Old Chicago played in important role for me as I started out in my quest for Craft Beer Knowledge.  It provided an easy place in the mid-2000s to find a lot of beer in one place.  You could build your own flights, and they had recommended set ones to help guide you.  I’m sure many of us got our start in Craft Beer at Old Chicago, or a similar place.

But as time went on I grew less enamored.  As I started to appreciate more “local flavors” when it came to my beer and food, my World Tour card fall by the wayside.

Recently I was invited out by Darren O’Dwyer and Luke Dunham to visit their reinvigorated location in Eden Prairie to see how they have transformed this chain into a Craft Beer haven and sample their exclusive Cracking Wit by Summit Brewing.  At first I was not sure why I went.  My last experience was okay, but nothing to write home about.  A sense of nostalgia I guess?  I was greatly surprised just by walking in the door.  Long gone are the clutter filled walls, the mediocre beer menu, and standard waitstaff.  They are replaced by a modern day look with a strong focus on craft beer, excellent beer with a great local selection, and a craft beer tested team!

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I was greeted immediately by Darren O’Dwyer, the Store Director.  He had a flight of Summit ready for me, and it included the exclusive Cracking Wit.  Cracking Wit is a limited time beer, so if you want to taste this tasty summer time beer, don’t wait.  When its gone its gone.  Cracking Wit is a witbier, but not like the others.  They use lemons instead of oranges which gives it a unique zest, and a dry finish.  This beer has a heavier mouthfeel then other witbiers I have had, but it doesn’t take away from it’s summery goodness.  The coriander is prevalent through out the taste through out the hazy straw gold elixir.  This is an excellent beer you don’t want to miss!

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Next up was a round of appetizers.  By far and away the best one on the plate were the jalapeno laced pretzels.  Theses large pretzels, made from pizza dough, don’t shy away from a flavorful fresh heat.  And they are served with a well made beer cheese dipping sauce.  A perfect combination to for the beer drinker.  I was also impressed with the garlic bread.  The taste of basil lingered on my palate with each bite.  I’m not sure I have ever had garlic bread that tasted so “fresh”.  Old Chicago really has come through on flavors, like no chain their size should possibly be able to do.  Part of me was shocked, and part of me was just trying to cram another Sicilian Pepperoni Roll in my mouth.

Everything is new at Old Chicago.  So whether you want to visit for the exclusive Cracking Wit, or your want a nostalgic trip back into your craft beer past, you will not be disappointed, because this is one chain restaurant that grew up with your craft beer tastes!

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Be sure to check out this neat little video about Cracking Wit featuring the Summit Team!