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Expert BYOB booze picks

The city's top sommeliers, brewmasters and booze experts dish on what they tote to their favorite BYOBs.



Michael Roper, owner of Hopleaf (5148 N Clark St, 773-334-9851)
“My Indian-food beer rules are: Beers that are dry, with a good dose of hoppy bitterness and nice carbonation, are ideal. When I go to Udupi Palace [2543 W Devon Ave, 773-338-2152] or Little India [1109 W Bryn Mawr Ave, 773-728-7012], I bring along a hoppy dry pilsner like Jever or Victory. They refresh and clear the palate while taming a bit of the heat. A great alternative are dry, lightly spritzy French ciders like Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouche. The tart apple flavor and dry, carbonated finish are also a perfect foil for the curries.”


Shane Kissack and Paul Hasenwinkel, owners of In Fine Spirits (5418 N Clark St, 773-506-9463)
“Great Lake has been our highest recommendation since Nick and Lydia Esparza opened their easy-to-miss storefront last year. Using locally sourced produce, meats and cheeses makes for a variable menu, but everything pairs well with the 2006 Scott Harvey Barbera from Amador County, a rich example of how Italian varietals shed acidity and gain richness in California soil.”


Nick Floyd, brewmaster at Three Floyds (9570 Indiana Pkwy, Munster, IN, 219-922-3565)
“For highly spiced Szechuan dishes, try saisons because they have spicy, fruity and yeasty notes that pair well with hot dishes, and they’re effervescent to help squeegee the palate. Or, hoppy beers seem to accompany bold flavors well, especially if you’re tired of ubiquitous mass-produced lagers that don’t hold up, so you could try a pale ale or IPA. And for delicate Chinese soups and dumplings, I’d say pilsners like Bitburger.”

Michael Muser, wine director for the Peninsula Chicago (108 E Superior St, 312-337-2888)
“I love Dragon Court [2414 S Wentworth Ave, 312-791-1882]! I have to admit, I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy food, so whatever I drink has to have some sweetness to it. The Joh. Jos. Christoffel Riesling Erdener Treppchen Spätlese Christoffel has an outstanding balance of acidity and sweetness and never disappoints.”


Fernando Beteta, sommelier at NoMI (800 N Michigan Ave, 312-239-4030)
Max Ferd. Richter riesling is an awesome wine that drinks very fresh and light. I take it to Wakamono, where the slight sweetness pairs nicely with the spiciness in the wasabi and ginger. It refreshes your palate after each bite but doesn’t overpower delicate fish.”

Matt Van Wyk, brewmaster at Flossmoor Station (1035 Sterling Ave, Flossmoor, 708-957-2739)
“My standard go-to sushi beer is American lager. Light enough to match, yet with a crisp hoppiness to clear the palate. Local faves are Piece’s Golden Arm kölsch or the new Metropolitan Brewery’s Flywheel Bright Lager. If I turn up the wasabi, though, IPAs will cool the heat. And if I’m really splurging—quail eggs, fatty tuna—I’d bring Flemish red like Rodenbach Grand Cru. The bright acidity cuts through the richness.”


Jonathan Cutler, brewmaster at Piece (1927 W North Ave, 773-772-4422) 
“When I go to Real Tenochtitlan [2451 N Milwaukee Ave], I bring a good lager, kölsch, or even a wit, or wheat—something light, crisp and clean to cleanse the palate. It’s more of a contrast than complement sort of thing. They work well to balance each other. A little bite of spicy and a little sip to cool it off. Repeat.”

Jill Gubesch, sommelier at Topolobampo and Frontera Grill (445 N Clark St, 312-661-1434)
“I think Mixteco Grill is a great BYOB Mexican place—it specializes in moles from Oaxaca, which are the best. Some of the fruitier moles, like manchamanteles, pair well with California zinfandel to match the sweetness of the pineapple and plantain in the sauce. The lighter, more herbal moles such as the mole verde or mole amarillo work well with dry rieslings from Alsace, France.”


Michael McAvena, beer director at the Publican (837 W Fulton Market, 312-733-9555)
“For one or two beers that can see you through the entirety of a diverse meal, my favorite style is the French bière de garde, which comes in blonde, ambrée and brune. Blondes are great to start with, as they’re light and bright, and ambrées go famously with just about any preparation of meat. They’re also perfectly capable of handling spice and heat. Try Jenlain Ambrée or Thiriez Blonde.”

Rachel Driver, general manager of Lush Wine and Spirits
“The food at Schwa usually matches better with fairly acidic white wine, so I bring the Didier Dagueneau Silex. It’s a pretty big wine for being also very zippy.”

Moroccan/Middle Eastern

Pete Crowley, brewmaster at Rock Bottom (1 W Grand Ave, 312-755-9339)
“At Fattoush, the cumin and lemon juice in the lentil soup go great with a medium-bodied Irish-style red ale. And since hummus is garlicky and lemony, it’s a delight with light and refreshing Belgian wit. I love the samkeh harra—red snapper. Because it’s spicy and covered in garlic, it needs a superhoppy, double dry-hopped IPA.

Michael Scharber, partner at Kafka Wines
“The 2006 Santos Beck “Vineyard Selection” malbec is medium-bodied and a bright violet color, with intense aromas of plum and raisin. Its long finish marries the complex spicy flavors in Andalous’s tagines beautifully!”


Jason Ebel, brewmaster at Two Brothers (30W315 Calumet Ave, Warrenville, 630-393-2337)
Belgian white or German wheat beer is perfect with tom kha soup. Pad thai marries well with a big IPA, because the higher alcohol and bold hop character cuts through the sticky noodles and sweetness in the sauce. For my favorite dish, spicy basil chicken, you could go with fuller-bodied beers like Belgian abbey ales, or you could cut the heat with a tart style like gueuze. Stick to the basic principle that heat needs malty beer and savory/sweet needs hops.”

Chantelle Pabros, sommelier at L2O (2300 N Lincoln Park West, 773-868-0002)
“My only BYOB experience with Thai food is getting delivery to my home and opening a bottle of Diebolt-Vallois NV Champagne. Yes, Champagne with the chicken satay and peanut sauce is delicious!”


Greg Hall, brewmaster at Goose Island (1800 N Clybourn Ave, 312-915-0071)
“Matching beer with food is all about matching flavor intensity. Barbecue has intense flavors with smoke, sweet, sour and the meat all playing a role. I’d pair a rich, malty nut brown ale with Honey 1’s ribs, a hopped-up IPA to fight through all the smoke in the wonderful brisket at Smoque and a Belgian-style ale with a touch of acidity with Honky Tonk’s pulled pork.”

Rodney Alex, owner of Juicy Wine Co. (694 N Milwaukee Ave, 312-492-6620)
“For Smoque, I really like the 2005 Llopart rosé cava—it’s really, really nice, really refreshing, and it’s got a tempranillo base, so it really holds up to the meat.”

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