September 28, 2008

Why don't we have a Destihl?

I've been several places to eat over this past week but haven't made a post until now. At least I have some material coming up for any impending dry spells. Yesterday I had the fortune, good or otherwise, to eat at Destihl in Normal, Illinois. Destihl is a chef-driven restaurant which also brews its own beer or it is a brewpub that features high end designer dishes. I don't think they actually know either.

They have a pretty standard line up:
Normal Lager (a Muenchen-style Helles)
Redbird Ale (an American-style red ale)
Baldock India Pale Ale
Weissenheimer Hefeweizen
Jivaro Oatmeal Espresso Stout

They also have a fairly deep seasonal and rotational lineup of other styles. Destihl features flights (samplers) which come five brews to a flight. Since these are 6 ounce glasses I chose to only try one flight since I did have plans for later that day. I went with the seasonal sampler and it consisted of the following brews:

Dampfbier (I have never heard of this style and reference it only as Belgian-y)
Miner's Ruin California Common (like an Anchor Steam.)
Biere Brune (Belgian style brown ale)
Golden Child (Belgian-style golden or pale ale)
Maerzen Oktoberfest

I will admit the flight tended towards Belgian styles or tastes which I mostly abhor but it was well worth it for simply a taste experience which you aren't as likely to find locally. We chose not to eat at Destihl even though their food looked very appealing simply in the name of time.

While I still wonder whether the beer or the food comes first at Destihl, they have an extremely well rounded lineup with a seasonal and rotating lineup that makes it worth a tasting trip. If Destihl were located in Springfield, they might be my holy grail combination of beer and food but they aren't and if I am going to drive that far I'd rather go to Schlafly's Tap Room in St. Louis.

Destihl: Excellent if they were in Springfield. Worth a trip even though they aren't.

Coming down the line: Pao, Aztca and McCormick's Barbecue and Deli.

I've noticed this post rambles a bit and seems pretty ramshackle. I ask your forgiveness. My brew crew, the Lincolnland Lagers, had a brew day today and that often involves sampling.

September 21, 2008


Palermos is an Italian restaurant on Durkin Drive. For those familiar with the old Imo's Pizza, Palermos occupied that location after Imo's closure. Palermos has a triple threat menu offering pastas, pizzas and paninis. All three are pretty tasty and I'd definitely recommend the restaurant based on food alone.

Their beer selection is a different matter altogether. They have your standard Bud, Miller and Coors selection of the type you find at pretty much every restaurant which has the capability to carry beer. All beer appears to be bottles only so, if you have a preference for draft, you will be out of luck. Their lineup does offer a slight nod to the Italian food with the addition of Peroni to its list. Peroni is an Italian pale lager currently owned by SABMiller.It doesn't do much to offer any breadth of beer style and is about as uncommon at Italian restaurants as finding Pacifico or Dos Equis is at a Mexican joint.

Palermos barely qualifies as a poor. They do manage the one import even if it doesn't really add much to their range.

I'm sure we can all agree the Italy is better known for its wine than its beers but there has to be some different choices than just a Peroni or a Moretti. I would encourage Palermos to explore their options to develop a beer menu with some more depth. Some additoins which still have some mass market appeal might be a Sam Adams or Michelob's Amber Bock. Guiness is popular with Springfieldians and anything that moves your menu one tick off the solid pale lager playground it is currently has to be a win-win for all. I like your food and I want your restaurant to be around for a long time. I just don't like your beer menu which is why I always order the Sangria.

Go for the food.

Palermos: Poor

September 19, 2008

A moment of silence

I want to take a minute to mourn the loss of the Underground City Tavern. While it was not the best beer bar in town, it definitely had some acceptable brews, if I remember correctly. No, friends, I mourn the UCT more for its music. I didn't really get involved in seeing the bands there until months before their closing but I was fortunate to see a few good acts. Trampled By Turtles was chief among them. Their music is bluegrass, newgrass or some melange of bluegrass and rock as it might feel to you. They played a great show and I managed to catch them for only one reason. I read a blog which features some lesser known music. Some of it fits my tastes and quite a bit doesn't but I check it often. That all stems back to the day I discovered Trampled By Turtles on the blog and managed to correlate it to their appearance at UCT that very night. I will always hold the memory of UCT dear for that very reason. I will also retain a special place in my heart for the Songs:Illinois blog and its author. Generally I am a bit too lazy or focused on other concerns to seek out the lesser known acts and that blog does quite a fine job for me. Since I wanted to share the music I added the blog to my blogroll as the least I could do to make up for all the great music I have taken away from his.

As much as I focus on beer in choosing a bar to patronize, music is a definite draw for me and if any local establishment can draw in some of the regional acts that the Underground City Tavern had then you will definitely have my support and, if you can pair that with exotic brews then you will have my unadulterated love. Make it so!

Welcome Illinois Times reader/s!: Buffalo Wild Wings

Due to recent unwarranted coverage in the Illinois Times, my wife was pleased to suggest we go out to dinner to further my bloggish aspirations. Tonight's choice was a little outside my usual mantra of 'Eat Local!' Honestly, why go to an Olive Garden when you have a Mariahs or Palermos or any other gaggle of good local Italian restaurants but this ain't a food blog so on to what is important: Beer.

My beer rating for Buffalo Wild Wings: Excellent

I really hate that a chain restaurant is as freaking awesome for beer as BWW is. Buffalo Wild wings does something most other Springfield restaurants do not. They manage to have excellent range across their draft and bottled beers. Dark to light with wheats tossed in they have it all or at least as close as we can get in a Springfield dining establishment.

Drafts tend towards some of the more commonly seen around Springfield but they are carrying them consistently which is a huge plus:

Schlafly seasonal (curently Oktoberfest)
New Belgium Fat Tire (<= yeah it is really on draft. you don't have to settle for a 22oz bottle)
Boulevard Wheat (I love the inroads Boulevard has in town)
Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber (Flying Dog has always been a reliable choice for me)
Erdinger Oktoberfest Weizen (Nice beerdrinking choice, beerdrinkers!)

Out of the drafts, the choice to have either a Flying Dog or the Erdinger seasonal really impresses me. Someone at BWW has to love Flying Dog since they have had one of their beers on tap since I have been going there. The Erdinger seasonal wheat really offers a rare sample to try an import which has only recently become available in the United States market. If you enjoy a Blue Moon or Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat, give the Erdinger or Boulevard wheat choices a try. They come from smaller and more independent breweries which lack as much muscle as Coors or Miller.

BWW's bottle choices are where they really round out their offerings. The drafts are a little light on dark beers or highly hopped ales but they more than make up for it in their bottle selections:

Spoetzel's Shiner Bock (a dark lager)
Avery New World Porter (a dark ale)
New Holland Mad Hatter (their India Pale Ale which I do enjoy)
New Holland Full Circle (a Koelsch which is ideal to transition your BMC friends. It is lighter in body.)
New Holland Ichabod (their seasonal autumn ale with pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg)
Lagunitas 'Censored' Rich Copper Ale (big hops taste. good if you like that sort of thing.)
Rogue St. Rogue Red (this is a dry hopped red ale. quite tasty.)
Original Sin Hard Cider (from the east coast. it is drier than a woodchuck amber but quite nice.)
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (I was remiss in forgetting the mighty SNPA)

There you go. Dark brews are covered at one end and hopped ales at the other. They manage to cover a seasonal pumpkin taste as well as keeping any cider drinkers happy with the Original Sin. Now if they could only get that on tap. Buffalo Wild Wings only failings beyond not having every specific beer I like is that their wait staff and some extent their bar staff are not well versed in the beers that they carry. They can't offer any consistent recommendations based on other beers one might like and often are not aware they carry something you have just requested. The onus is on the drinker to know what they will like and ensure its availability. They also need to know that a glass will be required with a bottle order since most will not bring you one automatically.

Buffalo Wild Wings really sets a high bar for restaurants in Springfield. Perhaps their corporate backing has something to do with that. As long as they manage to consistently present some excellent choices in draft and bottled beer, I will keep coming back even if it breaks my non-chain eating habit. Curse their siren song. It makes me a hypocrite.

Buffalo Wild Wings: Excellent

September 17, 2008

Cafe Brio

Tonight I hit the restaurant I meant to be the first place covered on this here blog. I'll admit Cafe Brio holds a special place in my heart since it was the 'first date' restaurant for my wife and I. We probably, on average, eat there once or twice a month. I try to vary my beer choice but never my food. My friends, Cafe Brio has the best damn pocket chicken chimichangas I have ever been blessed as consume. Alter the refried pintos with black beans and you have a tasty slice of heaven.

My beer rating for Cafe Brio: Excellente!

However I must caveat the excellent. Their beer menu has dropped off a few more exclusive brews and they are down to five or so non-mass marketed beers. If you were a fan of Abita Breweries out of New Orleans, those are now gone.

They have your basic American lagers and tip the hat to imports by stocking Newcastle, Pacifico, Dos Equis (both types) and Negra Modelo. All basic beers that allow for some variety and perhaps parity with the cuisine.

However their excellent rating came from the following five brews:

Rogue Dead Guy (Maibock)
Rogue American Amber
Flying Dog Tire Bite (Koelsch)
Lost Coast Brewery Indica (India Pale Ale)
Xingu (a Black Beer from Cervejaria Independente, Rio De Janeiro, Brasil)

These five beers give any beer lover a range from dark to light and hops to malt.While Rogue and Flying Dog products are becoming more plentiful, Xingu is pretty rare in restaurants or bars and I haven't ever seen Lost Coast Brewery's Indica in any bar, restaurant or store including Friar Tuck. Apparently the Tire Bite and Indica are new enough additions that they aren't yet on the beer list. So if you are keen to try either one, ask for them by name. Just remember to request a glass since beer is best when poured into a glass with a fine head.

Swirl, Sniff, Drink. Cafe Brio is excellent for your taste buds.

Cafe Brio: Excellent

September 15, 2008


User participation is welcome on this one:

Oktoberfest is a style of lager that was popularized in Germany. The beer which is technically known as Maerzen (<= pretend the e is really an umlaut over the a)is a type of lager which was traditionally brewed in the spring, lagered all summer long and brought out for a festival at the end of September. If you just go ahead and rent Beerfest you'll learn all about it. Anyway the beer is now typically a malty brew with medium or better body and not a significant amount of hop flavor or aroma. Malt flavor is the name of the game and it is most tasty. I've been snagging Oktoberfests as the've come out and I'd like to share my favorite so far. The group has consisted of brews from Schlafly (St. Louis Brewery), Capital Brewery (out of Middleton, WI), Spaten Brewery (from Munich) and Flying Dog Brewery (out of Maryland). Let me tell you, for me, so far my favorite has been:

Flying Dog's Dogtoberfest

It has a wonderful malt character with enough of a hops balance that just nails it for me. As if that wasn't enough, their bottles are homebrewer friendly which means I can re-use them to bottle my own brews. I am also unfairly biased towards dogs in general.

There are quite a few more out there to try (Boulevard's Bob 47 and Paulaner Brewery's entry) so I doubt I'll have tasted them all before the season is up.

I encourage everyone to get out there and pick up a six of an Oktoberfest and let us know what you think.

Update: I have picked up some Boulevard's Bobs 47 Oktoberfest and while good it doesn't yet knock Dogtoberfest off its perch. I had high hopes for Boulevard because I felt they had hands down the best seasonal Irish Ale this Spring that I was fortunate enough to try.

September 14, 2008

1st restaurant review: Corner Pub

I went to Corner Pub Saturday. I am overly fond of their Cuban sandwich and, even if they had horrible beer choices, I'd frequent it often.

My beer rating for Corner Pub is: Good!

Corner Pub has an pretty good selection for anyone interested in beer. They carry not only the Sam Adams Seasonal, currently Oktoberfest, on draft but also now stock Spoetzel Breweries Shiner Bock which is an acceptable choice for a dark lager. In bottles, they carry Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale as well as Boulevard's Wheat beer. For those of you who are New Belgium fans, they have Fat Tire, 1554 and Mothership Wit.

Don't go there expecting too much off the beaten path because, at last check, they no longer carry Rogue's Dead Guy and don't have anything in the highly hopped arena but most snobs should find something definitely within their palate.

For those of you who love ciders, they only have Woodchuck Amber. Too bad.

Beer: Good!

Corner Pub: Good!

I am your self-appointed Beer god!

So I thought to join the blogging world to sit high on my cloud and drop some beer knowledge on everyone. I did not, however, figure out how I would convey my disjointed set of thoughts: fact and opinion into anything worthwhile.

Hence, I needs me a ratings system. Restaurants, bars and stores alike there is only one way to judge and that is on variety. I am a big believer in drinking regionally followed closely by quality brewers. I also shun most imports simply because I think the long shipping time hurts quality and I find that most types (Belgian possibly excluded) have been recreated here with as good or better results.

Bad: Your establishment only carries what is known as BMC products: Bud, Miller or Coors. It is the typical mass-market stuff which, while appealing to some, leaves much to be desired for the beer snobs.

Poor: Your establishment carries a well rounded BMC complement plus some 'imports' owned by the biggies: InBev, DiaGeo, etc. It is pretty much all lagers with a few 'ales' thrown in like Bass or Guiness. Hopefully you at least covered one stout and one wheat amongst your selection.

Acceptable: Your establishment in addition to having way too many BMC products and big name imports at least carries a big name craft-level brewer. It is probably Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) but at least should be something a beer snob can down.

Good: Your establishment has moved a little beyond Sammy and imports as qualifying for a well rounded beer complement. You have picked up some of the more common craft beers out there. You carry one or more of the following: Boulevard, St Louis (Schlafly), Goose Island, Spoetzel (Shiner) as well as possibly dipping into putting one or more of their seasonals (including Sam Adams) in botles or on draft (bonus points).

Excellent: Your establishment carries beer most of the population has never heard of. The beer ranges a might gamut from stouts and porters to india pale ales. Your wheats come in multiple styles from hefewizens to wit beers and aren't made by BMC. You are the mecca for all that is beery in Springfield.

So there you have it. It is totally subjective with a few measurable metrics in there. I will try and highlight the best choices at places I try but I may miss stuff, I may be drunk and I may not hit the restaurant, bar or store you frequent. Word is bond.

September 12, 2008

Homebrewing in the Land of Lincoln

It is limited but that is not to say: it can't be done and it can't be great.

Your only real option without driving an hour North, East or South is to order online or visit Friar Tuck. If you start, by all means, become familiar with Friar Tuck's selection because you will invariably forget to order something and will need to pick it up last minute there. Hopefully they will have your need in stock.

Tuck's homebrew supplies are in the same aisle as there warm beer selection. If you are wanting to start homebrewing then you will likely be familiar with this area. They have starter kits and beer kits to brew both, I think, by Brewer's Best. These make great ways to start since all the consumables are packaged in each beer kit and you won't need much beyond bottles for each brew you make.

Once you move past the extract kits and decide to throw together your own recipes, they still have quite the selection of loose stock which should keep you happy until you decide to move to all-grain but, by that time, you'll have likely moved to ordering from an internet homebrew shop to obtain the specialty grains needed.

I encourage anyone with an interest to go and pick up a starter kit and a beer kit of a style you'll enjoy. Tuck is our only homebrew supply shop since the demise of the Grape and Grain and it would help everyone involved in the hobby to show there is demand in Springfield.

Time for a Beer blog dedicated to Springfield

I am not an author. I need to remind myself of that at least three times before I post anything. I am, however, a beer drinker and beer maker. Both hobbies have given me a deeper appreciation for all the different varieties of beer that can be had.

Unfortunately Springfield is mostly a barren wasteland for beer connoisseurs. Sure there are some highlights like Cafe Brio, for restaurants, or Brewhaus, for bars, but ultimately if your idea of a specialty brew isn't Sam Adams then you are out of luck. I hope to use this blog to share information with others on some of the better restaurants and bars in the greater Springfield area for having specialty brews.

Package liquor stores are improving but, compared to wine, it is still pretty lacking. Friar Tuck far and away seems to have the greatest variety of beer but many a grocery store is improving. Kudos to Schnucks and, especially, County Market for attempting to improve in those arenas.

Craft or specialty beer isn't for everyone and far too many people don't really care to try it. However, if you fall into the category of a craft beer lover, then maybe you can add or take something away from this blog.