Social Hour every Friday in fall is a great way to avoid getting started on a weekend full of work, but sometimes a body gets tired of drinking High Life (I know, perish the thought). In other words, you might consider heading over to Kimbark Beverages or Binny’s (where, incidentally, August is “Midwest Craft Brew Month” [!!!]) to pick up some of the Midbest’s finest beers.
But alternatively, if you’re not some kind of rockafella, you can stick to these tried and true nectars of true Midwesterners. I’m talking of course, about the best canned beer this great nation of ours has to offer. There’s a time and a place for delicious and expensive Spotted Cow, Two Brothers, Three Floyds’, and certain kinds of 312 (I’m partial to the Honker’s Ale, and on nights for celebrations, Matilda). I’m not incredibly partial to Great Lakes Brewery (Ohio, please–though I do have to say Quitness Ale is one of the funniest sports-related beverages in history).
NB: I’m missing SO many here. I’m from New York, after all. We know nothing of cans. Comment on some of your favorite “old man beers”–we all want to try more.
Old Style: The Shield of Chicago
Baltimore may have Natty Bo, “a beer best consumed by the case” (as described to me by a 45-year-old divorcee who subsequently, and with a straight face, lamented that he couldn’t imagine where his marriage had gone wrong), but Chicago produced its own magical lager in 1902 when the Pabst Brewing Company introduced Old Style. That’s right, hipsters. When you’re scoffing at Old Style drinkers as you swill your PBR, you’re just scoffing at yourself, and usually paying more.
Feel that? It’s egg. All over your face.
Do Chicago a favor and have an Old Style as soon as you arrive. As of 2009, taking a cue from its cousin and arch-rival Schlitz “The Beer that Made Milwaukee Famous,” (after the jump) Old Style had returned to an older formula. And I say Amen.
Why drink it?: Because you live in Chicago, want to drink local, and have no money. Because there’s a sign for Old Style on every blue collar bar in Bucktown and you can’t resist. Because it tastes just good enough. Because you earned it, but just barely.
Where to drink it: Bear’s games, The Cove, Lincoln Park flip cup tournaments, your drab university studio apartment staving off apocalyptic loneliness and horror, in Regenstein when you’re trying to read Lacan, out of a brown paper bag at The Point, anywhere.
Schlitz: “When You’re out of Schlitz, You’re out of Beer”
Schlitz, the most popular beer in the country for the better part of mid-century, famously decided not to brew light beers in the 1980’s and suffered tremendously. The beer had already been suffering due to tweaks to its historically successful recipe. Though Schlitz was still the number 2 beer in America as late as 1976 (my grandfather drank only Schlitz, and smoked only Chesterfield’s), its decline seems almost inevitable in retrospect. Lesson learned: don’t mess with beer once you got it right the first time.
After re-launching with its original(ish) recipe in 2008 (the original formula was literally lost to the ages while mad scientists tried to “improve” upon Schlitz’s famous success in the Sixties), Schlitz has been rolled out nationally. But Chicago was the first market for its relaunch and it flows from taps like water just about everywhere. Of course, it is still best enjoyed from a can. Especially a tall-boy can. When you’re looking for “Just a Kiss of the Hops,” this old man brew is perfect for you.
Why drink it?: Because your grandfather did. Isn’t that good enough?
Where to drink it: Best with a burger, and extremely smooth, Schlitz is a little on the lighter side. So if you can’t stand up to an Old Style on a cold night, Schlitz is probably going to be just as cheap and maybe a little more palatable. Wuss.
Some of the Rest:
Hamm’s: I really wrote this post only so I could write about Hamm’s. There is only one place appropriate for drinking Hamm’s in Chicago. That place is Happy Village in Ukranian Village. On Saturday nights, Hamm’s are $2 per can. Cash only, of course. But the real attraction of Happy Village is its wedding reception tented patio. One of the best in the city. No one drinks anything but Hamm’s on Saturdays and the deck becomes THE scene for the skinny-jeaned-mustachioed masses of artists, hangers-on, and other members of the precariat.
Schaefer’s: “the one beer to have when you’re having more than one”
Watch the ad above. Then watch this one. Just do it. You are going to want to order a case for Thursday.