Those light beers with all those commercials aren’t going to get you through the winter weather. Garrett Sweet, the mixologist and certified cicerone at the Perennial Virant restaurant, has selected his top picks of beers to enjoy over the holidays. You don’t have to hunt for these as you can find all the beers mentioned in Chicago.
I’ve devoted an inordinate portion of my professional life to the study of beer and where it comes from. I’ve learned that the socioeconomic significance of brewing reaches way back to the tribes of ancient Egypt, and why its position within the modern culinary landscape is at the cutting edge and that the economic growth statistics of craft beer are staggering.
However, what I’ve ultimately found is that the pure and simple elements of the beer experience are the most relevant. In its essence, beer has always had the unique ability to bring us together. It has a special place in the communal spirit and is a fine companion to food.
Being the holiday season and all, I’d like to recommend a few offerings to toast with your loved ones during this time of indulgence and merrymaking:
This Belgian sour is a special blend of young beer and a larger portion of beer aged for 2 years in oak casks. As a result, a deep and complex vinous character comes through culminating in a tart finish. This beer can take the place of a well-cellared old world pinot noir and pairs effortlessly with many of the dishes we pass during the holidays. Think about how that homemade cranberry sauce cuts the rich and hearty flavors of a stew or dressing. This beer does that.
Wheat beers are popular these days. They’re accessible and approachable. When people ask for “something like a Blue Moon,” they’re looking for the bright and citrusy, effervescent qualities that don’t exist in popular toasty styles like a brown ale or porter. This beer happens to display the best of both worlds. It has a smooth character consistent with typical wheat ales with the added depth of warming, caramel-ly malts you find in a doppelbock. If you’re able to track down a vintage version with some age on it you’ll find some sherry like qualities that are quite interesting. I recommend this for those who would like to broaden their wheat beer horizon.
The cheese course. Every holiday gathering needs a selection of cheeses incorporated somehow. This beer is my go-to for such an occasion. The pallet is lively and carbonated with bright orange peel and lemon zest flavors dominating up front. This character compliments a fresh chèvre or burrata nicely. It slowly develops into a coriander-laden earthiness that stands up to an aged gouda or a barnyardy raw milk cheese. Plus it’s organic. People like organic stuff.
I fell in love with this beer as I enjoyed one while wandering the streets of Munich without a clue. It is from the German town of Bamberg, which is home to the rauchbier or “smoke beer.” This style is characterized by a distinct beechwood smoked malt profile. This is a major component of this doppelbock’s flavor and comes across unmistakably as bacon. This is the lager to enjoy with braised and smoked meats by a crackling fire.
There is a huge contingency of beer drinkers out there that love a big, juicy, piney, grapefruity and bitter hop profile. This is often referred to as “hoppy.” This beer displays those characteristics in an elegantly complex and balanced way that will really scratch the itch for the hophead in your life. This is one of the top-rated IPAs ever released and, until very recently, Surly brews were unavailable in the Chicago market. You’re sure to get a big hug if a can of Furious finds its way into the stocking of a pal that likes a great IPA.
Grab a six-pack of Hamm’s 16 oz cans. Open one for a friend and one for yourself. Just enjoy a night in away from the winter chill. It doesn’t matter what you’re drinking, really.
A favorite wintertime tradition, Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest opens tomorrow and is bringing even more fun for families to enjoy this year with new rides, attractions and entertainment.
New rides include the Ice Line Express Zip Line where you can fly through Winter WonderAir as you zoom down a 28-foot tall indoor zip line; the Hot Cocoa Cups ride, where friends can spin round-and-round inside oversized tea cups; and The Arctic Plunge, a new dual-lane inflatable slide.
Many favorites will return this year, too, including the Chicago Blackhawks Indoor Ice Skating Rink; the indoor Ferris wheel; the Pepsi Create-A-Cookie Cottage; the Snowy Summit Climbing Wall; Too Cool Video Games; and Winter WonderFest Jr., a special section expanded this year for kids 46” or smaller.
Also new this year, visit with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus inside Winter WonderFest! For the first time, Santa will be inside Festival Hall at the foot of Navy Pier’s magnificent 42-foot tall tree. Professional photographers will be ready to capture your visit with Santa Dec. 6-24 (Fri.-Sun. from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Mon.-Thurs. from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Winter WonderFest is open Dec. 6- Jan. 12 and is closed on Christmas day. Admission is free and activity wristbands are required to participate in rides and attractions within the event. Premium wristbands include all rides and activities including ice skating and the regular wristbands include all rides and attractions except ice skating. For information and hours, visit their website.
Face it, you are going to countless malls that all have the same stores with the same products. The One of a Kind Show and Sale offers a maze of over 600 artists, designers, artisans, and chefs selling products you won’t find in any mall. Through Dec. 8 at the Merchandise Mart you can find gifts you won’t likely find anywhere else in Chicago at this unique shopping experience.
From gourmet syrups and soups, to cutting-edge clutches, to teepees you shouldn’t have any trouble finding something for someone from the artisan masters at the One of a Kind Show and Sale. The hot material of this year’s show is wood as you’ll see beautiful, modern wooden furniture from vendors like Miles and May Furniture Works and the exotic wood wristwatches from Mistura. Ron Swanson would drool at the craftsmanship of these artists.
If you’re looking for clothing for the cold weather you’ll have plenty of choices like the scarves and winter hats from KraeO, one of the 29 ETSY designers in the ETSY New Artist Pavillion. For art lovers, you won’t want to miss the grungy images from Turco Photography or the quirky spark plug sculpture from Dick Cooley. If you can think of it then it is probably available at to buy on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart.
Also, if you’re the type that likes to make your own gifts, there will be a do-it-yourself (DIY) inspiration lounge and a finger knitting tutorial from Marcie McGoldrick, editorial director of Martha Stewart Living.
With live performances, full bar, food, and a lounge to catch a football game—for that loved one who can’t stand shopping—this is much more than the typical holiday shopping experience.
Tickets to the One of a Kind Show and Sale are $12 and you can buy them online at www.oneofakindshowchicago.com/attend/tickets.
Anthony Gates is this week’s concierge correspondent and shares his top three things to do in Chicago. Check out the short video clip, below, to see what he recommends
Monday: ham and cheese. Tuesday: ham and cheese. Wednesday: ham and cheese, and soup. It’s time to break up the monotony of lunch and until Dec.13 The Nosh at the Block 37 Shops is giving you countless appetizing alternatives.
Usually set up at Wicker Park during the summer and Logan Square in the fall, The Nosh is moving their eating market to the Loop where visitors can enjoy a wide variety of small artisanal meals. Head to the the second floor of Block 37 where you’ll be greeted by the smells of cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon onion jam, pumpkin soup with added spices, that classic South Side chili we’ve loved since childhood, and much more. You’ll no doubt march back and forth on the second-floor corridor overlooking Daley Plaza trying to decide what to have.
Those who need a jolt for their second half of work should try the Atomic Pork Tamale topped with cuban fricase from Dia De Los Tamales. If you’re feeling adventurous you can’t miss the alligator hot dog with caramelized onions and sweet asian chili sauce from Chicago’s Dog House or the grilled beef heart with duck fat roasted potatoes from Spice! Along with other pop-up shops and eateries like Pecking Order, Karl’s Craft Soup, and Lindy’s Chili and Gertie’s Ice Cream there will also be a rotation of food trucks on the Dearborn Street side of Block 37. When we visited we spotted the Vault Van serving donuts from the Donut Vault.
The Nosh will be open Dec. 3 – 6 and Dec. 9 – 13 from 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Block 37 is located at 108 N. State Street. So give the ham and cheese a break and give your stomach a treat. For more information you can visit http://www.thenoshchicago.com/.
There are so many things occurring in the Loop and downtown area that it is easy to forget there are great events in the surrounding neighborhoods. Travel over to Wicker Park Friday, Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. for the free monthly Flat Iron Arts Building First Friday party, 1579 N. Milwaukee, and get a taste of what Chicago creatives are thinking up.
Explore the inner workings of some of Chicago’s most amazing artists as they open up their studios to the public for a large three-floor shindig. The Flat Iron Arts Building is a living entity that houses Chicago’s imagination. All styles of art are represented such as visual, costume, film, performance, tattoo and much more. On First Fridays you can always count on the artists to be at this colony explaining what they’re working on and their process.
At the upcoming party you can celebrate the opening of “I Celebrate Exuberance While You Wave.” This video project installation takes the idea of a daily affirmation and literally blows it up as the Collaboraction Theatre Company projects poems like “You are wonderfully glorious,” across three buildings at the corner of North, Damen and Milwaukee Avenues. Along with the simple texts there will be a video feed projecting people on the streets.
Grab a drink, a loved one, and let yourselves be inspired by every hidden corner of the majestic maze that is the Flat Iron Arts Building.
Loaded with more than 1,200 Christmas trees, the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw—or the “Christmas Ship”— returns to Navy Pier at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, for a two-day event re-enacting what was an annual Chicago tradition in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The Christmas trees, purchased by the Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee, will be offloaded on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 7, by members of the Coast Guard and local youth volunteers including the Sea Cadets, Venture Crews, Sea Scouts and the Young Marines, following a brief, public ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. The ceremony will take place at the West End of Navy Pier near the Captain at the Helm statue with the first tree being presented to a representative family. The remaining trees will then be loaded onto trucks for distribution to more than 1,200 deserving families throughout Chicago.
The Mackinaw’s reenactment continues a treasured piece of Chicago’s maritime tradition. Herman Schuenemann was the captain of the original Christmas Ship. He came to Chicago from Michigan for more than 30 years with fresh evergreens and wreaths for the holiday season during the late 1800s and early 1900s. On Nov. 23, 1912, Captain Schuenemann was at the helm of the fabled Christmas Ship the Rouse Simmons. On that day while transiting from Michigan, Captain Schuenemann and the Rouse Simmons was lost in a storm and sank with a crew of 16 between Kewaunee and Two Rivers, Wis.
During its transit to Chicago this year, the crew of the Mackinaw will hold a solemn tribute and drop a wreath into the waters near the resting place of the Rouse Simmons, which was located in 1971.
The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, homeported in Cheboygan, Mich., was commissioned in June 2006 and has a crew of 60. It is one of the Coast Guard’s most technologically-advanced, multi-missioned cutters. In addition to search-and-rescue and maritime law enforcement operations, this charitable activity takes place in conjunction with a scheduled ATON (Aids To Navigation) mission in the southern region of Lake Michigan to remove buoys for winter maintenance and replacement with “winter marks” to protect them from ice damage. Additionally, regular underway crew training and drills are being conducted in preparation for the ship’s primary winter mission of ice-breaking to keep commerce moving through the Great Lakes.
Free public tours of the Mackinaw will be available on Dec. 7, from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
It’s getting to that time of year where you actually have to think twice about leaving work to go home due to the cold weather outside. Take a pit stop at the JW Marriott Chicago Tuesday, Dec. 3 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and warm up at their Ballerina Hot Chocolate Happy Hour.
The JW Marriott Chicago,151 W. Adams St., has created this first-of-its-kind happy hour to tie into the opening of the Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker, which runs Dec. 6 – 28. Guests and local visitors will be welcomed to the hotel’s Lobby Lounge by two ballerinas and can enjoy a free cup of hot chocolate or cider. Visitors have a choice of five different hot chocolates and two different hot ciders all crafted by chef Russell Shearer. For those who like to end their day with an extra kick, you can order a Ballerina Bellini ($10) or a Winter Spiced Valrhona Hot Milk Chocolate ($9), which comes with sugar plum marshmallow and vanilla snowflake shortbread.
You’ll spot you’re in the right place when you catch a glimpse of the hotel’s windows on Adams Street filled with authentic costumes from the ballet and other holiday ornamentation.
For more information of the happy hour and the hotel make sure to visit http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/chijw-jw-marriott-chicago/.
The new, and much-buzzed about, Fashion Outlets of Chicago will kick off the biggest shopping day of the year with Fashionably Late, an around-the-clock shopping event featuring Chicago’s hottest fashion-forward DJ Lani Love.
Beginning at midnight on Friday, Nov. 29, the festivities will offer shoppers an event that transcends the token Black Friday shopping experience, in addition to major discounts and in-store promotions and perks from more than 130 retailers.
Find out more on this amazing event here and take a look at the incredible, high-end stores that are participating.
Running from noon-7 p.m. every Sunday-Thursday and noon-9 p.m. every Friday and Saturday, bring your kids out to the Pier and let them step inside a 15-foot tall, life-sized snow globe—with room for six people—and capture a special holiday memory.
Inside, they can play, pose and even take home a photo souvenir in a magical winter wonderland setting. Admission to Snow Globe Live! is free.
Navy Pier’s annual Winter WonderFest will return this December for another full season of winter-themed fun! This enormous winter extravaganza is the perfect getaway for kids of all ages.
Set-up as a 170,000-square-foot holiday playground, Winter WonderFest offers ceaseless entertainment for everyone in the family from Dec. 6- Jan. 12, so get your tickets in advance and chart your course for a day of indoor, holiday-themed fun.