C'mon Pretty Mama, Let's Get On the Road Again... Chicago's On Tour Brewing
After a rather busy touring schedule for the past year, I decided to slow down a bit for the Fall. One reason is that I have a bunch of almost-finished new songs that I wanted to work on and record, with the intention of putting out an EP at the beginning of the year. Another reason is that while the Spring and Summer tours were a ton of fun, hitting so many different cities in a short period of time can become a bit of a grind, and I wanted to slow down a bit to make sure it remained exciting and fun. Another reason is that I also book these tours myself, which takes a stupid amount of time, and I wanted to have time to put together some really exciting tours for 2020.
That said, I can't sit still too long, so I'm still playing shows during the Fall, just not as many. Trying to stick to shows close to home, and weekend trips... just no 2-3 week tours until after New Years.
This past weekend I ran up to Chicago for a stop at On Tour Brewing Company. On Tour is in the city's West Town neighborhood, which is about as in-the-heart of Chicago as you can get... due west of the Navy Pier, just on the other side of the Ryan Expressway. Housed in a large stand alone building in a revitalized warehouse district is the taproom and brewing facilities.
On Tour Brewing Company - Chicago, IL
Beer is available on tap and to go in cans and crowlers via the brewery's taproom, and can found on tap and in select retailers throughout the Chicagoland area.
The taproom is big and airy, with large garage doors and windows for access to the outside world, and inside it's expansive yet comfy, with a long bar, plenty of tables and seating, and some nice leather couches for lounging with your beer. Above the bar's taps is a large window into the brewing operation. While they don't currently have their own kitchen, they do have a delivery arrangement with a local joint for pizza, wings, etc., and another vendor called Arigato Market sets up in the taproom serving fantastic street tacos. The tacos were only $4 each (or 3 for $10) and they had 10 different varieties. I had the Spicy Ahi Poke, which was phenomenal, and I heard others rave about the Japanese Chicken Curry Tacos and the Hot Buffalo Chicken ones as well!
As the name hints at, the brewery has a theme that pays homage to the days of touring with the Grateful Dead, with Dead-related yet tasteful decorative pieces adorning the bar (a skull crowned with red roses, etc.)... but it's not overdone. It feels more like an almost ski lodge type décor, but with a nod to the Dead. The beers are also named with Dead-inspired monikers. And while there are certainly people drawn by the theme and expecting to hear a fair amount of Dead related music, there were probably just as many who didn't realize the angle and were just there for good beer, fun surroundings, and to hear live music, which they host several times a month.
My show was on a Sunday afternoon, which worried me at first as the joint was rather empty when I arrived at 1pm, but the crowd arrived looking for action pretty much just as I started playing an hour later, and we all had a really fun Sunday afternoon drinking good beer and rocking out. For three hours the crowd was very attentive and enthusiastic, lots of people belting out the songs along with me.
At the recommendation of the house I started with It Takes Two (7%) west coast IPA. This was my favorite beer of the night, a deliciously hoppy pale ale with a focus on the more citrusy side of the hops, and for as forward as the hops flavor was it was also surprisingly lacking in bitterness. Bold bodied yet pretty crisp, It Takes Two is a great drink that I could have easily stuck with all day.
Another treat was the surprisingly great Oktoberfest (5.8%). I say “surprisingly” because it seems everyone this time of year is obligated to do an Oktoberfest, and frankly I don't think many of them are very good... but I really enjoyed On Tour's Oktoberfest. Looking like a brown ale on the pour, it has a rich maltiness without being too sappy or sweet, very drinkable and crushable, with a hint of hoppiness making it (to my tastes) unusually well balanced for an Oktoberfest. Very nicely executed.
With most of the rest of the beer menu leaning in the direction of IPA variations, I didn't want to commit to a full Typical Daydream (5.7%) Saison, so I just did a little sample, and was kinda glad, as I didn't particularly enjoy it. I'm usually a Saison fan, but this one had a sort of funky Belgian taste to it, almost a yeastiness to it, and it just hit my palate in a weird way. Anyway, like I said, I only did a small sample, so no real harm done...
Lightning Will (5%) German pilsner was a tasty and refreshing drink. A light golden hue with a nice white head, this one had a crisp light/medium body but with enough bready goodness to keep it interesting. This is another one that you could just sit at the bar and pound all night, and enjoy every big gulp. After a few years now of crazes over hoppy IPAs, sours, coffee stouts, etc... of which I love... there is something comforting in just kinda getting back to basics and enjoying a tasty German pilsner, or European lager for a change. They remind me of the days before the American craft brewery boom when to escape the blandness of the Buds and Millers you had to turn to imports.
My final drink of the day was the Half Step (5.7%) American Pale Ale. Built on Simcoe hops, this was a nicely balanced brew drawing from both the fruity/citrus side of the hops and the spruce or piney side. Not too much of either (hence: balanced) it was a respectable APA in a crowded field.
Overall the day at On Tour Brewing was a ton of fun, and well worth the drive. The beers all ranged from very good to excellent (seriously... seek out the It Takes Two!), the staff was awesome, the crowd was really friendly and fun, and the tacos from Arigato Market were amazing and a steal! I'll definitely be back here again in the Spring, and we also talked about a street festival the brewery hosts later in the Summer.... so “follow” my tour and the brewery for more details, as they say, down the road....