Christmas at City Steam


I’ve written about beers from City Steam Brewery in the past – but I did have to take a minute to write one about their Norwegian Wood this year. I want to confess a couple things before I write more. One is that I don’t particularly love Winter or Holiday beer. Give me anything from Autumn and I will have it all day, but Winter isn’t me. The next is that I’ve always liked City Steam because they have a lot of wonderful go to beers (you can read about City Steam’s beer here), but I have never actually found anything that stood out to me.

Norwegian Wood is both a beer from City Steam and a Winter beer, and I just loved it. Norwegian Wood is a Spiced Beer meaning basically what it sounds, the beer takes on the flavor of the spice that is used to make it.

The initial issue I have with a lot of beers folks drink over the holidays is that they’re a little to rich and creamy for me. The beer smells like light cinnamon and spice and has a crisp cinnamon flavor. It ends with some caramel malt flavor to balance the spice just before the finish. I’ll only say you should veer away from this one if you need a lot of hops in your beer – because you won’t taste that here. The lasting taste in your mouth will leave you saying “this tastes like Christmas.”

If you like decent beer you will absolutely appreciate this and can totally have two. If you typically go out during the holidays to get a cookies and cream martini with cinnamon on the rim – you’re going to start drinking beer because you had this.

If you get over to City Steam an added plus is that they will serve this on nitrogen for am extra smooth flavor.

This is absolutely recommended and props to City Steam for making a holiday beer so accommodating to every day tastes that remains yummy and creative enough for a total beer snob to rave about. Great work.


Beer on Division Street


Those of you who have been reading know that some of my best beer tasting days come unexpected. I was flying back into Chicago after a job interview, and ready to drive back home to Green Bay later in the afternoon (after a terrible, overnight delayed flight I might add) when my boyfriend invited me to join his brother’s birthday party. As part of Chicago’s Beer week, they were going to jump around a couple bars featuring IPA’s, and that’s my kind of party. The night turned out well in part because of the kind of beer I was drinking. I noticed while I was writing this that all of the beer I had was relatively strong, flavorful, and light enough to have a lot. Cheers to that.

Our first stop was Small Bar, where I started with the Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. There’s always one beer during a beer week, whether you visit for the whole week or just a day, that you finish thinking “this is great for beer week;” this was that beer. This beer is nice and light, not too strong, but has a great bitter flavor with a nice sweet malt aftertaste. I say it’s great for beer week, because one or two won’t get you plastered, you can take the time to taste it, and be ready for more. It was a great start to the night.

Most folks who like a good beer have had a Stone IPA, but it was a treat to try it on cask. In true Stone tradition, this IPA is flavorful & bold. It’s much smoother on cask – and if you’re a fan of coarse IPA’s you should be prepared. The flavor is great. It has a nice citrusy smell, light citrus bite when you start sipping it, and a nice minty hop flavor. It’s a great example of a classic, well-made IPA.

I just have to add that a grabbed a side of macaroni and cheese at small bar. It’s really good. It is full of not too sharp creamy white cheddar, is topped with bread crumbs, and is the perfect size for a snack if you’re having trouble holding out until dinner.

Our next stop was Jerry’s, both for dinner & drinks. My next beer was Three Floyd’s Artic Panzer Wolf – I had this once or twice before this visit, but never really took time to write down how it tasted. Honestly it’s fairly standard – but went really well with dinner. This beer is medium weight – and super flavorful. If you’re a hop head who likes some creative malt flavor on the side, this is a good one for you. It also balanced out my dinner really well.

This is another one of those paragraphs in the blog that talks about food. I just have to mention Jerry’s – because you shouldn’t ever go to Chicago without going to Jerry’s and getting a kick ass sandwich. They have a menu of dozen’s creatively crafted and named sandwiches. If for some reason there isn’t something for you – you can even build your own. My personal favorite is the “PB&J&C,” the “C” stands for chutney. Think about your classic PB&J with light cheese, a touch of super flavorful chutney, and some fresh fruit. It’s really a perfect twist on classic.

I should say, I rarely use the phrase “perfect twist on a classic;” if I want a classic, I’ll just have that. Jerry’s has something for everyone – and always a perfect sandwich to go with your beer. I left this experience both refreshed, a little drunk, and ready for our next stop.

Last, we stopped at Bangers & Lace, where I forgot in the presence of an intriguing menu that we were even out for IPA. First I tried the Stone Imperial Russian Stout – I liked this one, but I just had a couple drinks; at this point in the night, I had no business having any more. It was sweet & smooth, but still really strong. It has a balanced flavor involving dark fruit, chocolate, and coffee flavors. The beer is medium weight, so you can drink it pretty quickly if you like the taste, but you’ll probably feel it if you don’t take your time for at least a little while.

The beer I decided to order a full glass of was Stone Mixtape. This had a nice caramel malty taste offset by a few bitter notes that give it a seriously well rounded flavor with a spicy edge that also includes a hint of sharp citrus and bitterness. It’s no surprise that if you look into it a little more, you’ll find out that this beer is a limited release blend of some amazing past Stone creations. It was another light weight, strong beer with a nice kick. Your stomach could handle eating with it – but honestly; it would just spoil the taste.

I wouldn’t recommend either of the Stone beers here for those of you who are new to the beer world; they’re really something to ease into. In a nutshell, you’ll like both of these if you like sweet, creamy, and strong. If you’re looking for something standard to compare to, I think that those of you who like Belgian Abbey style ale should give these a try.

Overall, it was a great night. More information on these places, which were all great, is below. If someone ever invites you out for a good night of quality beer drinking with good people, I recommend going. Socializing with intelligent people is fun, and good for your health. While Wisconsinites tend to have a foul opinion of folks from Chicago – I will say Chicagoans are really starting to appreciate, serve, and make good craft beer. It’s always a good day when we can highlight something we have in common.

More Information on the Places:

Jerry’s: @WithHotSause,*

Bangers & Lace: @bangersandlace,

Small Bar: @SmallBarDst,

*I want to start lobbying for Jerry’s to have a side of grilled vegetables. Then I could have an absolutely perfect meal there. They either have veggies with interesting dressing, or pickled veggies. Grilled vegetables are pretty serious to me.