7am: After a harrowing cab ride through the streets of Chicago (I swear this was the same cab driver from yesterday, though it’s a different cab company), I barely arrive at Union Station in time to run down to the Metra station and catch my train to the western suburbs. From what I hear, it’s quite the growing craft beer market, so I’m looking forward to picking up some bottles to bring back and share with the rest of the team. I’m also quite excited at the thought of visiting Aurora, IL, home of Wayne’s World! Party time, excellent! However, my dreams of sophomore year nostalgia are quickly crushed after a quick Google search on the train revealed that most of the movie was shot in Southern CA, and the famous “Spindle” of cars was torn down years ago in Berwyn, IL.
8am: As I arrive in Naperville, I meet up with Mike Mauloff from Windy City Distributing. We immediately hit it off with conversation about local beers and breweries and how they compare to the West Coast. He’s got a great perspective as he just moved back to Illinois after living in Southern California for six years, so he’s familiar with the West Coast craft beer scene. We spent most of the morning meeting with accounts, and all the while I was “harpin’ a slib o’ ling” (speaking Boontling) and teaching all of the “nonch harpins” (dirty words) to anyone who would listen. The language has a funny story and it got a few laughs for sure. People were really excited about Summer Solstice, Brother David’s Double and Hop Ottin’ IPA and it was cool to be able to share the story of the Valley with people who had never heard of Boontling before.
2pm: We pull up to the Whole Foods Market in Naperville. Over the next two hours, I will find myself in beer heaven. Just like craft beer enthusiasts from the Midwest rave about Pliny the Elder or Firestone Walker barrel-aged beers, we California beer geeks rarely encounter Three Floyds or Founders Brewing Company in our West Coast travels. We meet up inside with Vivian (the wine/beer buyer) and chat about Anderson Valley and our Belgian-style ales, as well as my passion for trying everything “new and rare” while I’m here in Chicago. At this point, Vivian disappears around the end of a wine aisle, only to return a few moments later with a large bomber in hand. “You should try this. I only have one case.”
It’s a bottle of Frangelic Mountain Brown, part of the Backstage Series from Founder’s Brewing Company. Having only tried their Kentucky Breakfast Stout before, I figured I can’t go wrong with this release, so I add it to my basket along with a six pack of All Day IPA and a bomber of Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. “This will make for a pretty good tasting party tomorrow before the Cubs game” I thought to myself. We spend some more time chatting about local beers and then we thank Vivian for her business (she agreed to bring in Brother David’s Double and Triple—sweet!) and Mike and I make our way out the door to our last few stops of the day.
3pm: At this point, I lament that I still haven’t found the one craft beer that I came here for: Three Floyd’s Gumball Head. My friend Rick Sellers (from Pacific Brew News) told me it was a MUST try. Well, it turns out that Mike, being the cool guy he is, reveals that not only does he have some Gumball Head at his apartment, but we have some time to spare if I wanted to try it. Shut the front door! Ummmm, let me see…..yes please! This is turning out to be the best beer day of my life.
We arrive at his pad and he pours me a glass. Wow! This beer is amazing. Nice, crisp hop character (I’m guessing Simcoe or Amarillo) that plays well against the wheaty malt backbone. “Where can I get more?” I ask. “Well, I don’t have anymore, but I do have some Zombie Dust—have you tried that?” he asks. I inform him that I have not and the next thing I know, this cold elixir is in my hands. Hops, hops, and more hops. I asked where I could more of these but he said it’s pretty hard as of late; they’re difficult to get a hold of in this area. Well at least I got to try them…
5pm: As Mike drops me off at the train station, he gives me a cool tidbit of information: they allow alcohol on the Metra! This is music to my ears, as my thirst for a cold one is growing. I thank him for sharing his time (and beers) and wish him well. After I get on the train, I immediately notice a guy in a suit-and-tie drinking a Victory Golden Monkey, and another hipster drinking a Pabst tallboy. It’s beer thirty! I pop open my Founder’s All Day IPA on the edge of the seat, sit back, relax.
I love session pale ales, and this one is definitely in my Top 3 and I could easily finish the six pack on the train. However, I only have four left and should save some for the rest of the team at tomorrow’s tasting. Luckily, they’ll be pouring Anderson Valley Wee Geech at the Sheffield’s event, so I’ll get my hop fix very soon. I arrive at Union Station and proceed to take an urban hike of sorts, as it seems every cab I hail already has a fare. After about 30 blocks, I finally flag down a cab and we head back to the hotel.
7pm: Sheffield’s is a really cool place. From the brick walls to the multiple rooms and large outdoor patio, this place has it all! Great food, great beers, and great people. I arrive to find Barlow Hoody, Sarah and Ms. VIP (haha Erin O’ Riley’s nickname) chillin’ outside along with some of the Windy City folk. We have several Anderson Valley steinbers on draft including Wee Geech (session pale spiced with lemongrass), Bourbon Barrel Stout (Barney Flats aged in bourbon barrels), and Gatlin Damnosus (sour barleywine aged in bourbon barrels).
Unlike the night before, tonight is our chance to mingle with the local folks of the Chicago craft beer scene and talk about our brewery. It’s always great to meet new people who have never tried our beers; it can make for interesting conversations. People were raving about the Bourbon Barrel Stout and Gatlin Damnosus, and many of them solely came out to meet Trey and the rest of the team. At one point in the evening, I made a couple of new friends, Georgia and Annie, who were waiting patiently to ask Trey some questions while he was talking with a group of people.
I ask them about the neighborhood, the Cubs, and other local beer bars, and they shared some cool stories and taught me a new word: Broey: (adj) The sophomoric antics of adult males after sporting events, usually attributed to excess consumption of alcohol. “After a Cubs game, we steer clear of Wrigley Field…too many guys get all broey.” And although I publicly outed them “cityists” due to their disdain for suburbanites (I can proudly say that I am one), I forgive them both since they were pretty cool and they gave me a good laugh with their vocabulary lesson.
The Windy City guys were awesome hosts and we truly appreciate their knowledge of craft beer and the time they gave us in the market. It was cool to be able to hang out, drink some beers, and just relax after a long day in the trade. We learned a lot from them as a team and definitely look forward to a time when we can return to Chicago (or have them come out to Boonville!) and hang out again.
10pm: At this point, it’s getting fairly late (we’ve got a big sales meeting in the morning), so we say our goodbyes, gather up the crew, and make the trek back to the hotel. Tomorrow will Friday the 13th, and although I’m not superstitious, I get the feeling something might go awry….
Steve Miller is the Steinber Kimmie (Beer Guy) and resident beer runner for Anderson Valley Brewing Company. Social Media, Sales and Marketing are a few of his favorite things. He’s also a pretty decent home brewer, gee-tar picker and disc golfer too. You can follow him @SteinberRunner on Twitter.