Straight up, Phil Olson of Longman & Eagle is my favorite bartender. I probably say that about at least 5 different bartenders, but they all know its somehow true. And Phil, more than any other Chicago bartender, has taught me a ton about bourbon. Episode 19 of the GBH Podcast (digging into the archives here) was my chance to ask him anything and everything about the brown.
So when we wanted a friendly face to outline chapter two of the Grit & Grain story of Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout, Phil was the instant poster-boy. We spent the day listening to Phil talk about the history of bourbon, and how it's tied to the history of America itself. His ability to rattle off the timeline of rebellions, legislation, and the rules of bourbon making was like watching a live-action Ken Burns documentary. And check out how Ken Hunnemeder, Goose's in-house video producer, follows through on that vision with the slide show reel in the barrel warehouse. It's an ingenious little piece of film making.
This bourbon thing, and this craft beer thing — as Greg Hall says in Chapter one from last week, were never supposed to come together. But as you'll see from Phil's perspective, these two distinctly American endeavors synch up like sound waves, crying out for the same thing — a passion and craft in the making of our alcohol.
But even a guy as knowledgable as Phil isn't done learning. During our shoot, Phil gathered his team around the outside bar in the back for a tasting class with Bernie Lubbers from Heaven Hill. Bernie is a career educator for bourbon, and you can hear that life in every word. It's this kind of legacy in the bourbon world, the knowledge and precision that gets passed down from one generation to the next, that the beer world is only just beginning to see the fruits of.
As Phil describes the flavors and aromas of Bourbon County Stout using the language of bourbon as his guide — vanilla and coconut all over the nose — you can hear the inevitability of these two worlds colliding.
Eat. Sleep. Whiskey. Then come back for Chapters 3-9 every Friday until Black Friday.