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The Most Interesting (And Weird) Of The International Wine, Spirits And Beer Event

By Melissa McEwen in Food on May 19, 2014 7:30PM

Zu Zubrowka
Nestled in the overwhelmingly huge National Restaurant Association show is a smaller show known as The International Wine, Spirits and Beer Event. There, brewers, distillers and distributors give away samples their booze to potential buyers. Here are some of the the most interesting ones I tasted:

  • Bekseju: This mildly bitter rice wine is like the Korean version of vermouth, flavored with 12 different herbs from ginseng to ginger. There is at least one Chicago restaurant that already serves it – Dancen in Lincoln Square. 
  • Two James Rye Dog: This delicious rye white whiskey from Detroit was absurdly well-balanced and was probably the most dangerously drinkable whiskey I’ve ever had. 
  • Sortilege: Also in the wickedly drinkable category, this tastes like if you mixed 50 percent whiskey with 50 percent high quality Canadian maple syrup. I wasn’t sure whether to drink it or put it on my pancakes. 
  • Monkey 47: A delightfully weird German gin that contains 47 extremely diverse botanicals from cranberry to kaffir lime. A bartender in London, where it has become popular, let me try it and I’ve been craving it ever since. I expect it will become popular here too. 
  • Zu Zubrowka: Another one with flavors of a European forest, this one comes from Poland, where the buffalo roam, though these are actually the European Bison. The real stuff is banned in the US for a very silly reason, considering that the Polish drink plenty of this stuff and they are fine; but this one is free of coumarin, the offending naturally-occurring chemical. The bison grass, which is the dominant flavor, has a sweet and spicy aroma. 
  • Forbidden Root Beers: We’ve written about this brewery’s efforts to open in West Town a few times. Their beers are also definitely unusual, with the botanicals not taking a back seat that many expect them to in spiced beers. Refreshingly spicy, rich and highly aromatic.
  • Juniper Berry Mountain Honey Wine: With their great selection of dry and flavorful honey brews, Redstone Meadery is definitely trying to break the stereotype that meads are cloyingly sweet.