- Style: Golden Ale (AKA American Blonde Ale)
- AVB: 5.3%
- Season: Year Round
- Ease to locate: Grocery & liquor stores around Chicago, Ohio & Philadelphia; served in select Chipotle restaurants
- Color: Golden with hints of orange
- Head: One finger
- Aroma: Weak malts with hints of pine & honey
- Mouthfeel: Light
- Finish: Moderate with spice on the back
- Food friendly: Mexican (see Chipotle partnership!) but also nice with grilled pork
Sometimes a person can get a little tired of European style beers (simmer down, people, and see where I'm going with this before you storm off in a soccer jersey eurotrash huff!) Don't get me wrong. I like a good red ale or a smooth dubble as much as the next craft beer enthusiast (and if I happen to be standing in a crowd of kindergarteners, then I think it'd be safe to say more than most people present.) But just like J Lo and her latest boy toy would tell you, one can only frolic in the French Riviera so many time before it gets boring. Sometimes we want something a little wild. A little spicy. A little hot blooded. Up to recently, ordering a Latino influenced beer meant a Corona, or if you wanted to get all fancy, a Dos Equis.
Neither of which really shake my maracas taste-wise. Luckily, we now have a third option to satisfy our longing for a tasty south of the boarder cervesa (if your boarder is the Chicago River, that is.)
5 Rabitt Brewery is a relatively new Chicago brewery. For the last two years or so, they've been renting spaces in other breweries around Chicagoland and Wisconsin. Recently they've begun construction on their own space in the Pilsen neighborhood as well as expanding into an interesting partnership with local Chipotle restaurants (which I think may be a first for Chicago craft breweries not named after a goose.) I first heard of 5 Rabbits Cerveseria two years ago, just after their Chicago debut, and began a bit of a long and winding road to taste one of their beers. Apparently, everyone else in Chicago was also on this Quixotic quest because every time I attempted to order a beer, I was told that they had just sold out. The first time was disappointing. The second time was annoying. By the fifth or sixth time, I'll admit that I was feeling a bit persecuted (and I was pretty sure that my server and the rest of the crew were smuggling all the kegs of 5 Rabbit out the back door in some sort of craft beer black market ring.) Finally I got lucky at a tasting event last January and I can honestly say that they were a stand out brewery there. Their mother ship beer, also called 5 Rabbit, became a bit of a summer staple for me this past season.
5 Rabbit is a golden ale (also known as an American blonde ale.) American blonde ales originated in the United States and are widely considered a stress-free way to transform this nation of Budweiser and Coors fans into craft beer lovers. Sort of a gateway beer, if you will. American blondes are heavy on malt, have a lower hop rate and don't require too much thinking in order to drink. Think of them as the Jessica Simpson of beers.
The 5 Rabbit Golden Ale poured a soft, orange tinged golden yellow color that was slightly hazy in appearance. It had a decent one finger head, which dissipated pretty quickly. Delicate, minimal lacing slid down the sides of the pint glass with absolutely no cling. The aroma was rather weak. I could detect faint malts as a top note with under scents of pine and sweet honey, but it took some real effort to do so. When I drank this bottle in early November, I was disappointed that the aroma was so slight. But upon reflection, I think that the last thing I want on a hot July day is to have a heavily scented beer. Obviously seasonality does make a huge difference in the enjoyment of this brew. It did taste better than it smelled though. The malty yeast, of course, hit me right away, but it was quickly balanced by the bitterness of noble hops and piney resin. I also detected hints of the honey and some light caramel. My favorite part (regardless of the season) and what I think makes 5 Rabbit unique in the American blonde ale category, was the spicy cayenne pepper note on the back. Really a nice touch and provided just enough heat to give it a bit of a bite. The back note of the heat defined the character of what was otherwise, a pretty simple and straight forward ale. It was smooth and mildly carbonated with a light mouthfeel, just as one would expect for this type of beer. The finish was medium, letting the hops and spice linger just a little, like a welcomed house guest (and you know what they say about fish, house guests and craft beers...)
It's really eye opening to try a beer out of season. I enjoyed 5 Rabbit Golden Ale quite a bit this summer, but it felt like a completely different drink come November. The lightness and ease of the beer felt out of place, kind of like seeing a a guy shoveling snow in shorts (I have witnessed this before and chalk it up to Darwinism at work.) Now, if you have a buddy who refuses to give up his precious bottle of Miller, this would be the perfect beer to slip him instead, regardless of what month it is. It's simple and uncomplex enough for a person to develop a craft beer palette on. But if you have already imbibed in your fair share of craft beers, save this one for summer. Serve it with grilled pork in a lime and honey marinade or with fish tacos and a fresh tomatillo salsa. I suppose if you're feeling lazy, you could always just hike over to Chipotle, but I'm pretty sure that they were the ringleaders of that black market craft beer scam and I WILL find a way to bring them to justice one day. Mark my words, faithful companions...