Brewsville-Porkopolis (aka Chicago) April 8, 2010: Once known for its massive meat-packing industry, Chicago still prides itself on its meat. Yesterday I had the opportunity to sample the meat in various forms, even in beer form. It started with lunch at Goose Island, which serves up Swan Creek pork, which is raised on the brewery’s spent grain. It was excellent in the pork loin sandwich, in which the succulent pork is thin shaved, and served on a German-style roll. The brewpub also serves pork as bacon, and serves the bacon as beer.
Burton’s Maplewood Farm Maple Bacon Stout 6.5% abv, is served with a garnish of bacon. The garnish presents the drinker with a bit of a puzzle: eat it, dunk it, or drink around it. Not wanting to get grease on my cheek, I opted for the first option. The bacon sweet, soft and mildly smoked. After eating the garnish, the flavor of the bacon used in the beer is subtle.
Later that evening I ended up at the Publican with a number of Oregon and Washington brewers. The Publican is a gastropub, but it is also a shrine to the humble hog. From its iconic image of two pigs peeking from behind a barrel, to the larger than life paintings of porkers that adorn the walls it is clear that they take their pork seriously. The charcuterie plate was fantastic. Highlights were the pork pie, served could with a flaky crust, and the head cheese noir, which was flavored with citrus zest. For the evening the pub was featuring exoctic beers from Three Floyds and Dogfish Head, and oysters flown in from the coasts. As a coastal person eating shellfish in landlocked Chicago didn’t appeal, but apparently with its major airport the city gets fresh seafood daily and the Atlantic oysters I tried were excellent.