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Monday, January 6, 2014

Une Annee Brewing's Airing of Grievances

  • Style: Russian Imperial Stout (RIS)
  • ABV: 10.6%
  • Season: Winter & possibly a one time brew (my batch was #12)
  • Ease to locate: Brand new baby brewery so expect small batches and limited Chicagoland availability.  Here's the Beer Menu link
  • Color: Thick & dark.  Black brown coloring with no other tints around the edges.  Just like my hardened winter soul
  • Head: Two fingers of beige head.  Nice mix of large and tight bubbles.  Moderate lacing.
  • Aroma:  Toasty and very earthy.  Lots of dark malts.  A bit of roasted coffee but no real chocolate notes that I could detect, even after it warmed a bit
  • Mouthfeel: A heavy medium body, but not creamy enough to consider it full.  
  • Finish: Nicely dry, but relatively (and surprisingly) short for a RIS.  Sad trombone.
  • Food friendly?: Like most RIS beers, not really.   The sheer heaviness of most RIS beers overpower most food.   Since this is a lighter RIS, you might be able to pair it with a simple, hearty winter dish.  The earthiness and darkness of this beer could work with a mild cheese, such as Swiss or Gruyere.

YouTube link for Apple users: A typical family dinner for most of you.

                                                                                  Well, what else did you think I was going to post here for the video?  If you don't like it, save it for next Festivus.

For such a loyal creature of routine, I still love a good fresh start.  A snow white blank page of paper waiting for a story to flow.  A clean, just laundered sheet on a newly made bed.   That first day of Spring when it feels as if everything suddenly woke up from a very long, very cold, very Chicagoian sleep.  I especially wanted to start off 2014 by drinking something unexpected from a local, brand new baby brewery.  Une Annee Brewery  fit the bill perfectly.  Founded in 2012 by Jerry Nelson, they spent most of 2013 slowly growing a presence in Chicago craft bars and have only recently begun bottling their brew.  I've tried a few of their beers previously in bars, my favorite being The Devil's Reign.  Reign was a Belgian Golden Strong Ale made in collaboration with one of my favorite new brewpubs of 2013, DryHop Brewers.   It was the sort of ale, brewed with Simcoe and Citra in the boil and dryhop, that made me stand up  and take notice (OK, the tap take over was rather crowded so I may have already been standing.  I did stand a little straighter at least.  And probably hopped on one for for a while.  I think I mistakenly wore heels.)  The flavors were just so clean and fruity with a perfect hop finish that it was easily my favorite drink of the night, grabbing my attention away from more established offerings from places like Revolution, Half Acre and Pipeworks.  So when I was making my New Year's Eve drinking selection, I decided to grab a bomber of their RIS from my cellar.

This New Years Eve was a snowy and cold one here in the great land of Chicago.  Perfect stout weather.  I was really very excited to crack open my Airing of Grievances, and we all know what I do with a beer that gets me excited (AND I was at a party, so there were plenty of people to browbeat into taking a sample).  My Airing of Grievances poured a thick and dark, blackish brown ale.  The drink was fully opaque with no lighter tints playing around the edges.  A two finger, beige head formed and stayed for most of the drink.   The head was a nice mixture of very tight, clustered bubbles and large "Glinda the Good Witch transportation" type  bubbles.   Moderate lacing slid down the edges of the glass.  It certainly looked like a text book RIS.  The nose was toasty and very earthy.  It smelled like wet, dark mud that was popped in a toaster oven for a minute.   Lots of dark malts and their pitch black ways wafted up from the glass. I detected a faint roasted coffee bean aroma that opened as I let my pour warm for a while.  I didn't find any of the chocolate or dark fruit characters that I usually expect in a typical RIS.  The toasted grain and wet earth notes dominated the beer's taste as well, but thankfully the roasted coffee flavor was larger on the tongue than the nose.  The dark malts were easy to find in the taste, giving the flavor just a bit of bittersweet chocolate presence.  Layered in was some dark fruit, mainly prune with a little fig and a light raisin chewiness.  The anticipated alcohol heat didn't emerge until the beer had warmed considerably.  I let the beer open for about a half an hour between glasses and I noticed a marked improvement in the second try than the initial offering.   The mouthfeel had a heavy, yet still moderate sort of body.  It wasn't creamy enough for me to consider to be a full bodied beer, there was a disappointing (to me at least) lacking in the creamy department.  I like my RIS to have a tongue coating lushness that Airing just didn't possess.   The finish was surprisingly short as well.  I would have loved a layered return of the bittersweet earthiness to continue on the swallow, but it just petered out.  There was no apparent booziness or heat on the swallow from the alcohol, or at least none that I could detect. I did enjoy the well tempered, just enough dryness on the finish though. 

RIS can be a big, almost overwhelming, beer if you aren't used to the style.  As I mentioned earlier, I made it a point to share my bomber with friends at the NYE party.  Some of these people are used to my "thrusting a glass of mystery liquid into their hands with an enthusiastic You have to try this!" ways.  Some were not (they got used to it.  Or else learned to take the long way around the room to avoid me).  But none of my subjects, I mean, fellow party goers, were craft beer enthusiasts and most had never even heard of a Russian Imperial Stout. And you know what?   They absolutely loved this beer.  The lack of creaminess on the body, the too short finish and the all too tiny chocolate flavor didn't matter to them at all.  Most of them asked for a second sample.  That's when I realized that this is the absolute perfect training wheels RIS beer for drinkers who aren't RIS snobs.  They were able to appreciate the amazing earthy quality and dark fruit chewiness.  The well masked booziness (and at a 10.6% ABV, we all know that it was there in some form) welcomed them in with an almost Strangers with Candy sort of reassurance (the ones who had a second sample figured the ruse out soon enough).  RIS beers don't typically work well when paired with most meals.  The sheer largeness of most Russian Imperial Stouts plow over most food.  Since Une Annee's Airing of the Grievences is a lighter sort of RIS, try it with very simple, hearty winter meal.  A classic  Pot Roast with Carrots and Potatoes would be extremely tasty on a frigid mid winter's night.  And if this first week of 2014 has been any indication of what our tabla rasa year is going to be, we'd better get used to expecting the unexpected.  And that's sort of exciting.