Monday, March 25, 2013

Hops: A brief history

Hops are a common ingredient in beers today, but that wasn’t always the case. In the middle ages, when beer was consumed by the Western world as a safer alternative to water, common flavoring ingredients included dandelion, burdock root, marigold and horehond. But we’ve come a long way, baby, and now horehound isn’t even a blip on our beer-flavored radar. (What is horehound, anyways?)

Hops got big when people noticed ales were less likely to spoil when they were included in the mix. The creation of ‘hop yards’ and ‘hop gardens’ throughout England came about when the Dutch introduced hops to the English brewing style in the 16th century. The U.S. didn’t get on board until the mid-17th century. 

The heyday for the hop really began with the advent of the India Pale Ale, and IPAs remain the most famously hoppy of all hoppy beers. Remember when we mentioned that hops helped ales stay fresh? The legend around India Pale Ales is that they were strongly hopped to remain unspoiled during the long journey from England to India. That’s still up for debate (porters shipped the same distance fared just as well). What’s not uncertain is that the English palate demanded a bitter, hop-forward beer and India Pale Ales rose quickly in popularity in the 1840s.

Hundreds of years later, the world is still bonkers for hops. Beer snobs diligently track which type of hop is used in each brew (Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Tomahawk, Golding, etc), and varieties vary even within our borders: the east coast still favors balanced malt, whereas the west coast goes hop crazy, every time. And let’s not even get into double IPAs. Or maybe we should, because double IPAs are even hoppier, and that’s crazy.

So stayed tuned to our Facebook and Twitter and get ready for a very hoppy April, because every Tuesday we’re pairing our favorite variety of hoppy brews with our ideal dishes to balance or enhance our favorite bitter taste.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Decoding the Chalk Board.

You know you can always ask the know-it-alls at Bangers & Lace for recommendations on which killer beer you’ve just got to try. But maybe you’re not in the mood to talk to us, possible reasons being:

  • You’re feeling shy.
  • You’ve just visited the dentist and the left side of your face won’t move.
  • You’re impressing your date, so all of a sudden you know everything about beer and you certainly wouldn’t ask someone for a recommendation.
  • You’ve taken a vow of silence not to be broken until you’ve fully trained your cat to use the toilet (and flush).

It’s cool. We get it and, honestly, we just want to help. Today, we’ll decode five lines of our iconic and ever-changing draft chalkboard so you can look like the know-it-all.

#2. Always a pilsner. Looking for something akin to a Budweiser for your Pops? Here you go. Pilsners are smooth and subtle lagers that originated in the town of PILSEN (double impressive bonus points if you’re on that date scenerio) in the Czech Republic.

The Six Pack (bottom 6 lines) Here’s a cool fact about the bottom six lines on our board - they each ‘belong’ to a member of our staff.

#14. Ronnie Higgins, our resident cocktail impresario, is also big into beer. He’s the one that  supplies the funkier beers with minimal hops that often fill this line. Looking for something outside the box or do you just want Ronnie to think you’re cool? Look to #14.  

#17. Kris vonDopek’s got this one covered. As you may have noticed in our recent staff feature post, Kris is into stouts, porters and lambics. Do you often find yourself wanting something dark and mysterious (okay, and sometimes a little sour)? Then this line’s for you.

#18. Eric’s line is famously hoppy. Like IPAs? You’ll love what this guy throws on the board. However, he’s recently confessed a newfound appreciation and interest in traditional European brewing styles. So will this line surprise you? Probably. Will Eric being wearing shorts on any given day? Absolutely.

#19. Jonny C. graciously makes your beloved bloody mary’s each weekend behind the brunch stick, but his selection is available seven days a week! Order up a #19 if you’re into sours, double IPAs and beers with a touch of citrus.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Where in the world is Kris's accent from?

Today, we’ll answer your most burning question: Where in the world is Kris’s accent from? Chicago, obviously. And London. And Berlin. It’s all starting to make sense...

Kris has pretty much split his lifetime between Chicago, London and Berlin. He’s on a fairly good Chicago streak right now, though, and we’re having fun keeping him busy behind the bar at Bangers & Lacethe very same spot you’ve probably seen him over the past two and half years. Some might say he’s somewhat of a fixture here.

Having worked in the European service industry, Kris is likely to encourage his favorite aspect of the European lifestylethe slower paced indulgence that surrounds food, and the permission they allow themselves to indulge on the regular. In other words, if you need some help choosing a sessionable drink, Kris is your man.

Kris’s beer obsession reached fever pitch during a year spent at Bucktown’s Duchamp (RIP, Duchamp). His taste matured and he now favors stouts, porters and lambics, so if those are in your flavor realm, make sure to keep an eye on line #17 on the Bangers & Lace chalkboard beer menu. That’s where his ‘employee pick’ will always appear.

Want to eat and drink exactly like Kris? Here’s a few tips:

  • When dining at Bangers & Lace, order the Sheboygan sandwich (Sheboygan veal brat, melted gouda, sauerkraut, black currants, house-made beer mustard, split flat bun; $8).
  • Relax at the bar with a How The Midwest Was Won (Very Old Barton, apple spice liquor, maple syrup, lemon, angostura bitters; $10).
  • Or order an Old Fashioned and call Very Old Barton as your whiskey.

Not enough insider info on Kris? Come see him at the bar so he can offer even more dining insight in his charming Chicalonderlin accent.

Monday, March 4, 2013

At Bangers & Lace, March is French for Bière de Garde.

If you’ve spent more than five minutes at our place, you know we could go on for hours about pairings. It’s pretty easy to couple up a few menu items that perfectly complement one another, and we do it all the timewhether it’s food + beverage or beverage + beverage (more on that later...) But on Tuesdays, we decided to make things a little interesting by challenging ourselves to come up with a perfect pair within some stricter parameters.

That’s why Tuesdays in March will have you dusting off that French vocabulary book from high school: This month is all about Bière de Garde. Pourquoi the French theme? Many times, the process of choosing a theme is really just a toss up between a beer we’re freaking out about, or a dish we’re all dying to dive into. And well, right now we’re miserably cold and dying to tuck into a hearty cassoulet.

So here is the premier couplage: On Tuesday, March 5th, we’ll be offering a cassoulet (duck sausage, rabbit sausage, salt pork, white bean, fennel) paired with Saint-Germain Page 24 Brune. Together, a lucky $13.

Need a little French Beer 101? Saint-Germain Page 24 Brune is a Bière de Garde, one of two branches on the Farmhouse Ale tree. It literally translates to ‘beer for keeping,’ but we dare you to try keeping this around
it’s too delicious. In fact, we are currently lobbying to have it renamed: ‘beer for drinking a lot of.’ Sure, it doesn’t have the same ring to it, but we’re all about accuracy around here.

The biere de garde was typically brewed in winter and spring to be enjoyed throughout the rest of the year. Often aged in cellars, this traditional context translates into an earthy, rustic, malt forward beer, often with a delightful musty character.

Maybe you’ve sampled a biere de garde before? You can check that box on your beer bucket list if you’ve had a Two Brothers Domaine DuPage, a popular American rendition, or a Castelain Blonde, a classically famous example of this style.

If you make it in this month to sample some of our Biere de Garde offerings, you can check the box twice.

Drinking, eating, and (now) blogging.

We think about beer, spirits, and food a lot. A lot. Almost as much as we think about you. And we know you think about us just as much. That’s why we searched the internet for a way to bring even more Bangers & Lace into your life and look what we found: This new thing called weblogs. We’re going to call ours a ‘blog’ for short.

Here on this blog we’re going to bring you weekly doses of libations and edibles, along with the occasional familiar Bangers & Lace face and their menu faves. For example, this month we’re going to decode the numbered lines on our beer menu, introduce you to March’s feature (bière de garde, ooh la la), and tell you where in the world our bartender Kris’s accent is from.

Now you can visit us in your daydreams and your boss won’t smell beer (or sausages, or whiskey) on your breath.