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: Rolling Meadows Brewery

In 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 one of the more popular attendees from last year’s South of 80: Rolling Meadows.

When we wrote about these guys last year, we started rollingmeadowsby noting that there’s something uniquely Midwestern about the beers created by Rolling Meadows, right down to the minimalist and even Prairie-style labels on their bottles. Another brewery that we were made aware of during the “Save the Craft” campaign, we’ve revisited the brewery a few times over the past 12 months or so, always with good results.

For starters, you’ll recall that after the passing of SB 754, Rolling Meadows was the first brewery to apply for the then-brand-new Craft Brewer’s license.

Since last year:

They were one of 13 breweries from across the nation to be awarded a Good Food Award in San Francisco back in January. So recognized for their “tasty, authentic and responsibly produced” Abe’s Ale, the brewery viewed it (and rightfully so) as a strong acknowledgement of their quality product created in a sustainable manner – using water from their own artisanal well near the Sangamon river and products grown organically on their own farm.

Started pouring that award-winning Abe’s Ale at While Foods – Lincoln Park, their first draft offering in the city since South of 80. Shortly thereafter they were pouring at DOSE Market as well.

We reviewed the Lincoln’s Logger, a unique coffee and cocoa-y schwarzbier, as well as their barrel-aged Abe’s Ale. The brewery took the maple syrup brown ale and set it aside in an Elijah Craig bourbon barrel, making a concoction which Ryan said may already be his favorite beer of the year.

bloodorangeAllow us to announce the first of many special, unique and interesting draft beers to appear at this years South of 80: Rolling Meadows has promised to provide one of their most creative beers to date, a blood-orange hefeweizen.

We can’t wait.

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.

South of 80 2.0 Snapshot: Introducing Scratch Brewing

In 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 what we consider to be hands down one of the most interesting brewers in the state, if not the whole Midwest: Scratch Brewing.

Welcome, Scratch Brewing Company.

Welcome, Scratch Brewing Company.

This band of brewers first got on our radar during our Save the Craft efforts when we traded a number of emails with Marika Josephson, then in the process of opening Scratch, which resulted in this tale. Since then, they’ve thrown open the doors down in tiny Ava, Illinois (pop: 662!), and just in the past month-and-a-half have seen a steady traffic of beer tourists from all over the country, seeking out these one-of-a-kind farmhouse-focused brews.

Scratch sits on a farm north of Carbondale and south of St. Louis, and it’s there that the Scratch crew is free to create pretty much anything they care to. In recent weeks their tap list has included a Carrot-Seed Biere de Garde, an Elderberry Black Ale and even a Licorice-Basil Stout. They use ingredients farmed on site and foraged from nearby forests and employ techniques like brewing over an open fire outdoors and using blazing-hot granite in the boil to create traditional “Stein” beers.

The best part is: it’s not just a gimmick. The stuff is good.

We sat down to sample some of their creations recently at The Green Lady, and were quite impressed with how solid of a beer these brewers can create with some admittedly bizarre ingredients. As brewer Aaron Kleidon said while we were sampling his beers, “We could brew all the normal stuff…but why would we?”

Why indeed, when their Arugula Rye Porter that uses all parts of the plant, from the peppery leaves to the roasted roots blended and boiled to create a rich coffee, chicory flavor. It is as complex and hearty as you want in the style but still smooth and easy-drinking. Or the Rose Root Biere de Mars, brewed over a fire with wild rose roots and a touch of sarsaparilla for a true “root beer” that’s both sweet and savory.

Shawn Connelly, a southern Illinois-based craft beer consultant, writer and Beer Philosopher calls the brewers at Scratch “fearless” in their approach to crafting unique beers. “I’ve probably sampled upwards of 15 beers out there to date and all have been above average to exceptional, which is quite a feat for a new brewery. Far and away one of the most inventive new breweries I’ve come across in some time,” said Connelly.

Come hang out with us at South of 80 during Chicago Craft Beer Week, and hopefully you’ll see why we’re so excited to have these guys join us at this event.

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.

urban chesnut
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

The Green Lady & Bees Knees: Pints & Bites Tasting Tag Team Tonight

We like it when good people do good things. We like the good people at The Green Lady, and we also like Chris Ferguson and his Bees Knees Food Company. Since they’ve teamed up for a little food/beverage pairing this evening, we thought we’d tell you good people what these good people are doing.

(Note: New Holland beers and sprits are on the whole pretty good as well, but since we haven’t sampled all of them in a while we defer to your particular tastes where the beverages are concerned. We damn near guarantee you could find something worth drinking at TGL, though, because we always do.)

Plus, it’s only $12. RSVP to thegreenladychicago@gmail.com to reserve space and get your hands on some fun beers, snacks and spirits. That’s less than, for example, most burgers at Kumas, and you don’t have to wait two hours in line for it.

GreenLady

GDB’s 2012 Chicago Craft Beer Awards

In 2011, Paul at Chitown on Tap posted his “Craft Beer in Review” as a way to, in his words, “give props to the amazing people in our local craft beer community who have made drinking the good suds so damn rewarding this year.” Paul has moved on from the writing about beer (temporarily, we understand) to actually making the stuff with Solemn Oath so we asked his blessing to pick up the mantle and award some of our own.

“Take it for a ride” was Paul’s response, so with his approval, we take his inspiration and present you these Chicago Craft Beer Awards as our way to continue the appreciation and acknowledgement of the craftsmen and women who have made 2012 hands down, the best year in Chicago beer ever. As always, for what we get right, thank them, for what we get wrong, blame us – and tell us who you think deserves respect and appreciation in ways we may have forgotten. It’s been a busy, busy year.

And now, with the inspiration of Paul’s awards from last year along with some of our own additions, we give you the following GDB-ys (working title):

Local (or once mostly local, or soon to be quite local) Brewery Making the Biggest Moves:

lagunitaslogoOkay, okay, so it’s not quite local yet, but they’ll soon be quite local enough. Despite Lagunitas starting its life in California, because Tony McGee is a natural-born Chicagoan we’re going to go ahead and award this one to him solely because the man is building the biggest damn brewery the city has ever seen. Consider this mind-blowing statistic we’ve had rolling around in our brains since the news broke: the new brewhouse will be bigger than pretty much all other Chicago breweries…combined.

Runner-up: Again, this skirts the issue because Goose is now technically owned by either St. Louisans or Belgians, depending on how you look at it, but in 2012 they became one of the handful of craft breweries available nationwide, and it’s hard to make a bigger move than that.

Also, was there anywhere in Chicago that Revolution’s beers didn’t end up? Those guys really stretched their legs and put some great beer in cans and bombers; we love having the option to take home a 6′er of Eugene or a bomber of Fistmas every time we swing by a grocery store or sip an Anti-hero at dozens of bars around town.

Best Festival:

ccbw2012While there were plenty of good-time beer festivals and events this year, Beer Under Glass was definitely our favorite. Sure, FOBAB is crazygonuts and things like the Hoptacular continue to grow and evolve, but it’s the combination of so many different breweries gathering together in the amazing surroundings of the Garfield Park Conservatory that tops our list.

So far as we can tell, only one festival had the Mash Tun Journal just steps away from Jarrett Payton hawking his (not bad, as it goes) wheat beer from Argus just further steps away from brand-new Chicago breweries pouring for the very first time. You can’t top that, in our books – at least, not til’ next year.

Our Favorite Craft Beer Bar: TIE Between Local Option and The Green Lady

The Green LadyIn the interest of full disclosure (and you probably already know this) it’s worth noting that The Green Lady was the site of our first CCBW event, and we worked with Melani Domingues quite closely on organizing it. She could have just agreed to throw anything on draft that we dragged up from the southland, but she didn’t do that – she insisted that everything meet her level of quality, and tasted all the beers with us to ensure that everything she was offering to her customers passed her personal quality check, which we think is thoroughly awesome.

Beyond that, we love that there exists a new(ish) option in the city to sit down and just drink a beer – there’s no kitchen, there’s no schtick, there’s no theme – it’s just a few dozen handles of some of the best beer in the city. In a time when we’re losing more and more corner taverns and neighborhood bars where you can just get a beer and a bag of chips and throw some darts, TGL is a nice melding of craft beer destination paired with the relaxed vibe of a well-loved local hang.

localoptionlogoThat said, Local Option’s melding of amazing beer, heavy metal dedication and appreciation of the occasional High Life or two (see: the assortment of neon) hits us smack-dab in the center of our beer-addled hearts. The ability to put together such a destination in the heart of a near-soulless part of Lincoln Park doubles our admiration. Any place with a liquor license and some fancy lights could have thrown together a list full of macrobrews and put on some Top 40 and be swimming in DePaul undergrad cash. Instead, they’re doing the exact opposite, likely with a friendly (yet taunting) middle finger waving high.

Oh, and their don’t-call-it-gypsy line of Local Option craft beers that they’ve created solidify our adoration.

Food Industry Professional Doing the Most for Craft Beer:

cityprovisionslogoFor the second year running, Cleetus Friedman wins this one going away. This year saw more and more restaurants and bars creating their own collaboration beers, and those can be traced back in a straight line to the beers that started appearing on draft at City Provisions over the last two years. Without Cleetus’ efforts to work with Midwestern breweries and come up with some really creative efforts, it’s hard to say if bars and restaurants like Hopleaf, Bad Apple, and Girl & the Goat (and many more) would have been inspired to produce the collaborations that have graced Chicago over the past 12 months.

Moreover, the beers he and the brewers make are good. You may remember that last year, I named the Sarsaparilla Stout collaboration my favorite beer of the year; watching the tweets fly out about the forthcoming 100 Grand stout has me already anticipating what could be the 2013 early winner. Beers like Testudo with Two Brothers and Anaphylaxis with Solemn Oath helped solidify what we knew already – when Cleetus arrives for a brew day, good stuff results.

And we haven’t even talked about the farm dinners featuring local brewers and distillers. We could go on, but shouldn’t you just be drinking his beers right now?

Runner Up: I like Kevin Hickey’s efforts to craft special beers for the Four Seasons; their first effort of Allium Roseus with Goose was one of the more interesting beers I had this year. After that he could have partnered with pretty much any other brewery he wanted, but he chose to work with a brand-new startup that’s one of our favorites, Begyle, to try something new for their Beta beer.

Andrew adored the peppercorn saison that Haymarket put together for Stephanie Izard as well, which earns them a nod here also.

Best Out-of-town Arrival to the Chicago Market:

oskarblueslogo2013′s early lead has already been taken by Deschutes, but this year no beer had a bigger intro than Oskar Blues. Over the first week or two of its release, special events took place nightly, unique beers were seemingly everywhere, and brews like Old Chub immediately took a place on beer menus across the city. It was an intro unseen since the likes of Stone came to Chicago, and we remember how crazy that was, right?

Runner Up: We’re pretty happy to have Brewery Vivant in Chicago finally, although it makes the trip to the Meijer outside Grand Rapids a little less special. We’ll take the tradeoff, though, simply for having Triomphe being much easier to get.

Best Chicago Beer Site:

gbhYou might think of Michael Kiser’s work at Good Beer Hunting as primarily a photo-centric site, but look a little deeper and you’ll find more words on his site than most people put into text-only pages. His writeups of his travels through Sweden and the unbelievably awesome-looking Wandawega retreat as well as his recent post taking Untappd to task shows that even though his images are great, the words behind it stand up just as much. If we ever choose to look back on what drinking in Chicago looked like in 2012, we’ll go to GBH as the primary source.

Runner Up: Jessica at Girls Like Beer Too has been doing some really good work and isn’t afraid to call us on our shit from time to time, which is invaluable.

Distant runner-up: Us. We’re hacks, but we are at least enthusiastic hacks.

Best Homebrew Shop: Brew Camp

brewcamplogoIt’s more than just grains, ingredients and know-how that makes Brew Camp our fave homebrew shop.

Showing us how to work with the city after a disappointing closure rocked their world was admirable; putting together a kit for brewers to make the White House’s Honey Ale was marketing brilliance. And since they offered an all-grain option, their recipe was likely better than the President’s, so take that, Mr. Obama.

(But seriously, can we have some of that beer, Mr. President?)

Jerk Move of the Year:

That jerk who ripped off the Hopleaf comes to mind. Otherwise, it’s been a pretty good year for beers.

Best Distributor: Temporarily on hold based on the recent sale of last year’s winner Windy City, as well as the addition of a craft beer team at Wirtz and the big news regarding Dogfish Head and New Holland’s departure from Glunz to the Chicago area MillerCoors cluster of nine distributors.

We’ll revisit in a year to see how things shake out.

Most Promising in 2013: Since last year’s winner, New Chicago Brewing, has basically dropped out of sight, we won’t saddle someone with this designation. If you’re opening, you’re promising. We look forward to great things from all of you.

Best People Who Don’t Fit Other Categories But Are Worth Noting:

A lot of other people made 2012 a great year to be beer-focused, but we wanted to note at least two:

Nik and the Chicago Beer Geeks team really stepped it up this year when it came to the events they’ve put together. Their beer bus outings and football events are great ways to help bring craft beer energy to audiences that might not otherwise encounter enthusiasts like the CBG’ers. We look forward to seeing what else they come up with in 2013.

Lorna Juett stepped into a role we previously filled as beer writer for Chicagoist, and immediately started fireworks with her spot-on piece about Chick Beer.

barleys-angelslogo.From there saw the creation of Barley’s Angels, showcasing that it’s not just dudes with beards who drink beer and talk about it (the URL of this site not withstanding) and organizing events to further that effort and garnering tons of press in the process. It’s always nice to see that a few hundred words on a website still have the power to motivate some change – it just takes someone behind those words to put in effort, which can be tough.

It’s been a busy year, but we look forward to watching what these and everyone else in the craft beer community around Chicago can produce. The more things we do and the more people we encounter and more we discuss the little beer world in which we live, the more we realize what everyone has been telling us from the beginning: it’s filled with good, helpful, nice folks that enjoy making people happy with beer.

And for that, we celebrate all of you. Cheers, slainte, skol to you all.

“Suds For Sandy Relief” TONIGHT At The Green Lady

The bar that we teamed up with for our South of 80 event during Chicago Craft Beer Week in May, The Green Lady, is hosting a fundraiser tonight to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

“Suds For Sandy Relief” starts at 8pm.

Half of the money raised will go to employees of The Ginger Man, a Manhattan bar that lost power for ten days but remained open – operating by candlelight. Employees there lost at least a week’s pay. The other half of the proceeds will go to The Bowery Mission, which helps the homeless in New York City.

The Green Lady owner, Melani Domingues, worked as director of operations at The Ginger Man prior to moving to Chicago and opening TGL. “Having spent 13 of the last 15 years in NY we would like to give to the people and the city that have given us so much,” said Domingues on the fundraiser’s Facebook event page.

Tonight’s fundraiser will include a silent auction, vintage beers and a special draft list, all of which you can find at The Green Lady’s Facebook page (should be up this afternoon).

Come to a great bar, drink some great beer and support a great cause.

The Green Lady is located at 3328 N. Lincoln Avenue, just steps from the Paulina Brown Line stop.

“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?