South of 80 2.0: The Wrapup

It’s something you don’t quite realize until you’re finally drinking beers at the event itself just how much effort can go in behind the scenes to get one of these Chicago Craft Beer Week events set up.

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I’m not saying that as a point of pride for myself or anything – but I do know that this year took a lot of work to pull off, from the brewers, to the distributors, and to ourselves as well. If you’re distributing credit anywhere, the absolute Lion’s Share of it should be directed straight towards Ryan, who herded these brewery cats going all the way back to last year and beyond.

IMG_1068Any time you bring in new brewers that don’t currently offer beers in Chicago there are some extra strings to pull and thankfully, they were all pulled appropriately enough in order to bring some super-cool breweries to the city for the first time. Which was fantastic, because they were all awesome.

For a full evening at The Green Lady on Tuesday, as rains seemed to threaten constantly (but never quite arrive), it was a little piece of downstate. We got to compare notes on beers, talked about breweries, try some stuff that we’d never tried before, learn more about brewers that we’d previously only known through reputation, and generally bask in the mid-week CCBW glow of good beer.

IMG_0375Oh, and we got to pass Das Boot for some extra beer karma as well to raise money for public school teachers in tornado ravaged Moore, Oklahoma. And it was also awesome of Melani Domingues, owner of The Green Lady, to match some of those proceeds as well.

At the end of the evening (well, the end for me anyways), I was wondering how well this had worked out in comparison to last year’s event. I hadn’t realized that for 2012, there were only three bartenders behind the bar, whereas Melani had all 5 of her folks plus a door guy in attendance and we kept them all pretty busy for hours, which seems like a pretty solid turnout to me.

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Judging from some of the feedback we received on Twitter, South of 80 2.0 was a hit.

If I had to gauge interest, I’d say the big hits among the crowd were the Arugula Rye from Scratch, the Strawberry/Raspberry Sour from Destihl; Urban Chestnut’s Zwickel and Winged Nut, in equal parts, and we all really seemed to enjoy the Strawberry Honey Weizen from Six Row and the Blood Orange Hefeweizen from Rolling Meadows, which seemed to keep getting better as the night went on.

IMG_0379What’s more important than that, though, is that everyone from all attendees to brewery reps to bartenders to beer bloggers to owners seemed to be having a really good time. For that, we thank you all.

We would be remiss if we did not single out and thank the following: Melani at The Green Lady for clearing out half of her taps to make room for fifteen fantastic beers from downstate Illinois and the St. Louis area, our distribution partners Chicago Beverage Systems and Donnewald Distributing and – of course – the breweries for entrusting us to be the first to introduce their beers to Chicago.

ANNOUNCING: The South of 80 2.0 Tap List

sof80breweries

In advance of our second annual Chicago Craft Beer Week event celebrating the unknown and under-the-radar breweries south of Interstate 80, we present to you the tap list for South of 80 2.0.

This list includes a diverse selection of beers, many brewed using old school and even old world techniques. From sessionable IPA’s and blonde ales, to higher ABV offerings like a beer brewed with maple sap in lieu of water and a Belgian Tripel – you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more unique selection of beer, under one roof, during Chicago Craft Beer Week.

All beers listed below will be available in flights and full pours.

Destihl (Bloomington, IL)

  • Strawberry Blonde Ale (5% ABV) – A fruit beer made by adding generous quantities of strawberries to a blonde ale base beer. Golden-strawberry blonde color, crisp/dry palate, light body, low hop characters & bitterness and light malt & fruit sweetness.
  • Deadhead Double Red Ale (9.1% ABV) – Imperial Red Ale featuring intense hop bitterness, flavor and aroma balanced by high notable alcohol content, fruity esters and caramel malt character.
  • Saint Dekkera® Reserve Sour Ale Series Strawberry/Raspberry – Aging since March 2012.
  • Saint Dekkera® Reserve Sour Ale Series Lambic – Aging since July 2011.

Rolling Meadows Brewery (Cantrall, IL)

  • Blood Orange Hefeweizen (5.8% ABV) – A hefeweizen, brewed with blood oranges, is the first beer brewed by the mothers of Rolling Meadows’ head brewers. Enjoy its fruity aroma, bright mouthfeel and hints of raspberry and grapefruit.
  • Lincoln’s Lager (6.5% ABV) – A dry, pleasantly hopped lager, perfectly sessionable and a favorite from last year’s South of 80.

Scratch Brewing (Ava, IL)

  • Acer Saccharum (9% ABV) – Named after the Latin for “Sugar Maple,” this beer is brewed entirely with maple sap in place of water, from trees harvested in southern Illinois. This beer is dark and malty, with cherry and fruit esters and a light smokiness the result of being brewed over a fire and adding several pieces of hot granite to the boil.
  • Arugula Rye (6% ABV) – Rye porter bittered with organic arugula from all seasons farm in Cobden, Illinois, and blended in the fermenter with roasted arugula root, giving the beer a roasted coffee-like aroma.
  • Blonde Gruit (4.5% ABV) – A gruit bittered and flavored entirely with plants other than hops, including dandelion, dock, ginger, nutmeg, and orange peel. Spicy, ginger aroma gives way to a green, tea-like tonic with low bitterness.

Six Row Brewing Company (St. Louis, MO)

  • Strawberry Honey Weizen (5.2% ABV) – Light on the palette and in color, our Strawberry Honey Weizen is designed to give you just a hint of fruit followed by our traditional German wheat beer breadiness.
  • Red Eye (5.5% ABV)A “session IPA,” medium copper in color, crisply bitter but slightly drier than your average IPA. We’ve finished and dry-hopped it with Galena hops for a mellow, earthy flavor and aroma.
  • Belgian Style Tripel (8.7% ABV) – Brewed for Six Row’s third anniversary. This dry example of a Tripel was brewed with a Trappist yeast making a gorgeous golden ale fit to enjoy for a birthday.

Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (St. Louis, MO)

  • Zwickel (5.1% ABV) – Our flagship lager, pronounced ‘zv-ick-el’, is an unfiltered, unpasteurized, German classic that finishes as a smooth-drinking, naturally cloudy bier.
  • Winged Nut (5.7% ABV) – It’s a little on the flighty side at 5.7% ABV and it’s a little on the wacky side because we brew it with finely milled chestnuts, Willamette hops, and we ferment it with a Bavarian Weissbier yeast strain. All of these nuances contribute to its ‘nutty’ personality.
  • STLIPA (8.1% ABV) – We pronounce it “sta-leep-ah”; you pronounce it how you like. STLIPA, which is the acronym for St. Louis India Pale Ale, is a double IPA brewed with Sterling, Cascade, Mt. Hood, Willamette and Chinook hops.

South of 80 2.0 takes place Tuesday, May 21st starting at 7 p.m. at The Green Lady in Lakeview and is free to attend.

Special thanks to our distribution partners, Chicago Beverage Systems and Donnewald Distributing, for helping make this event possible.

 

South of 80 2.0 Snapshot: Six Row Brewing Company

SixRow_logoIn the days leading up to our second South of 80 event during Chicago Craft Beer Week, we wanted to make you a little more familiar with our featured breweries, since we know that news from downstate doesn’t tend to get a lot of play up here. Today we take a look at a brewery that saw such overwhelming support from craft beer drinkers during last year’s South of 80 they began distributing their beers to Chicago full-time after the event: Six Row Brewing Company.

With as much going on in the St. Louis craft beer scene, it’s a little surprising to us that we don’t see more beers from that region here in Chicago.

Certainly the biggest fish in that Missouri barrel is Schlafly (at least for the moment) who has been pretty up front about their lack of intent to distribute to Chicago, although they have noted the possibility of opening a tap room in the city.

Also worth mentioning is Urban Chestnut, unavailable here for now though poised to take over as STL’s biggest player in the craft beer game once their recently announced expansion takes place. We’ll have more about them in just a bit.

All the more reason we’re quite pleased to have Six Row Brewing Company rejoining us for this years South of 80. It was just after last years event that they decided to join the Chicago scene full-time and distribute to the area through our event distributor, Chicago Beverage Systems.

Perhaps you’ve seen their Whale, a wheat pale ale, or their underrated DIPA (that you may recall we had on tap and on cask last year) in their golden-yellow labels on shelves around Chicago? We’re proud to have been the catalyst for that, and we’re equally proud to have Six Row back once again for this year’s event.

BeerAdvocate raters call the brewery ‘Exceptional,’ the Riverfront Times says they’re one of the best brewpubs in St. Louis, and in 2011 they even earned a nod from the New York Times.

Also close to our heart: They brew porter year-round, seasons be damned. Ranging from a whiskey barrel porter (a “gotta have it beer” according to Sauce Magazine), a vanilla porter (why isn’t this a more popular style?) and they even have a bacon porter that you can find on cask later this week if you choose to visit their brewpub in Midtown, St. Louis. Did we mention that we love porters?

We’ll release the full draft list later this week, but allow us to tease you a little further with this offering to be available at South of 80 2.0 and for the first time in Chicago: Six Row’s Strawberry Honey Weizen.

From the brewery’s tasting notes:

Strawberry Honey Weizen ABV: 5.2%
With summertime rapidly approaching we offer you a slightly sweeter offering with this beer. Light on the palette and in color, our Strawberry Honey Weizen is designed to give you just a hint of fruit followed by our traditional German wheat beer breadiness.

We had heard about this last year and we were crossing our fingers that it’d be available once Chicago Craft Beer Week came around again – and here it is.

Will we see you at South of 80 for this and many more fun Six Row brews? If so, “Like” us on Facebook – we’ll be releasing the tap list there FIRST later this week.

A reminder: While many Chicago Craft Beer Week events require tickets for admission, South of 80 2.0 is free to attend: just show up, drink the beer and enjoy. It’s our pleasure to help facilitate new and interesting brewers to come to Chicago; all we ask is that you join us to enjoy their efforts.

South of 80 2.0 takes place Tuesday, May 21st starting at 7 p.m. at The Green Lady in Lakeview. Beers from multiple downstate and St. Louis breweries will be on hand, many available in Chicago for the first time.

While there are many events taking place throughout the week, we do hope you’ll join us for a beer and help us raise a toast to the under-appreciated and under-recognized brewers that exist South of 80.

Downstate Brewers Invade Chicago Craft Beer Week for the Triumphant Return of “South of 80″ ***UPDATED***

Organized as part of this year’s Chicago Craft Beer Week to recognize and celebrate the beers created by downstate or St. Louis-area breweries, the nationally recognized craft beer website GuysDrinkingBeer.com and Chicago beer destination The Green Lady are excited to announce the followup to last year’s successful “South of 80” beer event, affectionately called “South of 80 2.0.”

This year’s event will take place at The Green Lady on Tuesday, May 21, starting at 7 p.m. Representatives from five breweries are expected to be on hand to show off their creations, many of which have never been available in Chicago before – some of which have never even been north of I-80, the demarcation line that has come to “define” Northern Illinois from all points south.

This year, GDB and TGL are excited and proud to announce the brewery lineup for this year’s downstate-focused event as follows:

Six Row Brewing Company (St. Louis, MO):SixRow_logo

Last year’s South of 80 was the first time Six Row poured in Chicago, and that event proved to be so successful, Six Rows beers are now being distributed by Chicago Beverage Systems; their DIPA and “Whale,” a wheat pale ale, can be found throughout the city.

After introducing their flagship brews in 2012, Six Row plans to bring some unique and never-before-seen beers to Chicago for South of 80 2.0.

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Scratch Brewing Company (Ava, IL):

We’re really excited to introduce these brewers to Chicago.

Scratch Brewing is a farm-to-table brewpub creating beers out of locally foraged products like mushrooms and nuts. Scratch is the brainchild of a trio of southern Illinois homebrewers and their beers are, without question, some of the most unusual we’ve ever seen, which is not something we say lightly. Scratch pulls ingredients like arugula, maple sap and cedar branches from the brewpub’s farm and utilizes old school techniques like brewing outdoors over and open flame. The world likely hasn’t seen brewing experiments like these.

GDB co-creator Ryan Hermes says Scratch is redefining the “farm-to-pint”, movement. “Expect a fresh take on traditional styles creatively brewed using unique ingredients that are grown on their very own farmland,” said Hermes. This will be the first time Scratch’s beers will be commercially available outside downstate Ava.Take note while they’re here – we expect you’ll soon be hearing a lot about them.

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Rolling Meadows Brewery (Cantrall, IL):

When Chris Trudeau came to town last year and introduced his Abe’s Ale, Lincoln Lager and Springfield Wheat, brewed on their family farm outside of Springfield, they lived up to the high expectations set by this self-distributing capital city brewery.

This year, Rolling Meadows returns in the midst of a stretch where they released a barrel-aged version of Abe’s Ale, won a Good Food Award and have started sprinkling their beers around Chicago. This time around, Rolling Meadows will treat Chicagoans to popular downstate seasonal as well as a South of 80 favorite.

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Urban Chestnut (St. Louis, MO):

Since opening in 2010, Urban Chestnut’s brews have practically taken over St. Louis. This brewery’s beers have proven so popular they recently announced plans to expand their capacity; soon they’ll be able to exceed even the production levels of St. Louis’ flagship current reigning craft brewer, Schlafly.

Currently ranked as an “Exceptional” brewery by BeerAdvocate and praised as one of “The Best Beers of the Future” by Esquire Magazine, this will be Urban Chestnut’s very first foray into Chicago.

Destihl (Bloomington, IL):Destihllogo

Destihl, a hallmark brewpub of central Illinois, gained national attention at the 2011 Great American Beer Fest. The then, little-known brewpub based in downstate Normal brought along six of its signature sour beers which drew huge crowds and created a coast-to-coast buzz. Those of us who live in Illinois know about Destihl’s remarkable sours, the creation of CEO and Brewmaster Matt Potts, which is why we’re pleased to announce Destihl as a late-addition to the South of 80 2.0 lineup.

Many of you have likely encountered Destihl at beer fests across the state, but this will be the first to time – ever in Illinois – that Destihl’s beers will be on tap, at a bar, that isn’t one of Destihl’s brewpubs. No tiny three ounce samples here, unless you want a flight. You’ll be able to get full pours of Destihl’s beers at South of 80 2.0.

Specific draft lists for each brewery will follow as we grow closer to the event.

The Green Lady opened in 2011 under the direction of Melani Domingues, former manager of one of New York City’s best craft beer bars, the Ginger Man. Inspired by the Scottish spirit that’s both protector and demon (depending on your perspective), TGL’s draft list is always among the best in the city featuring unique beers from around the midwest and beyond.

GuysDrinkingBeer.com started in 2010 as a way for three friends to write about the beer they loved drinking, and since then has become a noted source for beer reviews, brewery news and advocacy for the issues in Chicago’s craft beer scene that they believe in. Since their start three years ago, they’ve earned praise from Chicago Magazine, the Huffington Post, Chicagoist.com and just last month the site was recognized by Saveur Magazine as one of the country’s best beer or wine blogs.

For more information, contact:

Ryan Hermes
Creator and Editor, GuysDrinkingBeer.com
ryan@guysdrinkingbeer.com

Karl Klockars
Co-Creator and Social Media Manager, GuysDrinkingBeer.com
773-769-7139
karl@guysdrinkingbeer.com

Melani Domingues
Owner, The Green Lady
773-525-5571
thegreenladychicago@gmail.com

St. Louis’ Six Row Brewing Company Coming To Chicago

A brewery we first introduced Chicagoans to during our one-time-only Chicago Craft Beer Week event, “South of 80,” has officially inked a deal to bring its beers to Chicago full-time.

Six Row Brewing Company’s beers will begin heading out to bars and retailers beginning in early December.

Six Row was one of four breweries located in downstate Illinois and St. Louis, whose beers were relatively unknown to those of us north of Interstate 80, featured at our event at The Green Lady on May 22nd.

Here’s a snippet from our profile of Six Row, written in a lead-up to “South of 80″.

Part of the growing craft beer scene in St. Louis, Six Row opened in October last year and has quickly grown to be one of the most prominent brewpubs in town, with local food magazine Sauce even calling their whiskey barrel porter an instant “gotta-have-it beer.” We managed to get our hands on that whiskey-barrel porter and can back up Sauce’s big talk; it’s very smooth and chalked full of whiskey flavor while clocking in at an easy drinking 6% ABV.

Named for both the six people involved in created the brewery and the sixrow style of malt used in brewing, Six Row distributes around St. Louis and in the Metro East area of Illinois, and can even be found as far north as Effingham – but for one night only, the beer, the brewer and one of the owners will be north of 80.

Among the Six Row beers poured that night were the Double IPA (both tap and cask), their flagship Whale and a cask vanilla porter, with the two cask offerings receiving high marks.

And how about those cask beers? Boy, did they impress once they warmed up. All that vanilla in Six Row’s porter really popped in a way we hoped would happen but couldn’t be sure of until it actually emerged. We also saw a lot of people trying the Double IPA and dry-hopped Double IPA on cask, side-by-side, with the cask version seemingly being a favorite of the two more-often-than-not.

Their regular bottle lineup, in bombers, includes the Double IPA, Whale (a wheat pale ale), Porter and Honey Weizen (brewed with Missouri honey). Six Row also has a number of rotating taps and seasonals at their home base in St. Louis, some of which will hopefully find their way up here at some point.

Chicago Beverage Systems, who we worked with to bring Six Row and most everyone else’s beers to the event, will be distributing Six Row’s brews.

Once we find out what beers will be available here, and in what form (bottle or draft), we will most certainly pass it along.

According to Chicago Beverage Systems, we’ll see the four aforementioned beers in bombers starting in December with yet to be determined draft offerings after the first of the year.

From we Guys, Drinking Beer, to the guys and gals at Six Row, we’re pleased to be the first to welcome you back to Chicago.

MO Based Anheuser-Busch Distributor Expanding Into IL

photo courtesy Grey Eagle Distributors

We saw this in our news feed at the bottom of the site and thought it was worth its own post.

Anheuser-Busch wholesaler Grey Eagle, which is based in Maryland Heights, Missouri, is buying Illinois Distributing Company. Illinois Distributing, also an AB wholesaler, is based across the river in Belleville, Illinois.

While both are AB flagship distributors each has a handful of local craft brands in their portfolio including; Urban Chestnut, Perennial, O’Fallon, Morgan Street Brewery & our friends at Six Row.

According to a press release (below) the deal, which is expected to close by the end of the year, will make Grey Eagle one of the largest beer distributors in the Midwest.

We have reached out to some of the parties involved and will add to this post when warranted. Continue reading

“South of 80″ Wrapup

And a good time was had by all.

We weren’t exactly sure what we were in for when we started setting this thing up months ago, but it culminated last night in an evening of great beer and a great crowd at a great place.

Flights were pouring pretty much nonstop as a healthy mix of note-taking beer guys & gals dove headfirst into a previously undiscovered region of beer-making, while other downstate expats got reacquainted with some beer from home that maybe they hadn’t had since the last time they themselves had traveled…south of 80.

Personally, we were surprised at the relatively mellow spice on the Jalapeño Ale from Bent River in comparison to the one we sampled before the event (which, to be honest, probably made it infinitely more palatable to everyone who doesn’t adore spicy beers the way we do). Joel Krogman and Steve Cogdill made the trek from Moline and spent most of the night at the corner of the bar tossing out Bent River t-shirts to those ordering a pint of their beer.

And how about those cask beers? Boy, did they impress once they warmed up. All that vanilla in Six Row’s porter really popped in a way we hoped would happen but couldn’t be sure of until it actually emerged. We also saw a lot of people trying the Double IPA and dry-hopped Double IPA on cask, side-by-side, with the cask version seemingly being a favorite of the two more-often-than-not.

It was nice to see one of Six Row’s owners, Mike Rami, make the trip up from St. Louis. He was joined by Six Row’s social media manager Tim McGinnis and plenty of family and friends, many of whom call the Chicago area home.

In a bar with a tap list full of big beers with some big ABV’s, Big Muddy’s Muddy Monster and Dunkeldog seemed to find a nice niche with those who were looking to session their way through the evening.

But as we understand, it was Rolling Meadows’ Lincoln’s Lager that won the day, presumably much to the delight of brewer Chris Trudeau who was found camped out at the bar delighting people with the cones of hops, fresh from the family farm, he invited people to get a good whiff of.

All in all, I think we all had a pretty good time.

The lions share of the thanks and praise should of course be directed to the brewers who participated, but also the distributors who helped us work within the boundaries of the three-tier system to pull this off. Naturally, Melani at The Green Lady deserves a hearty round of applause as well (go back today and buy her a pint of the jalapeño beer, no really, she looooooves the stuff) and our very own Ryan for playing ringmaster and wrangling all these things together over countless phone calls, emails, brewery visits and more.

And finally, we very much appreciate everyone who took the time to come out on an extremely busy night of Chicago Craft Beer Week. You all had many options to choose from; we’re honored you opted to spend some time with us.

See you next year?

“SOUTH OF 80” SNAPSHOT: Six Row Brewing Company

In the days leading up to our “South of 80″ event at The Green Lady, we wanted to make you a little more familiar with the attending breweries, most of which are being made available in Chicago for the first time. Today we take a look at St. Louis’ Six Row Brewing Company.

Part of the growing craft beer scene in St. Louis, Six Row opened in October last year and has quickly grown to be one of the most prominent brewpubs in town, with local food magazine Sauce even calling their whiskey barrel porter an instant “gotta-have-it beer.” We managed to get our hands on that whiskey-barrel porter and can back up Sauce’s big talk; it’s very smooth and chalked full of whiskey flavor while clocking in at an easy drinking 6% ABV.

Named for both the six people involved in created the brewery and the sixrow style of malt used in brewing, Six Row distributes around St. Louis and in the Metro East area of Illinois, and can even be found as far north as Effingham – but for one night only, the beer, the brewer and one of the owners will be north of 80.

We’ve sampled the beers to be offered from tap pours and bombers, but even we haven’t had any of these offerings on cask – and that’s exactly how they’ll be poured on Tuesday. These beers will be a rare treat for any beer lover, even for those who may be familiar with their wares downstate. We’re looking forward to seeing what the following will be like: Continue reading

ANNOUNCING: The “South of 80″ Taplist

In advance of the “South of 80″ event organized by The Green Lady and GuysDrinkingBeer.com for Chicago Craft Beer Week, we are excited to announce the beers that will be available from the 4 participating downstate breweries – Big Muddy, Rolling Meadows, Bent River and Six Row.

Representatives from The Green Lady and GuysDrinkingBeer.com are proud to say that they’ve sampled nearly all of the following, and look forward to making many of them available to Chicago for the first time, including specialty beers and cask options. Look for brewery “snapshots” to follow on GuysDrinkingBeer.com with more info on the breweries and beers to be poured.

Tickets are not required for this event, and the following beers scheduled to appear will be available in flights or full pours. Continue reading