Friday, November 16, 2007


I came home from last week’s Atlanta trip for two nights, then turned it around on Thursday with a trip to Chicago, a city I wish I could spend more time enjoying whenever I’m there. This was my fourth time in town – once for a trade show in, like, 1991 (!), then one night when I was the “road manager” for a band in 1993; a strange night spent in a suburb doing a focus group for the now-dead Disney Mobile service in 2003, and then this magic night last week. I vowed to find the best beer bar in town after my event was done with – and by gum, I did. Not only is Chicago’s MAP ROOM the best bar in town (sample size = 1), it might be my favorite bar ever. Seriously. Wait, you must be saying, what about THE TORONADO, in my hometown of San Francisco? Well, for those of you who’ve been to the Toronado, picture if you will a Toronado with bartenders who talk to you like you’re an intelligent but curious beer drinker, and who’ll spend some time helping you with your selection, rather than grunting at you, flexing their tattoos, and rapping on the bar w/ their knuckles. Picture punk rock (The Damned’s first album, anyone?) played at medium volume, rather than ear-splitting, I-can’t-hear-what-you-said volume. Picture having a place to stand or sit, picture over a dozen Belgian beers on tap, and a bottle selection to rival Toronado’s. Sure, Toronado rules now and always will, but THE MAP ROOM is where I’d rather spend a couple hours if that were, in fact, an option.

So anyway, I could not help myself when I saw that they had THREE FLOYDS ALPHA KING on tap. You may recall that we awarded that incredible beer “the full magilla” the one time we enjoyed it, a big 10/10, and THAT was from a bottle. Getting to slowly savor this elixir from a tap was worth whatever my employer had to pay to get me to Chicago in the first place. This is by all accounts a “pale ale”, but one of the most smooth, hoppy and juicy pale ales I’ve ever had, and quite possibly the best. I was proud to drink it in its home region. Did I stop there? Nay, nay! I wanted to go for something else local, and I asked the friendly fella behind the bar to grab me something called NOSFERATU by the excellent GREAT LAKES BREWING, but alas, they were tapped. OK, then what about that DE PROEF LA GRANDE BLANCHE I’ve heard so much about? Nope, tapped as well. These Chicagoans don’t mess around – no LEINENKUGELS in the pint glasses of these folks, no sir.

One beer on my must-try list was a new Belgian called GROTTEN BROWN, put together in tandem by the famed brewer Pierre Celis and the ST. BERNARDUS brewery in Belgium. I’d read enough to reckon that it’d be a good one – but I didn’t realize quite how good. Wow – this dark ale was incredibly non-fragrant, and yet had the taste of all sorts of dark fruits like plums & figs, and was smooth as velvet. I could not believe my winner’s luck in getting this one as opposed to the ones that were out of stock – this GROTTEN BROWN is one of the finest beers I’ve had all year, and easily the best from ST. BERNARDUS. I’d have had eight more had I not driven. 10/10! Two in one night – unreal. I called my wife and told her how great the Map Room was, and she got it in her head that I was trying to move the family to Chicago. Must’ve been the Grotten Brown talkin’.


Anonymous said...

I spent some time in Chicago a few months ago & ended up at The Map Room every day. It's easily one of the best - if not the best - bar I've ever been to. I love the Toronado & have often claimed it to be the greatest bar in the US but I kinda love it despite itself. Hate the music volume, love/hate the bartenders, and it ain't much to look at (unlike the awesome looking Map Room) but then again you get the feeling that if Russian River, Lost Abbey, Fantome, and the monks of Rochefort collaborated on a beer & only bottled one case, that somehow that case would end up at the Toronado!


beerinator said...

Glad you enjoyed the Map Room.

If you ever make it back here, you should let me know and I'll meet you there for a pint!

klew said...

I recently had quite the adventure at The Map Room. I love that bar and am trying to make it to Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds on late April.