Monday, September 10, 2012

UPDATE: Earning gold at Old C's

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 at 1:44 PM

The next mini tour at Old Chicago launches Wednesday, Sept. 12, with a kick-off party from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Tejon Street location.

The theme is of course Oktoberfest, as it's that time of the year.

See a full list of the eight beers featured at each Old Chicago location here.

The Tejon Street location will be pouring: Hacker-Pschorr Dunkle Weisse, Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn, Ayinger Oktoberfest, Samuel Adams Oktoberfest, Warsteiner Oktoberfest, Bristol Octoberfest, Boulevard Oktoberfest and Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale.

You've got until Sept. 30 to drink all eight and earn the t-shirt, pictured below.

Oktoberfest Old Chicago
  • Lookin' good in diamonds.

——- ORIGINAL POST: FRIDAY, AUG. 3, 5:43 P.M. ——-

Baskin-Robbins is known for its 31 flavors.

Southern Hospitality for its bevy of bourbons.

And Old Chicago for its 110 beers.

That is, if you're a beer drinker. Otherwise, CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries' biggest brand earns customers for its deep-dish pizza and Big Cookie dessert, among its wide list of menu offerings.

Old Chicago Colorado Springs beer tour
  • Matthew Schniper
  • As our Olympians rack up metals, enjoy a list of award-winning beers during Old Chicago's August Mini Tour.

Which leads us to a quick look at restaurant branding — which is ultimately about making sure customers get who you are and what you're about.

Regular guests will notice some changes coming soon to Old C's, including an overhaul of part its logo, from "pasta & pizza" to "pizza and taproom" says Tejon Street location bar manager David Lux. (No relation to local Concept Restaurants guy Dave Lux, who happens to coincidentally own the building in which Old Chicago is located.)

But even as the company image is refreshed, certain popular company traditions won't change a bit, and in fact will see some reinforcement. Hence the invite we received from a Denver-based PR firm to meet Lux for a free sampling of the latest beer mini tour, which is part of Old C's larger World Beer Tour.

Old Chicago Colorado Springs beer tour
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Bar manager David Lux, a Jack White lookin' dude, displays the prize T-shirt that Old Chicago guests can earn by finishing this month's mini tour.

I confess I'm a newbie to both tours, which became quickly embarrassing last night when I learned that my food colleague Bryce Crawford already possesses several of the reward T-shirts from the program (which you earn by completing individual mini beer tours, of which there are around eight per year).

So in case any of you are also late to the party, which has been ragin' here since 1983, allow me to share what I learned about the whole affair last night, as well as details on the current Gold Medal Mini Tour, running through Aug. 19 and themed around the Olympics. (Side note: Michael Phelps did visit this Old C's with friends a couple of months ago for a meal, says Lux, exciting the staff.)

How the larger World Beer Tour works is, you're issued your own beer card (like a credit card - a nice piece of plastic) that tracks each beer you drink at any Old C's location. Once you've tried all 110 brews — with perks along the way, such as a deck of playing cards after 10 beers, a bottle opener after 20 and a shirt after 50 — you get your name added to the Hall of Foam (literally a giant wooden commemoration board with little engraved metal plaques, like a big-ass drinking trophy for a whole community).

Do the whole tour 10 times and you get a VIP beer stein with continued VIP drinking discounts.

Cool? Cool.

Old Chicago Colorado Springs beer tour

So let's look at the current Gold Medal Mini Tour before you end up needing a beer just to finish reading this blog post. The deal is, each of these beers has won a gold medal at some point in recent years at a respected brewing competition, such as the Great American Beer Festival or World Beer Cup, or otherwise hails from a gold medal-winning brewery.

Tours differ a bit from location to location because of staff and manager picks on two of the selections, plus regional specialties. In this case, Ska and Avery brewing companies collaborated on a Colorado-exclusive for Old C's (and their own taprooms) called Wheelsucker Wheat. Only 40 kegs made.

And Lux chose Singapore's Tiger Beer for his pick, while the Tejon Street staff opted for Rogue Ales' (maker of the awesomely weird maple-bacon beer) excellent Juniper Pale Ale.

The rest of the list at the Tejon Street location: Blue Moon Belgian White Ale, Michelob Ultra, Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen, Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss and Schneider Weisse Tap 7 Original.

Old Chicago Colorado Springs beer tour

What's immediately clear up-front is that this is a very light tour of largely low ABV beers with blond, Belgian and wheat bodies. All easy drinkin' in the summertime heat.

What's also clear is that in any given tour, you're likely to not love or even like a beer or two. (Berry Weiss, I'm looking at you, you over-sweet beast of fruity foulness.) But I can totally respect the intent to make people try new beers and get out of their comfort zones.

In this case, Blue Moon is a fine macrobeer with which I find no fault, the Widmer Hefe is also great for its style, and the Schneider Weisse is a very challenging beer that kept me studying it sip after sip to try to wrap my head around exactly what I was tasting, almost in an extreme, love/hate fashion as sweetness and malt yielded to more complex flavors, including a strange spice element.

The Wheelsucker I actually enjoyed less than the Widmer Hefe, as wheat beers go. And hands-down, the staff pick of the Rogue Juniper Pale Ale was my favorite, the beer I'd return for. (To be clear: You do have to purchase, but not finish, a pint of each beer to complete a tour. Yesterday we sampled mini four-ounce pours of each brew, as if doing two four-beer flights, which Old C's offers for $4.79.)

Old Chicago Colorado Springs beer tour
  • Matthew Schniper
  • If it's fried, it already goes well with beer. If it happens to have cayenne and chipotle chile thrown in the mix, and it's fried — look out, world.

Some peripheral notes: $2 Tuesdays, from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m., are great for drinking and eating at Old C's. Lux says they're so popular that every manager and staff member is scheduled, and he's usually on a wait until 11 p.m.

Lux also treated us to a few appetizers to pair with and soak up the beer tastings. I can tell you that beer could do a lot worse for table-mates than the beer-battered fried spicy pickles ($2.79) with a nice cayenne pepper bite and piquant chipotle ranch dip; fried mac n' cheese ($3.89), which is as guilty and awesome as it sounds, yet far less messy; and Sicilian pepperoni rolls ($8.49) which are housemade dough strips rolled around the meat with green onions and melted pepper jack and mozzarella, served with a house tomato sauce dip.

One last confession: I don't often eat at our corporate restaurants when there are so many local, small independents to support. But Old C's stands as a fine example of just why places like this have grown to around 100 locations — they're pretty damn good overall. A good concept is just that.

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