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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Iron Works Alt by Metropolitan Brewery

  • Style:  Alt (Altbier)
  • ABV:  5.80%
  • Season: Year Round
  • Ease to locate: Most decent sized grocery & liquor stores around Chicago.  Their website has a retail locator.  
  • Color:  Cooper with orange highlights
  • Head:  Two fingers
  • Aroma: Yeasty with notes of raisins & woods
  • Mouthfeel: Dry and smooth
  • Finish: Short 
  • Food Friendly:  Any sort of sausages, German food (Das ist gut), & earthy cheeses (such as Fontina)

They say that Chicago is a big sports town.  What does that mean exactly?  I think it refers to the fact that we willingly shell out $$$ for outrageous ticket prices year after year, even though it's pretty much a given that our team is going to break our hearts before the night's over.  In Chicago, sports is more than just about winning.  It's about lounging in the bleachers on a hot June day.  It's about singing Bear Down Chicago Bears at the top of your lungs with your nephew.  What it's not about is paying $7 a glass for the dredge that the concession guy wants to convince me is "Ice Cold Beer!"  I'm pretty sure that what's in the can that they pop open, pour into a flimsy plastic cup and pass down an aisle of complete strangers (who I really just hope have, at least, washed their hands in the past week) is not beer.  I'm sure that it's beer-like.  Just as I'm sure that turkey bacon is kinda bacon-like. Personally, I say lose the "like" and give me the real stuff.

When I cracked open a bottle of Metropolitan Brewing Iron Works Alt, I immediately fantasized about a summer's day spent in the Friendly Confines.  It was the bottom of the 6th, that sweet spot for a beer when the game has gone on long enough that your throat is parched from yelling at the left field outfielder, but you still have at least three more innings to get through before the enviable is over & done.  I think it was the hoppy, yeastly smell that reminded me of the ballpark.  Altbiers are German brown ales, usually from the Dusseldorf region.  They are top fermenting beers that are then lagered (AKA stored) after fermentation for long periods of time.  Yep, this ale is treated like a larger.  The longer conditioning helps to mellow the fruit flavors and can result in a very smooth beer.  Chicago's own Metropolitan Brewery takes pride in creating their personal twists on traditional German beers.  Iron Works Alt  is a wonderful example of just what a little extra Germanic TLC can do for a brown ale.

My pint of Iron Works sported a burnt amber color.  There were lovely highlights of orange to it when you held it up to a light.  It poured quite clear and stayed so.  There was a healthy two finger head that sunk down to a half fingered ivory foam which lingered for most of the drink.  The lacing was heavy with distinct rings sliding down the sides of the glass.  I could smell bready yeast and slightly sweet whiffs of caramel on the foam.  The bitterness of the hops did come through on the head, but not enough to knock me over.  The first taste gave me an image of brown bread: all grains and raisins.  There were grassy and woodsy notes present as well, but only slightly so.  The back note was singular in it's herbal, noble hoppiness.  A snappy, dry, short finish, which I rather enjoyed.  I usually prefer my finishes to linger a bit, but this really worked with the beer overall.   No trace of a harsh alcoholic taste in my throat at all, and truthfully, I was half expecting there to be from the rather assertive hops.  I think this just goes to show that the Germans knew what they were doing when they first started putting Altbiers into cold conditioning  for an extra few weeks. 

Full disclosure here, I am not a huge bitter hop lover.  When I read "assertively hoppy" on the label, I was pretty much prepared to treat the bottle as if it was the Cubs in the playoffs.  All froth and sweetness that will only leave a bitter taste in my mouth by the time it was all over.  I was really pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong.  I'm eager now to check out Altbiers from other breweries.  I'd drink this brew, served cold, with any sort of cased meats.  You can go obvious with a hot dog of course, but try branching out to smoked sausages or even game sausages (every tried a deer brat?  I have.)  I love appetizers and would definitely serve this Alt with sliced kielbasa sausages wrapped in bacon and dusted with brown sugar.  If next year the beer guy at Wrigley began to yell "Ice Cold Alt here!" I'm pretty sure that I'd gladly plunk down $7 bucks for one.  Plastic cup and all.  Because like all Chicago sports fans know, it's not really about the game or the score.  It's about being a fan.