Monday, May 12, 2008

The May Beer Crawl 9-10

As you probably remember (if you don't just look right below here... sheesh, what do I have to remember everything?) we went up to Chicago on Thursday to go see MINISTRY!!! The concert was awesome. We didn't really pay attention to Hemlock, but then the second act was MESHUGGAH. In attendance was me, hippy, kriddy and my brother Jim. We originally found a spot on the wall by the stage left bar and settled in for Hemlock. We were camped out pretty close to the stairs that lead to the main floor. At one point I looked at a guy coming up the stairs and said "hey, I think you are somebody?" I looked closer and said "oh yeah, you ARE somebody." It was John Bechdel, keyboard player for Ministry. So I got to shake his hand. That was kind of cool. I don't think anyone else recognized him. He's probably the least recognized "member" of the band.

When Hemlock ended, I told Jim to keep an eye on kriddy and hippy and I were going to go try to find my concert buddies, Fred and Tom. Hippy at first didn't believe that 1. I'd know anybody at the concert and that 2. they would actually be Fred and Tom.

Well, I found them, they were on the rail on stage right, directly in front of where one of the Meshuggah guitar players (Fredrik Thordendal) would be. So, we watched Meshuggah from there. It was awesome. The lead singer for some reason reminded me of Gullom (the evil version) in lord of the rings.

We stayed in that spot for the first 2 songs of Ministry. But I couldn't stand to be there much longer, we were getting crushed. The second row on the rail isn't the best place to be during the stage surge.

Ministry performed their songs well. There were no surprise guest artists, so that was kind of sad. When "So What" started, it took a while for Al to come out, so I was hoping, as I'd guess most everyone there was hoping, that Chris Connelly would be coming out. But alas, no surprises.

After we left the pit, I headed to the restroom. As I came out, I said "hey rick" as Rick Nielsen of cheap trick was walking around. So that was cool.

We made it back to the hotel and slept until about 10. Woke up, got dressed and then Thad, kriddy and I headed north... to Wisconsin.

First stop was in Whitewater Wisconsin at a Randy's Restaurant and Fun Hunters Brewery. Randy's was a nice place with a decent selection of beers. There's nothing too great or too horrible about their beers, they are just pretty good beers. (The list should be over at the side). The Warhawk Wheat was ok, except the lemon wedge killed any of the original flavor and smell. The Oatmeal Stout was on a nitro tap, so that gave it that Guinness fizzyness to it. There was another flavor in it that none of us could pick out, possibly licorice, or some other taste. It wasn't horrible, but was just hard to place.

We made it there in time for lunch. I had the fish and chips, which were pretty good. Kriddy had Hippy had the fish sammich. Kriddy had the chicken strips and also the cheese kurds. Most of the foods we got seemed to go best with the Amber Lager and the Pat's Brown ale. The cheese kurds were also good, except eat them quick, they aren't as good when they get down to room temperature. The chicken came with fries but the fish came with their house chips. Seasoned nicely, with a little lemon. We were there around lunch time, and right around 2 the place clears out as everyone heads away. The bartender was friendly and tried to offer me a glass of their barleywine, but it had just run out earlier in the week.

Our next stop was in Madison. Ale Asylum. I had at some point before had their Ambergeddon, and at one of the recent Champaign Beer Clubs had the Hopalicious Pale. Well, they had ten beers on tap, so I got the full load. Their samples are $1 each and around 3-4 ounces, so for $10 it's a hearty portion of beer. We didn't eat anything, but they have a deli in house for custom sammiches and also make pizzas.

The Gold Digger Blonde had a slight banana flavor and was nicely fruity, it'd make a great summer refreshing beer. Kriddy got the Big Slick Stout and it was a nice black stout. Hippy had the Madtown Nutbrown, Which I thought had a nice Butterscotch or Caramel malty flavor to it.

Our next stop was in Mount Horeb Wisconsin at the Grumpy Troll. The Grumpy Troll wins lots of awards at beer competitions. It's worth a trip if you are anywhere near Wisconsin, or Northern Illinois. Hippy had... man, what did hippy have there? Dunno. Kriddy had the Brandy Barrel Aged Spetsnaz. The Captain Fred is their tribute to PBR. The Spetsnaz is a great Stout. It gets even better in the Barrel Aged. It was so good, that I spent about $40 on a growler of it. Growlers aren't made to last that long, so in the next week or so, it's gonna be opened. Let me know if you can make it...

Our final Friday stop was supposed to be New Glarus. In New Glarus, Wisconsin. As you pull into town from the North (I think we were coming from the north) you can't miss the brewery, it's the HUGE building on the left. Unfortunately the brewery was closed. There was a sign in the window that said something like "We're closed, look for our beers in town". So we turned right and went into town. Almost immediately after turning, there's a bar. Puempels Olde Tavern. While it's a smaller bar, and serves up the regular macro swill (most of the people at the bar were drinking Coors light, it seemed) they have some of the best beers in the world available to them.

In the beer cooler was almost every New Glarus beer you could want. From Dancing Man wheat, Fat Squirrel, and Spotted Cow to the stuff that I hadn't heard of: Road Slush Stout, Hearty Hop, Snowshoe. Hippy had a draft of the spotted cow (I think) I went with the Hearty Hop, and kriddy had the Road Slush Stout.

The bartender was really friendly, and very accommodating to us flatlanders. They also had the Edel Pils on draft, and she was nice enough to give us all a sample. Since we were not townies, she pulled out a bottle of the New Glarus Unplugged line, specifically the Belgian Quad. She set three glasses in front of us, and then something interesting happened.

The bar has a tradition of sticking dollar bills to the (it seems) 20 foot high ceiling. They do this with (I think it was) a 50 cent piece a bill and a thumbtack. Push the tack through the center of the dollar, then wrap the dollar around the fiddycent piece. Then throw as hard as you can ... UP! The dollar should stick in the ceiling, if it doesn't try again... and again... and again. If a bill falls on you while you are there, you get to keep it. (There's supposedly a $100 bill above the front left of the door). Well, as were were sitting there, shortly after being given the Unplugged and three glasses, someone gave the bartender a buck to put up, so she tried to do it, but failed. As the bill and 50cent piece came hurtling back towards the bar, it decided it didn't like my glass, so it hit that and shattered the glass. Well, she was very embarrassed so she gave us another beer. This time, the Snowshoe. She must've liked us because she continually gave us stuff. We took a poster for one of the New Glarus beers, the Totally Naked, we bought and apparently took a pint glass; and she also gave us a nice map to the city, along with a city brochure with a large writeup on the brewery. As you can see, it's a high tech operation, as they now accept credit cards! Don't go into the town with a low battery on your cell phone, because there is horrible cell coverage. But that kind of adds to the charm of the place.

New Glarus is known as America's "Little Switzerland". The people were probably some of the most friendly we had met all day. Hippy chatted with a local customer, while another bought me a shot of Appenzeller, which is some kind of Swiss drink that is probably illegally imported by some guy who goes to Switzerland each year and brings back some bottles for his local bar.

After New Glarus, we considered possibly going to another brewpub in Rockford, but it was getting too late. So we headed to my sisters where we spent the night. Woke up the next day, and it was off to try to pick up some presents for the wedding thingy we went to last week. But the person who's place it was, wasn't home, so we tried to find Two Brothers Brewing. We failed at finding it. We turned on the wrong Calumet Road, and then when I tried to figure out where it would pick up again, I picked wrong. The GPS on the phone couldn't find it, so we plugged in the address for Goose Island Clybourn.

I can't believe they are closing that place. It was my/our first time there and it was awesome. The place was somewhat full (fuller than the other places that we'd been) and had a massive beer selection. 17 house beers on tap, is an amazingly large number. Just the ability to store that much beer that they made themselves is amazing. We made it there in time for the end of Saturday brunch, so our food selections were an eclectic mix. To drink, Kriddy went with the Russian Imperial Stout, and she ate ... pancakes. Hippy started out with the Six. Which is a session beer at 2.5%, he had the fish and chips to eat (no, I didn't prod him into it). They surprisingly didn't have a reuben sammich, so I went with a sausage plate. I have no idea what the sausages were, but they were outstanding. there was also some sauerkraut and new potatoes on the plate and some bacon. The bacon went great with ED, which was their smoked Brown Goose ale. The 20th Anniversary Ale was almost a little too bitter/hoppy (though I hate to say "hoppy") to go with the sausages. The 2.5% Six was a nice brown color and did go well with it. I had 2 samplers (4 glasses each), and Hippy had a glass of the 20th anniversary.

When you order the sampler platter, of beers, it's four beers of your chosing, in the 2-3 ounce glass. The bartenders will do their best to arrange it from light to dark, to save the beer drinking palate, and give the best beer enjoyment experience.

After finishing up GI, we went and picked up the presents, then headed back to my sisters to get my brother and cousin to head out and go see Hemlock, Meshuggah and Ministry again. (Wow, nice run on sentence there dummy). Before the show, we saw Sin, the guitarist for Ministry walking around, and we got to talk to him for a couple of minutes (well, it seemed like a while, but it was probably only a minute). We were camped out at the back bar in front of the stage, so we had a much safer vantage point than the pit, and a much better viewing point than under the TV on the right. Kriddy could actually see the stage. Meshuggah had the same set, but it was done perfectly. Ministry had the same set and it was also done well. I actually think I looked more forward to Meshuggah each night than to Ministry. The new Revolting Cocks song "I'm not gay" is good too.

After the show, we headed back down to CU. Kriddy drove mostly the whole way, while I was slumped forward passed out. We dropped off Hippy around 3:30 and got to my place shortly there after. Sunday was mostly uneventful. I left my glasses up at my sisters, and then there were no contacts cases at kriddy's so I went home. I wasn't quite sleepy, so I checked some email, and then transferred my Welcome Back Pat Wheat from bucket into carboy. That thing is pretty darn good.

Afterwards, did the clean up and laid down, finally around 2:30.

When I woke up I was 37 (ok, so when I went to bed I was 37, but ... eh, you get it). Happy Birthday me. (My wish list is over there <---)

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