So late Sunday afternoon, I was stuck on the Kennedy heading back out to the northwest suburbs (because no matter what time you travel the crap highway system we have here you have a good chance to be moving slower than one of those people on a cart at a Walmart).
And I was eating fried chicken from Harold’s Chicken Shack #36 while driving.
The hell with it, I thought, I am tired of being pissed off by all the distracted drivers. So I will join their ranks. Instead of yammering on a smartphone, I will chow down on some deep fried breast meat slathered in hot sauce while I am behind the wheel. Let them have something to talk about when they get home – the dumb ass they saw eating messy chicken.
I got on at Division and was done with the ½ order by Sayre, with two of the four in the order of wings gone by Harlem. That included eating the bread and the fries, too, all washed down with a Diet Coke.
Man, it was good – almost worth the half hour I had to wait to get my order. It was way better than the bird at Harold’s Chicken Shack # 83 in Aurora was, way juicier, like good fried chicken is supposed to be.
With my face and fingers Sriracha red, it would have been interesting if I had been pulled over by a cop. But fate was on my side: I had a wet nap left over from some other fast food foray handy to clean up this carnivore in a car.
As for where I was that led to my hunger game, I had ventured out to the Dark Side Beer Festival at Emporium Arcade Bar, 1366 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park. It’s across the street from Harold’s and from the University of Aesthetics – which is pretty funny because even though the rents are going through the roof, this neighborhood is – or was – more about the scruffy types than beauty school.
You could blame John Cusack, Jack Black and Hi Fidelity, which came out 14 years ago, for how this area is. All it essentially means for a suburbanite like myself bent on exploring is that parking is hard to find – made more so with giant potholes and the icy remnants of this rough winter coating and rutting alleys and marking spots where cars had been buried.
Anyway, once inside, Emporium was pleasant enough with its retro video games – some of them, like PacMan, more than 30 years old, which made me feel old, even if with my stage of beardedness, I looked a bit like Russell Crowe – from the nose to the chin at least.
The people, too, were mostly a nice lot, polite even, and not as pushy or uptight as crowds at suburban bars can seem.
Since St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching, I was there to try other dark beers besides Guinness, which can range in taste, depending where you get it, from bad, bitter coffee to creamy tiramisu.
The guy who coordinated this event – Chris Jacobsen – really knows his brews. He maintains the Hardcore Craft Beer website and related social media (hardcorecraftbeer.com), which are good places to learn about beer. Jacobsen also produces beer-related events like the one Sunday, where you got eight tickets for drink samples and a bunch of game tokens, and some coupons for other places and events, all for for $25.
The choices included a Black IPA, American Stouts, Porters, a Weizenbock, a Winter Old Ale, a Black Ale, a Black Saison, Imperial Stouts, Barrel Aged Imperial Stouts and Cookie Monster Metal. Wait, the latter was what was playing on the sound system.
I started off with Ballast Point’s Victory at Cereal, an Imperial Vanilla Coffee Porter with Cap’n Crunch Cereal added, which was way better than I thought it would be – creamy, not as sweet as that cereal, and a little bit like coffee.
In fact, coffee was the taste that stayed with me most of the day. With maybe a bit of bourbon barrel for good measure.
If this trend keeps up, Starbucks soon will be in the beer business. Or maybe there will be a Miller Dark Light.
I also had
DESCHUTES BREWING – Obsidian Stout on NITRO ( Why I tried it? Because Guinness is a nitro beer. Duh.)
REVOLUTION BREWING – Deth’s Tar ( Why try? Because of Star Wars. Duh.)
4 HANDS BREWERY – Volume 1 : Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout w/Cocoa Nibs & Coffee (Why I tried it? Because it was recommended that I try this)
4 HANDS BREWERY – Bona Fide Imperial Stout (Why? Because it was next to the other 4 HANDS and I am lazy.)
HALF ACRE BEER – Baume (Because I wondered what a Baume was), which also had a coffee taste.
GREENBUSH BREWING – Mammoth Weizenbock (Because it was named Greenbush, Bevis)
And something Russian (because of the Olympics and in honor of my hero, US bobsled captain and fellow xxl guy Steve Holcomb).
You can look up the beer ratings yourself. I am not going to pretend to be an expert. Besides, I still have some sinus nonsense which messes with how things taste.
Jacobsen is hosting another event from 2 p.m. – 10 p.m. May 18 at Reggie’s, 210 S. State St. Called Brewtality, which is the name of another dark, coffee-flavored beer, the event also will feature Japanese doom metal band Coffins at night.
If I were making a sequel to Hi Fidelity – or maybe the TV version – that would make an excellent setting for the opening scene.