The city of Chicago has as complex of a history as any, for better and worse. It is not the city that never sleeps, but it is a place of resilience,
We traveled into the city scape and entrenched ourselves in what the city has to offer in the world of cider. Of course, liquor stores continue to carry product, but ciders and cider bars are starting to make an appearance.
Our first stop on our cider trip was Eris Brewing in Old Irving Park. Home of a former Masonic temple & Korean church, Eris has a distinct look and feel. The building is 111 years old, but it was renovated to look as fresh as the day it was built.
Founders, Michelle Folk & Katy Pizza, have been around the brewing industry for a while now. Michelle has spent time at Goose Island, Revolution, and Virtue Cider. Katy was involved with Hop Head Farms in southwest Michigan. Their brewer, Hayley, has been brewing for the industry over a decade at Rock Bottom Brewing. This was after her passion for homebrewing took hold in college.
They wanted to have a space that could support both cider drinkers and beer lovers. That is why they split their tanks down the middle of the bar & restaurant, one side for cider and one for beer. All the action takes place underneath the main floor where lines feed to their taps. They have a wide variety of ciders and beers available. But, one thing they do that I don’t see often is have a blending menu where they combine their brews and cider for a balanced and amazing combination!
My first tasting (Nolan) was Dr. Van Van Moreau, a blend of a house blueberry cider, the Van Van Mojo cider, and a house beer, The Rev. Loveshade Porter. This blend was chocolaty and blueberry-forward, yet maintained a decisive balance. There was a bitter element that opened into intensive flavor and acidity, slipping into a tart and tangy blueberry finish. Surprisingly, this blend was not very filling and light, something I never expected where pairing any cider with a porter. Trevor tried Pedestrian, their “everyone-will-love” cider. It was tart with decent sweetness. Definitely packed with flavor and a modern classic.
We also were able to try Streetwalker, Strawberry Barbella, the Van Van Mojo (by itself), and Sweetmorn. Streetwalker was apple forward and tart. It was a clear in color and dry without much complication. You could sense the bitterness without the overwhelming taste of it. Strawberry Barbella was tart with a nice sweetness and a light red color. The smell is a very desirable sweet strawberry with buttery notes. Van Mojo alone is the best cider of the day with the ripeness of blueberries and a nice deep red/purple color. The slight hops start the flavor with small bitterness and finishes with a dry tart flavor. The Sweetmorn was a light yellow or straw color that had a clean, hoppy flavor with delicious tartness and apple dominant.
After our trip, we stopped over at the coveted Northman. We enjoyed some chips (fries) with their delicious dipping sauces (black garlic aioli, curried ketchup), while enjoying some familiar ciders from Stem Cider Co. We have an in-depth look at the Northman in our article here. They have opened a second location. Their website will give you all the juicy details.
While in the Chicago area make sure to stop at a number of local pubs to grab some Right Bee Cider or visit their location for a weekend cider making tour. This cidery focuses on the local craft of cidermaking in the heart of the city as Chicago’s first official cidery. They are a husband and wife team that use local honey (some from their rooftop) to make their simple and clean ciders. If you were looking to head a bit north to Evanston, there is also North Shore Cider Co. Their cider offerings vary greatly including ciders with blueberries, ginger, and lavender making this a unique place to visit. After all the travels around the city, it is easy to realize that Chicago has become a cider hub of the Midwest. With events like Cider Summit and CiderCon coming up there is much more in store for CiderScene. Until next time, cheers!