Chicago Marathon

On October 9, 2016 I completed my best and final full marathon.

I ran through several neighborhoods in the city I grew up in, saw the sights with new eyes, and encountered the best of humanity Chicago has to offer.  I watched the gorgeous skyline in the distance for the last lonely miles along South Michigan Ave, smiled the whole way up that nasty hill on Roosevelt, and cried happy tears during the final turn and finish line onto Columbus.

And of course I enjoyed each drop of my celebratory Goose Island 312.

I am totally ok hanging em up, because four marathons is three more than I set out to finish. Because 4:18 is faster than I ever dreamed of.  And because my five year journey took me across more miles, challenges, and accomplishments than most people could ever hope for in a lifetime.

I still run. I enjoy my 5K trail runs and 10K’s. I consider other competitions and challenges such as sprint triathlons and scenic half marathons. And although I’ve lost a step- as it were- in my fitness, I I still look at every obstacle in my life as a learning experience.  I will always remember where I started, and I’ll never take for granted how far I’ve come.

A Glaring Oversight

Last month when we were in the process of moving, one of my many menial tasks was cleaning out the fridge.  For a normal person, this means checking dates on condiments and lunchmeat and chucking expired mayonnaise.  For me, it meant sorting through bottles of booze.  The night before the movers arrived I packed up my treasures and put them in the “One of us takes these in our car” pile.  Because who trusts movers with wine and good beer?  But, in all my wisdom, I left a few bottles of beer in the fridge for moving day and future visits for cleaning and loose ends.  Among these items were: the remainder of a 1.75 of Bailey’s my mother-in-law had given me for Christmas, half a bottle of bloody mary mix, a tired bottle of Bell’s Winter Ale, a couple bottles of Boulevard Zon, a Victory Golden Monkey, and a can of Paddy Pale Ale.  In the freezer sat about two ounces of Sobieski, a darn good vodka for folks on a budget.

Moving day came and I was stuck at the condo with the movers.  It was ninety-two degrees.  On the second floor.  Up and down the stairs with boxes.  By four o’clock I needed a beer in a bad, bad way.  So I opened the fridge and smiled at the Golden Monkey.  I reached in, grabbed the bottle and hugged it to me like a mother to her newborn baby.  I was trying to be discreet because it didn’t seem fair to the movers, who could only have gatorade.  But I didn’t care.  I put the bottle on the counter and opened the drawer where I kept the bottle opener………..

Thus began one of the worst panic attacks in the history of mankind.  I was scrambling.  Where… did I pack… oh my God….. No…. It can’t be…. Nooooooooooooooooo! They were gone.  My old bartender’s tool, my magnetic bottle opener, all my winekeys.  Everything.  They were packed and already on the truck or in my husband’s car on the way to the house.  I searched my purse.  Nothing.  How could I be so foolish?! I scolded the grinning Golden Monkey and tossed it back on the shelf in the fridge.  Boulevard surely used a twistoff.  No.  Shit!  This isn’t happening. Dammit. Even the old lonely bottle of Winter Ale wouldn’t budge.  Fuck. My mind was racing.  Maybe I could use the kitchen countertop like I’ve seen in frat movies. I looked at the bottle, then at the counter. Then again, we just spend $1500 on new counters and I’m pretty sure Jeff wouldn’t understand. The idea of a bloody mary sped through my mind but the thought of tomato juice on a disgustingly hot day made me a tad nauseous.  Besides, all the glassware was packed.  I opened the fridge one last time, hoping to spot a Goose Island or… something.  Anything.  Damn my beer snobbery! If I drank Miller Lite this wouldn’t happen and my thirst would be quenched.

Then, on the verge of tears, the clouds parted and one ray of sun shone down on the one and only option: Paddy’s Pale Ale.  An amazing, brilliant, delicious, thirst-quenching craft brew.  In a can.

Paddy Pale Ale

Suddenly my colleague Pat’s voice echoed in my memory: “You should take this home and try it.  You should know this brewery if you’re going to be living up there!” I looked at the can and there it was: Onion Pub & Brewery, Lake Barrington, Illinois.

The beer itself was a classic American Pale Ale.  It was golden amber colored, smelled of fresh cut grass, lemon zest, and a hint of fresh biscuits.  It was medium bodied, not overly complex, but extremely refreshing under the circumstances.  For me the beer was just ok, but the experience was exhilarating and will last in my memory for many years to come.

Thanks for the sample, Pat.  And thank you Onion Pub & Brewery.  You saved the day.

Allagash Grand Cru

“Now that’s an adult beverage,” said my colleague.

I just sat there, stunned.  “Holy shit.  Wow.” was all I could muster.  Several smiles and nods of the heads followed, as if what we were experiencing was some miraculous parting of the clouds, and a bright ray of sunshine from God himself had been poured into our tasting cups.

Allagash Grand Cru

The sample that brought about this exchange was an impressive effort from one of the marquis breweries in the Northeast, Allagash.  They call this seasonal their Grand Cru.  Grand indeed.  This beer is citrusy, spicy, refreshing, and just delightful.  Its complexity far outshone its siblings, although Allagash White is the reason I started exploring beer.  The Grand Cru is not excessively hoppy, but its malty presence gives it depth and a full body.  This is just a great brew; certainly awesome on its own but I imagine a spectacular pairing for nutty cheeses and spicy cuisines.

Summer’s Greatest Hits

Highlights from this season include:

  • Victory Golden Monkey
  • Chono Rosé
  • New Holland Brewing Full Circle
  • Fieldstone Rosé of Sangiovese
  • Kunin Pape Star
  • Kilo Kai Spiced Rum (with ginger ale)
  • Allagash Grand Cru
  • Nicolas Fuillatte Brut Rosé
  • La Quercia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
  • Hogwash Rosé
  • DeGlazen Toren Saison D’erpe Mere
  • Anderson Valley Brewing Summer Solstice
  • Sobieski
  • Brewer Clifton SRH Chardonnay
  • Lorentz Rosé
  • Lucarelli Primitvo


More Deliciousness from Belgium

Here’s a couple more winners from what has become my favorite brewery in the world: DeGlazen Toren.

The first one is their Saison D’erpe Mere.  It’s a Belgian farmhouse ale that I thoroughly enjoyed with friends and some German potato pancakes at The Bavarian Lodge.  The ale was a vibrant golden with a nice foamy white head.  It was complex and creamy, but not rich.  I found it slightly floral, with spicy, lemony hops and a delightful, dry and zesty finish. Some reviewers of this Saison complain about the over-abundance of carbonation, but that’s what I expect in this style of beer.  I thought it was simply outstanding.

I also sampled their dubbel, Cuvée Angelique.  I don’t always love this style– I usually find them a touch too dark– but Angelique won me over in one sniff.  It smelled of caramel, molasses, figs and sweet malt.  It was a sort of burnt caramel color with a brownish, reddish head.  In an instant the first sweet sip coated my whole mouth and lasted for what felt like ages.  It was medium bodied, with flavors of baking spice, dark fruits and something almost indescribably Christmassy.  I look forward to enjoying this beer following a holiday dinner or by the fire on a cool autumn evening.

All in all, two more absolute stunners from DeGlazen Toren.  Cheers!

Victory Indeed

A little while back I posted about my beloved Chicago Blackhawks and their quest for the Cup.  On Wednesday, June 9th, Patrick Kane shot the winning goal past big loser goalie Michael Leighton and secured the team’s place in history.  Watch the chaotic but exhilarating ending:

Way to go champs! So, as promised, I finally explored a Philly brewery to honor the Hawks’ win over the hateful Chris Pronger and the Flyers.

Victory Brewing is technically set up in Downingtown, PA, about thirty miles west of Philadelphia.  It is these fine craftsmen that are behind the wildly popular massive brews Hop Devil and Storm King.  But since I’m a lager and witbeer kind of gal, I took home the lighter Prima Pils, Golden Monkey, and Whirlwind Wit.

Prima Pils

I took home a sixer of the Prima Pils after a very long and trying day at work.  One of my colleagues recommended it for me, stating it was “probably the best pilsner in the store.” Maybe so, but this one wasn’t for me.  I wanted something I could pop the second I walked in the door and chug in thirteen seconds flat.  Sadly, I found the bitter German hops way too harsh.  Generally, I like a more fruity, citrusy, thirst quenching kind of beer.  Still, I can see what people like about this brew: It’s light but not watery, refreshing but not mindless.  I think this is a nice beer for people who want a lot of character but not a lot of body.  And it was a great introduction to a serious brewery.

Whirlwind Wit

Next up was the Whirlwind Wit, which is definitely my kind of beer, especially in the summer.  It’s light and refreshing with a fair amount of citrusy hops.  I can’t say it’s my favorite of this style; there isn’t a lot of depth and it falls just a little flat toward the end.  It’s an enjoyable bottle of beer and Blue Moon loyalists should certainly check it out.  But in the end, where the Prima was too strong, the Whirlwind was a little too dull; and I usually want something right in the middle.

Golden Monkey

The Golden Monkey might just fit the bill.  This is Victory’s delicious Belgian style golden ale.  While still considered a lighter beer, its dense, malty complexity give this ale a ton of personality. I found it frothy and fruity and deliciously spicy, with a little richness and a soft, refreshing hoppy finish.  The Monkey is probably my favorite of the brews I tried, although I’m looking forward to the imminent release of Victory’s summer seasonal Sunrise Weissbier.  This should be right up my alley.

Philadelphia, your sports fans leave a lot to be desired.  These are the jerks that pelted Santa with snowballs and worse yet, booed our precious Jonathan Toews when he won the Smythe trophy.  Shame on you.  But your beers are solid.  I look forward to enjoying another Victory brew soon, and will definitely give your fall seasonal a shout out on November 28th when the Bears meet the Eagles.

Some Dude Named Stanley

Let's go Hawks!

For me, wine and professional sports just don’t mix.  When I hang out at Wrigley, it’s all Old Style all day.  During football season I’m a total beer fanatic, though sometimes an occasional glass of sparkler carries over from brunch.  And this month? I’ve had to find something awesome to drink while cheering on our Chicago Blackhawks as they play for their first Stanley Cup since 1961.

Last night for Game 1, while the main attraction was chilling down, I enjoyed a bottle of Unibroue’s Blanche de Chambly.  This is my favorite style of beer and this one is still one of the best I’ve had.  Fresh, citrusy, spicy and delish.  Unibroue is just a damn good brewery. Perhaps its only flaw is its Canadian origins.  With that in mind, I triumphantly devoured it as I reminisced about our victory over Vancouver.

Then I popped open a treat from Brouwerij De Glazen Toren, a newish but fantastic Belgian brewery.  Their Jan de Lichte is made in the same style as the former, but is much thicker and… I don’t know… European flavored.  I think it’s the hops they use.  To be perfectly honest, I really don’t know much about crafting beer, and I don’t really care.  I just know I like it.  The only negative about this brew is I can only buy it in a 750ml bottle.  It’s only the equivalent of only a few beers, but it creates a couple disadvantages.  First, by the bottom I feel it loses some of the freshness.  Also, since this beer is also extremely frothy, and since I don’t have the proper tulip glass, I end up with two inches of foam every time.  Boo! In short, it’s still tasty, but I’d rather have it from the tap as I first discovered it at the nearby Bavarian Lodge.

Things are crazy here in Chi-town.  The last time this city was united like this was when the Bears won in 1985.  Everywhere you look folks are wearing red and black.  Every Target, Walgreens, Sports Authority, grocery store, and gas station is peddling Blackhawk’s gear.  The statue of  MJ is decorated in a Hawks sweater and helmet.  Strangers are actually smiling at each other.  Even the Sports Guy gave us his blessing. It’s all pretty f’ing exciting.  So I guess I should be raising a glass of some great local brew, from which there are plenty to choose.  Maybe for tomorrow’s game I’ll pick up a six pack of Goose Island or Two Brothers or the newer Metropolitan Brewing.

And next week, when the Hawks win it all, I will find and eagerly demolish a great beer from Philly to celebrate.

Spring’s Greatest Hits

Here’s some highlights from this season:

  • Leitz Dragonstone Riesling 2007
  • Goose Island Summertime
  • Cazadores Reposado (Mmmmmargarita)
  • Crios Torrontes 2009
  • Heyman’s Delicious Porter
  • Beckmen Sauvignon Blanc 2009
  • Patz & Hall Pinot Noir 2007
  • Brooklyn Summer Ale
  • Dashe Zinfandel 2007
  • Saintsbury Rosé 2009
  • Paso a Paso Verdejo 2009
  • Bacardi Dragonfruit (with club soda)
  • Atteca Garnacha 2008
  • Qupe Bien Nacido Cuvée 2008
  • Rock Bottom Seasonal Wheat
  • Argiano Rosso Toscano 2007
  • Bells Oberon
  • Indaba Chenin Blanc