The Shootout!

By Staff Blogger Tom Cramer

 

Disclaimer: this post has nothing to do with cowboys, gangsters or bank robbers.

 

The Chicago Beer Society holds one of my favorite craft beer events of the year: the Brewpub Shootout. Chicago area brewers go head to head in a beer and food pairing competition, and prizes are awarded for best beer, best food and best pairing. In my opinion, everyone who attends this event wins. It’s glorious.

 

Image: Chicago Beer Society

This year the event was held at Baderbräu, which I had never been to before.

                                                                                    

Photos: Tom Cramer

 

 

It was much bigger inside than the outside lead me to believe, with multiple rooms. What a great space for the event!

            

Photos: Tom Cramer

I have been to this event several times, sometimes as a volunteer, sometimes as a paying customer, and this was by far my favorite venue. It helped make an already great event even better.

That being said, let’s get down to what really matters: the food, the beer - the PAIRINGS. There were 17 offerings this year. I tried, but I honestly didn’t taste every one.

Warning: the following words and images may induce drooling.

Image: Advanced Image Search, set to free to use/share/modify, modified by Tom Cramer

 

My friends and I found a table in the large room downstairs, and close by was Corridor, a brewery that I had heard of but hadn’t yet tried. I looked up their offering in the guide, and decided to dive right in.

Photo: Sheroy Mehta

One of the things I like about the shootout is that it gets me to try both foods and beer styles that I normally wouldn’t, and this was a prime example. Both were good, but together I thought they were great.

Now, each brewery doesn’t necessarily have their own kitchen, so sometimes they team up with restaurants for this event. The next thing I tried was an example of this.

Photo: Sheroy Mehta

I liked both the sandwich and the beer, and both are things that I probably would order at a restaurant.

The same can be said for BrickStone’s offering.

Photo: Sheroy Mehta

The beer was good, the food was tasty and they worked well together. I would have been more than happy if I had ordered this at their restaurant.  But as I tried other pairings, the first ones kind of faded into the background.

One of the first pairings that created a major buzz amongst the crowd was from Forbidden Root. “You better get upstairs and try this one before it’s gone,” could be heard throughout the lower area. Both beer and food were remarkable, and was the favorite pairing for several of my friends.

Photo: Tom Cramer

I’m sure glad I got to try it. After tasting this pairing, I didn’t think anything else would come close. I was quite happy to be wrong.

If there was a clear cut winner of the day, it was the team of Pollyanna Brewing and Burger Antics.

Pollyanna took 1st place in the beer competition for their “Fun Size,”  a milk stout with added flavors that played nice together. It was absolutley delicious and also my choice for best beer.

Burger Antics took 2nd place in the food competition for their sweet and savory burger.

Finally, the Pollyanna/Antics team took 1st place in the pairing competition.

Just read the descriptions, and try not to drool.

Photo: Tom Cramer

 

I heard one person comment that the food couldn’t seem to decide if it was a burger or a dessert. Personally I found the burger to be delicious, with alternating waves of sweet and savory. I saved the sea salted caramel crisp for last, treating it as a mini-dessert - so good!

My personal favorite pairing of the day happened to take 2nd place in the pairing competition, but 1st place in the food category.

Photo: Tom Cramer

As I walked up to get the Blue Island/Maple Tree pairing, Chef Erich Wennberg had just finished describing his dish to the person ahead of me, and I only caught the tail end. Since the description of each dish was contained in the guide that we received, I wasn’t expecting him to say it all over again. But he looked at me, smiling, and asked if I would like to hear the description. How could I say no? He was so enthusiastic about his creation, it was obvious that he loves what he does and gives his all. It made me happy, and I remember hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed after such a pitch.

To be honest, the food was such a perfect balance of flavors, and so delicious, that I ate half of it before I remembered to try it with the beer. But once I did, it got my first place vote for best food and best pairing.

Chef Erich Wennberg hears the news -  1st Place Food

Photo: Tom Cramer

I always have a great time at the Chicago Beer Society’s Shootout, but I have to say this was the best one yet. Cheers!

 

 


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