I'm already late for my appointment when I land. No time to piss around. Thankfully there's no immigration shit to do, it's as if I'd arrived on an internal flight. I collect my bag and go directly to the taxi rank.
I've done my homework. I know exactly how much a cab from the airport should cost every city I'm visiting. No point getting stung unnecessarily.
It's a long drive. Through another set of sprawly suburban housing a low industrial boxes. I don't bother taking any photos. My hotel is to the north of the city centre, in Lincoln Park.
Working out where to stay in Chicago was a nightmare. I'd no idea of its geography. Where was a reasonable place to stay? I had no idea. After looking into the city's neighbourhoods (and checking hotel prices) I finally settled on Lincoln Park. It seems it wasn't such a bad choice. What finally swung it was seeing that the hotel was on what looked like a little High Street, with normal shops. Lexxie has given me quite a shopping list. This is where I plan picking up most of the items.
As I'm checking in, the desk clerk tells asks me if I want to take my box taken my room. I'm glad he reminds me of that. I forgot I had books arriving. "I'll pick them up later."
I hurry up to my room on the third floor, stick in the key and rattle the handle. Bloody door won't open. I try several more times before returning to reception.
"Had a little senior moment there, sir. Your room is on the fourth floor." Great. Extra delay is just what I need.
I stay in my room just long enough to switch on my flipflop and send Mike an email to let him know I'm on my way.
"1800 West Fulton Street, please." I say to the cabbie and I'm bouncing through the city again in no time. We take the motorway. Good thinking - it's a bit longer in distance, but much quicker in time. The final approach is urban, but in a low-key sort of way. Nothing much over three or four storeys. More New Jersey than New York. Though it does have a bit of Brooklyn about it.
Mike is waiting at the door of the brewery when I arrive. He's wearing an Augustiner shirt. Salzburg Augustiner, which is even cooler.
"Nice shirt." I say as we shake hands.
It's Mike Siegel, one of the brewers at Goose Island who has generously offered to show me around. It's in a low, nondescript building much like the others on the street. In a couple of minutes, pausing only to give me safety glasses, he leads me into the brewhouse. You'd think after all the breweries I've been around recently that I'd be getting bored of looking at brewing kit. Nothing could be further from the truth.
On the first floor is the brewhouse. Like most I've been to
recently, it's a smaller capacity than the fermenters, meaning they have
to make a couple of brews of the same beer to fill one. 50 US barrels
ins the brew length, 100 US barrels the capacity of most of the
We descend to the ground floor where the fermenting vessels, bright beer tanks and various other bits of kit are crammed into pretty limited space. Somehow they've found room for a couple of dozen oak barrels. They all appear to be full of sherry Bourbon County Stout. I wonder how much that little lot is worth? I'll probably never even see a bottle in the far distance, let alone taste it.
Mike takes me outside to show me the giant conicals they have there.
"This isn't the nicest area. We had a to build a wall and put barbed wire on the top. Before we did, stainless steel fittings kept disappearing." Mike tells me.
The building contains more than just the equipment to brew beer. The malts stores and the packaging department are here, too. The malts are stored slightly chaotically, pallets loaded with sacks piled several high. In the kegging room I show my usual bizarre interest in keg-washing machinery. There really is something wrong in my head.
Probably more interesting for geeks is our next stop: metal shelves packed with boxes of beer. Mike tells me that they keep a box from every batch for reference purposes. They've an impressive collection of Matilda. It reminds me of the one cellar at Fuller's, where they have bottles from every batch of 1845.
Now comes the fun part. Mike has some beer for me to try and Brett Porter, the head brewer, is joining us. There's an impressive array of their beers on the table. We begin with the lower-gravity stuff. Of particular interest is Matilda of different ages: one fresh, the other with a couple of years on it. Unsurprisingly, Brettanomyces has a much tighter grip on the latter. Almost a strangehold on its flavour. Rather nice.
They've kindly included a couple of Bourbon County beers: Bourbon County Stout, Bourbon County Coffee and Bourbon County Barleywine.
Bourbon County Stout is rich and luscious, an almost sugary sweetness offsetting the raw roast and boozy bourbon. I'd have another, if there was one of offer, but there isn't. I move on to the coffee version which is similar but with more coffee flavour. Not really much of a revelation, that.
I realise what a jammy bastard I am. I get to drink loads of rare beers, mostly without making the slightest effort. People just give me stuff.
Once we've done drinking, Mike takes me over the road to a warehouse they rent. It's stuffed wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling with oak barrels. I struggle to keep my chin off the floor.
We head for Hopleaf when I finally tire of looking at all that wonderful wood. For more beer, more talk, more fun.
I've not given up trying to sell my book. Probably never will. I'll still be tacking this stuff onto the end of posts years from now.:
The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.
1800 West Fulton Street,
Chicago, IL 60612.
5148 N. Clark St.,
Chicago, IL 60640
Tel: (773) 334-9851
Artyfacts from the Nyneties #5: Sainsbury’s Bière de Garde, 1991 - The image above comes from the Sainsbury’s supermarket in-house magazine for November 1991 and is a great reminder that interesting beer didn’t arrive in...
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