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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Begyle Brewery's Christmas Ale

  • Style: Spiced Ale
  • ABV: 7.0%
  • Ease to locate: Grower fill at the Begyle Tap room & on draft at various places around the city.  Here's  a link to their Beer Menu page for locations.
  • Color: Oaky reddish brown, slightly see through with golden highlights around the edges
  • Head: One finger just off white foam with spotty, delicate lacing
  • Aroma: Spices dominate (cloves, cinnamon & ginger) Bit of malty bread and a little herb hops
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body with good carbonation.  Dry & easy to drink
  • Finish: Almost long.  Begins spicy & sweet, ends with the ginger  & clove notes
  • Food: Perfect Christmas Cookie drinking ale.  Exchange away.
Apple User's Link: Just a couple of misfits
Beer & cookie pairings make the season magical.  OK, maybe not magical, but while you float down the path of a beer & cookie induced sugar coma, you're less likely to notice

There are no Easter beers.  I have never been poured a 4th of July Ale nor had a tasting of a Labor Day Stout.  But for some reason, Christmas Ale is not only a thing, its a thing that I eagerly anticipate as soon as the Halloween candy is placed in a bowl.  I stow away my excess Marzens (or give them away.  Little cousins and bosses' 21 plus old nephews make great storage bins this time of year) to make room for all of the lovely spiced ales that will grace my beer cellar.  I especially love the local breweries who take the time to brew a one off spiced ale for growler fill only.  Its often a beer that they are excited by and when a brewer is excited to brew something, I'm more than excited to try it.  Thrilled, mostly. Ecstatic, even. My favorite one this year was by the Down the Hatch family house brewery, the good folks over at Begyle Brewing.

My Begyle Christmas Ale poured an oaky reddish brown color with golden highlights around the edges when held to the light. It looked like Christmas in a glass to me.  A one finger of just off white ivory head quickly formed in the snifter and took it's sugar cookie sweet time in settling to a thin film covering the surface.  Spotty, delicate tiny webs of lacing clung to the sides of the glass.  I absolutely loved looking at it.  The nose was lovely as well.  The aroma of Christmas spices dominated the scent.  I could smell the nostalgically emotional Christmas keystone notes of cloves, cinnamon and a hint of ginger without even trying.  A bit sweet with a bready malt character that was tempered by the aroma of herbal hops rounded out the nose nicely.  The taste was well balanced , with the baking spices melting into the roasty, malty sweetness and herbal bitterness.    The ginger was slightly more pronounced on the tail of the taste than on the nose.  I loved the medium body with a well thought out dryness that made drinking this spiced ale a very easy thing to do. The finish was long; beginning with the baking spices and smoothly sliding to the hint of ginger which gently lingered on the back of the swallow. 

 Christmas time is a season of gatherings.  And what makes a gathering a gathering?  Beer and cookies, of course.  I'm slightly known around these parts for bringing a tray of cookies to most bottle shares.  Good cookies will take you far in this crazy, mixed up world that we drink in.  During the holiday season I make it a point to pay a bit more attention to being certain that the cookies pair perfectly with the beer.  My favorite go-to beer pairing cookie of all time is the simple, classic Snickerdoodle Cookie.  Snickerdoodles are basically sugar cookies with the element of cinnamon.  The notes of cinnamon, sugar and grain (flour) work with a wide variety of different beers, from Stouts to Belgians to Brown ales (personally I'd steer clear of IPAs here.  However I do love a nice Lemon Ricotta drop cookie with a glass of Revolution Brewery's AntiHero for future references.)   Another option for a spiced ale, such as Begyle's Christmas Ale, is a seasonal favorite such as Eggnog Cookies.  The creamy nog character of the cookie is a wonderful match for the slight sweetness of the malts in this ale.  There are a myriad of cookie recipes out there this time of year and I guarantee that a majority of them are simple to bake and even easier to please a crowd of party goers with.   Once you realize how much fun it could be to pair your beer with the proper cookie, the annual cookie exchange party becomes exponentially more fun, believe you me. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Drinking a Little Gratitude With Your Turkey

Do you know how lucky we are?  Do you?  Truly?  You and I (and the guy sitting just to your left.  Turn and give him a little friendly wave) are not only living in what might arguably be the boom of the domestic craft beer movement, we get the luxury of living in one of the epicenters of the whole shebang.  Well, I do and if you happen to be reading this from some place other than Chicago, it's a lovely place to visit and you should book a trip soon (but all bets are off come January.  You've been warned.)  As of last count, the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild listed over eighty craft breweries in the Chicagoland/Illinois region alone.  That's a lot of shelf space and tap handles.  The choice of what beer to drink has never been so diverse, exciting and yes,  occasionally overwhelming.  But you and I wouldn't have it any other way.  That guy sitting to your left, however, seems to be breaking out into a cold sweat at the prospect of pairing his beers with the family Thanksgiving meal.  For his sake, I'm going to break down a typical Chicago Beer Turkey Day.  All of the following beers are local and can still be found on the shelves of a well stocked craft bottle shop or big beer liquor store that rhymes with "Whinny's". I'll also include a Beer Menu link for each suggestion because when one of us drinks well, we all drink well.


In some houses this might start early in the morning, in which case I suggest grabbing yourself an bright eye & bushy tail cup of joe.   If you happen to be one of those folks who likes to make a day of it smoking, grilling or even deep frying the bird (Holla out to Down The Hatch Middle Brother who has never passed up the chance at playing with an open flame!) a glass of something light in ABV but large in taste is required in hand.   In fact, since you actually have two hands (well, I'm assuming that you have two.  If you happen to only have one, boy is my face red.  And I really hope that the other is a hook at least) you might need more than one glass to get your through the afternoon.  Pop open a bomber of a Berliner Weiss from a brand new Chicago area brewery, Marz Community Brewing.  Bubbly Creek is a lemon forward Berliner Weiss with a well balanced mouth pucker of tang.   And at a mere 2.8% ABV, you could probably finish off the bomber with out over cooking your giblets.  Or losing a hand in the process.  I also recommend a bright, citrus forward APA such as Ale Asylum's Hopalicious, if  Berliner Weisses aren't your thing.  I don't "get" that concept, but I also try not to judge (I kid.  We all know the truth here.  Totally judging you) which clocks in at a sessionable 5.00% ABV.  Brewed with Cascade Hops, it's crisp with a refreshing bite that quietly screams notes of  grapefruit and lemon.  Honestly, I drank the hell out of this beer over the summer during a Wisconsin Dell trip.  Yes, this was the same Dell trip that I scores a $2 pour of Toppling Goliath's Pseudo Sue APA.  And I'm still talking about Hopalicious, so that should tell you something right there. 

Marz Community Brewing's Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss

Ale Asylum Brewing's Hopalicious APA


So you've successfully navigated the turkey onto the dining room table, talked great Aunt Edna down from her annual rant about teenage boys in low slug jeans that just gets creepier and creepier every year, and lead the masses in a quick speech of thanks.  As the resident Beer Geek, your family's next question is "So, what are you pouring?"  A typical Thanksgiving meal is no longer typical by any stretch of the imagination.  This year alone, I know of at least one family who is serving Pasta Marinara, Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries & Walnuts and  Five Cheese Enchiladas all on the same table.  The idea of matching any sort of drink, let alone a beer, with all of those elements is maddening.  My solution is to take the most basic component of the meal, the thing that almost everyone will have at least a slice of, and pair your beer with that.  In most cases, it will be the turkey (unless you are celebrating at a steakhouse with your crew and in that case, just get a decent bottle of Malbec and call it a day.)  I love drinking Saisons with poultry and Off Color Brewing's Apex Predator holds all the cards needed to compliment your Thursday night meal.  The fruity yeast, restrained funk and floral forward notes of lemon grass and herbs with a hint of pepper on the finish will help to bring out the meatiness of the bird while not overpowering any of the side dishes that accompany it.  Since Apex Predator is one of my go-to Farmhouse Ales when pairing with a wide variety of foods, the chances of it working with whatever odd family traditions that land on your plate are pretty darn good.  But you say that you were craving something a bit fruitier and cranberry forward in your dinner Teku?  Pipeworks Brewing has you covered with their Flavor Memory Response (yes, that is the name.  No, I think it sounds like a Fifth Grade Science Fair Project too.)  This year Pipeworks is releasing a trio of holiday beers that they call The Three Dragons of Thanksgiving (yes, that is the name.  No, I think it sounds like a children's book from George R.R.  Martin too.)  FMR (not any better.  I know) is a Wit that was brewed with cranberries and spices (mostly notes of cloves.)  The acidity of the tart cranberries and the fruity nature of the Belgian yeast will compliment your poultry and a good majority of traditional side dishes from roasted sweet potatoes to chestnut stuffing.  You're on your own with the Five Cheese Enchiladas though.

Off Color Brewing's Apex Predator Farmhouse Ale

Pipeworks Brewing's Flavor Memory Response


So you and your loved ones (and that second cousin with the Cosplay addition who your mom insisted that you give your new address to) have devoured the meal in twenty minutes that took you three hours to lovingly prepare.  The next question is what to serve for desert?    In my house, we are a pie family.  Apple.  Pumpkin.  Pecan.  Honestly, I'll probably have a bit of each on my plate.  But in my glass I want a beer that I can sip slowly and enjoy it in a relaxed "I don't have to do the dishes because I cooked for all of you lazy slobs" sort of way.   A lovely, creamy, Imperial Stout is called for.  Spiteful Brewing's G.F.Y. Imperial Stout was aged in barrels from a local distillery who is also getting some nationwide accolades,  F.E.W. Spirits (I'm not kidding.  Entertainment Weekly recently featured F.E.W. in their gift selection section.  And if Entertainment Weekly tells me to drink it...)  G.F.Y. Imperial Stout is dark chocolate forward with elements of darkly roasted malts and a hint of bitter coffee with an earthiness that lends some appreciated depth to the taste.  The alcohol bite is mellow and warming as the drink trickles down your throat.  But for the people who are actually tasked with washing the dishes (thus needing to keep a clear head on their sudsy shoulders) I'll have a bomber or two of my favorite coffee porter, SlapShot Brewing's McLaughlin's Red Eye Porter.  This porter boasts one of the truest coffee notes that I've had the pleasure of sniffing.  No lie. I could spend an hour just inhaling the scent of this beer and be happy.  It's made with with locally roasted cold brewed coffee,  which works to mellow out the burnt bitterness that many coffee porters seem to posses.  Notes of slightly sweet chocolate and a hint of dirt round out a simplistic, yet effective flavor profile.  And at a laughable 5.8% ABV, you don't have to worry about Grandma Alice's china getting chipped.  Who are we kidding?  My Grandma Alice liked paper plates whenever possible too.
Spiteful Brwing's G.F.Y. Imperial Stout in F.E.W Barrels 

SlapShot Brewing's McLaughlins Red Eye Coffee Porter

Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday of the year.  There are no carols to be sung.  No balls of lights to be untangled.  And no presents to be hastily wrapped.  It's the one day a year when people take a moment to be grateful for the abundance of blessings that even the lowliest of us are granted.  It's not a time to lament what you lost, or worry about what you might want in the future, but to be thankful for what's in front of you right here and now.  I hope that you and your loved ones are enjoying something wonderfully delicious in your glasses as you pause to reflect on your present abundances of riches.  And get a good night's sleep, because Goose Island's BCBS Release Day is on the morrow and its back to the rat races bright and early Friday morning.   

Monday, November 17, 2014

Spiteful Brewing's Mrs. O'Leary's Chocolate Milk Stout with Raspberries

  • Style: Milk Stout brewed with fresh raspberries.  Can I get a collective "YUM"?
  • ABV: 7% 
  • Ease to locate: Most craft & large liquor stores in the Chicago area.  I didn't see an entry on Beer Menu for this variant.  My batch was #187 and I have recently found it on the shelf at a few local places, so I would imagine it's easily attainable
  • Color: Murky milk chocolate brown with golden highlights
  • Head: A scant, not quite 1 finger of  dark tan foam that quickly settles.  Low spotty clusters of lace.
  • Aroma: Abundant rich milk chocolate notes, a little fruity raspberry and a hint of coffee
  • Mouthfeel: Lightly creamy, but a bit more dry than expected.  Lots of carbonation
  • Finish: Long.  Begins with chocolate/raspberry, slides to dominantly chocolate and ends with a  raspberry note that lingers.
  • Food friendly?: To me this is a desert beer that doesn't necessarily need any food to fully enjoy.  But if you so wanted, you could take advantage of the beer's rich profile and serve it alongside simple deserts.  Try pairing it with a slice of pound cake or homemade shortbread cookies 
 Apple user's link: Who knew that cows liked jazz? Apparently it's a "thing"

                                        I wonder if the cows have any preference to jazz styles?  East Coast? West Coast? New Orleans?  Chicago?  Yes.  This is where my minds goes.

One of the nicer things about Chicago's craft beer scene as it builds to a solid foundation is that the more established brewers can start to experiment with their beers.  Let their collective hair down and enter the world of imagination (and THAT folks, is the only Willy Wonka reference that you will ever get out of me.  Unless I someday write about the serious trauma which that movie has inflicted upon my soul.  I may save it for my memoir however.)  Spiteful Brewing is suddenly on this bandwagon now, or so it at least seems.  In the last four or five months, they have released every version of their popular God Damn Pigeon Porter that an average beer geek could imagine, except maybe for God Damn Excessive IBU The Sulfur Is Burning My Eyeballs Pigeon Porter (Spiteful, please do not brew this.  I'm pleading with you.  Don't. But if you do, yes, I will probably buy it.  I'm so weak.)  Some variants, of course, are better received than others.  And other versions just knock your fraking socks off.  In August of 2013 I posted about Spiteful's Mrs. O'Leary's Chocolate Milk Stout (here's the link if you want to familiarize yourself with the base beer. I'll wait.)  I loved this milk stout.  In fact, in my food pairing recommendation, I suggested pairing it with a berry forward desert.  On hindsight, I suppose one (and by one, I mean the brewers over at Spiteful who probably came up with the idea all on their own) could just put the berries in the damn thing.

My Mrs. O'Leary's Chocolate Milk Stout With Raspberries (that is a mouthful.  I'm going to just refer to it as Fruity Cow) poured a murky, milk chocolate brown with lightly golden highlights.   A not quite one finger dark tan head rose in the snifter and then quickly fell.  The foam settled into a solid ring which left behind shallow, spotty clusters of lace.  The aroma of slightly sweet milk chocolate wafted from the glass.  An easy to detect scent of tart raspberries was present as well as a hint of bitter, earthy coffee on the very back of the nose.  But if I have to be completely truthful here, both the aroma and taste reminded me of the Harry & David's Chocolate Covered Raspberry candies that I'd sneak every year at Christmas.  They were delicious.  As was this beer.  The flavors of rich milk chocolate, a bit sweet with milk sugar but still ever so slightly bittered by the chocolate element, were tempered by the fruity, tart note of raspberry.  There was nothing artificial or fake about either flavor and each were very well balanced.  I also could taste a hint of dark coffee and a very light earthiness layered under the chocolate, milk sugar and fruit notes.  Like most well done milk stouts, Spiteful decided to let the flavors be true and stand out instead of over complicating the profile.  As I found with the original Mrs. O'Leary's, Fruity Cow is rather lighter in mouthfeel than I was expecting.  There was a creaminess present for certain, but it wasn't a decadent, tongue coating  sort of body at all.  The abundant carbonation helped to keep the stout on the dry side as well.  And as I believed with the original beer, I didn't think that this medium bodied mouthfeel detracted from my enjoyment of the stout one iota.  I loved the long finish.  It began with the chocolate milk sugar note off set by the tartness of the raspberries, slid to a singular domination of chocolate and then trailed off with just the raspberry, a note which lingered seemingly forever.  Maybe not the best finish profile for food pairings, but a hell of a good sip.

As I mentioned previously, I don't necessarily think that you need to pair this beer with any food in order to enjoy it immensely.  Some beers benefit from outside flavors.  They use the food as a springboard to bring out or temper the beer's inherit notes.  Fruity Cow (AKA Spiteful Brewing's Mrs. O'Leary's Chocolate Milk Stout with Raspberries for those of you who skimmed the previous paragraph.   If you did, I'm not mad at you.  I'm just disappointed.) is not one of those beers.  If you really feel like you want to serve something of substance alongside of the stout to justify opening a bottle of alcohol and calling it desert (again, not mad, just disappointed) try pouring it in a snifter with some Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies.  They're simple to bake and even simpler to eat.  Maybe you could also play a little Charlie Parker or Oscar Peterson for the cows' sake. She looks like she's had such a day.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Forbidden Root Brewing's Sublime Ginger

  • Style: Wheat Ale
  • ABV: 3.8%  Halla-freaking-lula 
  • Ease to locate: Most craft beer stores around the Chicagoland area.  Sold in 4 packs.  Here's the link to their Beer Menu Page
  • Color: Gold with amber and orange undertones.  Slightly hazy with visible carbonation.
  • Head: Easy two finger of tight, off white foam which falls fast.  Leaves a cluster of soapy, spotty, pretty as a picture lacing
  • Aroma: Keylime, hints of black pepper, lemon, honey and the tang of fermented wheat
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body with a bit of creaminess from the wheat ale base.  I really, really,  REALLY wish it had been dryer
  • Finish: Short but with a nice acidity on the tail that dropped off at the end to a rounded, flabby feeling
  • Food Friendly?: Depends.  I like wheat ales with a variety of meals, but the distinct key lime, black pepper and honeybush character does limit this one.  Forbidden Root suggests pairing it with New Orleans inspired foods such as gumbo and po'boys.  I also recommend drinking it with a vegetarian inspired dish, such as vegetarian chili or butternut squash  soup.

Apple user's link: And he's STILL not a Ginger. Just old(er)

                                                      Let's not kid ourselves, people.  You knew it was only a matter of time(lords) until I used a Doctor Who clip here

The world can only handle so much IPA and bourbon barreled everything.  At least, that's how it seems to feel some days.  Every time I turn around, there seems to be a new one.  Don't get me wrong, I love a well done IPA or bourbon barreled anything as much as the next person.  It just that I'd like a bit more, shall we say, variety from certain breweries out there.  Which is why I was excited to find Forbidden Root's four packs at my local craft store.  Forbidden Root is a relatively new Chicago brewery who has only just begun to bottle their beers.  On their website , they refer to themselves as  crafters of  "botanical beverages" and focus on brewing beers using natural products such as roots, herbs, honeys and bark.  Yes, I want to drink a beer brewed from bark.  I didn't actually realize this longing until the opportunity to do so was presented to me, but now?  Yes.  I want one.  Desperately. However, this time I decided to go with their light, spicier, more sublime offering instead. 

My Sublime Ginger poured a golden amber liquid with subtle orange tones around the edges.  It was hazy and juicy looking but easily visible carbonation rising through the ale. A two finger head of just off white, tightly packed bubbles formed from the initial pour, which settled nicely to a half finger's worth of head for a majority of the drink.  The foam left behind some gorgeous lacing; spotty and soapy clusters that clung to all sides of the glass.  It was a pretty, photogenic sort of beer and I'll admit, I wasn't expecting that at all.  The first scent to hit me was the key lime  note.  The very distinct key lime note.  The "Oh yeah. It's brewed with key lime JUICE" note.  There was a gentle spice character of black pepper layered under the key lime as well as a hit of lemon citrus, the anticipated tang of fermented wheat and a mellow sort of sweetness of the herb honeybush.  I couldn't locate any ginger on the nose at all.  The taste was also dominated by the key lime note and was backed up by the brightness of the lemon, spiciness of the black pepper and sweetness of the honeybush (is it just me who thinks "Honey Bush don't caaaarrreeee" every time I hear that name?  Really?)  I was able to make out the promised  ginger quality here, however.  It was subtle and a very welcome addition.  I found that the ginger sliced off some of the sharp edges I was experiencing from the abundance of the key lime taste.  The mouthfeel was firmly medium and a bit creamy.  I also personally found the finish of the beer a bit lacking for my taste.  There was a nice acidity on the front of the finish, but it dropped off quickly to a flatness that I found lacking.  It was round and almost flabby to me as it ended.  Basically, I wanted, no, I longed for a drier mouthfeel and finish.  Now, I really dislike people who insist on reviewing the beers in their heads instead of the beers in their glasses and I am under them impression that the good brewers of Forbidden Root produced the less than dry beer that they intended to.  But I would have enjoyed my pour a lot more if it had left me with a dry crispness begging me to take another sip.  

When I think "food beer" I tend to think of the art of pairing food with beer.  Forbidden Root Brewery, however, takes a slightly different track with their conception of food beer.  The process of brewing beer with items foraged from nature, such as herbs, spices, tree bark (yeah, I cant get off the whole tree bark thing.  It both fascinates and repels me.  Much like Katy Perry songs and any TV show involving ghost hunters.)  Sublime Ginger was brewed with fresh key lime juice, ginger, honeybush (don't caaarrreeee.... really?  Still just me?) and lemon myrtle.  New Zealand Motueka hops and their subtle spiciness and citric aroma layers so well with the malt profile (caramel, lager, flaked wheat and honey malts.)  Forbidden Root's website suggests pairing this beer with Cajan/New Orleans inspired foods and the more I consider this, the more I like it.  The disappointing finish that I spoke about earlier might just be the key to serving this ale alongside a spicy Bowl of Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo.  The flatness that I complained about could tame the heat of the peppers and Creole seasoning that might fight a more citrus, heavier hopped beer.  Personally, I wanted to try Sublime Ginger with a vegetable heavy dish, such as steaming bowl of Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili With Sweet Potatoes.   The key lime citric sweetness and spicy ginger notes will marry well with the hearty but slightly sweet character of the sweet potatoes.  Sublime Ginger is one of those beers that I want to experiment with more before making any final judgements on.  I opened a second bottle after my initial one to let the Down the Hatch family give it a try.  Results were mixed, but those who liked it, enjoyed it even more with a plate of food.  Sublime Ginger strikes me as a well constructed and deliberately thought out beer.  I love that Forbidden Root has embraced such a character driven, unique mode of brewing by harkening back in history and utilizing a more natural ingredient approach to crafting it's beer.  Plus, I got to discover exactly what a honeybush is and that it may or may not care (it doesn't.)


Monday, October 27, 2014

A Polite List of Food Beers for Chef David Chang (or, Suck it Momofuku)

I had a whole post written for this week's beer (well, I had a whole three sentences actually written down, but the gist of the piece was nicely worked out in my head.  It does too so count.)  But then I read this little gem of a piece from the famous (in his own head and on one season of the now canceled HBO show Treme) David Chang, owner and head chef of New York's Momofuko, among other places.  Here's a link to the GQ article.  Pour out a decent beer and take a moment to read it yourself.

In a nutshell, Chang makes a case for his love of crappy, watered down, frat boy beer over the well crafted, thoughtful and yes, delicious beer from any small scale brewery here in the US.  Yep.  A guy who has the audacity to charge the same price as an box set of the entire run of The West Wing for a bowl of noodles, wrote a piece about how cheap beer trumps anything that craft brewers can make.  I get that we each have our own preferences and tastes.  And I also get that there are people out there that will always harbor a not so secret love of all things Miller and/or Bud.  My best friend in the world will only drink Miller Light and I don't judge her (OK.  I totally judge her.  But that's our unique dynamic.)  But my BFF doesn't run one of the most sought after, well respected, trendsetting restaurants on the East Coast.  Nor does she write pieces for major publications like GQ (stop snickering.  You can find it in airports so it counts.)  What ticked me off most after reading his piece was this quote : "For all the debatability of my rant here, let me make one ironclad argument for shitty beer: It pairs really well with food. All food. Think about how well champagne pairs with almost anything. Champagne is not a flavor bomb! It's bubbly and has a little hint of acid and tannin and is cool and crisp and refreshing. Cheap beer is, no joke, the champagne of beers. And cheap beer and spicy food go together like nothing else. "  Really?  There isn't any craft beer out there that an amazing chef with a respected and well honed palate  can find to pair with his plate of pea shoots in a chicory, sesame, kimchi vinaigrette?  Or a bowl of pig tails with  pickled Asian pear, chili and scallion?

Chef Chang, if you should ever find your way to Chicago, I am here to help.  I scoured the city (read- drank a lot of local beer) and believe that I have found four local brews that will change your brand of beer champagne.

Transient Ales' Obelus- Saison

Transient Ales is a relatively new brewery on the Chicago scene.  They focus mainly on Sour and Farmhouse style ales and do it extremely well.  I honestly haven't been this excited by a brand new baby brewery in a long time.  I tasted one of their Saisons, Obelus, at an event recently.  Saisons are a natural pairing for food, especially spicy or flavorful dishes.  Their inherent rustic character helps to mellow out any boldness you might find on the place.  Obelus has a lovely tropical fruit element that blends delicately into the farmhouse nature of the beer's yeast.  A slight graininess also compliments  a well seasoned meal.  I would pair Obelus with both delicate dishes, such as white fish, to something a bit more complex, like Lo Mein noodles.  Transient  has begun to play around with this particular Saison, using it was a base beer to experiment with various barrels and dry hops.  I could easily see an inventive chef creating an entire pairing menu based on the various versions of this farmhouse ale.  In fact, if some ambitious chef out there wants to take up the challenge, I'm more than willing to be the guinea pig (I'm selfless that way, I know.) 

Off Color Brewing's Fierce- Berliner Style Weiss

I originally wrote about Off Color's Fierce in early September (click here to read it again. You know. In case you missed it.)  Off Color refers to Fierce as being brewed in the style of a Berliner Weisse instead of just calling it a stright up Berliner Weisse.  My understanding is that they strayed from the traditional forms of yeast that one expects to find in your Berliners.  And to that, I say, I don't care.  It's fraking delicious.  Fierce has a subtle dankness to it's flavor profile that, in my opinion, greatly expands it's food pairing options.  I love to drink Berliners with my dinner just as a wine drinker might reach for a lovely Austrian Reisling.  They are often low in bitterness, dry, bright and crisp.  Fierce takes these qualities one step further by layering in a soft, musty element that  compliments light dishes.  I love drinking Fierce with vegetable heavy plates and let the green, herbal note bring out the earthiness of my meal.  And, honestly, since most Berliner Weisses clock in under 4% ABV (with Fierce sporting a 3.8%) you can easily drink one than one if you should wish to linger at the table.  Something has to wash down those third helpings, right? 

Begyle Brewing's Free Bird- American Pale Ale

American Pale Ales can be a dime a dozen.  And there is a very good reason for that.  When brewed correctly, APA can become a flagship sort of beer for a brewery.  Toppling Goliath's psudeoSue.  Three Floyds' Zombie Dust.  Half Acre's Daisy Cutter.  All APAs and all calling cards for their breweries.  Begyle Brewing's Free Bird may not yet possess that sort of  name making prestige of the best of the best, but it's a mighty fine foot in the door. Free Bird was brewed in the Spring of 2014 and, so far, has only been available in growlers at Begyle's tap room.   I've heard rumblings that at some point in the (hopefully near) future, this APA will be part of the brewery's recent six pack releases.  Free Bird was brewed with Falconer Flight Hops which are two purpose hops that work for both bittering and aroma when brewing.  They are known for their citrus and tropical fruit characters, both of which shine brightly in Free Bird.  Grapefruit and lemon notes pair wonderfully with food in much the same way that a chef might add a squeeze of lemon wedge when finishing off a dish.   Over this past summer, I enjoyed growlers of this bright and crisp APA with a wide array of meat on the grill (poultry, pork and beef all worked well as long as they weren't overly sauced.)  Free Bird is the sort of beer that should (and hopefully will) become a staple beer for a well stocked fridge. And by that, I mean mine. 

Une Annee Brewery's Quad- Ummm, a Quad?

God, I love Quads.  Unlike APAs, however, they are not a dime a dozen.  Quads take time.  I originally wrote about this particular Quad way back in the end of February (this should jog your memory)  We are very fond of our Belgians in the Down the Hatch family.  I confess to having a comfort beer (La Trappe Quad) in the way that others might have a comfort food (grilled cheese.)  Oddly enough, Quads and a gooey, cheesey grilled cheese sandwich can go very well together.  As do Quads and homeade turkey chili.  Also Quads and roast pork with a dried fruit compote.  My point is that the barely sweet toffee, slightly boozy, dark fruit forward ale pairs excellently with food.  I love to drink Une Annee's version with an array of winter meals.  The hit of peppery spice on the nose & taste lends itself to complimenting a bit of a heartier dish that I typically prepare in the colder months of the year.  But the beauty of this particular Quad actually showed itself to me this past Summer in late August/early September.  Other wise known as fresh fig season.  One evening, we cut up a few succulent figs while sipping my last bottle of Une Annee's Quad.  It was a revelation.  The dark fruit and Belgian esters brought out the fig's inherit nature, while the slight spice tempered any sort of sweetness present.  There is no way anyone will ever convince me that a bottle of Miller Light can create such a sublimely simple experience.  Une Annee will be bottling the latest batch of their Quad sometime before the end of the year.  Merry Christmas. 

Chef David Chang knows his food.  He's inventive and willing to continually push the envelope in pursuit of creating unique food experiences.  And I sincerely hope to someday get the opportunity to try his dishes first hand.  But I personally fail to see his point in bad mouthing the entire craft beer industry here in the United States.  To say that shitty beer is the only beer worthy of drinking with the food that he labors to create is not just insulting to the inventive and experienced brewers that make up the American craft trade, it also sells his own creations ridiculously short.  Anything that one puts their heart and soul into preparing deserves a counterpart that reflects this passion.  I chose four beers off the top of my head from Chicago alone to drink with food.  There is a myriad of craft choices out there, lurking in bottle shops and on restaurant menus from every corner of America.  Experiment until you find your favorites.    And then maybe send a Beer It Forward care package to Chef Chang so he can truly experience the wealth of flavors that craft beer has to offer. Oh, and please include a bottle of Chicago's own Lake Michigan drinking water.  If all else fails, the chef has to agree that that least that's better than a can of  Schlitz with his plate of smoked lamb ribs with white grapes, shishito pepper and mustard greens. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Slapshot Brewing's Gourd Damn

  • Style: Spiced Pumpkin Ale (yeah, you heard me.  I drank a pumpkin ale.  Stop judging me.)
  • ABV: 7.00%
  • Ease to locate: Slapshot has just begun their distribution. Regular beers will be canned.  I'll pause until your grateful cries of rejoicing have ended.  (We good now?  Awesome.) Special one offs like this will be in bombers. You should be able to locate them around Chicago in craft stores.  I'm also hearing rumors of a Tradewinds Rum barreled entry of Gourd Damn at this year's FOBAB (gourd dayum indeed!)  Here's a link to their Beer Menu Page
  • Color: Amber brown with red & orange highlights
  • Head: Just a half a finger of off white  head that falls fast.  No lacing to speak of.
  • Aroma: Spices up front.  Lots of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg on the nose.  A little pumpkin character layered under.  Pleasant and Fall-like.
  • Mouthfeel: Light to Medium body, without being watery, with a nice bitter dryness
  • Finish: Medium to slightly long.  Begins with the spice to the more savory leaning pumpkin to a little herbal bitterness on the end.  
  • Food friendly?: Hmmm....that's a tough one.  I would prefer to drink a beer like this on it's own.  If I had to pair it with food, I'd try it with a salty snack, such as roasted pumpkin seeds or spiced nuts.  The more adventurous among you should pair it with grilled poultry in a brown sugar barbeque sauce
Apple User's Link: Do you believe in miracles?

                                                                                              The fact that I willingly drank and enjoyed a pumpkin beer is a miracle of  Olympic proportions, indeed.

I am almost ashamed to admit this, but up until to last year, I kind of , sort of, possibly in the nicest way, absolutely hated hockey.  OK. Hate is a very strong word.  Despised, maybe? Desperately avoided, certainly.  I somehow resisted the charms of what is basically rugby on ice for various (read: stupid) reasons for so long.  Until I didn't.  Because I realized that these supposed reasons were really just prejudices that I had made up in my own head.  And all that those idiotic notions really accomplished was to keep me from enjoying something awesome.  So I gave in.  A bit trepidatiously at first.  A period here.  A practice session there. Questions, questions, questions to anyone with any sort of hockey knowledge who was naive enough to answer my texts. It wasn't until I found myself streaming at work the Swedish Olympic team playing the Ukrainian Olympic team that I was fully able to admit that, yes.  Yes.  I am a hockey fan.  Now substitute "Pumpkin beers" for hockey and you'll get some idea of where I'm going with this.  Slapshot Brewery is a relatively new brewery here in Chicago and are just beginning to can/bottle their beers for distribution (you've been able to score their beers on tap here and there for almost a year now.)   They have very cool brewery hockey jerseys.  And I like their beer philosophy of just making solid, balanced, tasty brews (screw the IBU count and ABV percentage.  They care more about how the beer tastes.)  So when they informed the public that they were releasing a pumpkin beer this season, I suspect that you know exactly what my now, hockey enlightened, response was.  "Hell no!  Pumpkin beers are disgusting!" 

 I told you that I was slow to accept the inevitable. 

My Gourd Damn poured a amber brown liquid with with orange red tints towards the edges.  While not exactly hazy, light can be seen through it, it was a solid looking brew.  A slight, half a finger head of just off white foam fell quickly to a spotty surface covering.  I didn't notice any lacing at all, but it did create a ring that lasted most of the drink.  Since my experience with pumpkin beers is somewhat limited, and actually finishing a glass is pretty much zilch, I'm not sure if this lack of lacing is an attribute of this beer style.  I'm happy to say that the nose more than made up for the lack of lace.  I was expecting a sweet, creamy, OK I'll just say it, a wet pumpkin smell.  You know, that aroma of a just carved jack-o-lantern.  I was pleasantly surprised that the very first scent  that I caught was a mixture of baking spices.  I could pick out cinnamon (a lot of cinnamon), ginger, cloves and nutmeg.  There is a slight note of pumpkin  on the nose, but less of the wet variety and more of a pie sort of scent.  Now, I like pumpkin pie.  Come every fourth Thursday in November, I love pumpkin pie.  Suddenly I saw promise in this snifter.  The taste followed the nose.  I found the nicely balanced spice mixture towards the front of the swallow with the brown sugar baked pumpkin character appearing towards the middle.  There was a bitterness that struck me as medicinal herbal bitterness at the very end of the mouthful.  To me this worked to keep the drink from becoming a spicy, sweet, pumpkin novelty.  I recommend letting this beer warm in your glass.  As the Gourd Damn opened, I found that the spice elements really came out to play and that medicinal note blended nicely with the Autumn fruit character.  A light to medium body enhanced the flavor profile (again, I was dreading a creamy, sticky mouthfeel and was relived to find it otherwise.)  I enjoyed the surprising dryness that assured me that Gourd Damn was never intended to be a dessert beer.  This was a very easy drinking anytime ale.  The finish was medium to long.  It began with the baking spice notes, which moved to the brown sugar pumpkin pie character, and ended with the bitter herbal dryness. 

I suspect that most pumpkin beers are difficult to pair with food.  The sweet and still savory mixture of this particular pumpkin beer assists greatly in the decision of what kind of food to serve along side of it.  Personally, I'd rather drink Slapshot Brewing's Gourd Damn all by it's lonesome self.  This isn't a desert beer by any means.  It's not overly sweet nor is it hearty like so many other brews that I consider to be "desert beers."  I would drink this beer with some easy snacks, such as Roasted Spiced Nuts & Pumpkin Seeds.  The balanced spices and herbal bitterness of this beer will compliment the savory nuts in a way that your typical IPA or Stout might not.  Since the sweetness of this beer is only slight, you can also easily pair this pumpkin beer with Chicken Wings Glazed With Brown Sugar Barbeque Sauce.  Quite honestly, both recipes would be just about perfect for your next tailgate hockey game.  Wait.  What do you mean there's no tailgating at hockey games?  

I may have to rethink certain attributes of the puck life.

Monday, September 29, 2014

New Chicago Beers on the Scene at 2014 Logan Square Beer Fest

A Saturday or so ago I took the Blue Line down a few stops to visit this year's 2014 Logan Square Beer Fest.  It's a two year old fest held on the second floor of the Logan Square Auditorium. The location gives the gathering an almost high school gym assembly (with booze) sort of experience.  What excited me about this year's fest beyond it's smaller size was it's focus on local breweries.  It's the perfect sort of event for the younger guys who can easily get over looked at the larger fests which litter the Summer and early Autumn months (AKA Festival Season AKA Beer Geek O Rama Season AKA Ouch, My  Liver Hurts Season).

The local big four of Revolution, Lagunitias, Half Acre and Metropolitan were in attendance and at least three of them brought out a just released seasonal, or at the very least, some interesting spin on their beers.  Of the three that did, Metro brought it the hardest with a mind changing  firkin of Krankshaft that was infused with oranges and habenero peppers (I walked into the festival hating peppers in my beer and left with a completely different out look on life.  Was not expecting that.)  And Lagunitas, well, Lagunitas my friend, apparently you want to call yourself a Chicago brewery now.  How about you brew a beer or two that are unique to Chicago?   Laguintas was the one table I didn't even bother to fight my way towards.  Why push and shove for something that I can just as easily pick up at my local grocery store.

 I did happily brave the crowd for pours from breweries like Lake Effect, who poured the least caramel forward Marzen that I've ever had the pleasure of trying.  If they bottled their Marzen Pale Lager, I really think that Lake Effects could give Revolution's Oktoberfest and Metropolotian's AfterBurner a run for their Autumn in Chicago money.   Begyle didn't pull out any of their small batches as they had during other Summer fest and I'll admit, I was initially a bit disappointed by this.  Until brewer Matt Ritchey informed me that they did bring a keg of Hophazardly which was barely two days old.  Disappointment was quickly drown in concurrent  swallows of fresh, hoppy goodness.  It also severed to remind me that if you know what you are brewing, you don't need any tricks to create a great pour.  And Solemn Oath cranked the room's ABV% up a notch with their American Barleywine, Ticklefight aged in Woodford Reserve barrels. I'm not a huge barleywine fan, but Solemn Oath's Ticklefight was mellow and just boozy enough to act as a reverse pallet cleanser from a strongly bitter drinking day.

What I was most excited about that Saturday was the opportunity to try beers some some of the brand new breweries on the Chicagoland craft scene.  You may remember the name Middle Brow from a piece I wrote earlier this Summer on their dark Saison, A Life's Pursuit (click here if you need a refresher )  Head brewer, Nick Burica, worked with Lula Cafe (located directly under the auditorium floor that we were standing on) to create two culinary infused mixes of this delicious already food friendly Saison.  Since I had not yet had my mind blown by the habenero Krankshaft, I steered clear of the pepper influenced mix.  However, I happily dove into the Lula Mix #2 which Burica described as "weird and beautiful."  The 6.6% ABV Saison was aged for two weeks in a cask with yellow plums and cardamom to create an aromatically evolved version of A Life's Pursuit.  It was easy to appreciate how the spicy, citrusy, herbalness  from the cardamon and juicy fruitiness of the plums immediately complimented the bready malt forwardness of the original beer.  Sometimes when a brewer messes around with their original beer, the qualities that made that
beer special are buried under gimmicky additions.  Middle Brow got it right with Mix #2 by adding ingredients that highlighted the already successful notes withing their base beer. Their Abbey Inspired Farmhouse ale, Robyn, can currently be found on craft beer shelves in Chicago.  Burica randalled Robyn with Dark Matter Coffee (Barrel Aged beans, no less) to create a version of the ale with a coffee forward nose.  There were notes of brewed coffee mixed with fruity esters, a little orange citrus and a hint of green pepper. I could have sniffed this one all day.

Logan Square will soon be the home to Mercenary Brewery, what I believe to be Chicago's first combined brewhouse distillery. Such a wonderland is not yet open for business, but they were pouring their initial beer offering for the first time that afternoon.  The Charlatan is a 5.9% ABV Pale Ale brewed with Simcoe and Citra hops.  It poured a cloudy, light amber orange beer with highlights of gold around the edges.  The nose and taste were very similar, boasting a citrus heavy quality that was tempered by scents of passion fruit and mango. A dry, crisp mouthfeel rounded out the short finish nicely.  It was a solid APA from a just beginning baby brewery.  One of Mercenary's owners, Paul Megalis, informed me that they should be opening their brewpub/distillery before the end of the year and are hoping to release an IPA and a Porter by early 2015.  They also plan on reusing their in house barrels to create an on going barrel program for the just off future.  So keep your eyes open.  I'm predicting interesting things from these guys in the coming years. 
 Evanston's own Temperance Brewing had the unfortunate luck of being placed directly to the right of the stage.  The stage where a series of bands (including the one fronted by Lagunitas owner Tony Magee) played.  Loudly.  Like O'Hare runway deafening loudly.  Brewer Alex Lovingood withstood the ear drum shattering pounding to pour a series of beers (and apparently give away some very popular red coozies. I've never seen so many tasting glasses wrapped in insulated foam before.)  Yes, he had the expected IPA offering, but I was much more interested in the other two beers that he was serving.  Birdsong was a Saison brewed with French Saison yeast and honey procured from Michigan City, Indiana.  The juicy,
golden, straw colored beer tasted of stone fruit, bready yeast, sweet honey with a finish ending kick of pepper.  So lovely.  But as much as I enjoyed the soft loveliness of Birdsong, I was completely amazed by Temperance's Smittytown ESB infused with Michigan cherries.  Yes, you read that correctly.  An ESB with cherries.   And yes, it was beautiful.  And, yes, of course I had two glasses (it's like you don't know me at all.)  It poured a dark golden liquid with hints of red dancing around the edges.  The subtle tartness of the cherries complimented the dry bitterness and clean crispness of Smittytown's typical ESB character perfectly.  Before I had gotten my chance to try this beer myself, I had over heard a few people complain that they couldn't taste the cherries in the "cherry beer."  After my first sip, I considered hunting down those whiners and explaining the concept of layering to them.  I resisted, mainly because I wanted a second glass and I was afraid that Temperance would run out while I was away.   Most other breweries, when designing their Autumn line up, go one of two ways: a Marzen lager or a pumpkin ale.  Temperance has now thrown their hat in the ring with a third option.  This cherry infused ESB would make the absolute perfect beer to serve with Thanksgiving dinner this year.   Hook a girl up, Temperance.      

Transient Ales has gotten a lot of good press in the last few weeks.  Their Reserve Society released their first set of sours during a huge, can't miss event (which I did.  Because apparently I'm an idiot and did not buy the membership when I had the chance.  Because I'm an idiot.  It's a vicious circle, folks.)  With an at least one hundred name long waiting list (or so I've been told) threatening to keep me in the pit of regret for a good long time, so I was very pleased to find Buckley and his owner, Chris Betts, manning (dogging) a table at this fest.
Transient was pouring their Gose, named Salaruim, that I had the good fortune to try at a different fest in August.  This made choosing a glass of Wayward, their APA with Brett, so much simpler to make.  Wayward was a hazy straw yellow color in my tasting glass.  I could smell the abundant aroma of Brett as Chris handed me my glass back. Let me tell you, the ability to detect that sort of distinct Brett aroma in a unventilated room of sweaty beer geeks should give you an idea of the detailed nose on this beer right away.  A lighter scent of citrus was layered under the gorgeous funk.  The taste contained a heavier citrus presence than the nose.  I could easily pick out notes of orange, lemon and grapefruit from the Brett character.  A crisp and light mouthfeel balanced out the tartness of the ale.  I couldn't help but start pairing this extremely easy drinking sour with food in my head.   A savory roasted chicken, it's cavity stuffed with roasted lemons and basil, would be just about heaven with a glass or three of Wayward on the side.  Buckey, in his infinite wisdom and advanced culinary palate seemed to agree. He also seemed to really enjoy a good scratch behind the ear.  

September in Chicago is a crazy craft beer sort of time of year.  Fest after fest, event after event, tapping after tapping all seem to happen on the same day.  Every weekend.  It's as if we all suddenly realize that Summer is just about over and that we beer geeks will have to spend the next six months huddled around a space heater sipping our snifters of Porter by our lonesome selves.  I understand that many of you may do this even in July, but for a vast majority of people, beer gatherings are something to be treasured and enjoyed for as long as fickle Mother Nature allows us to.  My advise to you when you hit up the remaining events of 2014 is to play your session a bit different than normal.  Don't follow the flock and make a beeline for the big guns.  The whalez.  The "anything aged in a barrel" beers.  Check out the brewery that you know nothing about.  Enjoy your first sips of the unknown. And maybe you'll find a new place to obsess over before the day is through. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Revolution Brewing's Oktoberfest 2014

  • Style: Marzen (lager)
  • ABV: 5.7%
  • Ease to locate: Fall seasonal.  Grab it while you can.  I can also guarantee that it won't be readily on the shelves come the middle of October.  And, no, you can't shop in my beer fridge (although, money does talk.  Call me.)
  • Color: Copper amber with golden highlights.  Very clear
  • Head: 1 finder of just off white foam that falls immediately.  Little lacing, but it did depend on the glassware.
  • Aroma: Slight nose consisting of toast, caramel malts and slight herbal note mixed with a faint floral hop character
  • Mouthfeel: Moderate body almost on the brink of creaminess that is consistent with a lager.
  • Finish: Medium with an enjoyable after taste of bitter floral hops.  Dry and crisp
  • Food friendly: Yes.  Very easy to drink it with the traditional Oktoberfest offerings such as doughy pretzels or roasted sausages.  Personally, I think it'd be wonderful with a simple bowl of freshly steamed clams or mussels. 

Apple user link:Not the Ron Swanson I wanted to play, but apparently that video is private so here's a different one instead. Stupid YouTube

I originally had a video clip of Ron Swanson wanting to sleep in a barrel room.  It was funny.  It was true.  Apparently, it was also under some sort of privacy setting that I discovered after posting this.  Why someone would take the time to put a Parks & Rec clip on YouTube then make it private is a bit odd, but here's a replacement clip.  Enjoy. 
I'm not a lager person by any stretch of the imagination.  Yes, I'll drink the occasionally pint of Metropolitan  Krankshaft.  And if I'm sampling a flight from a new brewery while traveling, I might add a pour of their brewhouse lager into the lineup to shake things up.  But on an average week night, you will most likely never see me reach for a lager from my beer fridge.  Unless, of course, the week night falls between September 1st and Thanksgiving Day.  For it's during this point on the calendar that, I and other similarly minded beer drinkers, like to call Oktoberfest season.  And what a lovely time of year it is.  There's something about the combination of a typical Oktoberfest's flavor profile, the toasted grains tempered by lightly sweetened notes and the dry crispness of a well bodied beer that just makes me think of the things I love about Autumn.  Crisp, cool evenings that smell of fireplaces and drying leaves.  Football games, high school, college or pro, it doesn't matter as long as you play with clear minds, full hearts,  you really can't lose.  Oh, what a wonderful time of the year it is.
I originally wrote about Revolution Brewery's Oktoberfest in 2013 (click on the link here if you want to see a comparison) But just as I decided to earlier this summer with New Glarus' Berliner Weiss Thumbprint series, I felt like returning to such a solid yearly offering from a well established brewery to see how the beer as progressed (if it has.  Spoiler.  It's still good.  )  My 2014 Oktoberfest poured a very Autumn looking coppery amber color with light ivory foam.  I've had plenty of pours of this beer before taking pictures for this piece and will undoubtedly continue to have many after (at least until my stash runs out.  And then I will cry.) Most of my pours resulted in the same one finger's worth of light ivory foam that almost immediately fell to a thin surface covering.  Now, what was different was the presence of lacing.  When drinking from a goblet or snifter, there was almost absolutely no lacing to be seen at all.  I know, sad panda. I got over it.  However, when imbibed from a pint glass, I noticed a speckling of lace clumps clinging to the sides of the pint before quickly sliding down to the surface of the lager.  I think that I will be drinking all my Oktoberfests from a pint glass from now on (Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.)   The nose was light but distinct.  I could detect notes of toasted grains and crisp cracker mixed with the sweetness of caramel.   A herbal quality tempered the sweetness nicely and lead right into the end note of mild floral hops.  The taste was similar to the aroma.  Toasty cereal grains, a dry quality from crackers and the caramel note brought out with a hint of vanilla.  The herbal hop character and the faint floral presence on the back tempered the maltier aspect of this lager, which might be why I enjoy Marzens.   The mouthfeel was that of a typical lager.  Medium body with a slight creaminess to gently coat the tongue.  Ending the finish with the floral note also helped to dry the beer nicely, making it very easy drinking.

Lagers in general, but especially Marzens, are great food beers.  The medium, lightly creamy body and toasty yet caramely taste compliment a great variety of dishes, especially those containing meat.   Serve Revolution's 2014 Oktoberfest with a platter of traditional plate of Schnitzel (which can also be made with chicken instead of veal) and a side of German Potato Salad .  The malty sweetness will balance out the astringent vinegar of the warm salad's dressing.  Of course, no one says that you have to go all lederhosen on the world just because you're drinking a German beer.   Mussels Steamed With Beer is the perfect light Autumn evening meal.  The real beauty of this, however, is the convenience of popping one can open to cook your dinner with and one can to drink while you slave away.  I'm just kidding, the mussel recipe is probably one of the easiest seafood dishes that I've ever made.  But, you should probably play it safe and have two cans ready for the drinking part of the equation (plus, you'll need a third for the actual meal.  You know, you'd better just grab that sixer to play it safe.  You can thank me later.)  Now, some of you may wonder why my video this week featured everyone's favorite anti government resident of Pawnee, Indiana.  All I can say is take a good look at the Revolutionary Oktoberfest's graphic.  And then fry up all the bacon and eggs.  Yes, all the bacon and eggs.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Solemn Oath Brewery's Foux Du Fa Fa

  • Style: Imperial Farmhouse IPA.  Yeah.  That's not made up at all.  Just like Grandparent's Day.
  • ABV: 10%  Because what Saison isn't at least 10%?
  • Ease to locate: Most Chicagoland craft shops. The distinct labels make Solemn Oath bottles easily stand out on a shelf too
  • Color: Bright orange and yellow, relatively clear
  • Head: One finger white foam that falls immediately.  No lacing.
  • Aroma: The Cyrano De Bergerac of beers.  Lots of grapefruit, lemon with a little doughy bread and fruit esters.
  • Mouthfeel: Moderate body.  Surprising lack of syrup and dryer than expected 
  • Finish: Medium.  Mostly citrus transitioning to bready yeast to a lingering grapefruit
  •  Food friendly: Yes.  The drier body and citrus forward flavors lends itself to lighter pairings such as chicken salad or crab dishes.  Avoid anything delicate or spicy.

Apple User's link: Making up holidays is easy. Getting people to buy gifts for you on them is hard.

                                                                                                                                                            Festivus for the rest of us

I'm pretty sure that the smartest man alive is not, in fact, Stephen Hawking.  Albert Einstein?  Hack. Leonardo DiVinci? Italian Hack. Nope.  The smartest man alive is the gentleman who created Grandparents Day.  And Sweetest Day.   And  Bosses Day (seriously.  Bosses already get our blood, sweat and tears.  Do they really need a card and a cake too?).  Hallmark has created an entire business modeled on the notion of just declaring some random day of the week as something special and tell people to buy a piece of folded cardboard to celebrate it.  Genius, right?  So yes, I was slightly skeptical of Solemn Oath labeling their Foux Du Fa Fa beer as an Imperial Farmhouse IPA.  To me, an IPA is an IPA and a farmhouse ale is definitely not one.  Right now in the craft beer world, IPAs are sort of the cool kids on the block.  Everyone wants to have at least one in their group.  I thought that this might just be some frustrated Hallmark marketing guy's idea of the perfect sort of trending beer.  But as I drank my glass, it became clear to me that Solemn Oath is no Hallmark (partially because their greeting cars are always rather of soggy and smell of wort.)

My Foux Du Fa Fa poured a bright orange and yellow ale with golden highlights and amber hues. It was a lovely color, very juicy in apparenece but still somewhat transparent.   A delicate, soapy one finger head of very white foam rose in the glass and just as quickly fell.  It left no real lacing to speak of, just a ring around the surface of the ale.  The nose was strong in this one (Star Wars Day is May 4th) The typical IPA aroma was easily detectable without even raising the glass from the table.  Basically it was a grapefruit and citrus bomb ( Grapefruit month is February.) I could also smell some subtle scents of nectarine and apricot under the citrus notes.  I could definitely tell why they called this beer an IPA, but I honestly wasn't getting any sort of farmhouse elements from the nose at all.  The taste was very similar to the aroma.  Mostly grapefruit, lemon, a little orange zest with stone fruit esters such as the nectarine and apricot.  I did find a pleasant doughiness to the profile which helped temper all of the citrus elements.  My best guess ( National Take A Wild Guess Day is April 15th) is that the yeast strain used in this beer was Belgian in nature. It was the doughy yeast that kept this beer from just being your typical boring old IIPA.  A medium body with no real hint of syrup also lead to the somewhat confusing hybrid nature of this ale.  Imperial IPAs often veer towards the syrup end of the mouthfeel spectrum, but this one was still rather crisp and much drier than I had expected.  There was no alcohol heat on the finish either.  Foux Du Fa Fa certainly did not drink alike a 10% ABV ale at all.( August 8th is National Surprise Day.)

I would serve my Foux Du Fa Fa with slightly delicate items that a normal IIPA would not pair well with.  Try it with a fruity Chicken Salad with Walnuts and Cranberries.  The citrus notes will brighten the creaminess of the sauce while enhancing the juiciness of the chicken.  If you want a more sustainable meal, drink this beer with Crab Cakes (although I would skip the tarter sauce with this beer) and a Green Salad with Mandarin Oranges.  Crab almost always benefits from a hit of citrus. If some one had told me that Solemn Oath would make a crazily named hybrid Imperial beer that would pair well with light foods, I would have laughed your suggestion off as ridiculous.  Apparently National Learn Something New Today is September 14.