Friday, December 19, 2008
I grew up in a small town by the name of Lambertville, NJ. It quietly sits along the Deleware River exactly where George Washington made his historic crossing on Christmas day. Every year on Christmas morning they reinact the event for locals and tourists that make the trip to Washington’s Crossing Park.
I try to get home as much as I can because I enjoy spending time with my family, but there’s a charm about the place that I appreciate more and more as I get older. Others that travel there for the first time will remark how quaint and cozy it is, and even though it is unbelievably quaint, almost cartoonish, I just like getting lost on the backroads and spending time in an environment that moves slower than my home in Chicago.
One thing that I try to do while home is go to a small butchershop named Meresca’s Country Style Provisions that’s located in Sergeantsville, NJ just north of Lambertville. When home for Thanksgiving we paid a visit to the two owners Joe and Emil, a duo that’s owned the place for longer than I’ve been breathing. In a world of automation and efficiency, these guys dig their heels in and run their business in a historic, wonderfully outdated fashion. All their meat is locally raised by men they trust before coming to them whole. If you want a certain cut at a certain size, then they’ll hobble back and open the wooden cooler door to grab the appropriate side and cut it for you then and there. If you’re in a rush, then you’re shopping at the wrong place. Emil has been standing over a butcher's block for so long breaking down meat that he stands at almost a right angle. My friend remarked that soon he’ll have to mount mirrors to the tops of his shoes so that you can look him in the eye when speaking to him. After you’ve made all your choices, you’ve chatted a bit and collectively added up the total sale(they might have been math wizards in their day, but these days it’s a group process), you pay for your goods and are on your way. It’s expensive, out of the way, time consuming and perfect.
The point is, the hand carved experience speaks to the craft beer world and why it feels the way it does. Sure, large macro brewers make beer that’s technically sound and as stable and predictable as any beer you’ll purchase, but a brewer that’s walking his beer from grain to glass takes part in a terrifically rough process filled with a personality that we all can appreciate. The beer might come out differently than it had last time, and maybe there was a hop substitution because all the Columbus were gone for the year, but I’ll take the chance every time. My family and I could go to one of the large grocers and buy meat for less, but we’d be cheating ourselves out of a rich experience. So, have a great Holiday and make sure to treat yourself to some hand-carved goods in any form you can find them.
I’m going to start by drinking quality hand-made beer and eating outstanding meat.
Right here in Chicago you can find hand-made beer sold here and an outstanding butcher right down the street here.
Half Acre Beer Co
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
It’s cold. We shouldn’t be complaining about the cold in December, the solstice is still a week away. But it’s cold. Half Acre recently got its gas bill for the brewery, it was frightening. We now wear hats and long johns so we can give our money to our boiler guy instead of People’s Gas. At the end of the day when I’m so cold my teeth hurt, I think about the journalists stuck in Blagojevich’s alley keeping watch, and I don’t feel all that cold any more.
Most people bunker down at home when it’s cold, but the collective Chicago certainly doesn’t shun the great outdoors come winter. The other weekend the Illinois State Cyclocross Championships were held at Montrose Harbor. We stopped by to figure out what cyclocross is all about, and cheer on the Half Acre Cycling family. It was cold, yet riders of all ages were hauling up and down the snow covered terrain, carrying bikes over obstacles, skidding out under the pedestrian bridges, all while the icy white crust of the lake Michigan shoreline thickened with each crashing wave. As I stood there in the snow, my sneakers a mixture of water and snow and sand, I realized how Chicago continually amazes me. No matter what tickles your fancy, others with the same fancy-tickling interest are close at hand. Every night something interesting is happening. If you’re into serious bicycle racing on rough terrain in inclement weather, you’d have been at Montrose Harbor two weekends ago. If like us you’re into beer, there is so much going now every week I don’t know where to begin. And that is nice to know.
We’re making progress on our brewery, sometimes so focused on getting a tank into place, or painting a rafter, that we don’t see what’s past the nuts and bolts of construction. The other day my neighbor saw a Half Acre bottle on the street while he was walking his dog. While we in no way condone littering, it's always a nice milestone. Someone chose our beer to enjoy while walking to the bus, or to the grocery store, or to a friend’s house.
So thanks Chicago, stay warm and don't litter.
Half Acre Beer Co
Monday, December 8, 2008
We received our Federal Brewers Notice today. That means that the federal government decided to grant us the privilege of brewing beer for public consumption in the United States of America. Without that tasty little morsel we'd be doomed to extinction. Thank you Big Brother.