Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ale Syndicate

on site taps
I was recently selected as an ambassador of sorts for Ale Syndicate. They're a sponsor for my team, CRUSH Multisport and they reached out to see if any of us would like to serve samples of their beer at local stores and events. Of course I replied right away and asked to be included in the group.

Last week I stopped by the brewery for a quick tour and taste test. The Richie Imperial Porter was my favorite but all of the beers were super smooth and drinkable. Even the IPA which I'm usually not a fan of. I signed up for my first shift as a sampler and stopped by a few days later to grab the beer. It was an interesting experience and I'm looking forward to doing more events as I learn more about their beer and the brewery. 

A little background on Ale Syndicate (from their website):

We love two things: Good beer and the city of Chicago.

We’ve spent years homebrewing–and we got good at it. We moved to Northern California and got the chance of a lifetime: to start our own brewery, making the only bottled craft beer in the city of Oakland.
The beer took off. The stores kept selling out. But something was missing. We missed Chicago.
Don’t get us wrong, California’s great. But we always had a Chicago flag hanging in the brewery. We missed just about everything about Chicago. The toughness. The skyline. The winter. Even rust - nothing rusts in California. We missed the spirit of audaciousness that is uniquely Chicago. A drive to do big things.
We considered bringing our beer to Chicago. But the beer we were making was distinctively California. We felt Chicago deserved something bolder and stronger. So, we sold our homebrewing equipment and our stake in the brewery. We bought a pickup truck and jumped on Route 66 headed east. Since then, we’ve built a truly collaborative brewery that is more than the sum of its parts and far greater than we had ever planned.
In March of 2013, working with partner breweries throughout the state, we started pouring on draft lines across Chicago. Our first brew, Richie Imperial Porter, went on to be named "Best Porter" by Chicago Magazine. Our hard work and tasty beers earned us the title of "2013 Best New Brewery in Illinois" from RateBeer.
We released our first packaged beer in February of 2014, with six-packs of Municipal IPA, Sunday Session Hopped-Up Ale and Van de Velde Belgo-American Ale. We also did a 750mL release called Omega Midnight, a collab with Omega Yeast labs.
In July 2014, we completed work on our own space and started brewing beers in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood. We have begin moving beers produced at partner breweries into our own production facility. We hope to offer tours, events and, one day, a tap room at our location.
Until then, we'll continue to turn out what we hope is some of the best local beer in Chicago. At Ale Syndicate Brewers, we believe in strong flavors, pure ingredients, and the power of coming together around something we love.
The Brewery
Richie Imperial Porter
Rua Red Ale
Chicago Pride
sampling table set up

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


 I'm slowly but surely moving from noob to snob in the beer world, but even as a novice I knew there was something special about Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Stout. I remember the first time I tried it and kept thinking "wow, I didn't even know beer could taste like this". It was a few years back (before I really started drinking craft beer) and I was sitting at the bar just down the street from my office at the time. They sponsored our company softball team so I used to hang out there at least once a week. When I saw BCBS on the draft list it piqued my interest and I was totally blown away by the first sip. I should also mention that my tolerance was quite low and I was pretty buzzed by the time I left the bar that night. (Thanks CTA for always making my commute home possible when driving isn't an option!)

Now that I've delved a bit deeper into the wonderful world of craft beer I knew I had to try more of the BCBS, especially this years variants. The only problem was, I'm never in town for the release on Black Friday. I'm always with my family in Michigan during that time so I was super bummed I'd miss out on the chance to grab a few bottles. I tried to enlist my friends to the task of finding some, but none of them were too enthused about waiting in line for me. Thankfully a couple friends were able to find bottles out in the burbs at their local store so I was able to get some of the regular ones but the variants still eluded me. 

In come Goose Island tap room. Recently Goose Island has opened a tap room in Fulton Market and it has already become one of my favorite watering holes. The atmosphere is super relaxed and you can bring in your own food! I saw they would have BCBS on tap so I stopped in with a coworker and enjoyed one of the earlier iterations of the beer. If you're hoping for a chance to try some, definitely check their weekly tap list to see when they'll have it on tap again.
at the Goose Island tap room

 at the Goose Island tap room   
After trying a few of the other BCBS variants at the tap room and learning more about this years proprietors I really wanted to finally try some. I kept checking the list at Goose Island but didn't see it on there. Luckily I'm friends with a bunch of beer nerds and one of them posted about a live screening for Grit & Grain the documentary about BCBS hosted by Good Beer Hunting. I noticed the flyer said we'd get to try the base for BCBS and that had me sold. The base isn't something you can typically find anywhere since they don't sell it and I'd never had the opportunity to try it before. I was delighted to find out the variant we'd get to try that night was (FINALLY) proprietors! The movie itself was really awesome. It told the story of BCBS in a way that took you on a journey from the loggers to the barrels and eventually the beer in my hand. It gave me a new appreciation for everything that goes into BCBS. 

After the screening I chatted with one of the panelists for a bit and we nerded out over coffee, barrel aging, and a bunch of other beer related goodness. This was my first time really getting a first hand account of things so it was cool to get an insiders perspective. My curiosity was rewarded because after our chat he handed me a bag of the Intelligentsia coffee used in this years coffee variant. I'm pretty excited to see how it matches up to the bag of beans from Dark Matter that were aged in BCBS barrels.
can't wait for this taste test!
first taste of the base at Good Beer Hunting

As if all that weren't enough, on one of my visits to Flo & Santos Mark told me they'd be having a BCBS tap takeover so I immediately added that to my calendar. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. The only problem was that when I showed up there were literally no open seats at the bar and the hostess didn't think any tables would be opening up soon. Most folks would get discouraged at this point or simply wait it out but I was hungry and so I set off to make friends with strangers. I saw a guy sitting by himself at a table with his computer out and took a chance that he was there alone. Turns out he was and let me share the table with him so I could order some of my favorite wings and a glass of the BCBS Coffee. This totally worked out for both of us since we ordered different variants and then just shared so we could try more things. After this trip I now have just one variant left to check off my list and that's the BCBS Rare. I'm hoping I can snag some eventually but even so, being able to try everything else has been amazing in itself.

taps ready for flight at Flo & Santos