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Greater Chicago

September, 2000

By Bobby Bush

Here’s another one of those rushed one night business trip with a little fun on the side. Well, you have to eat. Right? Might as well be at a brewpub.

The concept for Millrose Restaurant & Brewing Company started forty years ago at Rose Packing Company, a meat processing company in Chicago. Twenty years later, after helping found the Village of South Barrington, Bill Rose moved company headquarters to its present location on Barrington Road. Office beget restaurant became brewpub, conveniently contained within a huge building constructed around an old farmhouse using lumber from six 125-year-old barns. Exposed beams supporting high ceilings, stone fireplaces and a western/outdoor motif, it’s homey, not tacky. And the food is great, what did you expect from a meat packaging company?

Open since 1991, Millrose brewermaster Jerry Riordan makes some pretty good beer in his small brewery, located near the multi-room structure’s front entrance. Served at perfect drinking temp, Panther Ale was amber in hue and half way between malty and bitter on the flavor chart. Czech-style Prairie Pilsner had a smooth, light malty body followed by the expected hop hit- absolutely a great pils. Country Inn was a medium bodied pale ale with lager-like spritz. Its buttery start and oily finish were concerning. A schwartzbier, Dark Star was splendid with roasted male taste, while Rose’s Red Ale was refreshingly malty but not overtly sweet. Wheat & Honey, served with orange slice, was complex with caramel nose, honey mouth with a tinge of citrus. Raspberry Wheat lived up to its name, berry through and through. Generals Ale, an American Pale Ale, was Millrose’s most hoppy, bitterness falling into the mild category. A porter or stout would have been nice, but not this time. Dinner and tasting over, I cruised the Millrose Country Store on my way out and bought a six pack to go.

Time for a few nightcaps before this day is done, we headed toward the suburban town of Schaumburg in search of two new brewpubs. Open since November 1999, Prairie Rock Brewing Company was sleek and fancy, brick and mortar with a bakery and large open kitchen. And very few people. The bar was small, shuffled off to one corner with almost a wine bar atmosphere. In fact, there was a cozy wine bar on the balcony dining level. But screw grapes, we wanted barley and a sampler tray eventually landed on our table. Prairie Light was thin, wine-y (oops), benefiting little from its Liberty hops. Cascade hops helped mellow out Pale Rider Ale’s grainy flavor. A spicy hop finish graced Ambitious Amber Lager, done Vienna-style. Advertised as “perfect accompaniment” to Prairie Rock’s desserts, Vanilla Cream Ale had a heavy vanilla scent and flavor but left no cloying aftertaste. The seasonal ESB was bad, vinegar meets crystal malt with sour finish, though Prairie Porter was roasty with slight bitter finish. Not bad for a new brewpub, though this Prairie Rock has an older sibling in Elgin, IL.

One more stop, please, please, it’s just a few blocks away. Part of the brewpub conglomerate of Colorado, The Ram Restaurant & Brewery opened on March 6, 2000 and was barely a month old when we pounded through the doors. The Ram has a slightly different arrangement than many Big Horns, the bar was off to the right, brewery glassed-in nearby. A dj was trying to get the crowd (yes, there was respectable attendance here) out on the dance floor as we scanned the beer menu. The typical Big Horn list was available: Chicago Blonde, Big Horn Hefeweisen, Buttface Amber and Big Red Ale. We sampled two. Pott’s Pilsner was light and lilting with playful hoppiness. A pleasant vanilla meets chocolate embraced the roasted maltiness of Total Disorder Porter. See www.bighornbrewing.com for more on this interesting family restaurant/sports bar/brewpub operation.

Not bad for a rush job. These three push my Chicago-area brewpub visits up to 18. The Windy City could also be called Beer City, but the name doesn’t quite have that ring to it.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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