Friday, June 27, 2008

Surfin' The Amber Waves Of Grain

I have 22 minutes to explain, that's when the timer goes off and I have a few seconds to collect the oven mitts and take the bread out. Yes, it's 12:30 (central time) a.m. I have to bake, as the menu for tomorrow includes freshly baked bread - grilled cheese, mustard, and pickle sandwiches with gazpacho; there's a farmer's market in Glencoe, right around the corner from our hosts, Liz's cousins Howard and Gay. I anticipate many watering mouths as we prepare a fresh cold tomatoey, chivey, garlicky lunch. Post lunch plans include two (countem) two free concerts.

Glencoe, I must explain, is a well-to-do little burg a bit north of Chicago. Chicago is a very big city, and it's summer. Apparently this means that all the taxpayers' monies go to these huge events that draw no fewer than a galaxy of families and their full strollers. Today's Taste of Chicago, for example, had Liz and I squeezing by masses of people and trying to avoid any flying meat products. It was a long day. My feet feel like bricks of unrisen whole grain bread (14 minutes left). But at least there was beer.

This journey of ours, this Lost In America gig, has been accompanied by another journey, and a longtime dream of mine; a beer tour of the country. Let me tell you, there is no shortage of good beer wherever you might land; let this be a consolation to you all, even you non-drinkers, as a city with good beer is a clue that other good things abound.

It started in Rochester with a Pilsner and Tripel brewed by my best buddy Mark. What a way to start a tour: free beer, and most excellent at that. In Burlington I discovered two brands: the Rock Art Brewery made an excellent, heady double ESB, and another, MacNeill's out of Brattleboro (right near our friends in Newfane) brews this special called Old Ringworm. I bought it for the label, which appeared homemade, and was pleased by its dark and mild yet wholesome flavor. I tried Waterloo Dark in Ottawa but was kinda disappointed; apparently all the good beer happens in Quebec. Next stop, Michigan. Wowee! The sailor recommended the recently founded Right Brain Brewery, an outta-tha-way place behind a salon with plenty of kick-your-legs-out space, board games, dart boards, and a selection of beer that made this beer nut's jaw unhinge a bit. I first had their cask beer; a fine summer wheat that had been combined with - get this - kiwis before casking. It should be served at every Little League game for a good time. OK, so there's that, and there's a beer called Little Italy, an ale brewed with some honey and SWEET BASIL. The bartender said some guys dipped their pizza crusts into it. It tasted like the Tuscan hills. I wouldn't drink it ever again, but don't take that the wrong way. This brewery has it right, and I wish I could bring it with me. On our way out of Indiana was Three Floyd's; I had the Behemoth and then bought a bomber of the Blackheart; both had that special touch, that feeling in the mouth that covers all the taste buds and goes right into your nostrils; it's a sensation that sets the fine beers apart from the superb.

Here in Chicago, Liz and I went to Wrigleyville (they have funny names for places around here) for a flight at Goose Island brewpub, and as inventive and flavorful as their beers were, the glasses had that neglected sponge smell that just permeates everything and kinda ruined the experience. I also sampled their cask ale, a blonde, that tasted too much like vinegar to be good... probably an experiment gone awry.

Anyhow, I just took the bread out of the oven, and it's now 1:00, and the bread smells like a good bedtime. I hope you are all sleeping as soundly as Liz is right now.

Lost In America

1 comment:

E.M. said...

When you get to the great state of Minnesota, there is a bike shop you can work on you bikes at, a brewery you can tour, a co-op and a farmers market you can restock at. Srsly, gimme a ring when you get closer.