Considering my tiredness I was pretty well OK on Friday morning. After a "wherethefuckamI?" kind of wander round near my hotel, I was having coffee in one of the many coffee spots in Chicago, a town that seems to take its coffee seriously and contemplating breakfast, when my phone rang. It was Jeff. "We are meeting for lunch in the Frontera Grill at 11.30." What? Lunch at 11.30? Still when in Rome. I didn't know this of course, but this is one of the most sought after places in Chicago. My mate Ryan, a noted foodie, was practically purring. It was simply fantastic and made so more by the good company and the fact that we had a reserved table for nine, while queues snaked outside the building and onto the street. You want some details? My friend Jeff's blog has it here, though my cocktail(s), recommended by Ryan were stunning. Base of tequila with green chilli, cilantro and lime juice among other stuff I can't remember, it was the perfect pick me up.
But man cannot live by refried beans and tequila alone, so we hit the train and off to the Map Room which isn't a brewpub, but a proper boozer and a bit of a classic. Long and low ceilinged, with big windows and festooned with world flags and an oddly distorted map of the world on the rear wall, it has a great atmosphere, though oddly much less in your face service than is normal. And if you are going, bring cash. Unusually the credit card, a mainstay everywhere else, is not accepted there. Allagash White for me for the first three or so, a classic Belgian Wit which ticks every box. Then on to Alpha King while getting and giving tastes of various others from Sour Belgian style Bokor Flemish Red through to Imperial IPA's barley wines and more from Arcadia, Lost Abbey, Dark Horse and Metropolitan. Some of the boys then went off in search of Italian beef sandwiches (where did they put them? I was stuffed) while a few of us kept the Alpha King tap red hot. I reckon the Map Room is my favourite pub in Chicago and probably one of the world's top twenty. Not cheap though and a strong will is needed to cough up fifty bucks or so a round, (plus tip) but a great place.
Then a complicated taxi ride to Hop Leaf which was literally full to the rafters, as the upstairs room is in the eaves. Some of the Italian beef brigade didn't like it for reasons best known to themselves and fled to the Clark Street Ale House, but those of us that stayed were rewarded not only by wall to wall totty (much more conservatively dressed than at home) but by Alpha King, Dogfish Head Raison D'etre, Bell's Brown Ale, Metropolitan and a host of Belgians, ignored by us except for one aberrant round of Timmerman's Peche! Another great bar, but maybe better on a quieter night.
And so ended day two for me, though the rump that went to the Clark Street Alehouse were apparently chucked out at four a.m. closing, by which time I had been in the Land of Nod for at least two hours.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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