Illinois

Iconic Chicago Beer Bars Turn 25

Hopleaf and The Map Room, two of Chicago’s most beloved beer bars, celebrate their 25th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Chicago Tribune beer writer Josh Noel sat down with Hopleaf’s owner, Michael Roper, and The Map Room’s owner, Laura Blasingame.

The establishments that Roper and Blasingame acquired to turn into “good beer” bars were Chicago taverns’ equivalent to Mediterranean and Baltic Avenue.

Blasingame describes she started out with:

When my husband, Mark, walked me up here to show me the building, there was this little window on a door facing Armitage, and I saw somebody’s bloody hand going down it. Literally. There was a fight going on in the back over the pool table. I was appalled. Fighting, smoky, a drop ceiling—just disgusting. All men. No women.

And there were problems outside the bar, too:

We had a part-time gang in the neighborhood, which apparently had one gun among them. They insisted that we “pay rent”—they wanted a case of Miller High Life or something every time they came in. We didn’t want them to feel like they had a piece of the place and intimidating people. So we said, “No, we’re not paying rent.” One day these guys pulled up in a car and got out with baseball bats and banged out all our windows. We got our punishment, but then it was over.

Yikes. But Roper topped Blasingame with these stories:

We bought the place stocked with all the stuff we would never want to sell. There were cases of Boone’s Farm, Ripple and Everclear. One of their most popular things was Everclear in plastic half pints. We ran it like that for a while, opening at 7 in the morning. I didn’t even tell my friends we bought the place because I didn’t want anyone to see it. It was so horrible….

There was a line every morning. It wasn’t people that wanted to drink. It was people that needed to drink. There were a lot of panhandlers in the neighborhood, and the bar sold those little airplane minis for a buck. So anyone who could come up with a buck on the street would come in, down one and go back out.

The kind of people that came in were fairly nasty. Every day at noon—they had a TV and VCR built into the wall—a guy from a video store dropped off a porno movie and picked up yesterday’s. So the old guys would sit there and watch a porno. There were several traditions that ended when I took over. I took the poker machines out—the main revenue source of the place. Some lowlifes came in to sell stuff they’d stolen—like steaks from Jewel.

Slowly but surely, Blasingame and Roper upgraded their bars and the beer they poured. Eventually, they became destinations for beer lovers from Chicagoland–and later, from places farther afield.

“Old school” is the term both owners use to describe their bars: they keep prices reasonable, and attend to details such as keeping beer menus current. They’re single-location establishments in an age where hospitality companies and pub chains are opening beer bars. Now that craft beer has filtered down to bowling alleys and VFW halls, the way to stay ahead of competition is “to be a good bar first and then to have interesting beer.”

Cheers, Michael and Laura, and best wishes for another 25!

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The Friday Mash (“Sell High” Edition)

On this day in 2000, the Nasdaq Composite stock market index peaked at 5132.52, thanks to investors who bid up dot.com shares to astronomically high prices. Those who didn’t take profits got a nasty surprise: the Nasdaq fell by more than 50 percent by year’s end.

And now….The Mash!

Fittingly, we begin on Wall Street, where big breweries’ stocks haven’t been doing well. According to SeekingAlpha.com, the only company whose shares are trading near their 52-week high is Kirin Holdings Company.

Congress is considering a bill that would cut taxes for small brewers. The bill’s supporters contend that lower taxes would enable breweries to expand production, add jobs, and attract more visitors.

Session IPA is popular, but opinions vary as to its definition. Draft magazine has published a scale which shows how much these IPAs vary in alcoholic strength and, especially, perceived bitterness.

A few years ago, Emily Hengstebeck and her friends partied together at beer festivals. Now employed by a brewery, she found herself on the other side of the table. She describes what it’s like.

More than 7,000 CraftBeer.com readers filled out a survey asking them what was their state’s favorite beer bar, and why they liked it. Without further ado, here are the winners in each state.

It’s still “Miller Time” in Chicago. According to BevSpot, Miller has a more than 8-percent market share in the Windy City, more than twice the brand’s market share nationwide.

Finally, a Virginia brewery will release a beer honoring Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner, at a birthday celebration this month. The horse was nicknamed “Big Red”; the beer is an imperial red India pale ale.

The Friday Mash (Drop the Puck! Edition)

On this day in 1875, the first-ever organized indoor game of ice hockey was played in Montreal. It featured two nine-member teams whose lineups included local college students. Instead of a ball, which was customary in outdoor games, the players used the ancestor of the modern hockey puck.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Chicago, where White Sox fans are rooting for their team to draft Clemson first baseman Seth Beer. Their campaign includes hashtags with excruciatingly bad puns on Beer’s name.

Uinta Brewing Company is packaging its Golden Ale—a beer meant to be enjoyed outdoors—in cans bearing images of our national parks. Yosemite National Park will be the first to appear on a can.

Budapest’s Mad Scientist Brewery has a deal for you. Adopt a dog from a local animal sanctuary, and the brewery will send you home with a case of its beer—even if your new best friend doesn’t drink.

Asbury Park Brewery’s logo is inspired by the city’s famous Convention Hall. And fittingly for “Springsteen Country”, all of its owners have a connection to the music business.

A New York State lawmaker wants to allow municipalities to establish “recreation zones”, within which it would be legal to carry open containers of alcohol sold by bars and restaurants.

Cathay Pacific Airlines has added something new to its beer menu: Betsy, a beer brewed to be enjoyed at 35,000 feet, where passengers’ senses of taste and smell are diminished.

Finally, according to Amy Sherman of MLive.com, the funniest beer names from last weekend’s Michigan Brewers Guild’s Winter Beer Festival were “Gnome Wrecker”, “Complete Nutter Madness”, and “Only Fools Russian”.

The Friday Mash (Hail Fredonia Edition)

One hundred and ninety years ago today, Benjamin W. Edwards rode into Mexican-controlled Texas and declared himself ruler of the Republic of Fredonia. Edwards is not to be confused with Rufus T. Firefly.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Germany, where the Bayern Munich football team treated Ingolstat’s players to sausages and beer. Ingolstat upset Leipzig, enabling Bayern to move into first place in the Bundesliga.

A former NASA biologist has developed a genetically engineered strain of yeast that makes beer glow under a black light. His “fluorescent yeast kit” contains genes from a jellyfish.

MobCraft Beer, a Milwaukee brewery that lets the public vote on new products, was was heavily criticized after “Date Grape” was one of the finalists. The brewery has apologized for the sexual assault reference.

Writer Jay Brooks tells the fascinating story of the Americas’ first Western-style brewery. It opened near Mexico City in 1544, with a team of brewers imported from Flanders.

Country music artist Sunny Sweeney’s song “One More Christmas Beer” celebrates family dysfunction. Sweeney says that the lyrics are inspired by actual events.

Next month, Chicago’s Field Museum will start serving PseudoSue, a pale ale brewed by the Toppling Goliath Brewing Company. The ale celebrates “Sue”, the museum’s beloved T-Rex skeleton.

Finally, Colorado’s craft brewers are engaged in soul-searching. This year, they’ve had to contend with Anheuser-Busch’s takeover of Breckenridge Brewing Company and a legislative battle over selling full-strength beer in grocery stores.

The Friday Mash (Viking Cruises Edition)

On this day in 888 A.D., the Vikings began a siege of Paris after the city’s ruler, Count Odo, refused the invaders’ demand for tribute. The siege was the most important event in the reign of the then-French king who has an appropriate name for this day after Thanksgiving: Charles the Fat.

And now….The Mash!

We begin on YouTube, where a sunbathing woman texted a neighbor, asking him to send over a beverage. The neighbor obliged, delivering a can of beer to her by mini-drone.

Now that Oklahoma voted to allow full-strength beer sales in stores, a Tulsa newspaper called on state lawmakers to scrap other “puritanical anachronisms” that are still on the books.

Chicago welcomed its first contract brewery, Great Central Brewing Company. Next year, it will open a taproom offering a variety of Chicago-brewed beers.

An alliance called No Patents on Seeds has called on Carlsberg to give up its three patents on mutant strains of barley. The strains provide new enzymes to develop “more distinctive”, flavor-stable beers.

Lifelong friends Collin Poseley and Eggie Foust have created Craft Beer: The Board Game. It takes five minutes to learn, and it can be played while inebriated.

The rapper Ludacris, an Atlanta native, has opened his long-awaited Chicken & Beer restaurant at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Its menu is “Southern to the core”.

Finally, Ayla Bystrom-Williams, the owner of Honeymoon Brewery, beat out 13,000 competitors and won a $200,000 Miller Lite “Tap the Future” award. She’s one of the country’s few black female brewery owners.

Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer Fest: A Review

Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune attended the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer, which recently took place in Chicago. His takes on the 14th edition of this event:

  • The beer is good, and getting better. He rates 20 percent of the beers “genius”, and another 60 percent “good to very good”. The “undrinkable” beers likely sat in the barrel too long.
  • John Laffer, the co-founder of Off Color Brewing in Chicago, has emerged as a star. He’s an alumnus of Goose Island Brewing Company’s barrel-aging program.
  • Festival-goers didn’t shun Goose Island on account of it having been taken over by Anheuser-Busch. If the beer is good, they want it.
  • It’s possible to brew bad sour beer. The style “requires layers and nuance.”
  • The best thing about the festival is discovering new beers. One, in particular, was Peach Climacteric from Colorado-based WeldWerks Brewing. Co-founder Neil Fisher was amazed that attendees knew so much about his new brewery. fisher said, “You guys have a very connected beer culture here.”

Beer Museums: A Tale of Three Cities

A group of aficionados in Pittsburgh are planning to open a beer and brewing museum, which they hope to be the beery equivalent of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The first phase of Brew: Museum of Beer is to open late next year; and eventually, the complex will have a Beer Hall of Fame and a 300-seat brewpub.

In Chicago, some of the biggest names in that city’s beer scene are behind an effort to build a Brewseum. The attraction will start out as a mobile exhibit housed in an RV, and will be open next year. Ninety miles to the north, efforts are underway to build a Museum of Beer & Brewing.

There’s no assurance that any of these projects will come to fruition. However, a museum currently exists. It is the National Brewery Museum, a joint venture between the Potosi Foundation and the American Breweriana Association, in Potosi, Wisconsin.

The Friday Mash (Man on the Moon Edition)

On this day in 1972, Apollo 17, crewed by Eugene Cernan, Ron Evans, and Harrison Schmitt, returned to Earth. The craft’s re-entry marked the end of America’s manned lunar program. Cernan currently holds the distinction of being the last man to walk on the Moon.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in England, where the publishers of Original Gravity, a beer-centric magazine, have put Issue #1 online, free of charge. Enjoy!

The founders of Surly Brewing Company—Omar Ansari, a first-generation American; and Todd Haug, a death-metal guitarist—have done well, both for themselves and Minnesota’s beer drinkers.

Belgian scientists have found a way to keep beer from over-foaming. They applied a magnetic field to a malt infused with hops extract to disperse its anti-foaming agent into tinier particles.

Archaeologists have concluded that Iceland’s Vikings were more interested in drinking and feasting than in pillaging. Unfortunately for them, the Little Ice Age became the ultimate party-pooper.

A pair of brothers have invented something that makes it easier to enjoy a beer while taking a shower. Their Sip Caddy is a portable cup holder that can be attached to the wall.

Lance Curran, the co-founder of Chicago’s Arcade Brewery, loves comic books so much that he had comic strips drawn on the labels of its Festus Rotgut black wheat ale.

Finally, a woman attending a Philadelphia 76ers game wound up with a lapful of beer after an errant pass knocked the cup out of her hand. The way the Sixers are playing this season, she–and every other fan–needs some beer to deaden the pain.

The Friday Mash (Discovery Day Edition)

On this day in 1492, Christopher Columbus became the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola. December is celebrated as Discovery Day on the island’s two countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Loudoun County, Virginia, where beer tourism is stimulating the local economy. The county has eight breweries, with 16 more in the planning stages.

Black Friday has become the number-one day for beer releases. As you’ve probably figured out, most of these beers are stouts and many of them are barrel-aged.

SABMiller, the world’s second-largest brewing company, still lacks a global brand. Its launch of Pilsner Urquell was a flop, and Heineken said no to a takeover offer.

Bottles and Cans, a liquor store in Chicago, is offering an adults-only Advent calendar. It contains 25 beers, each of them to be enjoyed on the weekdays leading up to Christmas.

European Union officials want Japan to open its market to imported beers. Arcane Japanese rules, such as a ban on ingredients like coriander seeds, act as “non-tariff barriers.”

Minnesota’s Excelsior Brewing Company has brewed a saison beer with pondweed and zebra mussels. The brewery insists that “minuscule” amounts of the invasive species were added.

Finally, Shoes & Brews, a runners’ gear store in Colorado, offers an incentive to get into shape. The store, which has a liquor license and 20 taps, bases the price of your first beer on your time in an 800-meter time trial.

The Friday Mash (Sultan of Swat Edition)

A century ago today, George Herman “Babe” Ruth made his major-league debut. Starting on the mound for the Boston Red Sox, he defeated Cleveland, 4-3. By 1919, Ruth was moved to the outfield so he—and his potent bat—could be in the lineup every day. And the rest, as they say, is history.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Lewes, Delaware, where Dogfish Head Artisan Ales has opened a beer-themed motel. The Dogfish Inn offers beer-infused soaps, logo glassware, and pickles for snacking.

Fans attending next Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Minneapolis can buy self-serve beer. New Draft-Serv machines will offer a choice not only of brands but also the number of ounces in a pour.

Moody Tongue Brewing, a brand-new micro in Chicago, offers a beer made with rare black truffles. A 22-ounce bottle of the 5-percent lager carries a hefty retail price of $120.

Fast Company magazine caught up with Jill Vaughn, head brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch’s Research Pilot Brewery. She’s experimented with offbeat ingredients ranging from pretzels to ghost peppers.

Entrepreneur Steve Young has developed beer’s answer to Keurig. His Synek draft system uses cartridges of concentrated beer which, when refrigerated, keep for 30 days.

Brewbound magazine caught up with Russian River Brewing Company’s owner Vinnie Cilurzo, who talked about Pliny the Elder, quality control, and possible future expansion of the brewery.

Finally, cue up the “final gravity” puns. Amateur rocketeers in Portland, Oregon, will launch a full keg of beer to an altitude of 20,000 feet. Their beer of choice? A pale ale from Portland’s Burnside Brewery.

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