The Random Road for a Beer Tyro

  • I moved to Chicago in 1987, not too far from where Goose Island would open its founding brewpub the next year. That was where I was introduced to the idea that "beer" really was more than fizzy yellow staff that tasted the same no matter the name on the can. The Clybourn brewpub was also where I encountered the first batch of Bourbon County Stout.
  • At that time, when I was still in Mensa, I went to their Chicago regional HalloweeM gathering, where one of the programs was a presentation on homebrewing by members of the Chicago Beer Society.
  • Thus inspiried, I later tried my hand at making my own beer at the now bygone Chicago BOP (Brew on Premises). A great way to first learn, as you get use of a boil kettle, fermenter and their fermentation cooler, then buy or bring in your bottles to be filled. I even prepared a "Bride-Ale" to hand out at my wedding.
  • In 2001, with both Chicago BOP and another BOP closed, I started making beer on my stove at home. In all these cases, I'm learning more and more about the world of beer.

My laying claim to any beer expertise seems like a parallel to the experience of Dr. Joyce Brothers: In the 1950's, she auditioned for The $64,000 Question, wanting to answer big money questions about psychology. The producers preferred contestants who were experts outside their normal walks of life, and suggested she answer questions on boxing. Years later, Brothers was interviewed saying "I decided, well, that's a finite topic, I think I can learn enough about it to make a good showing." And she studied the topic well enough to claim the $64,000, later cleaning up on its spinoff show, The $64,000 Challenge.

It takes only a few books to learn the basics of beer styles, and a little about its history. But there are always small complexities and hidden wealths of information. Beer has been made for over 10,000 years, but the beer we recognize today only came about in the past few centuries. There are new breweries starting up every day, and old ones waiting to be rediscovered.

My major activity as a local beer blogger has been maintaining a calendar of Chicago beer-centric activities. While I publish my calendar twice a week, it's hard to offer advance notice of some beer festivals or dinners that might sell out weeks ahead of time, so here's my "raw" calendar, which I update with events as I find out about them.

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    Mark McDermott

    Writer, trivia maven, fan of many things. I thought to learn all there is to know about beer as a way to stay interested in learning. It is my pleasure to bring Chicago's craft beer scene to you.

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