When two breweries collaborate on a beer, that’s just another day on the brew deck—and rarely news. But, when the brewer for the world’s only Michelin-starred brewpub teams up with one of Chicago’s top restaurants for a collaboration beer paired with an upcoming tasting menu... well, that’s when things get interesting.
Band of Bohemia’s Michael Carroll has produced a beer for the upcoming Next Hollywood menu that’s right in line with its culinary-inspired house beers flavored with ingredients like apples and tarragon, roasted beet and thyme or (my favorite) persimmon honey biscuit. The latest is Constellation’s Kiss, a special 10-barrel batch (just twenty kegs worth) brewed especially for Next with lemongrass, Thai basil and... rice?
Yes, the most derided adjunct in brewing, used mainly in macro-American lager to lighten up the body and cut grain costs, takes center stage in this new beer.
“I kind of like putting rice in beer for some reason and nobody else really does it,” Carroll explains. Fifty pounds of jasmine rice—some toasted, some not—goes into the boil and the mash to extrude a light, delicate flavor and body that carries the lemongrass and Thai basil “to finish off a little bit of that licoricey, anise, floral, herbacious note to it.” It’s topped off with just ten pounds of noble Saaz, Hallertauer, Tettnanger hops from Germany, “which is nothing in the grand scheme of hoppy beer these days,” Carroll says.
The beer will be paired with a block of dishes at Next inspired by scenes from movies—think the sushi scene from The Breakfast Club, an octopus dish inspired by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and a frog-legs dish inspired by Jabba the Hutt's palace in Return of the Jedi. Those ideas are what inspired the initial brew recipe, though the menu at Next is always in flux.
Even though this is the first time Band of Bohemia and Next have officially partnered, it’s not Carroll’s first endeavor with the restaurant. This is the fourth beer he’s made for them—Carroll was behind the first Half Acre collaboration for Next's Tour of Thailand menu (called Horizon, made with hibiscus, mangosteen and pomegranate) and has made beers for the restaurant's Kyoto and El Bulli menus. In fact, the initial Horizon brew may even be partially responsible for Band of Bohemia’s existence.
“I sort of had this idea originally of doing Band of Bohemia, but when I was at Half Acre and doing beers for them it was sort of the nail in the coffin. Like, no, you can have really nice, refined, beautiful food and have a beer with it,” Carroll said. “So I sort of owe them a little bit in that sense in that sense of...they kind of put their stamp of approval [on the project].”
And the name? The art on the label is by Band of Bohemia’s featured artist Elizabeth Weber, and is originally named “Constellation Kiss,” but “we liked the sound of Constellation’s Kiss a little better,” Carroll says. "At the end of the day, it’s all about movie stars, so constellations, stars... you know.”
Saying the stars aligned for this one is a little cute, but hey, Hollywood is full of meet-cutes. You can sample this beer at Next Hollywood, of course, but Band of Bohemia held back some bottles and a couple barrels for themselves. So if the price tag of a Next ticket is a little steep, you might chance into a pour of it at the Ravenswood bar.
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