece of art in the heart of downtown (picture of said eye catcher here) that I stared at for 5 minutes (due to both it’s awesomeness and it’s use of rocket/plane engines). In short, Grand Rapids is an art loving town.

After escaping my art-induced hypnosis, Mike and I finally made our way to Founders. When we walked in the front doors, we were immediately blown away by how homey of a place it is. Founders’ utilizes simple tables, an old wood bar, and plenty of windows to create an environment that is very relaxed and approachable. Simply put, Founders dining/bar area is the club house you wish you had.

After finding a seat, Mike and I ordered our first beer: the Newaygo County Cherry ale. This beer utilizes cherries sourced from Newaygo County, Michigan to provide a pleasant bitter/sweet duet that plays itself out differently with every sip, It was a very enjoyable beer, that ended up being my favorite beer of the day.

After that, Mike ordered their Endurance Ale (a GABF 2010 silver medal winner in the session ale category), and I tried their oatmeal stout. Both beers were quite nice, but Mike’s choice won that round for its aromatic bounty & ballet dancer-esque mouth feel (pleasantly jumping all around).

After the 2nd round, we decided that we had best take the opportunity to hightail it to a liquor store recommended by my friend Michigan Microbrews called Martha’s Vineyard.

I am quite grateful that Michigan Microbrews recommended Martha’s because it is quite a store that not only offers plenty of Michigan beer (from breweries of all sizes), but it also caters to the pastry, snack food, and fine liquor folk of Grand Rapids. It is definitely worth a stop if you have time.

While at Martha’s, Mike picked up a variety of things, but I focused on getting some beer from Short's Brewing. They are a brewery that, up until this trip, I had only read about, and their decision to only distribute in Michigan helped make them a brewery-to-seek for me.

Of all of the Short’s beers I have read about, their Key Lime Pie (a 2010 GABF gold medal winner) was the Alpha-1 numero uno beer I hoped to find. Unfortunately, I did not have any luck finding that beer, but I did find & get the Shorts beers listed below.

Some of the non-Shorts beers I picked up were the following:

After picking up the aforementioned beers, Mike and I returned to Founders for a few final rounds before going to the bus depot. Mike chose to go with the Backwoods Bastard and Nemesis as his 3rd & 4th picks. I chose the Breakfast stout and the Devil Dancer. I had the good fortune of having tried a bottle of all of them before except for the Devil Dancer. That beer is one of the smoothest, most sneaky, yet enjoyable triple IPAs I have ever had the good fortune of trying. It could be compared to a golden retriever in that it is friendly and playful but you had best not ignore it lest you want to risk being knocked down by its (unleashed) playfulness.

In summary, the trip was definitely worth it, the beers were truly great, the people at Founders were very friendly, and Grand Rapids is a place that I could see visiting next summer. So, if you have not been to Founders yourself, make it your New Years goal to make the trip. You will not regret it.

P.s. If you are interested in seeing the rest of my pictures from this trip, go here