Sunday, April 29, 2007

First Annual Chicago Alefest

I'm very lucky to have several wonderful girlfriends who are committed to an approximately tri-annual "Girl's Night." However, a few weeks ago, I was feeling so stressed out and worried over school, that I really didn't want my mood to ruin an otherwise wonderful evening. In addition, I had pushed my husband about to his limits for dealing with a worried wife (not that he ever complained.) I felt a strong urge to bond with my boy on a night otherwise reserved for chicks, and I did so. We decided to go and have some fun, just the two of us, and I have no regrets.

Especially since we went to the First Annual Chicago Alefest at the Arlington Park Racetrack. Proceeds went to the Lupus Foundation of America, and boy, did I forget my troubles for the day!

Chris and I really LOVE craft or microbrewed beer -- the darker and more distinctive, the better. So we were really excited, and he had only come up with the idea on the spot that morning. Chris is full of good ideas. The event was in the afternoon, so we could spend a quiet evening in -- perfect!

When you walk in, they give you six tickets for $15, (one ticket = one beer), a raffle ticket, and a booklet on all of the beers that are available. Oh, and a nicely sized "taster" glass to fill with lovely, lovely beer.

I think most of these breweries know who their nerdy audience is. We were first sidelined to Eurobrew's Legendary Alehouse, who names their brews things like "Wychwood Hobgoblin," "Witchcraft," and "Black Sheep Holy Grail." I asked for the darkest brew, and got the "Kaiser Xingu Black Lager." It was smooth and mild and I was already happy. Chris had the nuttier, sharper-tasting "Wychwood," and we both liked that as well. And I totally know what I'm taking to the next Warren BBQ held annually on Bilbo Baggins' birthday. (Yes, they really do that.)

Next table we decided to spend tickets on was a brewery with its home in Quebec, the Unibroue (yoo-nee-broo). Once again, I was particularly attracted to the labeling and marketing (with all the beers there, you really have to like the marketing or the name to be able to decide what to get. Like picking a horse at the same location). Our friend Cam had recommended the "Trois Pistoles" at one time, and I got that. I absolutely loved it. It may have been my favorite of them all. It was a really dark beer, but had a sweet, sort of hefeweizen-y taste (which I love). Chris tried the "Maudite," which was very sharp in taste, and we liked that, too.

Next, we arrived a couple tables down at New Holland Brewing. I was torn between "the Poet" oatmeal stout, and the one I ended up trying, "Dragon's Milk Ale" (such a sucker for the name). It was not bad... sort of a flatter, chocolatey taste (and believe me, I only remember such specifics because I was writing these things down.) Chris had the "Zoomer," and I won't forget that one. I absolutely HATED IT. I have almost never meet a beer I don't like (although I'll avoid "Keystone Light" if I can help it), and I almost did a super-dramatic spit-take on the "Zoomer." My notes on the brew simply read, "More like 'Tumor."

In the state we got into, and with the vast selection available, it was difficult to choose. We resolved not to have anything we knew we loved, like Young's Double Chocolate Stout, anything from the RAM brewery, or our beloved Delirium Tremens. Just new stuff. You can buy extra tickets for not too much, but since we didn't have a designated driver, we stuck to our original tickets. And began to pace ourselves a little more. Most of these brews are up to 9% alcohol... So there were a couple we didn't get to try, like "Curve Ball," and the "White Water Wit" that Chris nearly chose in honor of his raft-loving brother.

We tried some Indiana brews: "Robert the Bruce" (very nice, snappy and smooth at once) and "Alpha King" (bright citrus flavor) from Three Floyds Brewing. Others we tried included a "Franziskaner Hefe Weiss," from Spaten in Munich, which was a really good, but not terribly unique hefeweizen beer, and "Old Scratch" from the Flying Dog Brewery, which was a good amber ale, but I was forgetting to record what we thought of things by that time. I was laughing too much. And Chris tells me he can't remember it at all. (Can't have been too bad.) We also enjoyed Mickey Finn's (of Libertyville) "Replicale," which had that nice sharp orange-peel flavor, and a nice, mild "Dunkelweizen" from Flatlander's Brewery in Lincolnshire. And since the gentleman from one of those places was nice enough to let me keep a ticket, I got to try my second favorite: Dogfish Head Brewery's "Raison D'Etre." Chris and I sharply disagreed on this one -- he did not like it, but I thought it was great. It was really strong, and you had to sip it for sure. But it has a raisiny, carmel taste that I thought was really different. I dug it.

Anyway, by this time everything had gone to our heads, and we had to sit on the steps for awhile before departing. We were giggly and having a blast. I would definitely hype this event to ANYONE who loves beer, beyond the world of Bud Light. I called my brother from the event so that he could locate, via Yahoo!, a German restaurant for us to go to afterwards (I'll post on that place next), and I remember telling him that I was going to plan all my future pregnancies around this event. And I still mean that.

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