CHICAGO BEAT+BEER CLINIC :: Beer & Bacon Crawl, Part Deux

by Paul Ciminero - Dr. Carol Westbrook on May 9, 2011

Paddy Long’s

Not far from the DePaul University campus, in a neighborhood filled with typical Chicago Irish pubs frequented by DePaul alumni, Paddy Long’s stands out. It is a revamped neighborhood pub that is riding the wave of Chicago’s current Bacon with Beer obsession. Entering the front door, the first things you notice are the images of soccer and rugby matches that adorn the walls. How appropriate as this neighborhood bar’s claim to fame is the “Bacon Bomb;” a five-pound rugby football made from Bacon and sausage. So begins our second stop on this pig inspired excursion. Let the scrum begin!

Paddy Long’s Beer and Bacon Pub (that’s actually what they call themselves on their website) http://www.paddylongs.com/ is in the “New Town” neighborhood.  They’ve got a large selection of draft beers and ales (not surprisingly, I count 18 handles – Carol’s favorite arbitrary number of taps), an outstanding bottle list, and an array of single malts. Carol gives us some more background.

Carol: This one was my pick, both for the bacon and for nostalgia. I used to live next door to the establishment when it was an old Chicago tap, (Lawry’s) with a commercial lager beer selection and occasional food. Lawry’s had been in the neighborhood for 73 years, serving mediocre beer, and $7 for all-you -can-eat deep fried fish (Friday) or chicken (Saturday). Yes, our wedding party ended up there for fried chicken some 12 years ago.

The Bacon Bomb - Paddy Long's

The new owners, Chris and Pat, took the bar over in 2007, and cleaned it up immediately. The ambiance is great. It still has a homey, Chicago pub feel, with many regular patrons, friendly people, and a great beer list. They are still serving greasy food, but with a difference — it’s GOOD grease, and that’s why I dragged Paul here.

Paul: The food is your basic pub fair; Burgers and fries, wings, nachos, beer battered fish and chips, classic sandwiches, and even Guinness Beef Stew; but with a top-heavy, bacon-inspired theme.  There are bacon specialty appetizers (beer battered bacon strips, bacon wrapped dates) and main courses (the 1/2 pound bacon BLT for $12.95, or the notorious Bacon Bomb sandwich, for $9.95.) We’ll get to the actual Bacon Bomb shortly.

Paddy’s offers a “Beer and Bacon” pairing on Wednesday’s (7-9 pm) and weekends (Saturday and Sunday’s from 2-4 pm) that features five cuts of bacon with five seasonal beers for $36. Be warned; this is Paddy Long’s most popular draw and you can only book reservations on line.  They limit the reservations to around 35 people and currently they are sold out 5 weeks in advance.

Carol:  We didn’t sign up for the Beer-And-Bacon pairing–at $36 for 5 mini-drafts and 5 tastes of bacon; it’s a bit pricey.  The folks next to us had purchased half-price tickets on Groupon so they shared their pairing lists and a few sips of their beers. As I said, it’s a friendly pub.

Bacon Bomb SandwichAs I said, it’s a friendly pub.

Paul: Having just left Old Town Social I was pretty stuffed but fortunately Paddy’s makes a Bacon Bomb sandwich and fries for $9.95 so I ordered that.   The actual “Bacon Bomb” is five pounds of ground pork, sausage, beef, nasty bits, and spices, wrapped in brown sugar smoked bacon, which looks like a peewee football.    It serves 6-8 people or you can attempt the gluttonous “Bacon Bomb Challenge” (yes, I’m sure Adam Richmond will come with the Travel Channels “Man vs. Food” show soon; how can he resist?) The challenge is to consume the entire “Bomb” with a large batch of fries in 45 minutes and it’s free, plus you get a t-shirt and are added to the pub’s “Wall of Fame.” This is cheesy commercialism at its finest. The manager told us they serve between 15-20 “Bacon Bombs” daily. (Thank God there is a hospital three blocks away.)

The sandwich version was an inch circular cut off of the “Bomb” and came open faced served on a bun with a side of lettuce, onion, and tomatoes, and wonderfully crisp, tasty fries. It was very peppery, with loads of spice and flavor but somewhat dry. I expected it to be oily, or at least, have more moisture in it.  It makes you want to drink a lot of beer with it. Hmm…I’m onto something here.

Carol:  On to the beer. Paddy’s draft list is unique, and not at all what you’d expect for an “Irish” bar in Chicago, since there are only 2 Irish beers on draft: Kilkenny and Guinness, and only a few hoppy ales. I would characterize the beer list as “dark-and-light.”  There are quite a number of dark beers–porters, stouts, and smoked beers–as well as a generous number of lager-style beers. Why the mix? Probably because the dark beers go so well with the smoky flavor of bacon, and the lagers, well –Chicagoans LOVE their lagers.  

We tasted some of the beers recommended on the bacon-pairing list for that week. It is, literally, a black-and-white selection.   My descriptions of the brews are listed by number below with Paul’s comments on the food pairing throughout.

1.  Mikkeller Beer Geek Bacon Stout – This is a smoked malt imperial stout produced by a relatively young, (5 years old) very small brewery in Denmark which is noted for unusual beers, especially those that are barrel aged and contain coffee. An imperial stout has higher alcohol content due to the fact that it is brewed with more malt than a usual stout; in this case the malt is heavily smoked, so you can taste the smoke, as well as the coffee. I found it too bitter for my taste, and the high alcohol content (7.5%) intensified the bitterness. However, it’s definitely unique and worth a taste. The “Bacon Bomb” is well paired with this.

Paul: I would have to say that any malted beverage called “Beer Geek Bacon Stout” gets my attention. It works perfectly to swill with swine.

Brown Sugar Bacon

2. Stone Smoked Porter– This is a porter, meaning it’s a dark ale, not as dense as a stout. It is lightly hopped, but the peat-smoked taste comes through. It’s quite drinkable at 5.8% ABV, and goes well with bacon/pork sausage, though again you can get tired of the peat flavor. I tasted a beer similar to this in Islay, Scotland–Black Rock Ale–that was made from peat-smoked malt that would otherwise be used to make Scotch whiskey. I personally think that Scotch whiskey is a better use of the malts, but go ahead, it’s a good lunchtime drink with strong-flavored, grilled or smoked food.

Paul: It was paired with the Brown Sugar Bacon and it perfectly complemented the sweetness of that bacon.

3. Metropolitan Krankshaft Kolsch – This was your pick, Paul because (a) you love lagers and (b) the brewery is near your house. Fair enough. Close brewery = extremely fresh beer and I second that. It is a German-style beer, similar to those brewed in Cologne though some wheat was thrown in. It has a low bitterness from its Santiam hops (28 IBU), the alcohol is only 5%, so it’s easy to drink lots of this beer, even out of the bottle (heaven forbid)!  It’s a great alternative if you’re used to drinking Bud, Corona, and MGD and want something much tastier.

Paul: Actually Carol I prefer IPA’s to lagers in general, but I’m just a “beer novice” and wanted to try the local neighborhood guys’ wares.  On the tasting menu that day it was matched up with “Irish Bacon.”  I don’t recall tasting the Irish bacon that chilly, late January afternoon.

4.  Trumer Pils – This is brewed by an Austrian-run California brewery. Nice and somewhat light at 4.8% alcohol. I don’t think it’s a perfect pair for bacon but on the other hand it’s a good beer for lunch. The couple sitting next to us poured me a little of this and I sampled the Peppercorn applewood bacon paired with it.

Paul: The peppercorn applewood bacon was very smoky and spicy. Paddy’s pairing tasting notes said the Austrian style pilsner was “classic thirst quenching pils that put out the fire” of the bacon. I agree with Carol that it was, in fact, a mismatch. This pilsner would work with sweet bacon but not this one. Spice and citrus work well together so the Alpha King with citrusy American hops would have been my choice.

Carol: Two other beers of note that we did not taste that day (and another I subsequently tasted and really loved) are listed below:

5. Hirter Morchl Dunkel Lager – Described as “Smooth, roasty flavor with a crisp lager finish.”  And 5% ABV. I admit that I tasted this a few days later and found it was very nice, smooth, and easy to drink. This is classic Austrian lager.

6. Uinta Labyrinth Black Ale. Huge Imperial stout from a Utah microbrewery. Six months in oak barrels 13.2% ABV.

7. Duvel Green – Finally, my “contrast beer” turned out to be the most noteworthy beer I drank that day at Paddy’s, Duvel Green. I absolutely loved this new Belgian beer! Its parent beer, Duvel, is a lovely Belgian light ale that was only available in bottles since its unique flavor is due to the fact that it is bottle-conditioned (or aged). This beer comes off fermentation and is immediately kegged and delivered. So it’s young and “green.” It’s a bit cloudy, and tastes similar to a really good homebrew. The superb Duvel yeast taste and hops are apparent, and it’s very drinkable. It’s a stretch to say it goes well with smoky bacon (it doesn’t).

In summary, head over to Paddy Long’s if you want to taste some unique dark and smoky beers that you are unlikely to find anywhere else in town, and if you have hankering to pair them with pork products.

Paul: My head is pounding, my stomach is stuffed and we still have two hours before we hook up with Carol’s husband for dinner at Owen and Engine. I’ve got a great idea: I’ll drag Carol over to Revolution Brewing for some “Bacon Fat Popcorn” and four of their IPAs. (As I previously reviewed this establishment noting that they offer 2 ounce pours of several brews at just $2.00 each). We are just taking one or two small sips at this point and stamina has its limits, especially with my middle-aged carcass today. Even with at least two quarts of water to counter the small amount of alcohol I’ve actually ingested, I’m fatigued. But a good soldier labors on even though he may not remember what he’s laboring for. Today’s excursion has become a crawl, in every sense of the word.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan (Rozanski) Torbeck June 6, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Question for Carol – I’m going to a family picnic this Sunday. I know what everyone normally drinks and want to bring something different but not too pricey. We’re a happy, Polish beer-drinking bunch but not easily pleased. 😉

Also, is it a myth that some beers are best warm? (@room temp?)
Thanks!
-S

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Dr. Carol Westbrook June 7, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Great question! Seasonally, your beer should be the same hue as the evening sky at the end of a work day. That means dark porters in winter, brown ales in spring, and light beers in summer, white beers at the solstice. For a hot summer day, I’d go with a very light beer: a wheat beer, or a light lager like a pilsner or Kolsch. I’d keep the alcohol content low, 5% or less, since people will be drinking more in the heat, and you need the extra fluid. I’d stick with lower hops for a picnic. And if you want something different but not too expensive, go with a regional microbrew rather than imported. My suggestions:
Metropolitan Krankshaft Kolsch (%5 ABV)
Three Floyds Pride and Joy, an American Pale Ale at 5% ABV
Two Brothers, Dog Days a Dortmunder style lager, 5.1% ABV
If it’s the same family picnic I’m attending this weekend , I’m donating 5 cases of beer but it won’t be as good as these three above.
Yes, some beers are meant to be drunk at cellar temp (about 60 – 65). These are English bitters, which traditionally were fermented and stored at those temps, since that’s what was available. These are malty, low alcohol and low hop ales, and the mild tastes are lost if you drink them cold. You can’t get these beers in the US, they spoil during shipping. For export, they add more hops and more alcohol. If you get to England, go to a pub and ask for a pint of bitter. They are delicious.

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