Archive for the ‘Beer’ Category

With all the tasty delights in Chicago and high end gastronomic paradises popping up left and right, sometimes its nice to indulge in hearty pub fare. So for this week we decided to wander on over to Andersonville for the classic Belgian combo of beer, mussels, and fries. The Hopleaf has decidedly one of the largest beer menus in the city, and probably the most extensive Belgium beer menu outside of Belgium itself. With rare brews on tap, this place is always hopping and has extensive wait times, luckily bar seating with a full menu is available with a little patience. Using our heightened senses secondary to hunger and cat-like reflexes, we pounced on the first available seating at the bar within minutes and bellied up to what was on tap. I ordered Dupont Biere de Miel. Sweet and refreshing, this went perfect with my salty steamed mussels.

Brasserie Dupont Biere de Miele (Belgium)– ( 750ML $8.99/btl ) Damn Good 😉

This is a Saison style (farmhouse style) Belgium ale that has a golden haziness and sweet finish with warm honey notes. This ale is definitely on the sweeter end of the spectrum of ales with some floral notes and fruitiness to it. The finish was very sweet and had a little bit of cherry, honey aspects to it. It went well with the saltiness of the mussels and fries. This beer conjures up images of a drunken pooh bear gorging on honey.

Sniff- honey, floral, yeast

Sip- sweet, complex, light, cherry, honey

Eat- salty bar food, seafood





Mussels In Belgian Beer

From the Hopleaf, “borrowed” from WTTW

Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
Cooking Time: 6 Minutes
Yield: 4 Servings

This recipe is adapted from Michael Roper, owner of Hopleaf Bar in Andersonville. Serve these mussels with plenty of good bread for sopping up the cooking juices and wash them down with a cold, Belgian wheat ale, such as Witterkerke (which you can also use for cooking the mussels).

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
1 small rib celery, thinly sliced
2 pounds mussels, cleaned, debearded
1 bottle (12 ounces) Belgian wheat ale
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/8 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet; add shallots and celery. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

2. Add mussels; add beer, thyme, bay leaf, butter, salt and pepper to taste. Cover. Cook until mussels are open, about 4-6 minutes, keeping pan moving frequently. Discard mussels that do not open. Serve in shallow bowls.


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As the other Asian who did not venture on the Memorial Day Michigan wine trip, I felt obligated to go on my own outing and explore the wine region closest to the Windy City, the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. The trip was a great break from the city. We managed to fit in all the wineries. So there is A LOT to review, hence the “Part I.”

We stayed at Benton Harbor (features much cheaper lodgings) and drove the 5 minutes into St. Joseph’s and toured the local wineries. We used the handy dandy wine trail map provided by the wineries

There was a lot to do and see, especially since this was a first visit for all of us. So I want to keep this short and informational. We went to almost all of the wineries in the region, and almost all of the tourist attractions in there area. First the WINE…Some general comments:

  1. Stick to the whites, the reds fall a little flat and can be a little too tannin. Rieslings abound, many of them are styled more in the California or French style, meaning less fruity, more mineral
  2. Do leave room to try the fruit wines and dessert wines if you have a sweet tooth
  3. ALL of the tastings were FREE


Best: Round Barn, Domaine Berrien, Tabor Hill

Eh, So-So: Karma Vista, Lemon Creek, Warner

Pass: St. Julian, Contessa, Free Run, Hickory Creek

Round Barn Winery

By far the best experience we had. The winery is nestled in a scenic spot. The tastings are generous and we felt it a rare treat to find a place that makes wine, beer, and vodka.

Tasting: $8= 5 wines, 1 dessert, 1 vodka, 3 beers + Free Glass + Free Tastings at Free Run Cellars

ORGASMIC 😮 : DiVine Vodka ($34.99)- A unique grape vodka, this stuff is smooth, so very smooth, makes-babies-bottoms seem-like-sandpaper smooth
DAMN GOODS 😉 : Gerwurstraminer ($15.99)-floral, honey, spice, complex
NOT BADS 🙂 : Artesia Spumante ($14.99)– fruity, refreshing, sparkling…you could get worse with the price, but you could get better
Golden Ale-
refreshing light, hoppy
GHETTO HOOCH 😦 : Pale Ale, Amber Ale, most of the dry reds

Domaine Berrien Cellars

Although this has less of the fun and flair of vineyards like Round Barn, St. Julian, or Warner, the wines here are surprisingly good and very drinkable. There is a nice outdoor deck where you can enjoy your wine and they will fix you a nice picnic basket of local treats from their fridge case so you can have a little snack. Try the local buffalo and venison sausage. Laid back and unassuming, the standout thing about this place is its wine.
ORGASMIC 😮 : Cabernet Franc Ice Wine ($50.00)– A cool half a benji this ice wine is unique and flavorful. If you like madeira and sherry, you might find yourself forking over the cash for this tasty liquid. With hints of toasted almonds, walnut, caramel, and raisins, its a complex rich drink. I did not regret giving up my 5 bucks for a taste, but unfortunately felt that I could get a better madiera like experience with a true $50 madiera. Still it is neat to see such a rare type of ice wine.
DAMN GOODS 😉 : Vignoles 2006 ($10.50)– A nice summer white, it has hints of pineapple, apple, and citrus. Its a great clean and fruity pour and well worth the price tag.
Marsanne 2006 ($14.50)– I preferred the Vignoles, but this is less sweet and has a lot of great complexity. Hints of spice and honey, this has good body and is very light and drinkable.
NOT BADS 🙂 : Crown of Cabernet 2004($23)– has good body, fruit, hint of oak. Not sure if its worth the $ Viognier 2006 ($18.50)– viogniers are so great in general, complex, flowery, fruity, this one is okay, but again you can get better for the money
GHETTO HOOCH 😦 : Grandma’s Red

Tabor Hill

Probably one of the most successful wineries on the trail, Tabor Hill is definitely has the feel of a larger more professional winery. The restaurant features fine American dining. There are several tasting rooms in the area so where ever you go it is worth a stop to sample. 8 Free Tastings offered.

DAMN GOODS 😉 : Angelo Spinazze’s Spumante ($13.45)- Good complexity, sweet, bubbly, fruity, and floral. Worth the price, especially if you are a fan of sweeter spumante or asti
Classic Demi-Sec ($8.45)- One of their most populat with good reason. A very good basic fruity wine, refreshing and crisp.

NOT BADS 🙂 : Blanc de Blanc ($13.45)- Not as sweet or complex as the Spumante, but definitely in the same vein of style. It is more of a mellow, fruity sparkling white. Some may prefer it over the Spumante if they lean more towards salt than sweet.




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Nestled in the middle of no where fast, Three Floyds Brewery is a greasy beer saturated gem in the flatlands of Indiana. With a hopping brew pub attached, the brewery doubles as a great destination for a night of laid back drinking. The specialty brews are worth the visit. We tried all but two of the selections on the menu. The food was gut bustingly tasty. We started with the garbage fries which were smothered with a number of fixin’s featuring chili and cheese. The fry cone seemed to be popular. Its exactly what it sounds like a huge cone filled with fresh cut homemade fries. For more sophisticated tastes the menu includes more elaborate entrees and appetizers, including beer-steemed mussels. Since this is roughly a 45 minute drive from Chicago and there is quite a number of beers to try a designated driver is advised, and those not into brew pubs and beer most definitely would not find the trek worth it.

Rabbid Rabbit- Not Bad-Damn Good


True to its name, this rich complex beer had the undertones of a delicious carrot cake. It had the spice, the richness, and fullness. Although this combination may sound unpalatable, believe me its fantastic. I bought two bottles at the brewery and was tempted to by more. If you like spice to your beer this is for you, with hints of cinnamon, allspice, sweet malt, and caramel this is a beer that can definitely satisfy a sweet tooth.

Sniff- citrus, cinnamon, spice

Sip- carrot cake, cinnamon, allspice, caramel, malt

Eat- Good as a stand alone, or could balance out salty pub fair, but it is rich so some might prefer lighter food. Could also go well with dessert, something with a nice creamy texture like ice cream and apple pie

The Deuce-Not Bad-Damn Good

AKA The Chocolate Banana, does in fact taste like a chocolate banana. Its a rich creamy beer with an uncanny hint of banana that seems to work wonderfully with the yeasty chocolaty beer. Another beer reminiscent of a dessert. Heavy and thick with a fruitiness that adds lightness to it. Very complex and inviting, I would say this is another beer for those with a sweet tooth. It would be sensational with chocolate.

Sniff- chocolate, banana, sweet

Sip- bittersweet chocolate, banana, fruit, yeast, rich

Eat- Chocolate somethings or nothing at all

Gumballhead- Not Bad


A light wheat beer, it is the classic summer drink. It is very hoppy (aka got a little bitterness to it) and drinkable, but did not stand out in my mind. It has a mild sweetness with some hints of citrus. I think its a pretty universally appealing beer, but no wows of where did that flavor come from. Could be a Damn Good for those who love hoppy light summer beers.

Sniff- Citrus, sweet

Sip- citrus, hoppy, sweet

Eat- anything under the sun, literally


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Being from the East coast transplanted in the Midwest, I am always in search of good thin crust pizza. Tonight we got take away from Piece. The Wicker Park pizza/beer joint was hopping tonight and the wait totalled 1.5 hours, ouch….so I was glad to get my piping hot pie to go. To wash it all down, we bought two traditional German wheat beers, Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier and Kristall Wiessbier. Light, crisp, and tart, it went well with the saltiness of our pizza. It’s definitely good for summer. It was surprisingly light for a wheat beer and very drinkable.

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier and Kristall Weissbier (Germany) $2 (1 Pint)- Not Bad 😐


With the aroma of citrus, cinnamon, and clover the Hefe Weissbier is a flavorful beer that is surprisingly light and thin. It goes down like a light Pilsner and less like its cloudier thicker cousin Belgian Wheat Ale. In terms of the Kristall Weissbier, this beer is much like the Hefe Weissbier but it has been filtered and is a tad lighter. Very similar to its non-filtered brother, these beers to me were virtually identical with a little less body and a little more fruit with the filtered Kristall. They both have a floral quality and a sweetness and bitterness to match. Like I said, great summer beers to bring to the beach or bbq.

Sniff- Citrus, cinnamon, flora

Sip- Clover, sweet, bitter, yeast

Eat- BBQ, Pizza, and Mexican Food…any greasy salty food option

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Peter, Dave, and I decided to go out to dinner at a traditional highlander style polish restaurant, Szalas. You can’t miss this restaurant with its steeple roof and festive barrel like decor. It truly tries to bring a little bit of Zakopane, Poland (a beautiful mountainous region/vacation spot) to Chicago. When you arrive at the front entrance of the restaurant you pull a string which rings a cow bell that announces your arrival and someone opens the door to greet you. Upon entering, you notice all the wood and rustic knick knacks along with an indoor watermill. It borders on cheese, but in a good way. We all decided to order the Highlanders Special, which is a potato pancake topped with goulash and sprinkled with mozzarella cheese. With such hearty fare it seemed only natural to order a nice cold beer to wash it all down. I ordered one of the Pilsners they had on tap, Germany’s Warsteiner Pilsner, a perfect pairing to this stick to your ribs meal. Even better, all the beers came in huge half liter glass beer steins. 😉


Warsteiner Premium Verum (Germany) $11 (12 pack/12oz Bottles)- Not Bad 😐

Golden yellow and refreshing, this pilsner is a far cry from the more watery forms of this beer. Although its very light it does have a hint of sweetness and a little bitter hops but not too much. I have to admit that I didn’t take my time tasting this one as I was busy guzzling it down with my food, but it did enhance the eating experience and definitely was refreshing. Pretty tasty overall, I finished the whole half liter. 🙂

Sniff- yeasty, light

Sip- light, refreshing, crisp, mild hops

Eat- Polish hearty fare, pork chops, hot dogs, sausage



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Beer Making 101

I’ve successfully brewed my own beer. 😀

A month ago now, a friend and I attempted to make a batch of Scottish Amber Ale.

I’m too lazy to spell out the instructions in full, but if you’re interested in brewing your own beer, check out Eartheasy: Simplest Homemade Beer for the recipe. Scroll down for the results. 😉


First, you fill up about 3 gallons of water to boil


Get the hops boiling till 176 degrees, then cool it down to 68 degrees


Then siphon the mixture into the fermenting bucket, and let it sit for a week


After a week, return to add some finishing hops to the half-beer


Filling ’em up


Capping the bottles

We had to let the beer sit for 3 weeks at the back of a dark closet. And yesterday, it was finally ready! So I took my 50% share of the 49 bottles we’d bottled, and we opened up a couple.

The first one, I must not have capped it properly, because it was completely flat. 😦 The second one turned out fine though – it had a really satisfying fizz to it. Yay!

The beer is a dark color, well, amber. It had a nice nose to it: very malty, a tinge of citrus, and a promise of a thick, chewy body. Sadly, the promise kind of fell flat. After the initial burst of flavor, the beer quickly tasted watery, weak. And it had no finish whatsoever.

Still, I’ve successfully brewed my first batch of beer! 🙂 And to be completely objective and fair, it was quite good – better than the Millers, Buds, and Tiger Beers of the world! 😀

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Back to Basics

Pizza and Beer

I was feeling a little under the weather and decided that a night on the couch eating pizza, drinking beer, and watching a DVD was just the thing. Peter and I ordered some thin crust and Chicago style to cover all our bases. Peter picked out his all time favorite beer to have on hand, Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat. It’s two Asians and a BOTTLE so I figure rating this beer is fair game. 😉

Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat– $11 (12 Bottles)- Damn Good 😉

That’s right! It’s a damn good AND its cheap. Brewed in the Belgium white ale style like its counterpart Blue Moon it’s great with a wedge of orange. It definitely has an orange smell to it and the taste is refreshingly sweet, hints of blueberry, citrus with the mild bubble gum undertone unique to wheat beers. It’s definitely for those who have a sweeter preference when it comes to beer. By no means watery, it fills your mouth with a floral fruity taste that balances perfectly with its yeasty goodness. It’s nice and cloudy and went perfectly with the ‘za. Every belch thereafter was bliss. 😀

Sniff- Subtle orange and yeast

Sip- sweet, yeasty, fruity, floral, blueberry, orange

Eat- Perfect with pizza, a dog, bbq, and finer fare such as seafood, like fried calamari or scallops

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