Chef Rick Gresh is spending as much time this week brewing beer as he is cooking. The recreational home-brewer is kicking off a series of OctoBEERfest dinners Sunday at David Burke's Primehouse in the James Hotel. Known more for steaks than stouts, Gresh is planning four dinners; each will be four courses paired with a different beer.
"A producer nowadays has a wide variety of styles and makes of beer so there's a lot of fun things to play with," said Gresh.
On Sunday, Gresh will pair his homebrewed India Pale Ale with chamomile, alongside savories such as a shrimp and chorizo cake with charred corn.
"Home brewing actual started because I wanted to learn about the mash process; I wanted to distill my own spirits so I started home brewing just to get the basics down and fell in love with it and just went nuts," said Gresh.
On Monday, the dinner will feature Warrenville's Two Brother's Brewery, where he'll pair their Ebel's Weiss with a seafood trio, including a crab cake, some fried oysters and a chilled lobster taco.
"Now I look at beer from a chef's mind, a chef's perspective where I put rhubarb in, smoke or grill things with the different malts or grains and try to infuse different flavors," Gresh said.
A few blocks away, Dan Sachs is getting ready for the eighth annual Harvest Fest at Bin 36, which allows guests to literally make their own wine.
"We have three different varietals that are separated: cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot. The guests come in, they try each varietal separately to get a sense of the flavor profile of each one. Then they get to mix them together. Each guest gets three tries to mix the varietals together to get the blend that they like," said Sachs, co-owner of Bin 36.
Sachs says the wines will be blended in California by his business partner, and then delivered back to Chicago with custom labels they get to design by early November.
"I actually do it myself at the end after it's all said and done, I blend a case for myself. We give it to my kids' teachers and friends. It's great, really fun," said Sachs.
The Harvest Fest runs this Sunday from 1 - 4 p.m. You have to buy a minimum of six bottles, but once you consider the holidays are coming up and you might want to drink some for yourself, half a case might not be enough.
OctoBEERfest at David Burke's Primehouse
Sunday, October 4 through Wednesday, October 7
Each evening, Chef Gresh and team will partner with some of Chicago's favorite local brewers including: Two Brothers, New Holland and Goose Island, including a preview of Chef Gresh's market-driven fall menu items.
Each night's beer dinner begins with a "Beer & Nibbles Reception" in the David Burke's Primehouse lobby bar at 6:30pm (featuring two beer tastings). Immediately following at 7:15pm, the four course dinner will feature expertly paired beers along with each course, with brewers on hand from each brewery to answer questions and talk about the different selections with guests throughout the night.
The price for one dinner is $55 per guest (plus tax and gratuity), or guests have the option to participate in more than one night of OctoBEERfest fun - with attendance at two dinners for $95 or to purchase the entire week of beer dinners for $175. The OctoBEERfest calendar is as follows:
Sunday October 4
Chef Rick's Homebrew
Monday October 5
Two Brothers, Warrenville, Illinois
Tuesday October 6
New Holland Brewery, Holland Michigan
Wednesday October 7
Goose Island, Chicago, Illinois
Reservations are required by calling David Burke's Primehouse at 312.660.6000 The restaurant is located at 616 North Rush at The James Chicago hotel
Harvest Fest at Bin 36
Oct. 4, 1 - 4 p.m.
339 N. Dearborn