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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Weekend Watering Hole: Clark Street Ale House, Chicago, Illinois

As a regular weekend feature, Lyke2Drink will visit some of the world's great watering holes. This week we head to the Midwest to visit one of Chicago's best.

Clark Street Ale House
742 N. Clarke Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 642-9253

I have a habit when I travel of trying to find places that serve a wide range of beers, wines and spirits. I consider it "part of the job" as a drinks journalist, but the reality is that it can be a heck of a lot of fun. Usually, I'll do a few minutes of research on the web before heading to a city that I've either never been to or have not visited in some time. On other occasions, I'll ask for recommendations at my hotel or from business associates once I have arrived. Then there are the times that I just happen to find a great joint. That's what happened to me a number of years ago when I came across the Clark Street Ale House one evening while in Chicago.

The Clark Street Ale House is in the River North area, so there is usually a good crowd of younger professionals enjoying the place. On my first visit my luck was pretty amazing. I happened to pick a bar stool next to a sales rep from Bell's Brewery, one of the top craft brewers in the Midwest. He noticed I was looking over the tap handles and the beer list and asked what I normally liked to drink. I explained to him that I was in search of new beers and stuff that I normally did not get a chance to try in Upstate New York, where I lived at the time. The next thing I knew a pint of Bell's Kalamazoo Stout arrived in front of me. Imagine that! This rich, dark stout weighs in at 6.5 percent ABV and is meant to be savored. If it were not for the fact that I had to spend a good chunk of the next day working at a trade show, I think I could have closed Clark Street up that night trying all of the great draughts.

The Clark Street Ale House has plenty of wood throughout with a great big mahogany bar and huge windows that open to the city. There is a neat looking mural that will remind you of some great Germany and Czech beer halls. There is even a vine covered beer garden perfect in warmer weather months.

The Clark Street Ale House has about 25 draughts, with a nice number of seasonals and Midwestern gems in the mix, to go along with nearly 100 different bottled beers. There is also a solid selection of about 50 whiskies, many fine Single Malt Scotch labels, along with wines by the glass.

The Clark Street Ale House is one of those unique finds in a large American city: a friendly place that stocks a great selection of adult beverages at reasonable prices in an atmosphere that says "You're done for the day, sit back and relax."

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