Another lazy start to the day. My first appointment is at eleven. Allowing 20 minutes for the taxi, I don’t need to fully gear up my arse until 10:40. Rising at nine gives me acres of time to farm.
For breakfast, obviously. On my stroll to the Clark Street Ale House yesterday I spotted a Potbelly. “We serve breakfast” it said in the window. “That’s handy.” I thought. Especially as it opens on Sunday. As there’s no diner nearby, that seems a good option.
It’s deserted when I enter. Even behind the counter. Slow time, I guess, Sunday morning.
When a woman pops up behind the counter I say: “I’d like breakfast.”
“We do a breakfast sandwich. Egg with various options.”
She reels off a long list of ingredients. I opt for egg, bacon and cheese. Mostly because those are the ones I can remember. And it sounds like a breakfast I’d want to eat*. With a bottle of orange juice and a coffee, it comes to under $8. Much better value than that ripoff Walgreens sarnie.
When I arrive at Goose Island, Ken and Mike are outside. No need to knock on the door. We immediately speed off to their barrel warehouse. Where mike pours some beer from the Keeping vat. It's lovely. Slightly vinous and firmly bitter. "It's only going to get better, Mike."
"I know. The test brew was more in your face. I guess that's why they blended it."
"They weren't stupid."
Ken and Seth are cameraman and sound man, respectively. They’re filming me and Mike for a promotional video. For or next collaboration. I met them when I was in London last month. They were witness to the Imperial Stout incident.
“Have you got over the death of your drone yet?”
“We’ve already got a new one.” The last one drowned tragically in the Thames.
I’m getting quite used to being miked up. Superstar that I now am. As they’re also going to record my talk, they don’t bother taking off the mike. Though I do make sure they turn it off. “In case I go to the toilet.”
When we get back to the taproom, a few punters are already in. They open at noon on Sunday.
“Any idea how many will be turning up for my talk?”
“Not really.” Mike replies. “We got a pretty good turnout last time.”
I make a quick trip to the bog just before I go on. Don’t want to get caught short halfway through.
When I return Ken starts setting up the sound. The mike has detached from my shirt and been pulled down. Must have happened when I was in the toilet. It’s been pulled down into my trollies.
“I’d be careful about touching that, if I were you, mate.” I warn Ken.
I drink a Midway IPA. One of the more successful transfers to larger AB plants, I’m told.
“It’s because they have vertical fermenters at the brewery where it’s made. Most AB breweries have horizontal ones because they’re meant for Lager brewing.” That’s an interesting take on the vertical vs. horizontal discussion.
My next beer is the Obadiah Poundage trial. It’s much sharper than the beer from the vat. Though that hasn’t had much ageing yet. The 11-month old Keeping must have been quite tart, as this blend is two-thirds Running Porter.
Mike disappears into the brewery and returns with one of his babies: a 20-litre oak cask made in Munich’s last cooperage. It’s filled with Helles and Mike will soon be tapping it. I’m relieved he does ask me if I’d like to. I’m dead wary since the Schumacher incident in our old flat. I cocked up tapping a 10-litre cask and Alt went all over our living room. After that, I had to tap casks in the bath.
Mike whacks in the tap like a pro and quickly fills a few litre glasses. For me, him, Ken and Seth. Usually, I’m not that keen on litres. But when they’re filled with refreshing Helles, it’s a different matter. Amazing how quickly the first litre slips down. So I get a second. There’s something about beer served Bayerischer Anstich.
Maybe knocking back two full litres just before speaking isn’t the best idea. But it’s only 30 minutes or so. Me talking about the history of Porter. Bare arsed.
Talking without the crutch of slides or any structural preparation. I find it quite fun. That shows how far I've come. Scary as shit, this used to be. Now, it's a sort of perverse fun. What am I saying, where am I going? Who cares? As long as the punters aren't buggering off, it's a winner for me. And when my crappy coarse jokes get a laugh, I must be doing something right.
Time to sell some books. After a quick wee. Those two litres are working their way through my system.
The bookselling goes OK. I’m left with just two. That’s not bad. I didn’t expect to shift any copies of Lager!.
When it’s obvious there are no more books to be sold, I join Mike and Ken at the bar. For some more Obadiah Poundage. It seems to have worked out well. Mike had worried about the high percentage of dark malts in the Keeper. Months in oak had mellowed any harshness out a treat. The production version will be different. Brewed to Truman rather than Barclay Perkins recipes.
Mike can’t stay too long. He’s a family man now, with a young child. It’s only right he spends the evening with them, rather than a beer obsessive.
Ken takes me out for dinner instead. No problem with that. I like Ken. And we’ve shared many pints. We go to Publican Anker, a nice fish place.
Oysters, then deep fried fish. What could be better than a fish and fish supper? A fish and chip supper, obviously. Technically, it is a fish and chip supper. As oysters aren’t really fish. And there is a chip element to the meal. No mushy peas, sadly.
I begin the drinks side of the meal with a mint julep. Because I’ve not had one before. Switching to beer, Cigar City Jai Alai, an IPA sort of thing. Pretty sure I’ve heard of it. Seems OK. In an Americaney IPA-ey sort of way.
We finish in Revolution Brewing. Another brewpub How many of them have I been in this trip? I’ve lost count. A lot, is the correct answer. It’s busy, but we find seats at the bar. Where we chat with a delightful young couple sitting beside us. All very civilised. And there’s beer.
I order a Deth’s Tar. Barely alcoholic at just 14.8% ABV. As you’d expect from an Imperial Stout, it’s pretty damn black. Black as it would have been in those derelict cellars in Cincinnati if the lights had gone out.
Why do I always sit at the bar when drinking alone in the US? Much easier to start a conversation there. Either with the staff or fellow barleaners. Stuck at a table by yourself, the chat chances are checked.
Ken gets me an Uber back. Thanks, Ken. I stumble through the revolving door. Where's that Bourbon? Come here sleep. Give me a kiss. Goodnight.
* A breakfast I did eat, when working on Manhattan. There was a place on the way from the ferry terminal to my office that did a roaring trade in takeaway breakfast sarnies. I used to drop by occasionally. Well, more than occasionally. A few days every week, let’s say. My order was always just what I had in Potbelly: bacon, egg and cheese. I ate it at my desk on the 19th floor while working. That’s the sort of high-powered job I had. Not really. I wanted to be able to bugger off as early as possible. Eating on the job was just time-efficient.
Potbelly Sandwich Shop
225 E Chicago Ave,
Tel: +1 312-837-4896
Goose Island Beer Company
1800 W Fulton St,
Chicago, IL 60612
Tel: +1 800-466-7363
1576 N Milwaukee Ave,
Chicago, IL 60622.
Tel: +1 773-904-1121
2924, 2323 N Milwaukee Ave,
Chicago, IL 60647.
Tel: +1 773-227-2739
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