Illinois Brewing Insider Mike Zoller on a love of Dovetail’s Czech dark lager, Chicago’s best barrel-aged options and the experience that is Treehouse Brewing Company
Midwest Editor at PorchDrinking.com
Favorite breweries: I think it’s always changing based on current preferences, but recently I find myself drinking a lot Revolution, Dovetail, Off Color, Cruz Blanca, Hop Butcher and Hopewell. But I don’t think there’s a brewery out there that if someone asked me to go I would say no.
Drinking tendencies: There’s always going to be seasonality. Like right now I’m drinking more barrel-aged stouts than usual, even though I’m a big advocate for Big Beer Summer and drinking high-ABV beers even when it’s hot outside. I also love this time of year for Czech dark lagers and other dark beers that are lower in ABV but full of flavor. I’m embarrassed to say how much of Dovetail‘s Czech dark lager I’ve bought this year. Year round though, I find myself searching for helles lagers, oatmeal stouts, pilsners, kolsches and West Coast IPAs.
Cruz Blanca’s Rey Cuvee, Goose Island’s two-year barleywine and Revolution’s VSO Dark Mode are three barrel-aged beers that I thought they absolutely nailed.
Recent beers that have caught your eye: I had a Schwarzbier from Half Acre that I thought was excellent. It was light and roasty at the same time — delicious. Obviously, I’ve had a lot of barrel-aged beer, and Cruz Blanca‘s Rey Cuvee, Goose Island‘s two-year barleywine and Revolution‘s VSO Dark Mode are three barrel-aged beers that I thought they absolutely nailed.
What are you looking forward to having on draft this winter: I’ll continue to drink some barrel-aged beer when I find it on draft. At some point, you get overwhelmed with all the releases, and honestly, they add up in cost so you can’t buy every single one… even though you want to. But going to the brewery or a tap takeover where you can get several five-ounce pours is the best way to try them all.
I’ve also been drinking a lot of dunkels lately. I had one from Dovetail and one from Riverlands that I thought were so well done. I really like that style as well, and it’s great to sip at the bar while it’s snowing outside.
Favorite beer bars in Illinois: With a new baby this year I haven’t been able to get out as much as usual, but when I do go out to a beer bar, you’ll find me at one of three places in Chicago usually: Beermiscuous, Bitter Pops or The Beer Temple.
Secret beer spot: I think a tap list that doesn’t get a lot of attention in the city is at a gastropub called Centennial. It’s been awhile since I’ve been there — I used to live pretty much down the street — but it was opened by a co-worker’s husband, so I’ve been going since they’ve been open and they always have a great tap list. They have a lot of local beer but also taps from around the country, especially Michigan. Their food is also insanely good, and they will have the right beer to pair with whichever entrée you get.
A tap list that doesn’t get a lot of attention in Chicago is at a gastropub called Centennial. … Their food is also insanely good, and they will have the right beer to pair with whichever entrée you get.
Best brewery you’ve hit on vacation: This is a tough one. The first that comes to mind is Maui Brewing Co. because it’s right by the airport. After being on that long flight, it’s great to go right to the brewery and sip beer knowing you’re in Hawaii. Their beer is very good, and don’t sleep on their food.
I also went to Treehouse Brewing Company before they had multiple locations, and it’s worth going to experience the waiting in line, ordering on a small slip of paper, and being lucky enough to be there on a day when they were doing draft pours. I think they still have the best hazy beers in the country.
Finally, one that isn’t a far drive from Chicago is New Glarus in Wisconsin. Drinking a Moon Man or Spotted Cow directly from the source was on my craft-beer bucket list. You can also get your fill of R&D beers, which is a big plus.