Chicago’s complicated relationship with alcohol is older than classic Old Style signs, Al Capone, or local option. The city was barely twenty-one before alcohol began permanently changing its cultural and political structure. On April 21st, 1855, one thousand German immigrants, joined by some Irish neighbors, marched on city hall in protest of liquor laws which turned their beer against them.
Six months after announcing the job we all wanted, the Smithsonian has finally revealed its choice for the National Museum of American History’s beer historian. Over the next three years, Theresa McCulla will research America’s brewing history and share her findings with the public. From this historian’s perspective, they’ve made a good choice.
They grow up so fast.
Though they only appeared on the Cincinnati brewing scene in 2013, MadTree Brewing Company is nearing completion on its second brewery and taproom. The new and gigantic space will revitalize a long-abandoned property in the city’s Oakley neighborhood and transform MadTree’s engagement with both Cincinnati and the wider Midwest.
The Queen City of the West sits, of course, in American beer history’s inner circle. In the late 1800s it was home to some of the largest and most famous brewers in the country, like Moerlein and Kauffman and Windisch-Mulhauser, to name a few. In 1890 Cincinnati produced over 1.2 million barrels of beer (!) and was dubbed the “Beer Capital of the World” (which sounds better than ‘Porkopolis,’ doesn’t it?).
I first visited MadTree Brewing last December, on a short research trip to the Cincinnati History Museum. I’d been sitting at the bar for less than ten minutes, sampling a Thundersnow from my flight, before I was hearing discussions of trade values and Dark Lord verticals. I knew then and there that MadTree was legit.
Still, that was a short visit. I didn’t really experience MadTree until last May. No Dark Lord that time, but I’m definitely hooked. Like Rhinegeist (which I’ll cover in another post), MadTree is a fairly new presence in Cincinnati’s burgeoning beer scene (both opened in 2013), and it’s already a juggernaut.
Both today and in the past, beer and innovation go hand in hand. The best brewers working today are the ones that collaborate, experiment with clever adjuncts and non-traditional styles, and push the envelope with new or creative technologies. I’ve seen breweries using centrifuges to help remove particulates left in the wort–how cool is that?
But when celebrating innovation, it’s important to remember that the old ways of doing things were once the new ways of doing things. I recently had the chance to explore some lasting (and at times forgotten) monuments to innovative brewing: Cincinnati’s vast lager beer cellars.
In early 2011, President Obama became the first brewer-in-chief. Using a personal homebrewing kit, White House chefs produced a honey ale which the president first served at a Superbowl Party (as is tradition) and later shared with Medal of Honor recipient and former USMC Sergeant Dakota Meyer. Reportedly, the White House Brewery has gone on to make a honey blonde and a honey porter as well, with the honey coming from a beehive on the South Lawn (beekeeping is another first for Pennsylvania Ave). I’m pretty curious as to what “presidential” beer tastes like, and if any of you homebrewers out there want to find out, recipes are available through the White House blog.
Come to Broad Ripple for the Thr3e Wise Men, stay for Brugge! This was definitely the centerpiece of the day. The metallic art deco entrance makes the warm atmosphere inside a pleasant surprise. Before I can even get to the beer, I gotta highlight the food.