The previous installment of the Chicago Series left off with Eno Sarris, myself, and my brother T-Bone enjoying a lovely afternoon at Three Floyds' Brew Pub. I was eating a delicious chicken sandwich. About an hour earlier, as described in in the aforementioned previous installment, we were lucky enough to be part of an outstanding tour of the Three Floyds brewing facilities by Andrew Mason, the brewery's production manager. While on the aforementioned tour described in the aforementioned installment, Andrew introduced us to several other Three Floyds' employees. On of them, a man named Pete, was now sitting at our table with us talking about beer, life, and baseball.
Truthfully, he was talking mostly with Eno, as T-Bone and myself were entranced by The Ren And Stimpy Show re-runs and golden-era professional wrestling being shown on the televisions throughout the pub. Regardless, it was because of this man Pete that we were able to track down Pipeworks Brewing Company's Ninja vs. Unicorn, a Double IPA, on tap at The Bad Apple, a bar in Chicago.
We said goodbye to Pete and Three Floyds and piled into my rented Ford Focus, myself with a six pack of Zombie Dust and Eno with a bottle of Floyd D'Rue for the BeerGraphs Fantasy Beer League champion. I pushed a button on the dashboard and said, “Destination Chicago!”
It turns out the button I thought was for voice recognition was actually for the rear defroster. So technically something happened – the rear defroster was now on – but generally rear defrosters lack the sort of theatrical pizzazz that I had hoped for our grand departure.
Dejected, I put the car in reverse and slowly backed out of the parking spot. I stopped abruptly and apologized for the rental's very sensitive brakes. I should have apologized for the driver's sensitive nature. If this car were a bathtub (and my insides were my outsides), I could have filled it with my tears.
We drove in silence toward Chicago. Eno asked me to pull over several times. I refused, fearing he might run away like a beautiful gazelle. Looking down at his phone, he said, “Here, take this exit. It looks like there is a park pretty close to the highway.”
In my mind, Eno's statements regarding possible parks along the highway only furthered the myth that he was a gazelle and that he was looking to run. I feigned sleep in an effort to ignore his requests. As I drove on, T-Bone brought up interesting facts about Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale while Eno talked endlessly about Beers Above Replacement. They spoke not in the form of casual conversation, but rather simultaneously, which means “at the same time”. Their sentences overlapped. Their words piled up like a careless platter of floppy pancakes. But like all other breakfast platters that have been set down before you, this seemed to ease the tension and helped pass the time.
Back in Chicago, I parked the car near the Bad Apple and wondered if that car ride had actually happened. Specifically, I wondered if the tears were real. And if so, were they mine or Eno's or T-Bone's? Or did the three of us collectively squeeze out one giant tear? Why were our shirts all wet? Did we encounter a waterfall? Did we actually stop at a park? Did we sing "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips? And if so, did T-Bone hit the harmonies?
One has to assume that if we encountered a waterfall we would have sung “Waterfalls” by TLC. So, logically, it is safe to say that there was no waterfall and therefore our shirts must be wet from tears. Real tears. I know that there is pain tears. Hold on for one more day tears. Break free, break from the chains tears.
TearGraphs dot com.
As we walked toward the bar, we walked right past Half Acre Beer Company where, we later found out, fellow BeerGraphs contributor Josh Augustine was sitting inside. I believe we each said aloud that we needed to visit half Acre before we left Chicago. I don't know if Eno ever made it back, but T-Bone and I did not. This stands as my only regret concerning my time in Chicago during the summer of 2014.
Once inside the Bad Apple, we found seats at the bar and promptly ordered, and then were served, Pipeworks' Ninja vs. Unicorn. We enjoyed it very much, but with our palettes pretty much burned from our time at Three Floyds, said to each other that it reminded us of a hoppier, more bitter version of Zombie Dust. Whether that is an accurate description or not, I have no real idea. At this point in the night, I was hitting a bit of a wall. It may have been the setting sun as we walked into the Bad Apple, the dim lighting we found inside, or the slow accumulation of beers inside my body, but I was quickly losing steam.
T-Bone and I had arrived in Chicago around 10 or 11 that morning, and now as we left the Bad Apple, the July sun had set and, according to Eno, we still had one more stop to make before we retired for the evening – assuming we were up for it. Without a moments hesitation, we announced that we were indeed up for it.
The “it” that we declared we were “up for” turned out to be a visit to the SaBEERmetrics headquarters. Once there, we met Jeff and he graciously opened several absolutely amazing beers. First, I had a small sample of De Struise's Damnation V Double Black, which was maybe the thickest, definitely the most viscous, Russian Imperial Stout I've ever had. It was intense. It was strange. It was 26% ABV.
From there, things got just a bit lighter with a glass of Cantillon's Vigneronne, a white grape lambic. This was the first time I'd had it and I almost instantly considered it one of the best beers I'd ever had. It was tingly on the lips, tart on the tongue, with great musty wood notes alongside the white grape, and deliciously sour.
As we drank the Vigneronne, we talked mostly beer and some baseball. T-Bone put on the ESPY's to hear Stuart Scott's dramatic speech and after turning it up to a volume that prohibited anyone from ignoring it, promptly fell asleep on Jeff's couch. As T-Bone snored, we moved on to Jester King's Atrial Rubicite – another delicious, oak aged sour with amazingly true flavors of raspberry.
After a small pour of Mikeller's Beer Geek Vanilla Shake, a superb coffee oatmeal stout with big vanilla flavors, it was time wake up the sleeping beast that was T-Bone and head to our final destination – our beds. I gave T-Bone a small nudge and received no response. I tried again with similar results. He was out. I stepped up my stimulus game and started in with a slow and steady jostling. As I quickly escalated from jostle to shake, T-Bone slowly began to stir.
I said, “We got to go.”
And with that he was awake and up on his feet. Or so I thought until he reached down and picked up a stack of papers held together by a binder clip from Jeff's coffee table. He quickly flipped through the pages mumbling gibberish as Jeff leaped into action to take it from his hands. At this point, I wasn't sure if T-Bone was just pulling a terribly unfunny joke or was out-of-his-mind-drunk. Jeff was probably even more unsure considering we had only met one another just an hour or so earlier. He tried to pull the papers from T-Bone's hand, citing very calmly that that it was an important research document for work. It wasn't until Bone refused to release them and then, rather forcibly, pulled back while mumbling something about reviewing the funds that I realized what was actually happening. T-Bone, a known sleepwalker and talker, was still asleep. He was still asleep, and apparently he thought he was at work.
We were able to get the papers safely out of T-Bone's clutches and promptly said our good byes. On the way home, T-Bone seemed completely awake and alert, except for the fact that he was having an imaginary phone call with an imaginary client the entire ride to our hotel. As the car stopped at each red light and stop sign, he would pause his conversation long enough to say, “Whoa, what's going on,” and then pick up his financial conversation right where he left off, usually with a “Okay, let's start with the last four digits of your account number and I'll take a look...” or a quote regarding a fund's average return over some time span.
Considering we were driving through a major metropolitan area, our car came to a stop, oh, I don't know, every 30 to 90 seconds. And each time, “Whoa, what's going on?”
Drive through an intersection, get a few blocks, slowly pull up to the next red light.
“Whoa, what's going on?”
I laughed each time.
The real hilarity ensued as we arrived at the hotel and T-Bone try to buzz us in the door waving his imaginary work ID in front of the sensor. The desk buzzed us in around his third attempt, a coincidence that only served to inflate Bone's sense that his dream world was, in fact, the real world.
As we approached, the clerk said, “Hello.”
To which T-Bone responded with “How can I help you?”
Immediately the tables were turned. It was clear T-Bone would be providing the customer service tonight and the clerk would be the customer. Things were happening too fast for really anyone to understand what exactly was happening, but when I slow down the tape inside my brain I believe the following events took place:
The hotel clerk briefly smiled, like Jeff and myself earlier, unsure if this man approaching his front desk was pulling a terribly unfunny joke or was just out-of-his-mind-drunk.
T-Bone leaned on the front desk and said to the clerk, “I'd be happy to look into that for you, could I have the last four digits of your account number or your social?”
He appeared completely awake and sounded completely professional. As the clerk paused for a moment considering how to handle the situation, or possibly to give Bone the last four digits of his social, T-Bone made his way around the front desk and headed for the clerk's computer. With his hands now at the keyboard, he picked up the telephone receiver, hit the enter key a few times and said, “Okay, go ahead.”
It all happened so quickly there was nothing for me to do but react. I was immediately behind the desk with him, hanging up the telephone, pulling him away from the computer, and apologizing to the clerk. I explained he was sleepwalking and apologized again. The clerk actually took it mostly in stride and checked us in.
As we walked away from the desk, toward our room, the clerk said, “Have a good night.”
T-Bone, always the sleepwalking business man, responded, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
“No, I think that's it,” the clerk yelled back.
“Okay, have a nice day.”
“Thanks, you too.”
And with that see-ya, T-Bone was awake. Apparently now that his work call was resolved, the sleepwalking episode was over. He asked if we were at the hotel. I said we were. He said, “Good, I'm exhausted.”
Galaxy Unicorn, Pipeworks Brewing Co. (5.87 BAR, 116 Syle+)
I brought a bottle of this home with me from Chicago, based on the recommendations of several Chicago natives that this was the one to have over Ninja vs. Unicorn. Frankly, I wish had the suitcase space to bring home a bottle of each, but alas, I did not. These are direct from my tasting notes.
Appearance = 4.5/5
Liquid gold with maybe a finger of off white head from the pour that quickly settled to just a rim around the glass. Just a bit of lacing.
Smell = 5/5
Could smell it before it got within a foot of my sniffer. Tropical fruit, lots of pineapple, apricot. Just a touch of booze. After a sip, grapefruit and pine became more noticeable in the nose. Started to take a minute or two between sips to allow the tropical fruit to make its way back.
Taste = 5/5
Well that is absolutely delicious! Flavor follows the nose almost entirely – tropical fruit, pineapple, and apricot with grapefruit and pine making their way into the finish. The grapefruit bitterness in the finish starts to build. Again, taking a minute or two between sips, while not easy, really lets the tropical fruit come back to the forefront of the flavors and the nose.
Feel = 4.5/5
Medium body, pretty standard feel for a Double IPA, maybe a bit more slickness, but still crisp. Not overly sweet feeling or juicy, just right in the middle, which fits real well overall. If anything, it leans to the juicy side just a touch. The slickness comes out more as it warms.
Overall = 5/5
So happy I brought this back home. Blown away – might be the best beer from time in Chicago, even though technically I'm drinking this in Pennsylvania.
Follow J. R. Shirt on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt. Listen to the Drinking With Shirt Podcast here at Beergraphs or iTunes. T-Bone, the sleepwalking businessman, is the co-host. The next episode will feature an epic Beersport between two highly rated Oktoberfests.