Saturday, June 19, 2004 will be forever remembered by me as one of those extremely elusive Perfect Beer Days. It is possible that somebody has had a more impressive day of beer drinking at some point, but I would bet the effort I turned in on that day was among the most noteworthy.
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<tr><td> </td><td class=beerfoot align=center><IMG border=0 SRC=images/features/kissinggirls.jpg> Kissing girls at the Cubs game</td></tr></table>
I was in Chicago from Minneapolis to visit a friend over the weekend. As a lifelong Oakland Athletics baseball fan, the timing of the trip was intended to coincide with the first ever regular season series between the A’s and Chicago Cubs. We planned to go to the game on Saturday, but it had been sold out for months. Luckily, my buddy was able to convince his girlfriend to give up her two season tickets for that game.
With the myriad options for beer establishments I had heard were available in the Chicagoland area, I did quite a bit of scouting before my trip. I had a detailed map of the downtown area with all of the desireable places plotted out. One scenario had us going to Sheffield’s before the game, but it took longer than we thought to drive in from the suburbs, park at my buddy’s girlfriend’s house and bus to the game. We got in our seats right just as the Cubs took the field.
The beer drinking day started quite inauspiciously with none other than an Old Style. I had never rated it, and I wasn’t really too excited to spend $6+ for a Newcastle, so I paid $5.25 for 16 oz. of Old Style. It was the only beer I would have at the game, knowing that I was in for a long night of drinking and knowing that the value proposition of quality to price is about as bad as it gets at most Major League baseball stadiums.
When the bad guys (the Cubs) hit a game winning double in the bottom of the 9th inning, the only positive outcome was that we were treated to a celebration between two nice looking girls who proceeded to make out right next to us. Yes, with each other (see photo above left). They were even nice enough to resume doing so when I realized I hadn’t gotten the best shot the first time around.
<table border=0 cellpadding=0 cellspacing=0 align=left><tr><td class=beerfoot align=center><IMG border=0 SRC=images/features/tonyatmaproom.jpg> Tony at the Map Room</td><td> </td></tr></table>
After the game we took a cab to our first good beer destination…Delilah’s. I found out the week before my trip that Delilah’s was hosting a Lambic and Gueuze festival that day. Bar owner, Mike Miller, indicated that to his knowledge it was the largest collection of lambics and gueuzes served anywhere ever. I sampled the following lambics and gueuzes (Ratebeer percentile, style ranking): Cantillon 3 Year Bruocsella 1900 Grand Cru 2002 (91, 3), Cantillon 3 Year Bruocsella 1900 Grand Cru 1997 (same, same), Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze 2000 (99, 3), Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze 2002 (same, same), Drie Fonteinen Kriek 2003 (96, 7), Boon Marriage Parfait Framboise 1986 (94,11), and Cantillon Gueuze Lou Pepe 1998 (only 120 bottles made) (98,4).
My previous experience with lambics was very limited; in fact, the whole of it consisted of a bottle of Lindemans Framboise. I found them largely to be sour and unrefined and requiring of a substantial amount of acquiring of taste. They didn’t much taste like beer at all to me; in fact, if it were up to me, they would be spun off into their own separate alcoholic beverage category. Nevertheless, at $1-2 per 2 oz. sample, it was a relatively inexpensive way to gain a foray into the style, and to do it with apparently great quality at that. I am reminded of my first sample of barley wine, which is also a bit of a fringe beer category. But, barley wine very much tastes like beer to me, albeit a beer on ‘roids.
After getting my palate going on the lambics and gueuzes, I immediately went for the Westvleteren 12 (see photo at left), which had been eluding me ever since I became a Ratebeerian and knew what it was. It was a 1997 vintage and an exceptional value at $12 a bottle. It, of course, was exquisite. Figuring that I wouldn’t be able to get anything better at Delilah’s we left and took a cab to Goose Island on Clybourn Ave.
Curiously upon reading their beer menu I discovered that GI charges more per ounce for their sampler than for their pints. This is the first brewpub I have ever encountered that didn’t have it the other way around. I paid $6 for three 5-oz samples when 16 oz. pints averaged $4.50. I suppose that is a great way to stick it to the beer geeks who rate beer. I had the Midway IPA (a higher alcohol version of the standard GI IPA), the Celebration Red Ale (Cask) and the Hex Nut Brown. The Midway IPA was exceptional, a good notch or two above their already good standard IPA. The other two were good but nothing fabulous.
We then cabbed it over to our final destination for the evening, the Map Room. This place is the best beer bar I have ever been to. (see photo at left of my buddy Tony at the Map Room) It was smaller than I thought it would be based upon all of the buzz I had heard about how great it was. How many places in the world have Three Floyd’s Alpha King Pale Ale, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA and Anchor Liberty Ale (among many others) all on tap and both the Westy 12 and 8 in bottle? Not many, if any. I had all but the Westy 12, which, if you have been paying attention, I had at Delilah’s earlier in the day.
Sitting at a pub table while the setting sun radiated through the open front door upon me with a 90 minute draught IPA in my hand was the highlight of a memorable beer day. I wish every day could be like Saturday, June 20, 2004 was for me. But alas, I guess its rarity is part of what made it great.
[Editor: Have you had a perfect beer day? Let us know about it! Send your story to editor@<a name=mail>ratebeer.com.]