Posts Tagged ‘Craft Beer’

By: Raul Parra
Email: rp@99sportsproblems.com
Twitter: ParraPalliative

I’m sitting here waiting for the last hour to wind down on my smoked wings.  I can smell the sweet hickory in the air.  Like a sacrifice, it burns so it can feed the gods and in doing so it creates milky white apparitions in the sky.  I’m pondering now as many ticks come and go, like random city buses zagging and zigging in fog infested nights.

What is it about BBQ that stirs my soul?  What is it about fine drink that pleases me so?  I kick back and wonder.  Sounds ring out around me.  The sickening off beat rhythm of a basketball being bounced is enough to drive any time keeping drummer mad.  The random yapping of a so called dog.  I hear rim, another shot and a miss.

I try to push my thoughts out, but I am not successful.  They keep coming at me like a desecrated zombie, shambling toward me without care to injury or death.

Again it hits me.

Why am I drawn to smoked meats and strong drink?

Then a flash of inspiration!

A strong beer and good meal is community.  A stranger in a new city may only have to find the right pub in order to belong.  After the first round, he is family.  Gathering around a well kept fire and chewing on the bounty of the day is enough to raise even the most foulest of spirits.  Strangers become friends, friends become tribe and tribe lifts up to realm of spirit.

We often share stories after a few rounds of good spirits.  This is becoming rare in the modern age of internet and “all you can view” TV.  We create myth and legend around the table,  something desperately needed in a time of 24 hour “realism.”

We tend to share in a BBQ setting.  The normal selfishness of everyday life seems to melt away.  We open our homes to others.  We act, even if it is untrue, as if our bounty could never end and encourage others to take their fill, often before we’ve had our own.

We experience the outdoors in a way that most city dwellers never would.  I know as well as you do, hanging in your backyard is not exactly the great outdoors.  However, in some cases this option is all certain people are left with.

When done right, merriment in the form of liquor and good food reminds us that we are together on this rock.  Not only are we together… we are OF it.  Not the masters of it.  We are not observing it.  We are it. We are the thing.

By: Raul Parra
Email: rp@99sportsproblems.com
Twitter: ParraPalliative

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The Joints

B.B. King’s Blues Club  –  This was the first place I stopped in on my little Southern Adventure.  When I first walked in, like many places on Beale Street, there was a band already in the throes of a Blues Orgasm.  A smile stretched across my face and I thought, ok this is it!  However, I was quickly whisked away to another part of the building.  Torn from the sonic assault of the band.  I was marched up a dark staircase into a modern day speak easy.

What I didn’t know at the time is BB is hiding a fine dining restaurant on top of his kick ass juke joint.  Try the Duck and waffles, they’re to die for.

If you’re not into the fancy pants stuff head down stairs to catch an earful of blues and eat some of the best ribs I’ve ever had.  Also, your visit would not be complete without drinking a Strong Island Ice Tea and having some snacks off the  Meat and Cheese platter.

Flying Saucer – A tad bit off of Beale, this bar turned out to be the missing link in my life.  Quirky, friendly, fun, sexy (love those skirts ladies) and full of beer!  You can’t miss with this place.  It is easily in my Top 10 favorite bars of all time.  Special thanks to Courtney and Tiffany for making our first night there special, we will never forget you ladies.

The Joints to Avoid

Alfred’s – This place completely avoids the gritty/dirty South blues vibe of most of Beale and replaces it with a frat boy ambiance that is normally reserved for a college town rape-huts (AKA bars.)  Let’s put it this way, when you’re located on one of the most historically significant sites in America in terms of Blues culture, you don’t play Daughtry through the PA.

Pig – From the outside this spot looks like a for sure winner.  They even have a trophy in front window claiming to have won “Best Ribs 2003.”  Well in my opinion the fire must have went out in their smoker since then.  “Best Cold Food, Filthy Dining Room and Shit Service 2012.” is the trophy I would set aside for them.  Just cause your slogan is “Pork With an Attitude!”…doesn’t mean you should act like a dick.

Things to do When You’re Not Drunk

Rock N’ Soul Museum –   Whether you’re a hard core fan of Rock or Soul or just getting into the mix, this place is for you.  The museum does a great job of giving you a fantastic overview of the impact the Memphis music community has had on the greater music landscape from 1930-1970’s.

Sun Studios – Say what you will.  I am telling you this is the birthplace of rock and roll.  If you don’t know the history of Sun.  Stop what you’re doing… get down to Memphis and ask El Dorado to school your punk ass in the history of our rock world.  End of Story.

My Top 5 Beers

While I was slinking and gallivanting the streets of Memphis I had the pleasure of sampling over 20 different craft beers.  The list below is what i enjoyed most:

  • Green Flash, Double Stout (American Double/Imperial Stout8.80% ABV):  Jet Black, smells of chocolatey malts and tastes of coffee and a tiny bit of fudge.
  • 1516 Brewing Company, NZ Victory Hop Devil IPA (American IPA, 6.70% ABV):  Orange like amber color, smells of citrus and hops and tastes of grapefruit.  Little bit of bitter mixed with a subdued sweetness.
  • Yazoo Brewing Company, Dos Perros (American Brown Ale, 3.50% ABV):  Pours a nice brown color, smells of  nuts and toffee and tastes earthy and sweet, very light cocoa.
  • Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu, Premium Lager (Munch Helles Lager, 5.20% ABV):  Clear, straw yellow, smells of grassy hops and hints of lemon.  Tastes of bread like malt.
  • Yazoo Brewing Company, Sue (American Porter, 9.00% ABV):  Pours black as night, smells of smoke and tastes the same.  I absolutely adore this beer!
By: Raul Parra
Email: rp@99sportsproblems.com
Twitter: ParraPalliative

Everyone has that one friend, pal, amigo or knucklehead in their life that seems to be stuck in perpetual devil horned bliss.  He couldn’t tell you about the state of the country. However, if you wanted to know every amalgam of every Metal/Hard Rock band since 1970, he could oblige you.  In detail and with NO QUARTER spared  (See what I did there?).  You’re getting the picture now.  You can see the image of his face beginning to form in your mind.  As hard as you try not to, you can still see his sleeveless t-shirts…

Manowar?

Venom?

Pantera?

Flames and voluptuous half naked women dance on the black fabric background.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t remember the wardrobe perfectly, cause they are all the same.  You’re smiling now and thinking of the great times you’ve shared… Axl Rose inspired shouting sessions in your Mom’s Old Buick, you know the one that smelled like spoiled milk and burnt out brain cells.  Also, the time you destroyed the local jocks in an all you can drink Jägermeister competition.  Metallica would have been so proud of you.

As that goofy smile fades you begin to think, “What ever happened to that guy?  I don’t see him much any more.  I could use another night like that!”

I know what you’re saying.  Well smarty pants Raul…. where would YOU go to double fist booze and head bang till you concuss yourself.  Well fear not, after you’re done tracking that Goober down, I have the perfect bar for y’all.

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Lock Down Bar and Grill (1024 N. Western Ave, Chicago Il, 60622, 773-451-lock) is the ideal place for you two Bro’los to drink some beer and share the story about the chick you were both sleeping with in high school (“Dude!  I swear I didn’t know!”).  Unless you’re a filthy Communist and you hate America you probably love burgers and BOY HOWDY does Lock Down deliver.

Running up and down the menu, my finger anxiously scanned for a familiar face.  I saw some words that I recognized, cheeseburger and mac and cheese.  However, they all seemed to have mutated into a more powerfully delicious monster of culinary dominance.  I began to sweat.  Surely a drink would calm my nerves.  A sultry eyed beauty (Thanks Katie!)  rewarded me for my lack of moxie and brought me a cold one. Bürger Beer is like PBR’s hotter, younger and less STD infested cousin.  I sucked it down in what seemed like one gulp and turned my mind back to the problem at hand.  My stomach was screaming that is was empty.

Then I saw it.

Or maybe it saw me.

It extended it’s sweaty jewelry encrusted hand from beyond the two dimensional world of the menu and gripped my throat until I croaked out, “I’ll have a Big Elvis.”

“The Big Elvis” is a 10 oz burger, charbroiled to juicy perfection, topped with slightly melted peanut butter and caramelized bananas.  If that isn’t enough to make you go from six to midnight, the crispiest of bacon ever makes an appearance as well, dropped down on The King’s crown like propaganda pamphlets spouting delicious swine rhetoric.  You couldn’t have paid me to stop smiling.

Oh, I wouldn’t dare forget to mention the green onion, bacon and bread crumb infused Mac and Cheese.  Kraft ain’t got shit on you Lock Down.  They call it MAC and cheese for a reason.  Cause you Mac’d on Kraft’s girl, stole her, and afterwards made Kraft OFFER you his shoes and made him hold your pocket.  Pimp shit.

“Holy Flat Screen TVs Batman!” I blurted out with greasy bits of burger flying onto the table.

Why so many?  I thought.

There must have been at least a dozen TV’s beaming at me.  For a moment my imagination ran away from me.  Had I unknowingly strolled my way into a Project MKULTRA inspired testing center, where nefarious dudes used subliminal messages peppered in metal and hard rock DVDs to convince me to kill a pop star of their choosing?  Would I leave this place and jump on the nearest plane, purchase a gun from absent toothed Hill William at a Swamp O’ Rama, then find Chris Brown and shoot him in his face?

Nah.  These nice folks just love their music.  Also, I might be losing my mind.

They didn’t go cheap on the sound system either.  Every thunderous uttering of the kick drum was heard loud and clear.  The crispy high end voice of the guitars soared like mythical thunder birds from the inner sleeve of your withered and semen stained copy of AD&D.  They nailed the virtual concert experience for sure.

My belly was full.  My beer can empty.  My senses battered from rock and/or roll. What else could a red blooded American male want?  The answer is nothing.

By: Raul Parra
Email: rp@99sportsproblems.com
Twitter: ParraPalliative

I want to root for Brixie’s (9526 W Ogden, Brookfield, IL, 1.708.387.0050). I really do. Any bar that has the cojones to have 32 different craft beers on tap and over 40 some-odd beers in bottles and cans, deserves to be applauded in my book.

However, like most modern bars that I have been encountering lately, they are going through an identity crisis.

Is it a classic Bar and Grill? Their kitchen is capable of delivering scrumptiously juicy burgers and crispy hand cut fries, if it’s open and if they have a cook employed at the moment. Sometimes it seems as if Bobby Fischer mans the grill in the kitchen, I’m always searching for him. Which is a shame because I want to be stuffing a Brixie Burger into my already french fried greased mouth. Alas, it seems as if the proprietors of this sagging establishment are putting me on a forced diet that could have only come from the depths of a Nazi’s brain. You are only allowed to smell the fryers and grill top wafting the spirits of meals past into the air, don’t ask for one; or the Gestapo will come round back and kidnap you!

Is it a sports bar? They have TVs and a projection screen and they use these devices to display sporting events. Yet, certain bartenders tend to play their music through an Ipod during sporting events, instead of the game audio. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience the horrible hippie, trip hop, first wave of ska bullshit that said bartender plays. It’s awful, it sounds as if Dave Mathews is shitting on Bob Marley in a reverb chamber and the Sex Pistols are running the sound board.

Look, I am a musician and I have been in plenty bands, I had to learn from experience. Music is a lot like religion, if you are not already into it, no one wants a stranger shoving it their face like chloroform soaked rag. People like what they like. No one at a bar cares what the bartender is “in to.” Especially if you’re there to watch “the game.”

Side note: If you are in a band and you’re fortunate enough to have stumbled across our world changing Blog, hear me and hear me well. Never grace the stage at Brixie’s. Their lack of basic acoustic knowledge transforms you into a low-fi 8 track tape playing out of a Omni, inside of Osama Bin Laden’s cave of death, moments before the Seals dropped down and gave him the old “What For”. It’s basically a giant cave that swallows vocals, thins out guitars and makes drums sound like tin cans.

Anywho… I digress.

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Is it a place to check out cool and interesting craft brews? It certainly could be. I didn’t stutter, mainly because that’s impossible to do in print, 32 DIFFERENT CRAFT BEERS… 32 cervezas artesanales diferentes … XXXII VARIIS ARS BEERS. Someone clearly loves to get their beer on. However, where is that person? Besides having the latest brew shoved in my face, it’s rare that I would have a single conversation with a bartender (Save Bruce) about the complexities of… let’s say… a stout. I almost always feel lost when I approach the altar of beer that is their tap selection. I wish I had a Phantom Beer Genius there to hold my hand and tell me:

Phantom Beer Genius: “Everything is going to be ok… here hold this Dog Fish Head 120 Minute…. feels good right? Go on take a sip. Did you know that 120 Minute IPA is brewed to a colossal 45-degree plato, boiled for a full two hours while being continuously hopped with high-alpha American hops, then dry-hopped daily in the fermenter for a month and aged for another month on whole-leaf hops!”

Raul: “Wow, this is delicious and you are so imformative thank you so much.”

Phantom Beer Genius: “No problem Raul, this is my job and I enjoy it. By the way, knock knock…

Raul: “Who’s there?”

Phatom Beer Genius: ” Your friend the Phantom Beer Genius and I’ll always be here for you.”

Doesn’t that sound amazing?

So am I dissing the Bro’s over there by da Brixie’s? Kinda… but kinda ‘nah. I think it is just suffering from a symptom of the times. Bars trying to cater to every single type of drinker out there instead of letting their freak flags wave high.

If you want to be the bro bar with college games blarring over the TV’s and people still pretending to be in their mid to late 20’s, tongue banging jello shots into their suck holes while simultaneously taking stock of their GHB stash in the cut out hole of their Birkenstocks. Go for it.

Do you want to be that creepy Mexican bar on the corner next to the Botanica, that you’re white friends are scared to go in because they play “Mariachi Music” till 3 a.m. and they heard everyone in there has a knife? Go for it.

Have aspirations of being the bar with no sign? Serving traditional, Post-Civil-War… yet Pre-Yoko-Beatles-Era Martinis? Go for it!

Just whatever you are or trying to be.. be true and pick SOMETHING. You can’t do everything or at least you can’t do everything well. Give your bar a personality and hopefully that personality is akin to you and your staff members. Your patrons want to be a part of your story, now give us the plot so we can play along.

By: Raul Parra
Email: rp@99sportsproblems.com
Twitter: ParraPalliative

Out of my side vision (for you Kat Williams fans) I spy him,  barb wire tat, mesh trucker hat with some ironic slogan on it (“I’m with stupid… and it’s your mom).  He proudly slides another dollar into the internet juke box.  I can’t see what he’s typing.  I can only imagine the auditory onslaught I am about to feel.  The over produced voice of Ke$ha… the weak one syllable rhyme schemes of Mr. West (Best, Rest, Crest…. Chest.), or Nickelback.  Just Nickelback, that’s its own insult.  In the future we will be saying things like, “Loser? Dudes a Nickelback…”

The Bro waddles back to his own babbling tribe.  I over hear the word ‘Bomb’ with a idiotic mumbled prefix in front of it.  I just realized I am at a Bro Bar.  There are Heineken signs on the wall.  Another brightly colored advertisement informs me that if I bring my own fishbowl on Thursday nights… they’ll fill it with any color alcohol I choose for only $10.50.   I bury my face in my drink and try to sip the last of my $12 ‘craft beer’…. “bro… they’re leinenkugel fireside nut brown ales…. killer.”.

I glance up.  The Bro Bunch is singing now and when I see the dude with the wallet chain and Affliction t-shirt reach for his Skol Dip, I make a run for it.  I jut passed something that looks like a Snooki and narrowly avoid the skinny jean-skateboarder-rapper-graphic designer-t shirt maker-blogger-DJ-I listened to Dub Step first- dude.  Through the door now I see street lights and hear traffic.

I’m walking across a frozen tundra of urban desolation. There are buildings and structures and there seem to be shapes moving in them.  Bumbling potato sack people grasping at brightly colored shapes.  Strip malls abound.  They’re exactly that, STRIP malls,  they have stripped my glorious town of personality and integrity.  Were does a modern man seek adventure?  Where can he boast of his tales?  Is there no mead hall fit for his songs of victory and iniquity?  These thoughts swirled around in my head, colored smoke that seemed obscure my vision.  Here I was on the famed Route 66… and I was bored and disgusted with my surroundings.

Just then, without warning or notice, the smell hits me.  The sweet and sappy smell of hardwood burning in the distant ink black night…. chicken flesh being charred to absurd level deliciousness.  A smile creeps across my face.  I just realized what I have been missing.  It was calling to me… beckoning me.  I will obey.

The front of Cigars and Stripes (6715 Ogden Ave, Berwyn, Il, 60402) is unassuming enough, unless of course you walk passed on one of the nights were the 8ft Frankenstein’s Monster is hanging out in front… smoking his stogie.  If that’s enough to scare you off, you will miss all of the smoked BBQ glory that awaits you inside.  If Dracula had a frat house… this is it.  Colored lights pour their saccharine slime on beer bottles and the slithering rapscallions that occupy every inch of the halo shaped bar.  Neon lights extend their icy grip across the haggard floor, itching to grab a boot or perhaps a leather high heel.  As your eyes drift to and fro… up ward and on ward… you will spy many a curious object.  Skulls, half naked women, a velvet Elvis painting and a myriad of other strange relics.  You have some how peeled back the fabric of space/time and peered into the very soul of a tricked out hot-rod.

THIS is a bar.

The heart of that bar? A collection of craft beers at your drinking disposable and the most succulent BBQ you have every dreamed of, you get the impression this was put together for just for  you.  Carefully selected with the utmost care to ensure maximum beer orgasm.  It’s hard to imagine that just a decade ago Cigars and Stripes was a place to just pick up your stogies and hot sauce.  If you were lucky enough to own a low rider or hot rod,  you could take care of all your custom paint jobs as well.  Ronnie Lottz (the ring leader of The Cigars and Stripes circus, AKA Bar Owner), might very well be Berwyn’s only Renaissance Man.  His bio reads like a man walking the line of artisan and mad man.  Custom Car illustrator, BBQ specialist, one time Professional Wrestling manager and now illustrious bar owner.  I know what you are thinking, what do these past occupations have in common and how could they lead to creating the ideal night spot?

According to Mr. Lottz, each one of those past lives played an indispensable role in the creation of C&S.  When you hear him reminisce about hanging with his wrestlers on the west side of Chicago and traveling across the country getting a first hand education on BBQ, you can literally see the spark in his eye.  That spark indicates a deep love for what he is doing… and no one does it better.

“Good food is culture… not technique…” he says.

That’s exactly what Ronnie and his staff are doing, creating their own culture to share with the world and in this world of five dollar foot longs, cardboard pizza, ice cold chicken wings from B-Scrubs and stale seven dollar Miller Lites.. we need you more than ever Mr. Lottz.

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