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Monday, July 29, 2013

Begyle Brewing's Don't Bring Me Down Zeus

  • Style: Imperial IPA (DIPA)
  • ABV: 8.60%
  • Ease to locate: Begyle is still very young (my bottle was batch #16) and only available in the Chicago area.  Here's a link to their beer finder.  Or try beer menu for a more up to date locator.
  • Color: Hazy dark golden brown with a hint of orange amber in the light
  • Head: Half a finger of slightly off white head with little lacing and moderate retention
  • Aroma: Slightly sweet with lots of caramel malts and cereal grains.  Heavy grapefruit and pine scents as well.  it smells refreshing.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium with a slight syrup quality 
  • Finish: a bit short, but nicely dry and crisp
  • Food friendly?: Yes.  For a DIPA, it's balanced and dry enough to work with a variety of foods.  Try it with barbequed or grilled meats.  Would also work with oily fish such as salmon.  Serve it with a sharp cheese such as cheddar or a peppery cheese like Monterey.  

Chicago is an amazing place to live.  Yes, for a few months of the year it's colder than Angelina Jolie at an Aniston family reunion.  But we have a gorgeous lake front running along the East side of the city, an unbreaking strip of beaches, harbors and ruggedly rocky shores.   We have a thriving theater scene that is widely respected throughout the country for it's raw, shopfront, black humor intensity.  Our food scene is ridiculously diverse with ethnic, price and concept choices that when combined correctly, can make for one spectacular  experience.  I mean, where else can you begin the day with a pistachio glazed pastry from The Donughnut Vault, have a quick lunch from a food truck named The Tamale Spaceship, play with your science experiment dinner at Alinea and finish the night off at a friendly, everybody knows your name sort of  brew pub like Haymarket?  Not Pasadena, that's for sure.  I've been to Pasadena.  It's definitely no Chicago.   

                                                                                                                                           Because you know that you're already humming it 
Chicago is also home to a growing number of small, newish breweries trying to make their mark on a thriving craft beer scene.  Begyle Brewery is one of these.  I first discovered Begyle at a beer fest last February (here's a review of their first beer, Crash Landed) and have been following their development since then.  And by that, I mean drinking their beer while clicking "Like" on Facebook.  My family and I did a little Begyle tasting event recently to check out all of their new offerings.  And by "event" I mean we bought a few bombers and drank in my brother's backyard.  My favorite of the bombers was a Black IPA  named Jonny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts, a collaboration that they did with another brand new Chicago brewery called DryHop (it's currently on tap at DryHop.  Get the pomme frites if you go there ) So why am I reviewing their DIPA here instead?  Because this was EVERYONE else's  favorite offering of the night.   When I find a beer that the extremely picky and diverse group of people that I call family can actually agree on AND it's not Belgium?  I think that warrants a bit of screen time.

You've got me running, going out of my mind....
My Don't Bring Me Down Zeus poured a slightly hazy, darkly golden liquid.  There was a hint of orange amber when held to the light.  It looked rich and inviting.  A half a finger, barely off white head formed and fell rather quickly.  A shallow layer of foam settled on the beer's surface for a good potion of the drink.  There wasn't a lot of lacing to speak of, just enough to rim the glass, but this can be typical for a DIPA.   The aroma of sweet caramel off set the bitterness of the grapefruit and pine scents rising from my glass.  It was a nicely balanced sort of nose, not overly complex and rather soft for a DIPA, but also very inviting on a warm day.  The taste followed the nose.  Grapefruit was the predominate flavor, but there was plenty of pine and light floral hop notes layered in as well.  The beer was brewed with a mix of Bravo, Glacier and (duh) Zeus hops.  Bravo hops are a relatively new variety that was originally derived from Zeus hops.  Because of their high alpha acid levels, both Zeus and Bravo hops are often used for bittering.  Glacier hops are also rather new (bred starting around 2000) and thought of as an American Fuggle hop.  They have a light citrus quality and are often utilized in easy drinking, well balanced aroma sort of beers.  This mixture of these particular hops explained exactly why this DIPA wasn't over the top bitter and mouth puckering as other DIPAs that I (and that very picky family that I mentioned earlier) have drunk in the past.  While there are times that I enjoy an in your face hop attack, I always have great respect for a well balanced beer.   The sweetness from the malts and cereal grain flavors worked their magic on the bitterness that was there, although with a light touch.  I wouldn't call this beer a malt bomb, but there was a distinct malt backbone that served the DIPA very well.  This beer was dryer than it was sweet.  A nice touch of bready yeast emerged as the beer warmed, giving the bitter hops a bit of cushioning.  Like the nose, this was not an over worked DIPA, just a well crafted one.  The mouthfeel was slightly syrupy, but more slick than sticky.  I wish that the finish was longer, however.  It was nicely dry and slightly bitter, but much too short for a simple beer.  This is just my own taste in finishes, however.  I personally think if you're going to create a well balanced DIPA without any particular WOW factor, a longer finish is called for. 
Fun fact: ELO holds the record of having he most top 40 hits without ever having a #1 song
ELO's Jeff Lynne also wrote songs for Olivia Newton-John's movie.  Xanadu.  Mind. Officially. Blown.  Kind of.

Some DIPAs play better with their food than others.  Since Begyle's Don't Bring Me Down Zeus is a simple and straight forward sort of DIPA, I can see it working with quite a few summertime dishes.  Serve it alongside a simple plate rosemary chicken thighs with a side of zucchini & tomatoes grilled in a foil packet for a casual summer get together with friends.  I could also see this beer pairing well with oily fish, such as salmon or tuna (both fish often benefit from a bit of acidic notes when cooking or pairing.)  I'd like to try it with yellowfin tuna fillets with a simple salad of Romaine lettuce and tropical fruit.   Don't Bring Me Down Zeus is a good beer to easy your DIPA phobic friends into Big Beer territory.  Begyle is just a baby in the ever growing Chicago craft brewery scene.  Of course, at the rate that new breweries are emerging around these parts, they'll be the ever so wise ass teenager who wants to borrow your car keys and needs $50 for gas before you know it.  Time to get in on the ground floor with them is now.  Take my advice, grab a bottle for your next gathering and bask in the (craft beer) glow of being that "guy" who is in the local know.  I'll back you up.