Beer (& More) In Food

Beer: The Condiment With An Attitude!

Posts Tagged ‘beer’

Attn: Brewpubs or Breweries–Chicago Contractor Looking For You!

Posted by Bob Skilnik on April 15, 2008

About once a year, I get an e-mail or telephone call from someone who wants to open up a brewpub or brewery in Chicago. They tell me they have all their ducks in a row…and a year or two later, nothing has happened. Some readers might recall the high hopes of a brewpub being built in the Beverly section of Chicago…and then nothing.

I’m now talking to a contractor who supposedly has ownership of a building on the Chicago register of historic buildings and additional empty land across the street. It’s on the South Side of Chicago, in Bridgeport. If you haven’t been to Bridgeport lately, the transformation has been amazing. Condos, a new business center, multi-million dollar houses…and Daley’s left, to boot. But it needs something to forever remove the stigma of being a a knuckle-dragging neighborhood of White Sox fans who hide in wait of unsuspecting Cubs fans during the annual CrossTown Classics, or whatever the hell they call the on-field clashing of the Sox vs. Cubs teams…and the subsequent stories of Cub fans being handed their heads for the trip back over Roosevelt Road.

Where was I? This guy owns a plumbing business, tells me he has the go-ahead of the local alderman, and is looking for a brewpub or brewery to work with to begin the anchoring of new businesses in the area. Like GI’s old situation, this building is located in a TIF area, so there’s a City of Chicago tax stimulus package involved. He’d rebuild the building interior to specifications if he had someone moving in and wants to build other retail shops across the street.

The old business district on 35th and Halsted has been rebuilt, there is new construction everywhere in the area, and as I remember Goose Island when it first opened, this area is much less life-threatening than GI’s neighborhood used to be. Compared to what the Halls built their business on, this area’s a paradise, a stone’s throw away from U.S. Cellular Field, I-55 and the Dan Ryan…15 minutes to The Loop.

Anyway, he’s talking about a multi-million project. He has continued to call me every 6 months or so and keeps me up-to-date on his progress. Just talked to him last Friday. Since the news came out on Monday about The Goose, and I spoke to him last Friday, it’s almost like fate has entered the arena.

Aside from the combined 26,000 sq ft on two levels, he figures the basement would add another 13,000. He’s pricing this at around $40 per sq ft or so and would adjust this for a long-term lease. What makes this nice is the fact that the the lessee could add input for whatever was needed before construction begins and not have to retro-fit around something. That and plenty of parking, a rare North Side thing. The alderman’s supposed to be a big supporter of the development. Construction begins in June.

You want a Chicago venue for Real Ale…with fracking parking to boot? Here it is, but first it needs a brewpub.

And I haven’t even talked about the development of the property across the street…


Posted in Editorial | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Colleges Criticize Quantity of Beer Ads During NCAA Broadcasts

Posted by Bob Skilnik on April 10, 2008

WASHINGTON ( — More than 100 college presidents and athletic directors are urging NCAA President Myles Brand to re-examine the presence of alcohol ads on broadcasts of games, suggesting that college sports and beer advertising are a “bad mix.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has said some of CBS’s game telecasts may have exceeded the amount of beer advertising allowed.
In a letter sent yesterday, the presidents cited the amount of beer advertising during CBS’s broadcast of the “March Madness” college basketball tournament.

“Beer advertising during the games continues to undermine the many positive attributes of college spots and taints the NCAA’s status as an inspirational youth brand,” the letter reads.

Sounds to me like someone’s not getting enough payola.

Posted in Neo-Prohibition | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

London Porter History

Posted by Bob Skilnik on April 9, 2008

There’s a barrel full of fable that surrounds the origins of Porter, some of it disputed by The Zythophile , but to add fat to the fire, London Porter is a very interesting site that also delves into the origins of London Porter and much, much more.

I found the site’s reasoning of leaving butts behind (no pun intended, well, maybe just a little) for maturation purposes and moving on to large-scale vatting—and the switch to attemperated beers—of particular interest.

Start with the “Intro” link in the header and follow along the rest of the links for an interesting read.

Posted in Beer History | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Original Formula Schlitz Coming Back to Chicago!!

Posted by Bob Skilnik on April 5, 2008

I can’t wait! This is the beer I was raised on, long before certain people at Schlitz got greedy, leading to Schlitz beer becoming known as “Schitz” beer.

The story of the rise and fall of Schlitz, especially in Chicago where it held the top beer sales position for years, is described in my best-selling book,  Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago.

The downfall of Schlitz, combined with a bottler’s strike at Anheuser-Busch in 1976 allowed Old Style, a sleeper brand that had been in Chicago since the early 1900s, to take over the Chicagoland beer market. OS distributors took their battle for supremacy to neighborhood taverns, bottle by bottle and case by case until the brand dominated more than 40% of the local beer market.

The problems of the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company were brought upon themselves and a board of directors who refused to acknowledge their production mistakes, the sudden death of CEO Bob Uihlein, Jr., and no real leader to take over the business when Bob died, a leader who could handle the meddlesome Uihleins.

At one point, G. Heileman and owner Russ Cleary were poised to buy Schlitz when the Uihlein family-dominated board of directors decided to end it all and sell. At the last minute, the Justice Department stopped the sale, claiming an unfair dominance of the market with the merger. It was a sham of a claim since the combination of G. Heileman and Schlitz would have held about 16% of the national market while Anheuser-Busch already held around 27%.

From Wall Street down through the brewing industry itself, the merger was considered to be a life saver for Schlitz and a boost to G. Heileman which was trying to shed the mantle of being just a regional brewery. It was a perfect match. The feds thought otherwise.

Stroh eventually brought Schlitz but the merger was a disaster. After the family-owned Stroh gave up in 1999, the Schlitz label went to Pabst.

What most beer drinkers don’t realize is that while Pabst owns the label, they actually don’t own any breweries. Their portfolio of once proud regional brands are now brewed by Miller.

I really hope they bring back the original formula and make the brand available again as a draft, bottled and canned product. After Stroh closed, you could only get canned Schlitz beer, which dried up a lot of draft accounts in Chicago. It was a staple at Southport Lanes, for instance

The problem now is, how do you reposition Schlitz as a premium or super-premium beer? It’s had no advertising budget, no media exposure, no nothing for years, just a reputation as a cheap beer that sat on shelves and accumulated dust. The trick will be to be able to convince young beer drinkers that Schlitz is once again a quality product and worth every penny. I imagine it will be priced somewhere between a higher-priced craft beer and a great quality pseudo-craft beer like Blue Moon.

Chicago was it’s number 1 market. It might have been the beer that made Milwaukee famous, but it was Chicago beer drinkers who really made it so.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Beer History | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

After Throwing Your Grandmother Under The Bus, Barack Beer Fits The Bill

Posted by Bob Skilnik on March 20, 2008

looterguyobama.jpgObamamania has intoxicated many of America’s liberal primary and caucus goers, but in Kenya it has been elevated to a higher level – 6% alcohol content to be exact – in what is now the hottest selling item in the country. Senator Beer.

Barack Obama has consistently drawn big crowds at his rallies and this growing popularity, embraced mostly by the younger voters who provide much of the excitement and the hoopla about Obama, has been called “Obamamania”. The mania’s counterpart in Kenya is in a brown bottle that is served in jugs. Obama’a father was from Kenya, which is why the citizens of the country identify with the Illinois Senator and have made him their role model. The brewery was smart enough, however, to avoid using the name “Barack,” so as not to encourage lawsuits.

In depressed areas of Kenya, people drink cheap brews which are sometimes spiked with traditional spirits, that have on some occasions proved lethal. An enterprising brewer (East African Breweries Ltd) took note of the fame generated by Obama and introduced a cheap brew that was safe and lower in alcohol content. Kenyan beer normally have as much as 40% alcohol. The brewery’s low alcohol lager effort is “Senator Keg” beer that patrons simply refer to as “Obama”. The depressed economy has made beer drinkers switch to cheaper beer, and what better way to pass the time talking about politics and life itself, than a glass of Obama.

Raising a glass of Obama apparently raises their hopes too.nor be accused of disrespect tosenatorbeer.jpg the Senator. Fears of encouraging alcoholism because of its low price is being disputed by its low alcohol, which brewers contend is supportive of responsible consumption. Kenyans can therefore get tipsy on Obama, and can still grow up as responsible citizens – much like their idol’s experiments with substances. Whatever Obama says in speeches, you can expect Kenyans hearing it on radio or watching on TV to say, “I’ll drink to that.” I’d prefer something like “Six of these, are you’ll go home riding dirty!” but then again, I’m no copywriter.

The county could also start exporting the product while he remains hot in the American media, and may well be its number one US export! (Calling Tony Resko). They can then create a high end brand called “President Dark Beer” in time for the Inauguration. But the possibility of a whole generation of Kenyans and even Americans getting a little high on Senator Beer or President Dark Beer has tremendous commercial potential, especially if the beer came with mugs with handles the size of the candidates ears.

However, should he fail to win the Presidency, or even the Democratic Party’s nomination, he could always encourage his father’s countrymen to create another product. He can call it “Barack’s Brewed Beer”, like its namesake, it’s all foam – no beer.

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A Beer Drinker’s Disappointment–Hamburger No Longer America’s #1 Sandwich

Posted by Bob Skilnik on March 18, 2008

italian-beef.jpgYeah, I know. Everyone’s worried about their health, their heart, balancing their HDL vs. their LDL and all that rot. But me, I’m a beef man; give me steak, or on a warm summer night, a hamburger off the grill.

But I just ran across this article and it makes me wonder what has happened to American cuisine? As this article in Restaurants and Institutions notes, the grilled chicken-breast sandwich now is the most-often menued item.

In the same sense, the article also points out that what’s old is new again.

Club sandwich: The classic layered look is back in vogue. Among commercial operators that menu sandwiches, the venerable club trails only hamburgers and cheeseburgers as a top seller and also is No. 3 on the list of sandwiches commercial operations say are increasing in sales.

Turkey sandwich: As I like to think of it…a Club Sandwich without the bacon. Simple yet elegant, turkey sandwiches appear among the top sellers for both commercial and noncommercial operations. Turkey reappears on the list of sandwiches that are increasing in sales for both industry segments as well.

Dismissing culinary globalism (paninis, focaccias, wraps, etc.), the Philly cheesesteak sandwich is also hot, and since it’s beef, I’m on it. The chopped-beef-and-cheese concoction is among the top 10 on both the top-seller and thinking-about-adding lists for commercial operators.

My only objection with a cheesesteak is…the cheese. Who the hell puts cheese goo on beef?

Come to Chicago. We’ll show you how to make a beef sandwich, a hot Italian beef sandwich, the Italian bread dipped in a jus (“gravy”) and topped with giardiniera, a condiment made with serrano peppers (called “sport” peppers in Chicago), with other assorted vegetables, such as bell peppers, olives, celery, pimentos, carrots and cauliflower and sometimes crushed red pepper flakes, all marinated in vegetable oil, olive oil, soybean oil or any combination of the three oils.

Since there’s so much going on in your mouth with this delight, a simple American pilsner works just fine as a wash. Anything else would distract from the mess of one of these monsters.

Grilled chicken sandwiches? You’re gonna die anyway. I’d rather go with a belly full of beef than a scraggly “range chicken” sandwich.

I went through dozens of pages looking for an “authentic” Chicago-style beef sandwich recipe and discarded everyone of them that used something other than a top inside round. You could get away with a top round too, but anything else means the recipe preparer doesn’t know what he/she is talking about. This one, supposedly from Buona Beef looks pretty good and if your last name is Buonavolanto, who am I to argue?

Three tips;

1. If you or a friend or neighbor has an electric meat slicer, like at a deli, make a deal with them to slice the beef as thin as possible and then give them some of the action. Like most Chicagoans, I don’t have one of these slicers laying around the house…but I gotta guy.

2. Warm the juice (“the gravy”) and add just enough of the sliced beef for the serving. Don’t dump all the beef into the gravy or overheat the beef, otherwise it’ll curl up and get tough. If somebody wants another sandwich, heat up some more gravy and add a single serving of beef.

3. Slice 8 to 10 green peppers and 2 red peppers (for color contrast) into 1/4 inch slices, longways. In a frying pan, pour in 1/4 cup of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Throw in the sliced peppers and cook until somewhat soft, but still with a little crispness in them. Add 2 tablespoons of dried oregano and 2 tablespoons of dried basil and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Stir, add 1/4 cup of water, place a lid on the frying pan and slow simmer for 10 minutes, taking the lid off after 5 minutes or until the water cooks off.

How do you put this all together? Open up a crisp bun, like a French roll, or cut a 6 inch wedge from a long piece of Italian bread, either dip one side in the gravy or spoon some gravy over the inside of the bread until it’s wet, take some tongs and throw on too many slices of beef, add some cooked sweet peppers and top it all off with giardiniera, the hotter, the better.

Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwich, provided by Joe Buonavolanto Jr., co-owner of Buona Beef Restaurants.

* 9-10 lbs top inside beef round
* 3 garlic cloves, crushed
* 2 qt. water
* 1/2 cup chopped oregano
* 1/4 C. salt
* 1/4 C. black pepper
* 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
* 35 freshly baked French rolls (for smaller portions reduce ingredients portionally)

For roasting times, figure on 10-12 minutes per pound for medium. Check with a meat thermometer for an internal temperature of 130 degree Fahrenheit for rare, 140 degrees Fahrenheit for medium

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place sirloin in roasting pan and dry roast for 15-20 minutes.

2. Remove pan from oven and add water, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Return to oven and roast at 350 degrees for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

3. Remove from oven. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Internal temperature will rise 5-10 degrees.

4. Slice the beef as thinly as possible.

5. Pour juice from the roasting pan into a smaller pot and heat, but don’t boil. If you have to stretch the juice a bit, add some ready-made beef broth. I like Wolfgang Puck’s beef stock. Add a pinch or two of dried oregano and basil to the juice. You should have about a good-sized quart, maybe a quart-and-a-half of beef gravy ready.

6. Add thinly sliced beef to some heated juice and warm meat through, but don’t let the meat sit long.

7. Dip bread in juice and pile beef high on freshly baked French rolls or Italian bread.

8. Garnish with sliced sweet bell peppers and hot giardinara. Makes 30-40 sandwiches depending on portion size. If you make them right, you’ll be lucky to get 25 sandwiches.

9. Grab a beer. Rinse; repeat.

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Beer & Food Pairings, Food That Demands To Be Paired With Beer, Just Good Food | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Make St. Pat’s A National Holiday! (And Buy Guinness)

Posted by Bob Skilnik on March 6, 2008

National survey results suggest millions believe St Patrick’s Day should be a national holiday

New York (February 14, 2008) – In response to overwhelming public sentiment, the makers of Guinness, the world’s most famous Irish stout,
are supporting Proposition 3-17, a national effort to make St. Patrick’s Day an officially-recognized holiday in the United States. 

“Guinness supports the demands of adults around the U.S. to take a day off from work and celebrate their Irish spirit,” said Richard Nichols at Diageo, makers of Guinness stout.  “Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day are all observed, and now it is time for St. Patrick’s Day to have its place among these other important dates.”

The goal is to get at least one million petitioned signatures by midnight on March 16, 2008 so they can be presented to Congress the next day, St. Patrick’s Day.  In the thousands of local bars and retailstores where Guinness stout is sold, anyone who wants to support Proposition 3-17 can sign a petition, or visit or text the word “SIGN” to 65579 to add their names to the petition. 

“My friends and I always get together for St. Patrick’s Day,” said Brandon Schad of Minneapolis.  “I don’t know why it’s not already an official holiday, but it falls on a Monday this year, so we’re making it a three-day weekend.” 

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day goes well beyond wearing a green shirt and talking of leprechauns.  According to a recent survey of men and women 21 years of age and older, when asked which they have done to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, 36% responded that they have watched or marched in a parade, 45% responded that they have toasted the day with a beer, and 59% responded that they have celebrated by eating traditional Irish food such as corned beef and cabbage.
And St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just for people of Irish ancestry.  Over half (57%) of those surveyed think everyone has a little bit of Irish in them on St. Patrick’s Day.  In fact, while 54% of respondents surveyed with Irish ancestry plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, almost a third of U.S. residents who don’t claim Irish ancestry plan to
celebrate St Patrick’s Day as well.  Proposition 3-17 calls on the nation’s leaders in Washington, DC to grant the wish of the many people around the country who desire to spend the day celebrating with family and friends. 

“We think the public’s excitement about attending rallies and going out to pubs and stores where Guinness stout is sold to sign the petition to make the day official is a testament to the passion of the Irish – and would-be Irish – everywhere,” said Nichols.   

The survey also revealed that many people plan to celebrate sometime during the weekend leading up to this year’s St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Monday.  In addition to spearheading the petitioning of Congress for recognition as a national holiday, Diageo is promoting its commitment to responsible drinking by encouraging those who do decide to drink on St. Patrick’s Day, to do so responsibly. 

The United States has been leading the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day for centuries.  On March 17, 1762, the world’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade kicked off in New York City.  More than two centuries later, there are parades held each year in more than 90 cities across the country commemorating St. Patrick’s Day.

Posted in Beer & Food In The News | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Coming Soon!

Posted by Bob Skilnik on March 6, 2008

canonah1videocamera.jpgFor the last 12 months or so, I’ve been begging site visitors to submit videoed contributions of them preparing food using beer as an ingredient. So far, not a single response…until today. Not quite what I was looking for, but hey, these clips below are beer-oriented, and that’s what we’re all about here!

I’ve placed 2 of these submissions on the VodPod vertical on the right of the blog and here are the direct links to all 4 clips on youtube. The contributor’s name is Thomas de Napoli, and if you go to his site at , I suggest you take a look at “Lost,” under the Shorts category. You’ll get a kick out of it.

In the meantime, I’m working on a media-rich website/blog of videos of food recipes using beer, wine, liquor and liqueurs. I’m also building a library of podcasts with interviews from authors and business folks who want to plug a book, project or business in general, but whatever it is, it has to be beer/wine/booze and food oriented. The site will be THE place to go for a media-rich collection of spirited food and drink recipes. Once I have enough clips and interviews ready, I’ll be doing a soft opening in a month or so, start a news release campaign and some other publicity efforts in order to build traffic.

While I’m happy to use submissions from anybody who wants to be a “star” on the site, I’m especially looking for submissions that I can also build interviews around and give the submitter a chance to infomercial their projects for FREE, whatever they might be, once again, built around booze and food.

So here I am, begging again. Why don’t you do a short (under 10 minutes) recipe clip, and if you’re pushing a book, a drink product, a business…we could do an interview around it and talk about your project for an accompanied podcast while also setting up a link back to your site? It doesn’t have to be serious effort; light-hearted or just plain silly will work, as long as there’s a real ber/wine/booze food recipe involved that site visitors can benefit from.

There will be more about this project and website/blog location while I attempt to build a small library of stuff before we go online with this project.

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Nutritional Info For Old Milwaukee, Old Style, Olympia

Posted by Bob Skilnik on March 4, 2008

Old Milwaukee 12 oz   12.90g carbs   146 calories  4.9% abv

Old Milwaukee Light 12 oz   8.30g carbs   119 calories  3.8% abv

Old Style 12 oz   12.00g carbs   143 calories  4.7% abv

Old Style Light 12 oz   7.0g carbs   113 calories  4.2% abv

Olympia 12 oz   11.90g carbs   146 calories  4.7% abv

Posted in Beer And Carbohydrates, Beer Nutritional Info | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Beer as a boost? More on beer as a post-workout source of hydration

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 20, 2008

beerdrinkingmonkey.jpgThe folks at have elaborated on a recent study that indicates that beer might be just the thing to quench your thirst and rehydrate your body after a workout, and since anything remotely connected to beer sounds good to me, here ya go!

After students performed strenuous exercise until exhaustion in 104 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, one group was given two pints of beer while the other group drank the same amount of water. Both groups were then allowed to drink as much water as they wanted and their hydration levels were tested soon after. The tests revealed a slightly better measurement in the beer drinkers than those who drank water.

Personally, I’ve never been able to slam a beer after a workout or simply an hour or two in the garden during a warm summer day. Water first (for me), then a beer. But as they say, your results may vary.

More on this study and its consclusions….

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Lifting Beer Kegs-Dangers Cited By OSHA (Bureaucratic Tips From D.C. Desk Jockeys)

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 19, 2008

walking-beer-kegs.jpgI’m always amazed when I run across a government-funded study that cites the obvious (Eating Pistacchio Nuts Causes Red Fingers, Touching Frigid Flagpoles With Wet Penis Can Cause Sterility, etc.).  Where can I apply for a $150,000 grant to state the obvious?

With this in mind, I’m intrigued with a detailed ergonomic report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration on the proper handling of beer kegs (“Kids, don’t try this at home!”) That’s right, the feds have devoted an entire section of the OSHA website on lifting beer kegs, including additional tabs that will connect you to “Additional References” (Once again, how does a writer jump on a government gravy train like this?)

And more links to “Credits,” a “Disclaimer” that probably took a group of government lawyers a month to compose, and finally,  “Viewing/Printing Instructions,” tab, just in case you’re confronted with a beer keg out in a dorm hallway one day and you don’t know how to approach it (“Thank God that Beer (& More) In Food included a print link, just in case an errant beer keg ever crossed my path!”)

Did you know that a full keg of beer weighs approximately 162 pounds? Drop that little tidbit of info at your next college kegger and    beerkeg-pushing.jpgwatch as your fellow male beer drinkers defer to your superior intellect and women (especially the ones who are on their 10th plastic cup of beer) drop at your feet. If that line doesn’t work, try this one; “Generally the torso should not be bent forward more than 6 to 10 degrees from vertical and reaches should not exceed 16 to 17 inches [when lifting a keg].”

If you don’t get any action after imparting this important bit of keg calculus, ask your potential bedmate if she’d be interested in a demonstration back in your room of the “…basics of body biomechanics and the importance of performing lifting, pushing and pulling tasks at approximately mid chest level or lower,” another tip from those party animals at OSHA.    

Posted in Editorial | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

If I Said “FREE,” Would You Listen? Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV Is Coming!!

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 9, 2008

I’m slowly but surely working on a media-rich website/blog that will be a one-stop and entertaining site of video food recipes makingdeals.gifusing beer, wine and spirits. It will be short on my opinions and beer industry news (like and long on taped recipes of me trying my hand at whipping up “spirited” foods. More importantly, I’m hoping to find brewers, pub owners, distillers, vintners, importers, distributors, blog owners and book authors who are willing to contribute short recipe videos using their products. There’s no fee, no sales pitch…nothing required except the submission of a filmed recipe contribution along with the recipe itself that I can post to my soon-to-be-unveiled site.

In other words, Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV will be a very interactive and media-rich way of entertaining and informing anybody at home who wants to cook along and add some “zip” to any food recipe. I’ll also be working on audio podcasts of interviews with business types as listed above.

With some well-placed news releases and as much promotion as people are willing bear, the site can be a growing and FREE avenue for the promotion of a restaurant or pub, a beer, wine or distilled product, a book…you get the idea. I want the site to be THE place to go if you want to follow along while making a beer bread, a wine glaze, or a rum cake or simply hear what an author has to say about their newest cookbook.

At the same time, I’d like business folks to know that this will be THE site where you can promote your product and know that people will actually be learning about your product in an entertaining manner.

I’ll be throwing time and money at this project; all you need for you to do is send me your promos, POP materials, raw (or completely edited and ready-to-roll) videos and a heaping spoonful of cooperation.

I’m willing to do some out-of-state traveling, when possible, to personally video events, but I’m also asking for folks like yourselves (the person at home who just likes to cook) to please, please consider send me a video (raw and unedited is fine since I’ll be tightening all the videos into 10-minute or less productions using Final Cut Studio 2)-or at least get the word out to your beer, booze wine acquaintances that I’m offering a FREE means of publicity in return for a raw video of a beer, wine, or booze event with a focus on food.

I want this project to be a place where anyone can promote a place or project while keeping it informative and entertaining. I’ll take the roughest video and try my best to edit in a way that everyone will look like a Spielberg and set up links if viewers want further info. I’m looking at this as a clearinghouse of information, even if it takes a bit of product self-promotion to make it happen.

I’ll also be doing phone interviews for audio podcast, once again, giving authors, bloggers, brewers, vintners, distillers, etc, the opportunity to talk about their products in a manner that’s more than a glorified infomercial. The key here is to make the site rich with informative and entertaining media.

I have TIVO, and while I usually fast-forward the commercials from the programs I record, I also welcome the opportunity that TIVO offers to let me actually go to their special channels and view commercials I actually want to see, and then press a button if I want the advertiser to send me even more info. This won’t be TIVO but it could be a nice avenue for viewers who want to know more about books, products, places and such, all wrapped around the enjoyment of food and drink.

I’ve dabbled with this approach on using a PC and some clunky video editing software and a way-too-slow processor, but I’m kicking it up a notch with a new MacPro and the best video editing software available. The result, I hope, will be a professional appearing website that will put everybody and everything, including products, establishments, or businesses, in the best possible light.

Expect me to be pestering others in the next few weeks, so please, think about what I’m offering. Let others know what I’m doing too and that I’m looking for contributions that will benefit everyone while being an informative and entertaining website/blog.

Thanks for your time,

Bob Skilnik

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Author Bob Skilnik At Park Ridge Library, Sunday, February 10th, 2 P.M.

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 7, 2008


Stop by and say “Hello!” Sunday, February 10th at 2 P.M.

20 South Prospect Avenue
Park Ridge, IL 60068-4188


Chicago Tribune
“Bob Skilnik thinks most historians have overlooked what a thirsty job it was being hog butcher to the world.”

Illinois Heritage Magazine
“Skilnik’s book, quite skillfully, brings focus to the history of Chicago’s beer production, distribution, retail sale, and consumption patterns.”

From the Author
Why breweries? Why bother writing about this long forgotten local industry?

As a kid growing up in the predominately Irish neighborhood of Bridgeport during the 1950s and early ’60s, there were two distinctive smells I’ll always remember, the putrid fumes of the nearby Chicago Stockyards and the balancing sweet malt aroma from our two neighborhood breweries. Living just blocks away from both industries, the aroma of the breweries was, understandably, more appealing.

In my youth, little did I know that one neighborhood brewery had once belonged to gangster Johnny Torrio, later passed on to the control of Al Capone and, eventually, Frank Nitti. During National Prohibition, the later renamed Canadian Ace Brewery was known as the Manhattan Brewing Company, supplying much of the thirsty South Side with illegal brew.

But now they’re gone. A few years ago, I tried to find some information about the old Chicago brewing industry, but most books of local history were useless. It was almost as though the industry had never existed. That is why this book was written.

About the Author
Bob Skilnik is an alumnus of Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology – the oldest school of brewing technology in the U.S. – where he earned a degree in brewing technology. He is the former associate editor for the American Breweriana Journal, a contributor to the Chicago Tribune’s Good Eating food section, trade journals, magazines and newspapers.

He has appeared on ABC’s “The View,” the Fox News Channel, ESPN2, and Chicago’s WTTW. BEER: A History of Brewing in Chicago is his fifth book.
A fascinating look at the rise and fall of Chicago’s brewing industry, by Midwest Book Review

Brewing technology expert and former associate editor for the “American Breweriana Journal” Bob Skilnik presents Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago, a fascinating look at the rise and fall of Chicago’s brewing industry across the decades.

From the illegal alcohol trafficking during the Prohibition era, to famous beer riots, the interplay of beer and politics, lists of every Chicago brewery since 1833 with addresses and dates of operation, a guided tour of the local breweries that remain, and much more, Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago covers everything a Chicago beer lover could hope for with extra surprises in store.

Written in a down-to-earth, friendly narrative tone, Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago blends spot-on accurate research with an inviting prose style.

Recommended both for casual readers curious about the history of beer in Chicago and scholars in need of research information on the topic.

Posted in Appearances | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Out of Control

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 2, 2008

nanny-state-book-cover.jpgIf this scenario dosen’t stink of entrapment, nothing does. From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Three undercover officers stepped into an American Fork restaurant one Friday evening, pushed aside the menus and ordered themselves a round of beer. 

Their waiter, Fidelis Osuchukwu, said he couldn’t serve drinks without a meal. But when the officers kept pressing him, Osuchukwu offered “to bring us some chips and salsa for free,” said the officers’ report. “We said OK.” 

The agents left a tip an hour and a half later, then cited Chili’s for serving alcohol without food, in violation of Utah’s liquor laws. 

“They kept saying they wouldn’t order anything but beer,” said Osuchukwu. “It didn’t seem like they were going to give in, so I brought the chips – and then I got fired.”

After reading this article and the one below about the legislative geniuses in Mississippi, you have to shake your head. If you really want to get pissed off, click on the Nanny State cover and take a look.

More Here

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Neo-Prohibition, WTF? | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Superbowl Savory Herb & Wheat Cheese Cake

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 1, 2008

savoryherbcheesecake.jpgFrom the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA)    Alexandra, Virginia

The N.B.W.A. was founded in 1938 as a trade association for the nation’s beer distributors. It also, however, has assumed an educational role with the public, bringing attention to the problems of alcohol abuse, drunk driving, and underage purchasing and consumption of beer. The site also provides plenty of food recipes using beer. Make sure to stop by their site for recipes, beer terms, and further information on promoting responsibility while enjoying a beer or two.

Savory Herb and Wheat Beer Cheesecake  30 servings 

1 ¼ cups flour, divided
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons butter, very cold and cut into 6 pieces
3 tablespoons plus ¾ cup wheat beer
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 package (5 ounces) goat cheese, softened
½ teaspoon black pepper
5 large eggs½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons fresh dill
3 tablespoons prepared pesto
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice 

Spray an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray. In a food processor, combine 1 cup flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons tarragon and lemon zest; pulse to combine. Add butter; pulse until butter is the size of small peas. In small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons wheat beer with yolk of one of the eggs; add to food processor. Pulse until mixture is crumbly.  Press mixture in the bottom and halfway up the sides of prepared pan.

Place pan in freezer. Preheat oven to 425º F. 

In large bowl with electric mixer, beat cream cheese, goat cheese, ¼ cup flour, 1½ teaspoons salt and black pepper until smooth. Beat in 4 remaining eggs, then Parmesan cheese, dill, pesto and chives. Stir in remaining ¾ cup Wheat beer and lemon juice. Remove pan from freezer; pour filling into crust.

Bake cheesecake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325º F.; bake an additional 40 to 45 minutes until top is lightly golden and filling is set. Remove cheesecake from oven; cool on wire rack.

Refrigerate cheesecake for several hours. Remove from pan; transfer to serving plate. Garnish top with dill sprigs. Cheesecake may be made up to one week ahead and refrigerated. Serve with favorite crackers, or as slices on plate.

Posted in Beer & Food Pairings, Beer In Food, Cooking With Beer | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Beer Drinker’s Guide to Weightlifting

Posted by Bob Skilnik on January 22, 2008


Coming Soon!

Does My BUTT Look BIG In This BEER?

Aside from the <ahem>, “literary style” that this fellow blogger offers (self-described as “…a single, sexually deprived guy who spends way too much time at the corner bar”), maybe there’s a tid-bit or two of information for you beer-drinking weight lifters in his entry at The Gravitation to the Corner Bar.

“Ok, so you want to start lifting weights. You may not want to get huge, you may just want to get in shape, but the bottom line is you want results. Wait, what’s that? You think you have to give up beer in order to get in shape? You think you have to give up partying and watch the big game at home instead of at the bar with your friends? Nonsense! Are you crazy?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here… ”

And this little nugget: “This is The Beer Drinker’s Guide to Weightlifting, not The Weightlifting Guide for Beer Drinkers. Beer comes first.”

I like a guy who has his priorities straight.

Posted in beer diet, Drink In General | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Superbowl Chili #1

Posted by Bob Skilnik on January 10, 2008



3 tablespoons olive oil; more as needed
2 large sweet onions, diced (about 4 cups)
2 large fresh poblano peppers (or green bell peppers), stemmed, seeded, and diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt; more to taste
4-1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks, 3 to 4 inches long
3 tablespoons New Mexico chile powder (or 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder)
1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
12-ounce bottle amber ale, such as Shiner Bock, Dos Equis Amber, or Huber Bock
1-1/2 quarts homemade or low-salt beef broth
For the garnish:
2 14-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
12 ounces sour cream or whole-milk plain yogurt

how to make

In a 12-inch skillet, heat 2 table-spoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute’ until softened, translucent, and starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the poblanos, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the poblanos soften, another 8 to 10 minutes. If the pan seems dry, add a little more olive oil. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon salt and sauté for another 5 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 table-spoon olive oil in an 8-quart or larger Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear the beef cubes until browned and crusty on two sides, working in batches to avoid crowding the pan. With a slotted spoon, transfer the browned beef to a bowl. During searing, it’s fine if the pan bottom gets quite dark, but if it smells like it’s burning, reduce the heat a bit. If the pan ever gets dry, add a little more oil.

Once all the beef is seared and set aside, add the onions and peppers to the pan, along with the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, chile powders, cumin, and cloves and cook, stirring, until the spices coat the vegetables and are fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. Slowly add the beer while scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to dissolve the coating of spices. Simmer until the beer is reduced by about half and the mixture has thickened slightly, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the beef, along with any accumulated juices, and the beef broth. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer, partially covered, for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Test a cube of meat—you should be able to cut it with a spoon. Discard the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves.

If not serving immediately, chill overnight. The next day, skim any fat from the top, if necessary, before reheating.

To serve, heat the chili gently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer about 2 cups of the beef cubes to a plate. Shred the meat with a fork and return it to pot. (The shredded meat will help create a thicker texture.) Taste and add more salt if needed. Heat the beans in a medium bowl covered with plastic in the microwave (or heat them gently in a saucepan). Arrange the beans, chopped red onion, tomatoes, cilantro, and sour cream in small bowls to serve as garnishes with the chili.

Serves 8.

Posted in Beer And Food Pairing, Beer In Food, Cooking With Beer, Food That Demands To Be Paired With Beer | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Nutritional Info For More Goose Island Products

Posted by Bob Skilnik on January 6, 2008

beerdietpyramidgood.gif  Honker’s Ale  
  12 oz   16.50 g carbs   154 calories   4.5% abv

  India Pale Ale  
  12 oz   21.50 g carbs   206 calories   5.9% abv


Posted in Beer And Calories, Beer And Carbohydrates, beer diet, Beer Nutritional Info, calories in beer, carbohydrates in beer | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hop-onomics 101

Posted by Bob Skilnik on December 21, 2007

hop-cones.jpgI’ve been watching the brewing industry revelations with interests that hops and apparently barley too are in short supply. Looking past the next few years, most industry insiders predict things will get worse before they get better.

Why such a low hop (and barley) supply? Long story short, weather conditions, a free market, political considerations that encourage farmers to switch to high-yield and higher-profit corn (“Let’s go green with ethanol! Sure it’s tax-subsidized so any savings are a wash, but it makes us feel warm and fuzzy!”) and a further demonstration that most craft brewers still look at brewing beer as an art, rather than the business it is. The majority of craft brewers never thought of locking in prices with speculation in the hops futures market. The big boys do it, ensuring that they will know the future price of hops not yet harvested while also giving themselves a decent estimate as to what kind of future expense to expect for future hop supplies. More importantly, hop futures also give the smart brewer the ability to lock-in a future supply of hops.

There is a risk with hops futures speculation; if the hop prices prove lower, the brewers still have to pay whatever price they’ve locked themselves into, even if it’s higher than the so-called “spot market,” the current price of hops, but you’ll still be assured a supply of hops, when other “artists” won’t. It’s a risk, but at least you’ve not only planned for a future brewing expense, you’ve also ensured your brewery an adequate supply of hops to be. As a craft brewer whose cash flow is often less than tentative, you’d think that more of them would have jumped into the hops futures market as a planned and controlled expense-to-be. Instead, they’re out in the market right now, begging for hops, and either paying a high price for them or foregoing certain types of hops all together. Supply and demand; feast or famine.

From a historical perspective, a glance through 100-year old issues of The Western Brewer, arguably the most renowned and available of the old brewing trade journals, clearly demonstrates that hop supplies have fallen short of brewers demands throughout the history of brewing in the U.S. When the nineteenth century brewing industry was emerging as a big business, newspapers often reported the brewing business like newspapers today talk about Apple or Microsoft. Back in the day, you could pick up any big city newspaper, especially in a brewing center like Chicago or New York, and read all about hops futures and the old brewers’ problems with supply and demand. Pick up a copy of my Beer & Food: An American History and you’ll see that brewing in the English colonies, the young United States, during the food control acts of pre-Prohibition, National Prohibition itself, in World Wars I and II, and even the post-World War years, there has always been a struggle in the brewing industry between the feast or famine effect of supply and demand.

Current brewing newspapers, magazines, blogs, and such, are filled with stories of brewers who have had to chase high hop prices with the limited funds they have. The more interesting story, as I historically see this playing out, is something that no one’s talking about; will beer styles disappear? As hop production moved from the East Coast to the West during the 1880s-1890s, hop prices skyrocketed in the form of shipping charges as most of the country’s beer production was still in the Midwest and East. As a result, brewers were forced to lower the amount of hops they used.

Already we’re reading stories about brewers cutting back on the production of their IPAs and other high-hopped beers. Jim Koch at The Boston Beer Company has had to defer the brewing of this years winning LongShot homebrewers’ competition entry because the recipe’s hop bill was a bit too esoteric in its scope, indicative that the rarer hops—prized by some craft brewers—will be the most affected by current market conditions. Perhaps of most importance will be a shift in buying patterns as the big brewers, who yes, have always worked the hops and grains futures market, entice craft beer drinkers with their own interpretations of craft beers…something like a Coors Blue Moon or a Leinie Sunset Wheat, backed by deep pockets for advertising and marketing efforts. Having customarily worked the supply futures market as a part of doing business, and having the advantage of economies of scale, they might also crank out pseudo-Belgians, muted hop-monsters, and lower-alcohol “Imperials” with ease. While craft brewers either cut brands or start to try to recoup high hops (and let’s not forget barley) prices by making “adjustments” to the price of their beers, price-sensitive craft beer drinkers might mossy over to a nice 50-pack stack display of CoorsMillerBud-brewed “Imperial” Stout cases in the middle of the aisle of their local liquor store and kick its tires, so to speak.

Supply and demand has “helped” change the U.S. beers of 1792 into the kinds of beers that about 80% of American beer drinkers purchase in 2007. There’s no reason to believe that the craft beer sector is impervious to change, either voluntarily or not.
On a side note; how will the lack of hops affect the too-contrived beer style guidelines hammered together by those folks in Colorado (C’mon…What the hell’s a “Light Hybrid Beer?” Really; who comes up with this stuff?) When guidelines are calling for hop International Bitterness Units (IBUs) between 50-90+ or describing a beer with “Medium to aggressively high bitterness,” what’s going to happen if brewers decide that they can no longer afford to brew that type of beer? I see beer judges in upcoming beer competitions sipping on more “Light Hybrids” than “Russian Imperial Stouts,” or for that matter, anything with the word “Imperial” on the label.

How about some of the more hard-hitting beers that are to be entered into next year’s homebrewing contests? If Jim Koch, of all people, can’t find hops for homebrewer Mike McDole’s LongShot winning double IPA, when will the ripple effect take place with homebrewers and their contest entries?

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Beer History | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Nutritional Info For Some Sierra Nevada Products

Posted by Bob Skilnik on December 15, 2007


Sierra Nevada                                                                

Bigfoot      12 oz    20–24.7 g carbs     Varies according to season

Pale Ale     12 oz      14.13 g carbs     160 calories      4.82% abv

Porter       12 oz      18.39 g carbs     170 calories      5.34% abv

Stout        12 oz                        199 calories      5.10% abv


Posted in Beer And Calories, Beer And Carbohydrates, Beer Nutritional Info, calories in beer, carbohydrates in beer, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Beer Writer Bill Brand And Author Bob Skilnik Talk Pumpkin Brews

Posted by Bob Skilnik on November 8, 2007

pumpkin-vomit.jpgI recently received, but missed a call from William (Bill) Brand, a newspaper reporter who happens to also sideline as a beer writer for the Oakland Tribune/Bay Area News Group/Media News Group and the food & drink friendly Contra Costa Times. It’s not often you run across a true newspaper reporter who can switch gears from reporting on a blazing local fire to a light-hearted piece about a fire-brewed beer. Unlike a lot of beer writers, Bill has put his time in the trenches out in the field, but after speaking to him, you soon can tell that he uses this same kind of dedication that he exhibits when penning an article about his favorite adult beverage—beer—as he does when reporting on a blazing inferno or an unfortunate murder in the city.

I found that out when I returned his call for some requested comments about a story he was working on about Pumpkin Ale, a perennial harvest time beer that has gone on from a novelty brew to one that has become a true seasonal. “Bob, I’ve got to call you back while I knock out this article about a nearby fire,” he said, and quickly hung-up the phone.

About an hour later, with the fire struck and the news article about the blaze sent to his editor, we had a nice chat about Pumpkin Ale and its growing popularity, a drink that has limited time constraints in stores, usually wrapping up appearances in 50-case aisle displays in liquor stores about the same time that the last stale pieces of Halloween candy can still be found in the kid’s candy bowl (typically buried under crumbled wrappings). But unlike post-Halloween candy that’s already showing signs of age, a smart beer drinker can usually find a good and still-fresh supply of post-holiday Pumpkin beer products that have been discounted to clear them out, making them available for stockpiling, at least through Thanksgiving and even into Christmas—if you’re lucky. A good bottle of Pumpkin Ale to wash down a slice of still-warm pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, topped with a too genrous dollop of whipped cream, is a taste treat that can brighten up any holiday meal.

As Bill reports in his article, pumpkin beer has gotten so popular in the last few years that the Great American Beer Festival in Denver has even added a pumpkin beer subcategory for the first time. “There were 15 entries,” Brewers Association’s Julia Herz says. And Dick Cantwell’s Great Pumpkin won a second place silver medal, edged out only by a beer made with berries. It’s a brave new beery world these days.

Having discussed the problems that colonists had in securing brewing fermentables in my latest book, Beer & Food: An American History, Brand wanted my take on the origins of a gourd-ish beer and and any clues to the style’s history.

“The idea of pumpkin beer makes beer historian Bob Skilnik, author of ‘Beer & Food: An American History,’ snicker — well, almost. He admits he likes pumpkin beers; always buys them each fall. But pumpkin beer, while a true piece of Americana cuisine, was not exactly lofty stuff in colonial times.

Truth is, limited shipments of quality malted barley to make beer had to be imported from England to the colonies, Skilnik says. It was hard to obtain and expensive, so colonists made do with what they had — and that included indigenous pumpkins and corn. ‘The Indians taught the earliest colonists how to grow pumpkins along with corn. The vines grew up the corn stocks; it was an efficient use of space.’ ”

But as pointed out in the book, pumpkin was just one of the crazy ingredients that early brewers used to make suds. Artichoke beer anyone?

“So when it came time to brew beer, everything fermentable was tossed into the brew kettle: Both corn and pumpkins went in, along with persimmons and Jerusalem artichokes, Skilnik said. “When I see everyone replicating the beers of the past, I kind of laugh. What most people don’t know is there was some pretty foul stuff passing for beer in colonial America.”

You can read Bill’s complete article here  and his blog here and read more about Beer & Food: An American History here. And keep your eyes out for discounted 6-packs of pumpkin beer. I’m thinking pumpkin creme brulee with a well-spiced and cellar temperature pumpkin beer on the side.

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Beer History, Beer Styles | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Crumble A Jays Snack On The Curb For Another Former Homey Of Chicago Cuisine

Posted by Bob Skilnik on October 30, 2007

jays_animation_chips01.gifIf you’ve ever lived in or visited Chicago, there are quintessential foods and drinks that you have to experience while you’re here, tasty treats that are part of Chicago’s cuisine. Vienna hot dogs (Chicago-style, and please, NO catsup—or Mr. Burns, is that ketchup?), Italian beef sandwiches, Old Style beer (although this is an illusion since Pabst contracts the brewing of the beer out to Miller, but more importantly, nobody drinks Old Style except out-of-towners who stop at Wrigley Field, say stupid things like “Go Cubbies” (aargh!), and throw down a few Old Styles as the Cubs lose, because they heard that it’s “Chicago’s Beer,” maybe a chunk of deep-dish pizza (even though most Chicagoans eat thin crust), and a bag of Jays Potato Chips.

Long story short on the history of Jays, but the company used to be named for its original owner, Leonard Japp, Sr., who started his bar snack business during Prohibition in Chicago. Since 8,000 licensed saloons were replaced with 10,000 to 15,000 speakeasies, Leonard did OK. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, however, the name “Japp” didn’t play too well with Chicagoans. The family was going to change the name to “Jax,” but there was a brewery in New Orleans with the same name, so “Jays” became the new name of the Chicago snack food business, more or less by default.

Jeffrey Dunn, president and CEO of Ubiquity Brands, the contemporary owner of Jays and Select Snacks has announced that the business has filed for Chapter 11. Reported more than $20 million in debt to unsecured non-bank creditors (how the hell this happens in “Big Business” is always beyond my comprehension. Go to your bank and ask for a $10,000 unsecured loan and watch how fast they show you the door), the rumor is that Synder, another snack food company, might reach into the bag of crumbs of what will be left of Jays after the owners scramble to pick up some quick cash from bits and pieces of the operation. The bankruptcy follows by three weeks the company’s sale of its Lincoln Snacks division to ConAgra Foods.

So, for the hell of it, why not pick up a sixer of Old Style and a big bag of Jays (“Can’t Stop Eatin’ Em!) this weekend and spill a sip of beer and a greasy chip or two on the curb for all the homeys of Chicago’s former food and drink businesses who are no longer with us…

Or maybe try this recipe for Jays Potato Chip Cookies and wash them down with a cold Old Style.

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Beer & Food Pairings, Food History | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Kugelis—Break Out A Baltic Porter And Eat Like A Lithuanian

Posted by Bob Skilnik on October 5, 2007

For Your Kugelis Kravings

For Your Kugelis Kravings

UPDATE:  I totally forgot about posting this info until I saw that there has been a recent run on hits to this particular  post. Some of you wanted info on purchasing a mechanized potato grinder, a “Kugelis machine,” to quicken the time needed for grinding 5, 10 or more pounds of peeled potatoes. When grinding, time is of the essence if you want to retain nice, white ground potatoes. They’ll oxidize after being ground and will turn greyish. This won’t change the taste; it just looks funky.

Here’s the info:

They have a Lithuanian store/deli down the road from the restaurant. The restaurant site is .  The link to the store/deli is on the restaurant website, it’s Lietuvele

That’s where you can definitely get the machine with links at the site in English and Lithunian, with some Lugan songs playing (too loudly) in the background on the index page.  You should call before making the trip  (Phone 1-773-788 1362 or e-mail  ). Here’s a direct link to the potato grater

Check to see if it comes with a 120v motor or a 220v. If it’s a 220v, you’ll need a stepdown transformer too.
thumb_the_session_beer_food.gifI think I was about 18 years old, too young to legally enjoy a beer in my hometown of Chicago, but already trying my damndest to try to get used to the taste of beer.

I had a friend at the time who’s parents were a bit understanding about teen-age boys and beer drinking and would allow us the occasional beer drinking party, as long as we spent the night and dropped our car keys into their hands before the beer came out.

My buddy’s parents were Lithuanian, having come “over on the boat” sometime after World War II. At the time, it was necessary for WW II refugees to get on a list and arrange sponsorship with a family here and prove that their was a job waiting for them before they could arrive in the U.S.                                                                   

Typically the sponsors here in the U.S. were second generation Lithuanian-Americans whose parents had been in the States since the Third Great Migration, anywhere between 1885 and before World War I.

They did it the right way, no sneaking over and demanding signs and voting ballots in English and Lithuanian, learned English as soon as possible once they arrived here, and practiced a frugality that most cradle-born Americans never learned. Work hard, pay cash and eat hearty, even if the food had its origins in farmer-like simplicities.

My friend’s mom would ensure that we kept somewhat sober by serving this weird dish called kugelis, a baked potato pudding that was loaded with bacon and all its drippings, butter, onions, and all kinds of different ingredients that each Lithuanian mother usually kept secret. It’s the kind of deceptive practice that prize-winning chili makers exercise; they give you (almost) all the ingredients of their prize-winning chili, but for some reason, yours never comes out quite as tasty as theirs. If you’ve ever seen the “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode where Marie relabels some of her spices so poor Deborah could never get the taste of some Italian specialty quite the same as Marie’s, you know what I’m talking about.

Lithuanian kugelis makers like to practice the same bit of deception, but no matter what the end result, as I learned many years ago, a piece of two of warm kugelis, maybe with a dollop of sour cream on top, goes so good with beer. Doesn’t really have to be a beer from the Baltic States; any beer will do with a hearty dish like this.

While kugelis is considered a unique Lithuanian food, there are European food similarities, including the Jewish potato kugel, and the somewhat similar potato pancake, potato-based recipes that a number of Central and Eastern European countries enjoy. While the small neighboring countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are lumped together as “the Baltic States,” this dish is truly indigenous to Lithuania. There is no regional influence in this recipe, but kugelis has developed into a very hearty peasant dish that took advantage of Lithuania’s abundant and perennial crop of potatoes and pork (bacon) as a meat staple.

So at the risk of having my mother-in-law—who’s also Lithuanian—banish me from her house, I’m going to give you her “secret” formula for one of the most satisfying things you could ever eat with a beer wash. And like chili, I play around with this recipe. Add a few more eggs and the dish will be fluffier or use one or two less and the kugelis will be heavier. Same with the bacon. I sometimes use 1 1/4 pounds (and all the bacon grease) and switch to a large onion rather than a medium-sized one.

Making kugelis is like making homebrew; there’s an artistry involved, so once you get the hang of this, improvise to your heart’s (and stomach’s) content!

One other tip. Don’t ever tell a Lithuanian woman that her kugelis is good, but that Mrs. Stankus down the block makes a tastier version. I once told my mother-in-law about an old girl friend’s mother (also Lithuanian—I’ve got a thing about Lithuanian girls, I guess) who used to make a fluffier—and I thought, tastier—version. That was 25 years ago, and now I understand why the Russians left Lithuania.

Sofija’s Kugelis (Potato Pudding)

Prep Time: 45 Minutes
Cooking Time: 2 Hours


5 pounds of Idaho white potatoes. Years of experience have proven that Idahos make the best kugelis.

6 eggs, beaten

1 pound bacon

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 stick butter

1 cup heated milk

1 tablespoon sour cream

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon ascorbic acid (or 4 vitamin C tablets, crushed)

Preheat oven to 425F.


Peel the potatoes into a large bowl. Cover with cold water. Finely grate potatoes and add the ascorbic acid to the potato mush keep the potatoes white. Don’t try to cheat and use a Cuisinart since the texture just won’t be the same. Without the inclusion of ascorbic acid or the vitamin C, the grated potatoes will turn grey before completion of the dish. We always like to think that the occasional grated skin from a finger or two also adds a flavor enhancement to the final product, so if you knick a knuckle or two, just think of how you’ll answer the question, “I can’t put my finger on it. What’s that delightful other meaty flavor in this?”


“My secret ingredient. Don’t worry about it. Did you watch the Cubs fold last night? Need another beer?”


Cut bacon into small pieces and add to a 12-14 inch frying pan. Cook on medium heat and stir occasionally. When the bacon is very lightly cooked, add the chopped onion. Although it can be a minor balancing act, the bacon should be almost cooked through while the onions become translucent. Remove pan from heat and add the stick of butter to the bacon, onions and grease and stir until the butter’s melted


Into the grated potatoes, pour the bacon and ALL the grease. Stir lightly and add the 6 beaten eggs. Add salt, pepper and sour cream. Mix thoroughly.


Liberally grease a 9” x 13″ x 2″ pan with butter. A Pyrex-type glass pan will help control any excess browning of the edges, but a metal pan will work fine. Pour in the potato mixture.


Place in preheated oven (425F) and cook ½ hour. When kugelis shows slight browning around the edges of the pan, bring oven temperature down to 350F and cook another 45-60 minutes until top is golden brown. Cover pan with aluminum foil and cook another 30 until pudding is firm. Give the pan a slight shake to test for firmness. Remove from oven and let sit ½ hour.


Serve as a stand alone entrée or as a side dish. Top off each individual serving with a generous dollop of sour cream.

If you need to double this recipe, it’s best to use two 9” x 13” x 2” pans rather than one large one. The cooking can be uneven with a larger pan.


If you have any kugelis left over, slice it thin the next morning—about the thickness of a slice of bread—and fry it on both sides in unsalted, sweet butter until heated through and golden brown. Look, the grease will probably kill you anyway, so have a breakfast beer with your kugelis and get over it.




Posted in Beer & Food Pairings, Beer And Food Pairing, Food That Demands To Be Paired With Beer | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

When Did They Take The “Lager” Out Of Lager Beer?

Posted by Bob Skilnik on October 2, 2007

beerandfoodfrontcoverwebforum.jpgAs you read throughout the pages of Beer & Food: An American History, you’ll note the numerous instances of American beer being tweaked for one reason or another. Going back the Colonial Era, for instance, the availability of malted barley was a continuous problem in the brew house. Why grow barley in the colonies when there were few malt houses to convert the barely to malt? On the other hand, why build malt houses if farmers found no reason to grow barley?

The temporary answer to this brewing problem was the importation of malted barley from England. Because of the transportation expense involved and a demand that rolled right over supply, brewers supplemented their grain bill with anything that could be used as a fermentable; corn, cornstalks and husks, persimmons, spruce, molasses, and so much more. 

But as the book details, the very act of brewing continued to evolve—from the Colonial Era, the importation of lager beer yeast, the techniques of brewing a golden-colored pilsner beer,  the end of the decoction technique, food control bills, wars, and on and on. Those who argue that Prohibition was the single event that caused the irrevocable change in American beer don’t understand that U.S. beer’s change in quality and character has been subtle, but continuous. And as we see below, it looks like more change is coming from ingredients group, DMS.

“With the margins of a beer manufacturers recently falling on the back of declining beer sales and inflated commodity costs, brewers are looking for means to increase productivity. By removing the need for cold stabilisation in brewing (re: lagering), DSM claims to have made a massive breakthrough in beer production. The company added that using the enzyme along with accelerated maturation processes could soon make beer production within less then one week a reality.”

“According to DSM’s testing, the use of Brewers Clarex also prevents the grouping of haze proteins and polyphenols that create cloudy less stable beer, without need for cold stabilisation.”

For you amateur beer historians out there, let me say one word that might make you recall another brewery that once thought that they too had the enzymatic answer to protein haze and the answer to a short maturation period—“Schlitz.” I might be giving my age away, but when I was a kid, there used to be an old tagline from DuPont (I believe); “Better living through chemistry.” But there are some things that simply shouldn’t be tampered with…starting with beer.

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Posted by Bob Skilnik on October 1, 2007

According to Catholic League President, Bill Donohue, Miller is taking a second look at their sponsorship of event like last Sunday’s Folsum Street Fair. After the San Francisco Chronicle listed some of the going-ons on the public streets of San Francisco (“…couples led each other up and down the street with dog collars and leashes, men in thong underwear played Twister….’ There was also a man who was flogged to such an extent that ‘red lash marks covered his back.’ Other gay men decided to ‘walk around naked’ in front of women and children. In addition to the homosexuals who dressed as nuns—ridiculing the women who have given selflessly of their lives in service to the dispossessed—there was a female stripper who was hoisted in a cage over a Roman Catholic church (on a Sunday when Masses were being said). The lead sponsor for the incredible spectacle is the Miller Brewing Company.”)

Donohue reported that Miller said it took exception to the use of its logo on an offensive poster mocking the Last Supper. “Today, it extended its original statement by apologizing for the misuse of its logo, ‘particularly [to] members of the Christian community who have contacted us to express their concern.’ It also said, ‘We are conducting an immediate audit of our procedures for approving local marketing and sales sponsorships to ensure that this does not happen again.’”

Donohue added: “We called Miller today asking for clarification of this statement, and we are pleased to note that a full-scale review of all its promotional policies is underway.”

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