"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts"
Chicago. The people, the food, the music, the architecture, and most importantly (for this site at least), the beer make up the wonderful whole that is Chicago. Driving through Chicago's many famous neighborhoods you're taken back to a time where buying local was everything, and people were proud about what was being produced by the people that lived next door. Need proof? Count the Chicago flag tattoos, t-shirts, dog leashes, and car stickers and you're likely to come up with a number you've never counted to before. Point is, this is a proud city - and rightfully so.
While we were eager to check out what Chicago proper had to offer, the trip began with a midday trip to the mecca which is Three Floyd's Brewing. Zombie Dust, a flavor packed American pale ale hopped with only Citra (my favorite hop) fresh from the source was calling my name and so naturally, one was ordered and consumed immediately upon entering the brew pub. The brew pub itself is an experience - heavy punk and metal scream from the sound system and a "we have awesome beer and we know it" attitude permeates. That may be the only flaw, actually. The beer though, that's fantastic. As if you didn't already know.
Then came the other beautifully crafted beers - War Mullet a double IPA that clocks in at 8.1% abv, and just like the description says, makes you want to grow a mullet and go to war; Space Station Middle Finger an American Pale Ale at 6% abv, that was dank, citrusy, and juicy at 50 IBU; Cool Breeze a smooth and refreshingly beautiful american lager; Backmasking, an awesome Oatmeal stout that clocks in at 6% abv but packs huge rich oatmeal, roasty, milk chocolate flavor. And on, and on, and on.
Point is, Three Floyd's has certainly earned it's reputation as one of the world's best breweries. You can taste the artisanship that goes in to each beer - no matter what the style. One beer that really impressed us was the Chevalier Bertrand du Guesclin, an american sour ale aged in wine barrels with blueberries. Beautiful purple/dark blue hue, an earthy smell, and tartness prevail, all while being rounded out by the sweetness from the blueberries. If you can find a bottle, get it. I had been waiting for a long time to get here and the beer we had made the wait worth it. If you're in Chicago, take the 40 minute drive down to Indiana and enjoy! We even played limbo with a girl on crutches! Now, even though that sounds funny - the funniest part is that while she made it through unscathed, her non-injured and able bodied friend somehow fell. One too many Zombie Dusts.
So after getting our fill of 3 Floyds, we headed back to Chicago to visit Half Acre Brewing Co. These guys are brewing some of the best pale ale's and IPA's around. Daisy Cutter, one of their core beers, is a balanced and aggressively hopped american pale ale that rivals any other around. Bright, cloudy, huge citrus hop aroma create a balanced malt to hop attack on your palate. Just drinking this all night would've made me happy, but we were lucky enough that on the day we were there Half Acre was releasing a collaboration with Three Floyd's called Anicca. A big, in your face IPA that combines the best of what both breweries have to offer. Of course, we had one... or two. The highlight, even beyond the beer at Half Acre is the people. Co-founder Maurizio Fiori greeted us with open arms and showed around his spot and the supporters were all having a great time inside.
A warehouse with rooms shooting off to either side, housing tanks and tanks and tanks, while separating the brewery store from the tap room. Each fermentation vessel had a name and character assigned to it (my favorite was Franklin). This is where the magic happens. They had just finished re-releasing Heyoka and the canning line still held some of the brightly colored cans. We couldn't have asked for better timing.
Inside the taproom a bustling crowd of craft beer fanatics had been drinking the Anicca and other great Half Acre offerings like the Pony Pilsner, Space IPA, Lager Town (Oktoberfest), Heyoka, and the Akari Shogun. We joined the crowd and loved every second of it - meeting people from all over the midwest all united by one thing... craft beer.
For other great breweries in Chicago, be sure to visit Revolution (try an Anti-Hero IPA), Goose Island, and Piece Brewery. Still, Chicago is much more than beer. It's about the food, the art, the architecture, the people and their sense of community and emphasis on supporting the local economy. It's about small independent stores and restaurants, and it's about supporting that which is made with the hands of those in your area code. Most importantly, it's about the sum of all those parts that come together in unison to create the great city which is Chicago.