Enjoy Super Bowl Sunday With Some Local Options…


 I could have written about tropical drinks earlier this week, the way the weather was.  Chicago, of course, can experience all four seasons on any given day, but this week gave us a chance to test out the durability of our thermometers.  Hopefully you all endured the weather, and are somewhere warm while you read this.

It’s an exciting weekend coming up.  There is, of course, the Super Bowl. This occassion is about much more than the football game itself, which often takes a sidestage to the antics of the commercials and the half-time show.  Whatever your reason for watching the game, it is a great opportunity to get together with folks and have a good time.  We’re here, of course, to help you with that goal.  I realize (painfully) that as Chicagoans we have nothing collectively to celebrate with this game.  With that said, there is no reason Chicago still can’t be represented in your celebration.  We’ve got some exciting new Beers in stock, including two new local beers! 

New to the shelves at Vas Foremost is Ravenswood’s Begyle Brewing with their offering of a Pale American Wheat Ale Crash Landed (22oz. $8.79).  We are also happy to carry  Spiteful Brewing’s GFY Stout (22oz. $9.79) and Burning Bridges Brown Ale (22oz. $9.29). These new brewers are an excellent addition to the burgeoning Chicago brewing scene, and we are pleased as always to represent our local craftsmen!  

I hope that you all enjoy your weekend!  Stay safe, have fun, and enjoy the game….  If you have any questions or comments, you can email me directly at george@vasforemost.com,tweet us: @vasforemost, or give us a call at (773) 278-9420. I look forward to hearing from you!


Hard Cider…Something a Little Different on a Hot Summer Day…


It’s pretty darn hot outside.  While I am well known for extolling the virtues of beer for all occasions, I was thoroughly upbraided by my sister-in-law for neglecting some of the other superb choices in the drink-world that let us unwind from the heat of the long summer days.  With her inspiration, I will digress into the world of cider.

When you hear cider, you probably think apples, and therefore fall.  And you’d be right in your initial inclination, because apples are harvested in the fall.  There’s no reason, however, that you need to constrain your consumption to autumn.  After all, you don’t drink wine only in the season that the grapes are harvested, right?  Same logic applies in this case.

Hard Cider isn’t only made from fermented apple juice.  Other fruit, such as pear, is also commonly used.  Like beer, hard cider also comes in a variety of styles, and ranges in taste from super dry to syrupy sweet. Like wine, the type of fruit used (in the case of apple cider, even the type of apple) will make a huge difference in the overall flavor of the drink. 

Cider is a classically American experience. Until prohibition, this was a huge drink in America, from the times of the colonists onwards. In New England, apple trees grew prodigiously, and their harvest contributed to the brewing of apple cider.  Cider only began to dip in popularity towards the end of the 19th century, when beer made huge inroads intoAmerica along with waves of immigrants coming in fromGermany and Bohemia. 

In the last few years, as the popularity of Hard Cider has grown, the available brands have as well.  Some of the more popular ones include Woodchuck, which carries a variety of different styles, Crispin, Strongbow and Angry Orchard.

We’ve got all of these available, and I will happily vouch for the pleasant experience of cracking open a cold bottle of cider on a hot day. Have a great week, everyone.   As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve written, or even general questions about anything else, please feel free to email me at george@vasforemost.com, tweet us: @vasforemost, or give us a call at (773) 278-9420.




The Meaning of Craft Beer


  I’ve been writing posts for a while now, and have been referencing plenty of craft brews, but I’ve never actually bothered to explain what a craft brew is, or why this is even a big deal.  While I can probably take it for granted that most of you are into beer enough to know anyway, I don’t want to ignore anyone that doesn’t.  Since the more you understand about beer, the more you’ll want to try it, I consider any opportunity to educate and expose people to beer to be a good thing. 

To begin with some perspective: prior to the 1920’s in theUnited States, there were many small breweries throughout the country.  With the passage of Prohibition, many went out of business because they were unable to sustain themselves.  As a result, the 1930s-1970s were predominated by breweries such as Budweiser and Miller, who’s ubiquitous Pilsner became synonymous with American Beer. 

Fast forward thirty years, and there has been a virtual explosion of breweries throughout the U.S.producing a variety of beers in different styles.  A term that gained a lot of traction starting in the 1990’s was “microbrewery”, and this still gets tossed around a lot in conjunction with craft beers.  This is not entirely accurate.  While a microbrew is a craft beer, a craft beer can be a larger operation than a microbrew.  A microbrewery is defined as producing less than 15,000 barrels a year, while the American Brewers Association, produces and defines a craft brewery as one who has “Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less…Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.”  (http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/business-tools/craft-brewing-statistics/craft-brewer-defined

What this is saying is that a craft brewer must be small (relative to Macrobreweries) and fundamentally independent.  This probably counts for most brewers that are out there, producing relatively small quantities.  Craft breweries run the gamut through, with some small breweries producing a handful to large ones like Boston Beer Co. that put out almost 2,000,000 barrels a year.

That’s a brief technical explanation of a craft beer.  On a more personal level, I’d like to define these beers in a way that is not quantitative.  I’ll leave that to people above my pay grade to parse out in terms of volumes, or percentages owned.  To me, a craft beer is an artisinal product.  It is made with respect for the process of brewing, and, undeniably, a passion for beer.  I think that this is a transparent passion, and it is infectious to many of the people who have been won over by these brews.  This is beer that has moved past getting “slammed” or “shotgunned”, in the same way you don’t swallow down a Filet Mignon like you would a Big Mac. 

I’ll leave it at this point.  If you enjoy these beers even a fraction as much as I do, then you know what I am talking about.  If you are just discovering them, you are in store for a great surprise. 

Have a great weekend, everyone.   As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve written, or even general questions about anything else, please feel free to email me at george@vasforemost.com, tweet us: @vasforemost, or give us a call at (773) 278-9420.

Summer Beer



It’s summer in Chicago.  Not technically, per the calendar, but this town is heating up, and one of the first signs of the season for me is all of the summer seasonal beers that we’ve been putting into rotation the last month or so.

When people typically think beer and summer, there are two things that instantly come to mind: mowing the lawn and watching baseball.  While Old Style does say Chicago Cubs to the average North-sider, good beer during the warm weather can be much more than that.  It can serve as a good companion to everything from standard barbecue fare to a more haute meal eaten al fresco on the patio.  It can be something savored sitting on the deck or balcony watching the sun set.

Some beers that I think compliment the warmth of summer in our beautiful city include the following: 

Goose Island Summertime (6 pack $9.29, 12 pack $9.29) A hometown favorite – this is a Kolsch-style beer. It’s hoppy, but not overly-so, and goes great with traditional barbecue foods like brats and hot dogs. 

Sierra Nevada Summerfest (6 pack, $9.99) This one’s a Pilsner, and is hoppy without being heavy.   

Saison Dupont (750ml $9.99) Not technically a “summer seasonal”, nonetheless this is the quintessential summer seasonal beer.  Originally brewed to be served to farm workers during the summer harvest, this is a crisp and refreshing beer that is the perfect compliment to finishing up some outdoor work.

Something a little different

These beers don’t fall in the technical beer category like the ones above do.  To some, they are more of a mixed drink, because they include fruit juice in the form of lemonade.  Regardless, they are excellent for the summer, and deserve to be mentioned here.

-Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy  (12 pack bottles $15.69, 12 pack cans $14.99, 6 pack bottles $8.99, 4 pack 16oz. cans $7.99)
Rapidly becoming ubiquitous in the Chicago land area during the months of summer, this beer’s name says it all.  A wheat beer blended with lemonade, this has become very popular with people that want to drink beer without the “beer taste”.  It’s definitely a light-flavored beer, and it really does go well with outdoor activity. 

-Stiegl Lemon Radler (16.0oz. $3.49) 50% lager and 50% lemon soda, this is very similar to the Summer Shandy in concept.  You can smell the overtones of the lemon when you pour it, and the soda adds crispness to the beer when you drink it.  The Lemon Radler is much sweeter than the Summer Shandy, but this is another one of its qualities that make it such a good beer on a hot day – cold lager and sweet lemon flavor combine to make a very refreshing drink.

With that being said, I send you all into the weekend well armed to stock up and battle anything from mowing the lawn to laying back in a lawn chair and soaking up rays.    As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve written, or even general questions about anything else, please feel free to email me at george@vasforemost.com, tweet us: @vasforemost, or give us a call at (773) 278-9420.

Thanks again! See you all next week!

What’s brewing in Chicago….?


 Chicago was always a city of industry, and was also the home to a great many immigrants from the 19th century onwards, Many of these groups came from countries where the beverage of choice was beer.  With their arrival at first came small-scale brewing, but with the industrial ingenuity that makes this country great, this was followed by larger scale commercial breweries.  While not on par with the production in Milwaukee, Chicago was no slouch either, and many breweries proliferated in the time before Prohibition.  With the passage of the 18th Amendment, legal  brewing came to an end nationwide, and although Chicago became quite well known for its illegal contribution to the alcohol industry during the 1920’s, it brewing industry never quite recovered.

Fast forward 60 years, and the beer drinkers of Chicago wanted something distinctive and high quality, or in other words, a true Chicago product.  After being overshadowed by our little brothers to the north and south, Chicago is re-emerging as both a local and national player in the beer scene.  Vas Foremost is proud to participate in this process by providing as many of the burgeoning local breweries that we can.  We are a local store, and we stand behind the credo that you should support your community.  With that, a brief intro to some of the local breweries we proudly feature on our shelves (and in our coolers!):

The most prominent is, without a doubt, Goose Island (1800 North Clybourn).  The oldest of the current craft brewers in Chicago, Goose Island opened in Lincoln Park in 1988, and has continued to operate a brew pub both there and in Wrigleville to the current day.  While it has recently sold the majority ownership to InBev, Goose Island is sure to always remain a Chicago favorite, having cemented its reputation both locally and nationally with brews such as 312 and Honkers Ale.  In recent years they have branched out further to produce belgian-style ales such as Matilda and Pere Jacques, and their famous Bourbon County Stout.

 More recent than Goose Island, but rising in stature are breweries such as Half Acre (4257 North Lincoln Avenue), which is known for its Daisy Cutter and Gossamer Golden Ale, among others, and the Finch Beer Company (4565 North Elston Avenue) which is making its mark with many different beers, including its Golden Wing Blond and Cut-throat Pale Ale.

These are a few of the local options that we have available at Vas Foremost, and we look torwards making all  Chicago brews available. We are firmly committed to enhancing the local presence of our Chicago brewing neighbors, and to supporting the movement they have started.  As with anything, the movement starts at home, and we want to help put Chicago firmly back on the map of the brewing world!

I hope that everyone has a great weekend! As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve written, or even general questions about anything else, please feel free to email me at george@vasforemost.com, tweet us: @vasforemost, or give us a call at (773) 278-9420.

Thanks again! See you all next week!

NBA All Star Weekend…


  Even though it doesn’t feel like enough season has been played yet (there hasn’t been…), it’s that time of year…NBA All Star time!  In honor of the occasion, and in honor of the fact that our own hometown hero, Derrick Rose, will be leading the Eastern Conference to victory, we have assembled our own version of an All Star Team.  We now humbly introduce the starting line up for the Vas Foremost Staff All Star Beer Squad.  These beers all rank tops on the palates of the respective employees at Vas Foremost, and we hope that you’ve ever tried them, or will give them a shot for yourself and let us know if you agree….

1. George – Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss (6 pack, $8.49) I’ve always enjoyed Honey Weiss.  This is a wheat beer, and is very light.  I usually drink it from a glass, with a slice of lemon.  This adds a bit of sourness to the honey flavor, and makes this one of my favorite go-to beers for when I am just kicking back.

2. Pete – Sam Adams – The Vixen (22ozz, $6.49) The first thing that caught my eye was the unusual size for Sam Adams. I figured that if Sam Adams was putting out a bomber, it was worth a shot.  I tried it, and thought that it was an excellent beer – not too heavy at all for a chocolate chili bock.  Malty, without being too sweet, and there was a little bit of spice to it.  I’m a big fan of chili (the stew), and this goes really well with it! The perfect winter beer!

3. Manny – Three Philosophers (4 pack, $15.99, 750ml, $12.49) – This instantly became my favorite craft beer.  I like sweeter beers, and there is some cherry lambic mixed into this Belgian-style ale, so it went over really well with me.  This is a really smooth ale, and I have come to really consider this as a beer to take your time with, and enjoy drinking.

4. Eric – La Chouffe (750ml, $12.49) I really like a couple of things about this beer.  The first is the color – it’s an orange and gold ale.  I also liked that the taste was strong, but wasn’t overpowering.  There is an incredible spiciness and complex flavor, and to me, it really satisfies the palate unlike any other beer I’ve had.  Quite frankly, I can’t put into words how much I like La Chouffe.

These are our All Stars, and we are curious to find out what some of yours are. The ranks of the prospects here at Vas Foremost are dense – there are over a 1,000 beers to choose from, so I am sure what some of you will pick will be vastly different from what we have.  Please let us know what you think!

I hope that everyone has a great weekend! As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve written, or even general questions about anything else, please feel free to email me at george@vasforemost.com, tweet us: @vasforemost, or give us a call at (773) 278-9420.

Thanks again! See you all next week!



  Every week I sit down, and every week I am faced with a challenge that I find both fun and exciting.  What will I cover in my weekly blog post? Since my aim, and our aim here at Vas Foremost, is to provide maximum value and a superior experience in finding the beverage of your choice, I try to translate the best aspects of the experience you’ll have in our store to something interesting in text format.  Am I doing a good job?  This is for you to decide.  I always solicit comments and feedback, and I look forward to reading what you have to say, or hearing from you.   That being said, this week I sat down, and thought about what I wanted to write.  A few weeks ago I began to pull at the threads on the sweater that is flavored beer, and so I figured I’d yank really hard and start to unravel the world of lambics…

As we have discussed before, and as we show in the vast selection on our shelves, there is massive diversity in the world of beer. Lambic is an extremely distinctive type of beer – brewed only in the Senne Valley Region of Belgium. 

It is rare to find a pure lambic outside of Belgium.  An example of “pure” lambic includes Cantillon, which is quite hard to find.  This year, in particular, their supply has been limited considerably by the unseasonable warmth experienced during 2011 in Belgium.  Most lambics that you’ll find distributed outside of Belgium are actually Gueze. Gueze is made by blending young (1 year old) and old (2 year or older) lambics together.  These are then re-fermented.  The first thing that you’ll notice when drinking Gueze is that it is quite sour and dry in taste.  A good example of this is Lindeman’s Cuvee Rene (750ml, $10.99)

Another variation of lambic that is seen quite commonly is fruit-flavored lambic.  There are several varieties, including Framboise (raspberry), Kriek (sour cherry),  Pecheresse (peach), Cassis (black currant), and Pomme (apple).  We carry all of these in the 750ml size for $10.99.  While still sour, the fruit makes the lambic less dry than its plain counterpart.

One of the things that I find so interesting about lambic is the complexity of the taste.  When drinking an unflavored Gueze, there is definitely a learning curve involved.  I still recall my first sip – my initial instinct was that I was drinking vinegar.  Once I got my tongue around the taste, I started to enjoy the taste for how massively different it was from any other beer I’d ever consumed.  The fruit varieties (Kriek is my personal favorite) are much easier to get into, so I’d suggest starting with these if you instinctively are adverse to sour tastes, and work your way up. 

That’s where I’ll cut things off tonight.  There’s plenty more I could say, but I’ll keep something in reserve for the next round.  I hope that everyone has a great weekend! As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve written, or even general questions about anything else, please feel free to email me at george@vasforemost.com, tweet us: @vasforemost, or give us a call at (773) 278-9420.

Thanks again! See you all next week!

Love is a many-splendored thing…


 Hi everyone – This weekend and the upcoming weeks bring us several holidays.  Lincoln’s Birthday and President’s Day are certainly the big name holidays that are dominating everyone’s plans, right? I’m just kidding! When you were a kid I’m sure getting the day off for both of those holidays certainly was a big deal; however, these days there is probably something of a little higher priority occupying your mind.  I’m talking about Valentine’s Day, of course! 

Valentine’s Day is a day of romance, and there is something undeniably romantic about Champagne – specifically Pink Champagne. Picture in your mind Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr sipping Pink Champagne in An Affair to Remember.    

An Affair to Remember – Pink Champagne

I use Champagne in this sense to describe sparkling wine.  While certainly sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France is the most authentic, there are many options available.If you’ve ever consumed sparkling wine, then you know that taste-wise, it runs the gamut from bone-dry to very sweet.  Rose (or pink) sparkling wines are considered to be more robust than standard sparkling wines, and this makes them more versatile in terms of pairing with foods and desserts.  With this in mind, we’d like to help you with some ideas for a pink sparkling wine that will make your Valentine’s Day great.  A look at some choices include:

1. Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial Rose ($64.99) – This is a higher-end choice, but certainly one that you won’t go wrong with.  This is probably the champagne that most people think of when watching the clip above. This is fruity and sweet without being overwhelming. Based on recommendations from Moet.com, the Nectar Imperial Rose goes well with entrees such as foie gras, or with fruit-based desserts.

2. Meinklang Pinot Noir Rose ($15.99) – This is a very unique wine.  It is produced using biodynamic fruit, and is fermented in egg-shaped concrete tanks.  For all the hype attached to the production, the actual product is remarkably good.  Fruity and sweet, but not syruppy. Definitely an excellent choice to accompany fruit or chocolate after dinner.

3. Santa Julia Brut Rose ($11.99) – A contrast to the choices above, this hits a drier note while still achieving some of the lightness that comes with being a rose.  Rather than going with a dessert, this is a great wine choice for during Valentine’s Day dinner, particularly if you are having lamb, or fish. 

4. Korbel Sweet Rose ($11.99) – Light, and very sweet.  If you are featuring something like chocolate-covered strawberries after dinner, this is an excellent choice.  Other good choices with this include items such as fruit pies, or tarts.   

That’s where I’ll end things for tonight.  I hope that everyone has a great weekend, and a wonderful Valentine’s Day. As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve written, or even general questions about anything else, please feel free to email me at george@vasforemost.com, tweet us: @vasforemost, or give us a call at (773) 278-9420.

Thanks again! See you all next week!


Flavored Beer…Part One


 Hi everyone – another Friday has rolled around, and I am back to continue our weekly discussion on the art of drinking.  This might sound funny to some, but I take this statement seriously.  To do anything well, you need to have a passion for it.  At Vas Foremost, we have a passion for fine beverages, and a passion for sharing the knowledge of beverages.  The approach that we take to sharing with you, and the subsequent approach you take to consumption, are what lend a level of art to what we have going on here.

I digress…Last week, I filled you in on some beers that can make your Super Bowl viewing experience unique.  Tonight’s installment is devoted to beer, again, but with a twist.  We’re going to dive into the world of flavored beer!

Flavored beer is an interesting animal, and, to the uninitiated, will be unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.  There is a pretty wide variety of beers that fit in this category, including fruit flavored, smoke flavored, and food and spice-flavored. Rather than fling a ton of stuff out in one post, I will be featuring these in multipe posts over the next several months.

1. Wells Banana Bread (.500L, $5.49) The name is a little off-putting.  I was initially worried that there would be an aftertaste almost like banana flavored laffy taffy, and that the beer would have a very thick texture.  When you open the bottle, you’ll notice that the beer actually does smell like banana bread – this was a nice introduction to the drink.  The first sip reassured me that I wasn’t drinking liquid candy.  Wells states that the beer is brewed with actual bananas and some added banana flavoring, but they haven’t overdone it.  You definitely taste the banana, but it comes out as part of the ale instead of killing it or providing a horrible aftertaste.  

2. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (.500L, $4.49, 4 pack cans, $10.99) We just covered a Wells beer, and since Wells and Young combined in 2006, it makes sense to roll on over to Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.    This is an other beer flavor that seemed iffy to me on my first try. I was really curious about how chocolately this was going to be.  “I really like chocolate milk”, I reasoned to myself, “let’s give this a shot…”.  First things first, I think what makes this combination work is that it’s a stout, a dark, heavier brew to begin with.   Young’s uses chocolate mash, and actual chocolate in the brewing process, and the result actually came out to me as a mocha – a slightly bitter chocolate/coffee flavor that went really well with the thickness typically associated with a stout.  This was not a sweet drink at all – my earlier rationalization about chocolate milk was way off base. This a great example of a non-fruit flavored beer that really stands up well. 

3. Samuel Smith’s Organic Strawberry Ale (18.7oz, $6.99) This is one of several flavored beers produced by Samuel Smith.  This is an ale, brewed with strawberry juice, and it is definitely sweet and packs a lot of strawberry punch.  If you don’t like the typical “beer” taste, then this is probably something you’d like, but for most folks, it’s simply too sweet to sit back and drink casually.  I would consider this more appropriate as an after-dinner type drink, in small doses, or even something that can be poured on ice-cream to make an interesting type of sundae.

That’s where I’ll end things for tonight.  I hope that everyone has a great weekend coming up! As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve written, or even general questions about anything else, please feel free to email me at george@vasforemost.com, tweet us: @vasforemost, or give us a call at (773) 278-9420.

Thanks again! See you all next week!


Super Bowl 2012…


 George here – January is winding up.  As February approaches, what is arguably the biggest of all American sporting events is on the horizon.  I refer to the Super Bowl, of course.  Ever since football managed to supplant baseball to become America’s national pasttime, the Super Bowl has become a continually bigger deal.  I, for one, will never complain about this.  Whether you intend on watching the game for the contest itself, or just for the commercials, the Super Bowl is a great excuse to spend a Sunday night drinking, eating, and hanging out with friends.  Now, Budweiser is the official beer sponsor of the Super Bowl through 2014, but there are so many options besides this – and since the two teams playing are the New York Giants and the New England Patriots, I’m going to focus on beers from these places.

The Beers

Brooklyn Brewery – A clear choice for the New York representation on this list.  Brooklyn Brewery has a very wide selection in its portfolio, and we are very happy to offer several here at Vas Foremost, including the following: East IPA (6 pack, $9.99), Brooklyn Lager (6 pack, $9.99) and Winter Feast (6 pack, $9.99).

Brewery Ommegang – This Cooperstown, New York brewery specializes in Belgian-style beers, and provides a sophisticated note to typical beer offerings at Super Bowl parties.  We have several of Ommegang’s offerings, including their Abbey Ale (750ml, $9.29), which is a classic Belgian-style abbey ale.

Sam Adams – This one’s a no brainer, with their Boston Lager (6 pack, $8.69, 12 pack, $13.99) being the obvious “New Englang/Boston” beer choice, but Boston Brewing Company has added so much diversity to their offerings as of late that Patriot fans can’t go wrong here…

Among the many Sam Adams offerings, we’re proud to carry: Cream Stout (6 pack, $8.69), Boston Ale (6 pack, $8.69) and the Cherry Wheat (6 pack, $8.69.)  These three only represent a small sample of what’s out there.

Harpoon – Another must-have for the New England set.  Harpoon has made a big name for themselves with their IPA (6 pack, $9.99) and their UFO Hefeweizen (6 pack, $9.99). 

These are only a small sampling of what we have available, so feel free to email me at george@vasforemost.com, tweet us: @vasforemost, or give us a call at (773) 278-9420 if there are any other regional offerings you want to check on, or if you have any other questions in general.

Thanks again! See you all next week!