Wednesday, October 22, 2014

top5 Craft Beer Joints in Viva Las Vegas!

Having been to Las Vegas four times this year for work trips, I've had the opportunity to scope the strip for craft beer. This top5 focuses on where to grab great craft pints in the desert... and believe me, this is no mirage, these places actually exist!

Vegas has forever been perceived as a hard liquor and cheap booze kind of place. Casinos, clubs, and lounges overflow with bottle service and top and bottom shelf hard liquors on the inside, while outside you're guaranteed to run into hundreds of dozens of people walking the strip sipping on cheap, sugary, neon slushy drinks through bendy straws or chugging 24 oz cans of Bud Light Lime in brown paper koozies. But that said, Vegas is a city that knows how to market to the masses and they are catching on to the rest of the Nation's obsession with the craft. Most of the places I list below have opened within the past year or two, with the exception of the Freakin Frog, which is local and national landmark. The Freakin Frog is also home to the Whiskey Attic, which has the largest collection of whiskeys in America. I've had the opportunity to visit both... my friends don't call me Nancy Whiskey for nothing! I enjoy whiskey so much so, that I've decided to also do a blog on whiskey tasting and profiling. I'm hoping to launch the site in early 2015, so if you're also a fan of whiskey too, you should keep a look out for it. 

top5 Craft Beer Joints in Viva Las Vegas!

So, you're in Vegas and feeling like a hunk of burning love for the craft? Then you should visit these tasty beer places in the Sin City, where you can respectfully go to cool your palette in the desert.

  1. Freakin Frog (off the strip, near the University of Nevada... and its totally worth the $20 cab ride) A super hard to find dive bar that appears to be closed in a dimly lit in a strip mall. My cab driver was even nervous dropping me off and leaving me, without me confirming with a friendly wave that they were in fact an open establishment. Inside locals wear down the bar stools and the bartender RJ would be happy to whip you up some fresh tater tots with honey, (it's amazing) the entire kitchen is a small grill behind the bar. This place is a gem of a find. Between their impressive selection of Belgian on draft and hundreds upon hundreds of bottles in their walk-in beer fridge, (see pic on right) there is something here for everyone who enjoys a frothy beverage. I'd recommend Gulden Draak or a regional Imperial Alien Stout and clearly the honey tots! YUM.
  2. Public House (located in the Venetian) As close to a Belgian gastropub you can find on the strip. Their bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable  and you can easily find Belgians, sours, and cask beers a plenty. I'd recommend Kasteel Rouge or a citrus mango Brett called Bright Moments by Tahoe Brewing or any local  Joseph James on tap.
  3. Michael Mina Pub 1842 (located in the MGM) Are you looking for a a local Nevada brew, from Big Dogs Brewing or a rare Gose? We'll you'll find them here. They have a wide selection of bottles and draft and great pub food. I'd recommend the pub burger with a side of their kale Cesar and wash that down with a Gosebrauerei or a rum aged Innis & Gunn.
  4. Todd English (located in Aria) Where world craft and fine hard liquor meet. Excellent selection of global beers on draft, including beers from Italy, Belgium, Japan and Switzerland! They always have a rotating cask, sour, and super rare/foreign beer. I'd recommend going during one of their happy hours, which is 5-7pm or 10pm-12am) when all draft beers are half off. Bottle list is impressive too, including a rare Swiss 225 Saison which is made with water from the Swiss Alps and aged in oak barrels. I didn't get a chance to eat the food, but everything coming out of the kitchen looked delectable.
  5. TAP (located in the MGM) The mecca for sports fans. It's a hot spot for cheering on your local team, while also providing spectators with an excellent selection of craft on draft. Come here if you want to catch a game, grab some great grub, and wet your whistle. May I recommend the Proper Ruben and a glass of Chimay Blanche or a Sculpin IPA.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top5 Autumn Beers & Great Pumpkin recipes!

Autumn without a doubt, is my favorite season. It's that time of year when my Hunter boots and a scarf become part of my uniform. When the sidewalks and tree lines streets are glittered with color and a roasty fall breeze makes the golden and orange leaves dance along the street. It just brings a smile to my face thinking about it, not to mention it's also perfectly acceptable to have soup or chili for every meal and a pumpkin beer every evening. Yes, this is my season and I wanted to celebrate it by introducing my Top5 favorite fall beers that are in and out of Chicago area.


Where to find the Great Pumpkin and other Autumn beers in Chicago

  1. Horse Thief Holllow Cheval Duex I'll be honest here, I'm a bit biased on this one. It is a fantastic Autumn spiced beer, it has the perfect amount of sweet potato and spice, and still tastes like a beer, it was even a Silver Medalist at this year's World Beer Cup, but I'm also good friends with the head brewer, David Williams, who also is one of the founders of CHAOS Brew Club. So proud of him and this fantastic tasty brew! If you're in Chicago you need to head down to Southside, where this pub resides in Beverly to grab a pint and some delicious grub. There food is top par and pairs excellently with the beers on tap. If you're free on Thursday Oct. 30th then you should consider this great craft beer event being held at the brew pub, where you'll hear The Legend of Horse Thief Hollow and other Chicago ghost stories, brought to you by History on Tap. Your ticket includes a sample of this beer among others, yum!
  2. Metropolitan Brewing Afterburner Oktoberfest Afterburner Another solid German brew from the crew at Metropolitan. I was at the Pop-Ip Taproom Event held back on Sept. 3 at Small Bar where I had one the of the first chance to taste this toasty sweet malty beer with a dry finish. It's definitely a go to Autumn beer in Chi-town.
  3. Revolution Oktoberfest In Chicago, we don't need a reason to throw a party, but this beer gets one all to it's own anyway. The release of Rev Oktoberfest in Chicago is always looked forward too, it is a refreshing, classic, crisp and tasty brew. Get it on draft at the tap room in a mug, or pick up a six-pack on your way home from work.
  4. Pipeworks Disperos De Batata This doesn't scream pumpkin, but it does scream tasty Autumn inspired flavors! I love this brew made with sweet potatoes and spices, it's a fall warmer-uper at 8.5% and it's so good, you should probably pick up two bombers the next time your at Bottles and Cans.
  5. Goose Island Oktoberfest This recipe of Oktoberfest is considered a classic BJCP style and found right in our own backyard. Sometimes us Chicagoans, give our Goose a hard time since they sold the majority of their company (58%) to InBev back in 2011, but they still make really solid beers, like this tasty Oktoberfest/Marzen. And 312 may be brewed in NewYork now, which makes me cringe a little.. but then again, you never hear any of us complain on Black Friday, do ya? 

When outside of Chicago grab these tasty brews

  1. New Glarus Staghorn This is a great, clean easy drinking Oktoberfest, one of the best I've ever had. If you find yourself North of the Illinois border, you should pick some up, cause this beer is only in Wisconsin!
  2. Kasteel Ingelmunster Pumpkin The name is a mouthful and so is the beer. If you like Belgian styles and decadent imperial pumpkin brews, look no further than this beer! Hard to find in Chicago, but I recently had it on tap at The Bad Apple, it's brewed in Belgium, so if you find yourself on the other side of the ocean this time of year, make sure to check it out, yum! 
  3. Anderson Valley Fall Horn' As far as Pumpkin beers goes, this one is a keeper. I've always loved Pumpking, but at times it starts to taste too sweet if you have more than one. Fall Horn' is just the right amount of pumpkin and spice and you should have no problem drinking a six pack. You can find it in Chicago, but it's native to California.
  4. Hoppin' Frog Barrel Aged Frog's Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale This a rare and really tasty pumpkin beer. If Hoppin' Frog does one thing right it's making a really good bold brew. If you can get your hands on one of these, pick it up. I bought mine the last time I visited the brewery which is in Akron, Ohio and it was already a year cellared. 
  5. Lakefront Pumpkin Also North of the Illinois boarder, located in Milwaukee, but you can find it in Chicago at Binny's and Mariano's. This is a classic go to pumpkin beer, a good staple to have around the house this time of year.


Great Pumpkin recipes!

I also love to cook, soups, stews, chilli... yum! And most of my dishes are Paelo... I try to leave the carbs to the beer, so I thought I would end this post with my favorite pumpkin, butternut squash soup recipes listed below and Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good (pic to the right), which clearly is not Paleo, because it's drowning in cheese, but it's always a hit a Fall party, including my brew club's CHAOS Harvest Fest party this coming Saturday, on Oct. 18th, where I'll be serving it. If you're interested in attending, get your tickets here.

Nancy Brew's Squash-tastic soup!
(Paleo and veggie lover friendly!)

- (3) medium size sweet potatoes peeled/chopped/roasted
- (1) medium size butternut squash halved/de-seeded/roasted/de-skinned chopped
- (1) 15oz pack of organic pumpkin puree 
- (1) large vidalia onion (they are a bit sweeter than yellow onions) saute with coconut oil
- (1) 14 oz can of organic coconut milk 

Puree everything above and season to your liking. I like to add a bit of pumpkin spices, and some hot spices, like cayenne pepper or some sweet/hot yellow curries, I switch it up every time and taste/adjust as needed. If the soup in a little thick you can always add more broth or water to thin it to the consistency you like.  

I'll then divide up the soup in individual servings and freeze the containers so I have fresh homemade soup ready at hand for the Fall and Winter months. — This soup is also a spin-off one of my Autumn brews, Hot Squash, which I blogged about last year, but tweaked the recipe this year, when I brewed the all-grain version of it. Check back soon, to read the post on that brew.

Nancy Brew investigates:

What are your favorite Autumn beers to brew and/or drink?
Do you have a special go-to fall time recipe you'd like to share?

Friday, October 10, 2014

HOP to it!

Beer Hoptacular is back at the Aragon this weekend! Don't miss it. This beer fest does an excellent job combining beer, food, and entertainment. It is one of the premier craft beer events in Chicago, showcasing over 30 Chicago and Illinois craft breweries along with other top breweries from around the nation! You can also find me helping Illuminated Brew Works tonight, pouring some tasty brews! Cheers!
Tasty breweries pouring this weekend...

5 Rabbit Brewery* |  Abita Brewing Company  |  Argus Brewery*  |  Ale Syndicate*  |  Arcade Brewery*  |  Atlas Brewery*  |  Baderbrau*  |  Begyle Brewing*  |  Bell’s Brewery  |  Berghoff*  |  Boulevard Brewing  |  Blue Moon  |  BrickStone* Brewery  |  Cahoots*  |  Destihl*  |  Dogfish Head  |  DryHop*  |  Empirical*  |  Firestone Walker Brewing Co.  |  Flesk Brewing*  |  Forbidden Root*  |  Founders  |  Goose Island*  |  Great Lakes Brewing  |  Greenstar Brewing*  |  Half Acres Beer Co.*  |  Illuminated Brew Works*  |  Jacob Leinenkugel  |  Jolly Pumpkin  |  Lagunitas Brewery Co.*  |  Lakefront Brewery, Inc.  |  Lazy Magnolia  |  Left Hand Brewing Company  |  Local Option*  |  Lucky Monk*  |  Magic Hat  |  Marz Brewing*  |  Middle Brow*  |  Moody Tongue*  |  New Belgium Brewing Co.  |  One Trick Pony*  |  Pig Minds*  |  Pipeworks*  |  Pollyanna Brewing Company*  |  Revolution Brewing*  |  Rude Hippo*  |  Samuel Adams  |  Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.  |  Slapshot*  |  Spiteful Brewing*  |  St. Killian  |  Stone Brewing Co  |  Temperance*  |  Ten Ninety*  |  Tighthead Brewing Company*  |  Traveler Beer Co.  |  Unity Vibration  |  Two Brothers Brewing Co.*  |  Urban Legend Brewing Company*

Angry Orchard Hard Cider  |  Crispin Cider  |  Demunck’s Cider  |  Magners Irish Cider  |  Seattle Cider  |  Uncle Johns  |  Vandermill  |  Virtue-Cider  |  Woodchuck Hard Cider  |  Wyders

*Support your local Chicago and Illinois Breweries!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

RECAP: Beers of da Summer 14' (Belgian Addition)

I can't believe it's Autumn already. I walked out my place this morning heading to work and the sidewalk was littered with golden orange leaves swirling around. I feel like time is moving faster than I can pour my beer... and I've put off my Summer brews post long enough, so here goes my Summer brewing montage!

I'm also introducing a new format... I've come to terms that I'm a very visual person and I sometimes feel overwhelmed and bogged down about writing an entire blog entry about a single brew day given that I brew so frequently. I also must admit that I love data, so I'm going to provide some simple key notes on each brew and lots of visuals. I would love to hear your feedback on what you like about the posts too, Cheers!



The stats:
- Brewed between Feb.-Aug. 2014
- 28 batches of beer
- All batches were all-grain
- 13 batches were Belgian styles
- 5 batches were Smoked/Pepper beers
- 4 batches were American styles
- 2 batches were Sour styles
- 1 batch was for barrel aging
- 1 batch was an English style
- 1 batch was a German style
Listed below are only 13 of these batches, "da Belgian beers." The other brews will come in later posts specifically highlighting some key topics which I've already been cultivating. 

Beers of da Summer 14' Belgian Addition

Oh So Hossa
Marionberry Belgian Triple 9.5%
- Brewed batches 2-3 (bottled + kegged)
- Brewed for NHC Competition (Awarded a silver certificate, scoring higher than 33/50) Served at NHC Club Night.
Brewing notes: A favorite of mine, but pricy to brew, because I need to special order the puree from the Pacific Northwest. I'll continue to brew it, but maybe limit to only 1-2 batches annually in late Spring.
(Pic to left:
first keg pour! A little too much carbonation, but I love the rich red color and pink head, yum!)

Belgian Triple 8.5%
- Brewed batches 1-2 (bottled)
- Brewed for HOPS for Youth,  charity event.
Brewing notes: I'm kind of a back-wards brewer, having dived into the weird flavors and now back tracking to brew the classics. There's no funny business in this one. It was tasty, but I prefer to brew the unusual. The next time I reach for a classic Belgian Triple it might as well just be Karmeliet, no need to try and reinvent that!
(Pic to left: shows the FG reading)

Ginger Aw-Snap!
Belgian Wit, with pink grapefruit + ginger 6.5%
- Brewed batches 2-4 (bottled)
- Brewed for Hamburger Mary's Competition
Brewing notes: I love this beer and batch 4 was by far the best. I'll continue to brew this annually, it's a fantastic beer for everyday refreshment and perfect for pairing with any Asian BYOB dish.
(Pic to left: at
Sing's noodles in Chinatown sharing some homebrews with my culinary friend, Loni, who works at The Spice House. SO GOOD!)

Belgian Wit 6.5%
- Brewed batch 1 (bottled)
- Brewed to review classic style. I'm an experimenter when it comes to brewing. I wanted to taste my base beer for Ginger Aw-Snap! This one is stripped from of all the shenanigans that I usually add in the secondary.
Brewing notes: No funny business, it's a legit Wit.  
(Pic to left: side-by-side comparison to Snap, at Sings)

French Kiss
Saison with lavender + lemon thyme 8.5%
- Brewed batches 1-3 (bottled, kegged, bottled)
- Brewed initially for International Women's Day demo at BrewCamp organized by Hail to the Ale,
Brewing notes: I used lemon-thyme and lemon zest in Batch 2, so the lemon was very pronounced. Batch 3 I used just thyme, lemon zest, and the same amount of lavender and it was more sweet and balanced. Batch 3 was more to my taste.
(Pic to left: herbs added to the secondary.)

You're Such a TART!
Strawberry Rhubarb Belgian Tripel 9.5%
- Brewed batches 1 (kegged then bottled remaining)
- Brewed for MARZ Brewing competition
Brewing notes: I love to eat and bake pie... this was inspired by some of those flavors. Many of my beers are inspired by my experiments cooking and baking in the kitchen. And this tasted like pie, a tart pie! It was a pricy and laborious brew, she took almost 2 months before she was ready to be kegged, but she's such a tart, I'd brew her all over again.
(Pic to left: glamor shot during the competition)

Bleed Cubby Blue > Boo-berry
Blueberry Basil Belgian Tripel 9.5%
- Brewed batches 2-4 (bottles)
- Brewed for myself and CHAOS Harvest Fest
Brewing notes: I brewed this beer very late in the season, hence the name change. The blueberry is very delicate and doesn't disturb the yeast flavors of the Tripel and I love basil contribution. Speaking of... I need to make my basil cider soon. 
(Pic to left: sparging, using the paddle to evenly distribute hot water over the grains in the mash.)

Nancy Brew investigates:

What are your favorite warm weathered beers to brew and/or drink?