If you’re going to drink a beer named after an early Twentieth Century Union leader, probably best to know a few things about the guy. I mean, what if I said big and bold flavor, just like Ole Gene Debs, and it turns out he was on the quiet and mousy side, well that would be a bit silly. Or if I said, subtle and gentle in taste, but then the guy turns out to a firebrand, that wouldn’t stand either. If you are drinking good beer in Chicago, you can’t rightly just get by slapping down a brew and walking away. No, you have a responsibility, because this is a beer town, and beer in Chicago comes with more than simple history, it comes with legacy.
This is also a labor town, built by men and women for whom back breaking, honest labor is a way of life. I know, having been among those labor ranks, all but crawling home from a day’s work that cracking a favored beer was a regular ritual for most. There’s a moment, a sudden epiphany as that first taste hits the back of a throat. And when the weather turns cold my taste in beer changes as well. Beer, like the world, has seasons.
I’ll get to Debs in a second. But it’s important that we establish whether or not Revolution Brewing’s Eugene Porter lives up to the reputation of the man. We’ll start with the taste. Eugene Porter is a rich, full-bodied beer, with an interesting, but none too overpowering bite of toasted grains tempered by the taste caramel that closes the door nicely behind that toasted grain flavor. Bold? Arresting? Revolutionary?
Debs himself was persistent and driven, and one of the founders of the Industrial Workers of the World, otherwise known as the IWW, or ubiquitously as the Wobblies. You might say he helped set the stage for the 99%, drawing the lines for working folks to champion and defend for generations. He’s been described in many ways, but by all accounts he was a humanist, hardly beholden to any cookie-cutter ideology. Deb’s primary ideology was in being dedicated to his fellow man. Anything more might have come across as offensive or assaulting. Debs knew the value of stalwart determination, and the greater value of his fellow man:
“I do not want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the Promised Land if I could, because if I led you in, someone else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.”
Revolution Brewing’s Eugene Porter does the man justice. I think he would have been proud of it. This is a working man’s beer, which is where the beer gets its name, as it was popular among the porters in Old London.This beer is abundantly rich in flavor, but hardly offensive, like the man, but still just a little bit dangerous and unpredictable. I’ve had Porters that were either too sweet to one end, or seem to be watered down to balance the bitterness. Neither is a good option. Revolution Brewing found that perfect balance. The ideal beer forRoasted or smoked food: barbecue sausages, roasted meat and blackened fish. Cow Milk cheeses such as Tilsit or Gruyere, or to soothe a sweettooth with Chocolate peanut butter cookies and toasted coconut cookie bars.
Tune in tomorrow and every Sunday 9-0am only on Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT for the Revolution and Beer segment as Brian and I sample the beer of the week with the Our Town gang, and run down the grassroots calendar for the week. If you’re tired of talk, talk, talk radio, this is do something radio. Get involved.