I am writing this column a little bit in advance as I have some extra time now, as we all might, working from home.
I saw on the horizon my five-year anniversary of doing this column and realized I had fallen behind on some finer points of bookkeeping I try to do alongside this column.
When I first started this column May 1, 2015, I thought I wanted to be as even-handed as I could be with my recommendations. It has been a feature throughout the column — though as I did my research for this piece, not universally consistent — that I would have at least one beer pick of the week. It also has been a feature of this column these beer picks would have to be available locally and at the moment the column ran — that weekend — for readers to purchase. So, I thought I would keep track of what I was recommending so I could see if I was favoring one beer style, one brewery, one particular beer too often and, if so, switch gears and recommend something else.
Starting in 2015 through today, I have recommended 571 total beers. Now, I want this anniversary column to share my Top 20 most-recommended breweries and a Top 5 most-recommended beers.
I spent a little bit of time running these numbers, going late into the night one evening recently, with a Maplewood beer in hand, and I got to the end of it and was a little bit emotional as I saw during the course of five years I had accidentally done something I was proud of and wanted to share it with you. I did not aim at this point for these numbers to turn out this way, they just did. In the list below is the number of beers I have recommended at each listed brewery and the beer I most recommended from that brewery:
1. Brickstone, 49, APA
2. Revolution Brewing, 33, Fist City or Fistmas
3. Goose Island Beer Company, 21, with a note: This is likely higher as I have recommended the entire Bourbon County line multiple times, but I counted those as one each.
4. Hailstorm Brewing, 16, Prairie Madness
5. Bell’s Brewing, 15, Oberon
6. Half Acre Beer Company, 13, Daisy Cutter
7. Founders Brewing, 13, All Day IPA
8. Lagunitas Brewing, 12, Lil Sumpin Sumpin
9. Sierra Nevada Brewing, 11, Pale Ale
10. Two Brothers Brewing, 11, Northwind Imperial Stout
11. Metropolitan Brewing, 10, Generator Doppelbock
12. Three Floyds Brewing, 9, Alpha King
13. Hop Butcher, 8, World’s Exposition
14. Off Color Brewing, 8, Apex Predator
15. Maplewood Brewing, 7, The Charlatan
16. Dogfish Head Brewing, 7, 60 Minute IPA
17. Steam Hollow Brewing, 7, Pale Ale
18. Surly Brewing, 7, Furious IPA
19. Great Lakes Brewing, 6, Christmas Ale
20. Pipeworks Brewing, 6, Ninja Vs. Unicorn
My top 5 most-recommended beers:
• Brickstone APA
• Revolution Fist City APA
• Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (and all variants)
• Revolution Deth’s Star and or Straight Jacket (and all variants)
• Half Acre Daisy Cutter APA
As I said before, I was not trying to end up with a list like this. I was just earnestly going about my life and times in the craft beer scene here in Chicagoland. I wanted to capture the spirit of this scene — the people I have met, the places I have been, the events I have attended and the beers I have tried. I have been to a lot of places during these five years. My daughter was born. I finished a master’s degree start to finish during this time. I have had numerous jobs. I have started a podcast. At the time I started this column, I had 700 unique check-ins on Untappd. As the writing of this column, I have more than 4,600. That is a wild amount. I have been to 160 breweries since the start of this column. I have made countless friends along the way.
To some of those friends I have met along the way, thank you for inviting me in. The first person I met in the craft beer scene when I started was Tommy Vasilakis at Brickstone’s Brewpub. I have been grateful for his guidance navigating this scene ever since. It was because of Tommy that I met so many other brewers, bottle shop owners, craft beer bar owners and beer writer friends. This has been a truly exceptional journey, and I am glad to have started in my own backyard. I want to thank the friends I have met along the way, such as Nkosi White, of Chicago Beer Pass, who traveled with me to Denver for my first Great American Beer Festival and many late-night trips around Chicago. I want to thank Chalonda White, Afro Beer Chick, as well for being the better part of that duo and being a close friend. I want to thank Tom White and Jack Muldowney, of the former The Hop Review for the most high-concept parties in Chicago, all of your help and beers along the way. I want to thank Derek Yarno for reaching out and riding with me on all our crazy adventures and to all the Kankakee hold steadies for inviting me into your group and sharing your beer and your time. I want to thank Blane and Natalie White for inviting me over to brew with Blane in the garage and watch that project be built from a dream to a real life thing during the course of this column as well.
The last thing I wanted to say here at the end of this column is thank you to the Daily Journal for letting me do this column. I have had four editors in my time at the paper, and I wanted to thank each of them in order. First, I want to thank Rachael Reynolds-Soucie, Mary Hall, Chris Breach and Misty Knisely for your patience, mostly, and guidance. In particular, at this time of reflection on the beginning of this column, I wanted to say thank you to Rachael for giving me a chance and all of your guidance and patience as I learned how to do this while doing it.
Lastly, I wanted to say thank you to you, the reader. Five years has been a long time for you to tune every week and see what I have been up to. I appreciate your support during the years. I have met a great many of you at some of the events I have thrown during the years. I meet you at The Hoppy Pig and Brickstone, at Grapes & Hops, Paul’s Place, at Liquor World or the grocery store. The day my daughter was born, the doctor who was a partner in the practice went to, but hadn’t met yet, pulled me aside and asked if I was the Brew Dude. It has been a privilege to be a part of your lives during these many columns and many years. Thank you.
APA from Brickstone Brewery
ABV: 6.25 percent
Style: Pale Ale — American
Note from the brewery: “Deep golden in color, made with light caramel malts, hopped with loads of Amarillo hops with a slight citrus flavor, then dry hopped for four days for a plentiful aroma. Our brewmaster’s favorite.”
Where to buy: You can find this one all over Kankakee County in 12-ounce six packs for about $10. If you still are doing grocery pick-up, you can order this one from Kroger in Bourbonnais along with your other groceries to be delivered to your car.