Monday, November 5, 2007

Chicago Hillbillies

Well, Jacob and I survived our trip to the big scary city of Chicago, despite our best efforts to get as lost and intoxicated as possible. We got a late start out of town, since we wanted to see the presentation of our GABF medal to the pub. Jacob actually got the honor of hanging that wonderful chunk of silver on the wall. So after all of that, we drove off into the darkness and the unknown. I must admit that while driving down there I had the feeling that this trip was somehow a combination of Hunter S. Thompson and Stanley Kubrick all wrapped up into one. On one hand I felt the Thompson vibe about to present itself in the way that we were sent to see the festival, but would return home discussing everything but. On the other hand, there was a very real sense of driving straight into the real country darkness to release our mayhem on the unsuspecting world, which gave me a 'Clockwork Orange' kind of feeling. At any rate, we arrived, dropped our beer at the festival site, checked into our hotel, and headed off to the brewer's reception. There we met up with a few good friends of ours - first the Salazaar's from New Belgium and then Frank and Beth from Goose Island. As the party died off, Jake and I decided to venture out to find a dive bar - which proved to be a harder task than either of us had imagined. We wandered the city most of the night, drinking when and wherever we wanted, and eventually headed back to the hotel.
On festival day, we wandered over to Goose Island to meet up with Frank and Beth to have lunch and start drinking some oak-aged beers. We both felt that some beers were better than others (hey, that's the way those things go), and we were both amazed by the New Belgium sour beers. As it turned out, they swept the category taking all three medals. We ended up not winning any medals for our beers - and even though I was disappointed at the time, the beer that I was able to sample more than made up for it.
After the festival (and a few more beers at a few more bars) we headed to the Dogfish Head after party where we met up with a few of our friends who work for some of our supply companies. (Thanks to Kelly and Larry for buying a few rounds and dealing with my drunken nonsense debates about topics that will be spared from this blog). It was shortly after that when Beth entered the scene again and all hell seemed to break loose in our own little group of hooligans. More beer, more random discussions fueled by yours truly, and just when we thought it was safe to get up and leave, it happened. As I tried to squeeze my way past our table to leave, my feet didn't seem to follow and down I went in the middle of the bar - taking some unsuspecting girl out in my path. I don't have to tell you that our time at that bar ended abruptly. We headed back to Frank and Beth's place where more obscure conversations and beers were had - this was another prime example of Kubrick meets Thompson (and maybe a little Kerouac mixed in). I think it is strange enough to meet like minded people around you, but considering that we only get to see these two a handful of times a year, it is amazing the connection that we have made.
So there you have it, the story of two little hillbilly boys (and trust me, there were plenty of times that we felt a bit 'small town' during the trip) trying to navigate the city of Chicago. We made it out alive and had a hell of a lot of fun along the way. Until the next NHBC adventure...

Pierre LeClaire

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Well, as promised, when Haggery took us out to dinner a good time ensued. We all met up at his house and cracked into that deep beer cellar of his. We had a bunch of great beers, including some strange gueze and some La Folie from New Belgium. After that, Hags took us out to Bistro Bella Vita where we ate like madmen. We hit a few bars in Grand Rapids - the grand opening of The Meanwhile and Logan's Alley. After many, many beers we headed back to Jeff's house where we got a little out of hand. There isn't any one story that sticks out, but everyone got loose and we all woke up a little foggy. Anyway, things since then have been pretty busy - we have seen some beers really take off and have been trying to get it all out the door, but it's really up to the beer. For being our "slow season" I haven't seen it yet.
This weekend will be a whirlwind for us. Tomorrow we will have more work to do than any of us can fit into 8 hours, which should be interesting. At 6pm we have our awards ceremony at the pub for our Pilgrim's Dole GABF medal and from there Jacob and I head to Chicago for the Festival of Barrel aged beer. We have shown pretty well there in the past, so given the opportunity to be there in person, we had to make it happen. As it went, I said I would go, then convinced Jake after a few beers to trade Saturday shifts and come along with me. It turns out that he had made previous commitments to his girlfriend, which she was none too happy about. He's going to Chicago anyway. Now factor in that neither of us know our way around Chicago, neither of us has a great reputation for being responsible in situations involving large quantities of beer, and both of us are used to living in conservative Holland, Michigan. This should be interesting. I checked out some of the other breweries that are going to be there and am now more excited than ever. I hope our beer shows well, because it would say a lot to stand up to all those other breweries, but I'm really excited to see what other people have done with wood ageing and taste the fruits of their labor. It will be nice to see friends in the industry and be able to spend a weekend in Chicago. My main goals for the weekend are to get out of the Holland city limits, take some time to not think about all the things I have to get done inside the walls of NHBC (that will be the hardest part), and enjoy some great beers that I may not be able to find easily around home (this should be the easiest part).
I feel that I also must share with you that in the not too distant future the production/sales team is making a little outing to see the one and only David Allan Coe. Being a fan of the original long-haired redneck rock n roll son of the south himself, I'm pumped to get my hillbilly on.
Wish us luck this weekend - we'll need it - and we'll keep you posted

Pierre LeClaire