Hell Yeti! Beer of The Week

So the temperature has again been on that train this week. My mental vision of Mother Nature is looking less like a nurturing, stern matriarch, and more like Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka character during the boat tour in his factory.

When having to ride this Bipolar Vortex, or whatever it’s called, I can’t tell you how great it is to be a block away from Miller’s Pub in the Loop every evening (except for those nights when I don’t have enough time or money to stop-in). Back when I was starting up this whole project with WC, I wondered-in one day because I’m always drawn to the word pub. This place stands way out ahead of the downtown bar pack for several reasons:
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  1. They have an impressive set of taps (and bottle list), with some fairly rare brews for this area of town.
  2. They have my favorite burger, their Greek Burger.
  3. They match the glass with the beer.
  4. The kitchen is open to 2am; and the bar to 4am.

This is NOT standard for downtown Chicago. The Greek/Irish fare makes it a full-on trove of indulgence for the over-worked soul seeking comfort on the southern border of hedonism. You’ll likely not have to wait more than 20 minutes for a table, which you kill in luxury, even standing then whole time, with one of the brews you can select from a detailed beer & spirits menu (yes, they list ABV). You also couldn’t pick a more scenic place to have to wait either. The dark wood and stained glass décor is enough to get lost in for the wait.

On one recent suicide-mercury-dive evening, I stopped-in for the usual—I kid you not they are rinsing the glass for me before I’ve passed the coat rack. They’re the only stop on any of my routes that has the Hercules Double IPA from Great Divide. I’m literally hooked on this sweet, caramelly potion of malts, hops and floral aromas. It’s 10% ABV, the strongest they have on tap by a couple of percentage points, and one will handily rinse away the toils of the day. Everyone I have one with winds up hooked too, and there’s nothing else there that quite does it for me…

…that is until I met the Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout.

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Now, those who know me are quite aware of my skepticism of Branding; which is something I have some knowledge of, but DAMN, Great Divide gone done it again. I haven’t been disappointed by anything they’ve put out yet. This is a thick, chewy meal in a glass that pours like lava. It’s like the breakfast you wish you’d had at the start of your day—on a winter snow day that is, but I digress. This species of Yeti is a Russian Imperial Stout (9.5% ABV) so dark it almost stains the glass. Miller’s poured this roast beast in a tulip glass from the tap. The finish is piney, and quite bitter, but overall this is the kind of thing I like to drink when it’s cold out.

22-oz-bottle_EspressoYeti

SIZES: 22oz and 5 gal kegs

Unfortunately, the presence of the Yeti at Miller’s didn’t last long, and it vanished as quick as it came. Only two days later I returned to have another pass, and it was gone.

ABV.: 9.5%

RATE BEER: 100

AVAILABLE: Year Round

IBUs: 75

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Sometimes you meet someone: Charles K. Lewis. A Revolution and Beer exclusive

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It wasn’t planned this unseasonably cool and breezy July day, but sometimes someone stumbles into our lives. That’s exactly what happened at the corner of Adams and Wabash in downtown Chicago today. I was biking along the lake and detoured into the city where I ran into a friend. I’d helped Tom Turner put together a homeless nonprofit on Chicago’s southside a bit better than a year ago. At the time Tom was on the street, struggling at the margins, when he hit upon the idea of what to do with the abandoned and foreclosed houses blighting predominantly black neighborhoods across the city. His plan worked, and this week he filed a lien in court to take full possession of the house he’s lived in and all but rebuilt for better than a year.
We were sitting in front of a little florist on Wabash, below the rattling and noisy El tracks, next to Miller’s Pub with its kitschy orange neon sign. Tom was working on the last half of a saved cigarette when a middle aged man walks up and asks Tom for a cigarette. Dropping the oversized green duffel bag to the sidewalk, the guy didn’t miss a beat when Tom replied that was all he had.
“Can I finish off that shorty, just a few puffs?”
“You bet,” says Tom.
He claimed to be a homeless veteran. You see a fair number of people in the city claiming to be. Some are. Some are not. There was something about this guy that was different.
“Charles K. Lewis, is my name,” he said immediately, and aside from Tom’s partly smoked cigarette, didn’t ask for money or anything else.
I picked up a vibe from this guy that he was not just down and out, but truly bewildered by it, and that shock and disillusionment was rather new to him. Charles in the picture is to the right of Thomas Turner. 20130729_104032[1]

Still, sensitive to people claiming veteran status, I respectfully and conversationally plied a few questions. What was his MOS? When did he deploy? Where did he deploy? With substantial military knowledge, a brother, friends and UN acquaintances deploying to Afghanistan, and a near visit myself to the region back in the early Nineties, I can spot BS a mile away. Not that I honestly make any greater distinction between a homeless vet or a homeless civilian. Need is need, but don’t BS me.
Charles fired back his MOS, or specialty, in the Marine Corps. He’d trained as a gunners mate, but saw combat as part of a Combined Reconnaissance Team, or CRT. He’d served from 1997 through 2008, deploying to Afghanistan at the end of his military stint. It was quickly clear that his experiences there deeply affected him we commiserated over shared combat experiences. Anyone who has suffered or experienced PTSD firsthand easily can distinguish a pretender.
Charles related how his VA benefits had been sent by mistake to his ex-wife, and could not get the issue resolved. Forced to move in with family involved, he said, with drugs, an untenable situation for Charles, he left with nowhere to go. Charles, who had been looking for work for sometime without luck had been on the street a traumatic and confusing 8 days. A friend had offered him a room in West Engelwood, but it wouldn’t be ready before the end of the week he said. Facing another 4 nights homeless, for the first time in his life, was almost too much for this proud man who is about to turn 50 in August. As we were talking another African American man overheard that Charles was recently made homeless.
“You a Devil Dog?’ said the man, a euphemism for the Marines
“Oo-rah!” replied Charles.
“Semper Fi,” the other man shot back. “Don’t you know about Safe Haven? They should have told you about that at the VA. They will get you into a place tonight.”
Safe Haven, according to their website at http://www.asafehaven.org/veterans/, has “three types of Veteran housing based on individual need, assessment and eligibility, including transitional housing, per diem housing and permanent affordable housing. Veterans have access to the appropriate level of housing which may include full wrap-around services; supportive housing and employment services; to independent permanent affordable housing. Based on the assessment and eligibility, a Veteran can start at the transitional housing stage and work their way progressively through our housing programs.”
But Charles had not heard of Safe Haven. Asking both men what they were told of veterans benefits and support when leaving the military, they simply looked at me as if I was speaking Chinese. Which begs the question of how that could happen? But the reality is that war is devastating well beyond the battlefield for many veterans. It is even more devastating when so-called support is token or hypocritical, and tendered grudgingly by politicians who use the military or their families as a populist placebo to placate and seduce working class and poor families against their better interests.
As for Charles K. Lewis, there is a sense of hurt and betrayal by a government he calls “the real criminal,” for what it has done to its veterans, and for what it is doing overseas. Charles and I are keeping in contact. There will be more on him later. Once he gets settled and catches his breath a bit we’ve vowed to sit down and tell his story in greater detail…and that we shall.

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