I apparently do not learn from past experiences. As you may recall, I have been known to attend two beer events in one day. And after each time I do this, I swear I will never do it again. Famous last words! But there were two homebrew-focused events on Saturday and I couldn’t choose just one. So, against better judgment, I attended both Brew Ho Ho and CHAOS Brew Club’s Stout and Chili Night. And I lived to blog about it!
Brew Ho Ho
Brew Ho Ho, the third in Chef Won Kim’s Laughter Series, was a resounding success. Not only did it sell out, but it offered some of the best beer in the city on Saturday. I had the opportunity to arrive early and get to know some of the brewers before the crowds were let loose. While many of the brewers are now my friends, there were some new comers to the mix this time around.
New Oberpfalz Brewing focuses on modern takes on traditional Bavarian brewing methods, including decoction mashes. For those who do not know what that is, decoction is a method of mashing where a portion of the mash is taken out of the mash tun, boiled, and then returned to the mash in order to raise the temperature. It is a long, laborious process that is pretty much extinct now that highly modified malts are readily available. But this husband and wife brewing duo are aiming for authenticity so they are utilizing this method. I first sampled their Seventy-Three Hefeweizen which had a yeasty, citrusy aroma and hazy-yellow hue. It was a tad over-carbonated but overall this was a refreshing beer that would be perfect for a summer day on Lake Michigan. I also sampled the Braunschweiger Mumme, an ancient German bier with a nice balance of smokey and sweet flavors.
Rockwell Brewing is a group of five individuals who love all things crafty, including homebrew. I sampled their Harvest Pear Porter that had the most fantastic fresh pear aroma. In flavor, it was more chocolaty with a slight sour note that was provided by the pear. I am very excited to see more from these guys (and gals!) in the future.
Second Story Brewing is the homebrew venture of Ryan Burke, who’s day job is working with Greg Hall at Virtue Cider. OK, I guess he has some cred. I sampled his Citra/Sorachi Wheat Wine which was a real treat. It was on the hoppy side; more representative of a double IPA than a Wheat Wine. The only clue that it was in fact a Wheat Wine was the slightly more substantial mouthfeel. I also love what Burke is doing with regards to using vegetables from his own garden in the beers. For instance, his Squashbuckler is a Porter made with homegrown winter squash. Love it!
Newcomer Soma Ale Werks had some amazing beers to sample, including a cucumber saison (which won first place at the 2011 Spooky Brew Review) and a farmhouse IPA. I keep hearing amazing stuff about his banana beer so I am regretting not getting a chance to sample that one. Tom Gustafson is a welcome addition to the line-up of talented brewers at the Beer Laughter series!
And, of course, the usual crowd of exceptional homebrewers was present and brought their A-game. Corazon Brewing, a Latin-focused homebrew collective, had a firkin of a Dark Chocolate Milk Stout that was creamy and delicious. I was also able to try their Christmas Ale that was brewed with dried fruit and spices. Powell Brew House had six variations of his Milk Stout, including regular, nitro, mint, coffee, peanut butter cup and vanilla. I sampled the coffee and peanut butter cup, both of which were fantastic. I especially liked the peanut butter cup Milk Stout which provided a nice balance of peanut butter sweetness and roasty-chocolate. Delicious!
Brutally Honest Brewing once again had food pairings for each of their brews. I sampled the black ale that was paired with a little pecan torte that had a chocolate sauce made with the beer! These two Cicerones really know what they are doing and I know they have a bright future in the Chicago brewing industry. Big Dicks’ beers all have quite controversial names that could make even the most potty-mouthed person blush but there is no denying that these guys can brew. Regardless of whether it is served from a dildo-clad tap handle, the F* Your Face Double IPA was fantastic, as was their winter beer brewed with New Zealand hops.
The other star of the show at Brew Ho Ho was the food! Talented bakers from across Chicago displayed their chops with bread, cookies, and even spent grain cake! My personal favorite was a spent grain bread with beer-soaked raisins, and then a homemade jam made with the same beer spread on top. Oh. My. GOD. The sweet of the jam and the savory-sweet flavor of the bread was insanely delicious.
As always, these events are a blast. My one criticism was that it was oversold; it became way too crowded and it was a tad uncomfortable. However, everyone was in a pleasant mood and polite. One of the best things about this go-around was that there were some women brewers present! I loved that! Let’s get even more for fourth installment!
Towards the end of the event, Chef Won Kim stood up on a table and announced that there was an after party at CHAOS Brew Club. This reminded us that we still had another beer event to attend that evening. So, at around 6:30 PM, the hubby and I began making our rounds to the brewers at Brew Ho Ho to say goodbye.
CHAOS Brew Club’s Stout & Chili Night
We stepped outside into the frigid night and I used my negotiation skills to convince hubby that we should take a cab (I should have been a lawyer…) over to Grand & Ogden, the site of CHAOS’s event. Over the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I have not been as involved with my homebrew club as I was previously, and I still feel like I am in catch-up mode. So it was great to walk into the event and immediately be welcomed by all of my homebrew club friends.
Even though I was a slacker when it came to organizing and decorating the brewspace for the event, I immediately jumped behind the counter to assist in serving beer. As you remember from my post about Ides of Cider, serving beer to thirsty consumers is one of my favorite things to do. And it is a job I take very seriously. I quickly took small sips of everything available so I would be able to make recommendations and speak to the flavor profiles. So, if someone was not a big fan of sweet stouts I knew I could recommend the Citra Stout, a moderately hopped ale that balanced spicy with roasty. For those that did like their beer on the sweeter side, I could recommend the Chocolate Tremors or Velvet Elvis, a Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout. I was able to keep the long line moving fairly quickly which the patrons appreciated, I think.
In addition to the beer, there was plenty of other tasty treats. There was a chili competition where various individuals entered their best chili recipes and customers rated their favorites. There were plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, which was thoughtful; I don’t really eat red meat so I was happy I was able to enjoy some chili as well. There were plenty of desserts, too, including my Founders Breakfast Stout Brownies with Pumpkin Cheesecake Frosting. I can’t take credit for this recipe; I found it on the Founders website. But it is insanely delicious and easy to make! I am not a baker so if I can do it, so can you!
At this time I want to send a huge shout out to Whit and Jared from Brew Camp. They have been super supportive of CHAOS from the beginning, including providing prizes for raffles and having our business cards at their North Center shop. Both were in attendance at Chili and Stout Night and it was great to hang out with them and talk beer. So, for all of you homebrewers out there, support your local homebrew general store!
At around 10 PM, I began to feel my energy waning so I began pestering hubby for us to go. On our way out, I ran into Chef Won Kim and Ryan Burke from Second Story Brewing! They came to the CHAOS event after Brew Ho Ho too! I introduced Won and Ryan to David Williams, the co-founder of CHAOS Brew Club, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, CHAOS can do an event with Chef Won Kim. We shall see!
Both of these events were a blast and I am so thankful that I was able to spend a Saturday supporting Chicago’s immensely talented homebrewers. To learn more about CHAOS Brew Club events, be sure to follow them on Twitter @CHAOSBrewClub and ‘Like’ them on Facebook. Chef Won Kim just contacted me to let me know that the next homebrew event, Brew Springstein, will be held on April 7, 2012 in the same space as Brew Ho Ho. I will surely be tweeting about the event, so be sure to follow me @grlslikebeertoo (shameless plug!) for updates. Long live homebrew!