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Monday, March 31, 2014

Spiteful Brewing's God Damn Raspberry Pigeon Porter

  • Style: Porter brewed with raspberries (insert your own YUM here)
  • ABV: 8.2%
  • Ease to locate: Spiteful's website has a decent list of Chicagoland stores & bars that carry their beers.  You can also follow them on their Facebook page or their Twitter account.  As a side note for all those who live outside delivery areas, The Beer Temple and West Lakeview Liquors ship beers, including this one. 
  • Color: Medium to dark brown.  Murky, yet appetizing
  • Head: Tan, soapy, one finger head that falls quickly to a film.  Spotty, delicate lacing.  
  • Aroma: Great nose.  Tons of roasty chocolate with a hint of espresso and dirt.  A definite tartness is there, but not a distinct raspberry aroma (more of a general berry tartness)
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body with no coating on tongue.  Lots of carbonation dry it out nicely. 
  • Finish: Long, ending in with the tart raspberry note.  The more this beer opens, the more integrated the tartness gets (and the more I enjoyed it.)
  • Food friendly?: Hmmm... tough one.  At first I thought, no.  The tartness mixed with the chocolate notes felt like I would enjoy this beer more on it's own than with a meal.  But as the porter opened and I took the dryness into consideration, I think it might work with simple pairings.  Easy deserts, such as pound cake, are a given.  But a salad of greens & raspberry vinaigrette could be amazing.      Serve it with a good cheddar cheese.

Apple user's link:In one word? ICK!
                                                                                                        I can only assume that none of  these people have ever seen an Alfred Hitchcock flick all the way through

Tourists are funny creatures.  When I traveled to Venice (the one in Italy, not California.  Although, now that I think about it, I can easily see a similar incident happening in the So Cal namesake as well...)  I witnessed one of the most heinous acts of tourist stupidity that I have ever seen.  This incident was so vile, so disgusting, so utterly cringe worthy that I still shudder when recalling the mental image over ten years later.  I was in the center of St. Mark's Square.  The tower was to my right, the Basilica  behind me, while flanking me on all sides were upscale boutiques and quaint cafes.  Before me was a gaggle of tourists.   American?  German?  Spanish? What did it matter?  The tourist brain can be an empty brain, willing you to do things that never in a million years would you do if you were safe at home.  Like stand in the center of St. Mark's Square, spread your arms far & wide and let a parliament of pigeons cover your body like it was the last bread crumb on Earth.  I watched, completely disgusted yet still fascinated in a fiery car wreck sort of way, as person after person allowed these disease ridden flying rats to land on their arms, their shoulders, their heads. Now, granted, I am not a bird person (unless we're talking about Big Bird and then I'm totally down with that overgrown avian) , but I would think that even the most tolerant person would realize that being covered from head to toe with disease ridden, beady eyed, fast food scavengers is not a brilliant idea.   What is a brilliant idea?  A chocolatey Porter brewed with raspberries.

My God Damn Raspberry Pigeon Porter poured a oaky, dark brown, rather murky looking ale.  I didn't see any trace of other coloring in the Porter, nary a black nor a red tint to be found.  But it was rich in appearance, like a good piece of European chocolate.  A tightly packed, one finger of tan head rose in the snifter, said howdy and fell back to a thin, surface covering film.  The head left behind (OK, I may have swirled a bit) delicate, spotty lacing that resembled soap bubbles.  I liked that the appearance wasn't as dark or dank as some Porters have recently become.   The nose was amazingly inviting.  The rich chocolate scent was front and center with the sharp note of a tart berry layered just underneath.  I couldn't yet quite pin point the tartness as raspberry exactly.  The aroma seemed more general berry than specifically raspberry, to me at least.  The tartness gave what might have been a general, run of the mill Porter nose an interesting twist. I also smelled just a bit of dirt present as well.  The taste reflected the nose in a much larger sort of way.  The roasted chocolate character was huge and reminded me of a German chocolate bar (you know, the good kind that makes you wonder why you ever bothered with Herseys in the first place.)  There was no mistaking the note of raspberry on the tongue.  Fresh. just picked raspberry notes mingled playfully with the chocolate and coffee flavors.  At various points when drinking this beer, I could have sworn that there was a subtle hint of grapefruit present, but it was an elusive note that was there one moment and gone the next.  All in all, it was a rich, tart, just chocolatey enough Porter  that opened wonderfully as it sat.  The medium body contained an abundant amount of carbonation that lent it towards a dryer sort of Porter.  I enjoyed the long finish which ended with the interesting raspberry tartness.

Flavored Porters, such as God Damn Raspberry Pigeon Porter, aren't easy to pair with food.  You're often working with a variety of intense flavor notes that don't always play well with each other.  Personally, I find that the dryer a flavored Porter is, the better it works with simple dishes.   I also recommend letting a beer like his one open a bit to allow the flavors to shake hands and get to know each other a bit before serving a glass with a meal. I would pair this beer with a Chicken Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette or even just a Mixed Green Salad with Walnuts (extra points if you use the radicchio's bitterness as a counter point to the chocolate richness here.)   A raspberry Porter is a great segway  for early Spring beer drinking.  When temperatures are still hovering around the 40's & 50's a person (and by a person, I mean me, of course) wants a substantial beer, but craves the promise of the sunny days that are soon coming.  The one nice thing about early Spring, at least here in Chicago, is that those stupid pigeons are still vacationing down South (the ones that didn't make the trip to Venice, that is.)  Enjoy it while you can.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Only Child Brewing's Stressed Out, Anxious & Drop Dead Gorgeous

  • Style: Belgian Golden Ale
  • ABV: 8.4%
  • Ease to locate: Some Chicagoland craft stores.  As with most smaller breweries, it's worth checking out their Facebook Page and Twitter Account to follow their delivery schedules.  And if you really want to freak them out, get to the store first and ask what took them so long
  • Color: Hazy, orange amber with golden tones.  Thick & syrupy looking.
  • Head: Huge 2 and 1/2 finger, fluffy, off white head.  Clump after clumps of lacing.  I mean, just look at it! 
  • Aroma: Huge nose of orange, lemon peel and grapefruit notes mixed in with melon and lots of fruit esters.  A bit of sweetness and some dry cracker qualities.  A hint of spice buried.  Really lovely.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body with a bit of syrup, but plenty of carbonation to keep it balanced
  • Finish: Moderate and ends on a hoppy citrus note
  • Food Friendly?: Yes. Belgian Style Pale Ales are excellent with a great variety of foods.  Try it with an early Spring meal of roasted chicken and vegetables.  I happened to serve it with chicken tacos.  Pair creamy cheese like Brie.

Apple User's Link: An only child isn't necessarily a problem child. But it's much harder to blame things on a potted plant than your little brother

                                                                   The Beach Boys, Gilbert Gottfried AND John Stamos.  What more could you possibly want if you were stuck in the '80's? 

It started off innocently enough.  On the first day that temperatures rose above the I-think-my-eyeballs-have-developed-a-layer-of-permafrost index, I decided that I needed a walk.  The where was a given.  My local craft beer store is conveniently located with in walking distance for me, although I've been informed that my idea of walking distance is not the same as the general populace's idea of walking distance. (One word for the general population. Slackers.)  The what was to be determined once I arrived at the store.  I had been wanting to try something from Only Child Brewing for a while.  And when I realized that the bottle in my grubby little hand read "Belgian Style Golden Ale", it might as well as just have had my name written on it.  So the bomber found it's way into my bag and homeward bound I journeyed with thoughts of banana esters and candi sugars dancing in my head.  The dream was interrupted when I finally arrived home and realized that the bottle had leaked all over my bag (which still smells faintly of booze.  Not that I'm complaining.) I was even further disappointed when I poured what was left of the bomber into my glass.  It was a murky, almost neon orange color, and it smelled of old gym socks.  It didn't taste any better (I know.  Go figure.)  I chalked it up to good old Pepe Le Pew's will.  Just as Kardashians worm their ways onto magazine covers, skunked beers happen.  It's not the end of the world.  But, being the slightly anal retentive person that I am, I dutifully listed it on my UnTappd profile and forgot about it.  And that's where the story got interesting...

Before I knew it, Ben from Only Child sent me a Twitter message to find out what had happened to the beer.  At first I was slightly freaked thinking that a brewery was finally utilizing TV crime show measures like traffic cameras and random drones to check up on what I was drinking (Ummm, no.  That was not a Zima you saw!  I swear that I was just holding it for a friend....)   You see, I had momentarily forgotten  that my UnTappd profile was linked to my twitter account.  Through a series of messages, Ben (owner/brewer/Tweeter of tweets for Only Child) not only apologized for my skunked beer, but offered to drop a replacement off at another store while doing his deliveries the next week.  To say that I was slightly amazed is an understatement.  In this day and age where many establishments think that the customer is not always right, but quite honestly is an annoyance that should just get over their consumer, money grubbing, everything is about me selves, Only Child's unprovoked  and extremely quick response was a refreshing change.  Especially for a single child household brewery.  My only worry was this: What if after all of the hoops Only Child jumped through to provide me with a replacement beer, I didn't like the ale???? What is the definition of awkward?  Luckily, I didn't have to crack open the dictionary on this one after all.


My Stressed Out, Anxious & Drop Dead Gorgeous (OK, I'm going to have to stop right here.  I'm taking the blogger prerogative and abbreviating that mouthful of a name to SOADDG.  Which may sound like a cat hacking up a hairball when you try to say it out loud, so just read the rest of this post silently to yourself.  Or at least keep a decoy cat near by to absorb the blame. )  So anyway, my SOADDG poured a drop dead gorgeous orange amber with golden tones.   It was slightly hazy and very juicy looking.  A huge, dense and tightly bubbled two and a half finger just off white head formed.  It slowly settled to a thick, clumpy layer that floated on top of the ale.  Mounds of cloud like lacing stuck to the sides of the snifter.  Lovely to look at, a beauty to behold.  The nose was strong to say the least.  Heavy notes of citrus, mostly Mandarin orange, lemon peel  and a little grapefruit, mixed with fruity banana and melon esters.  A sweetness of Candi Sugar  and a dryness of crackers were layered into the aroma with a ever so slight note of spice buried towards the bottom of the scent.  The taste reflected the nose very closely.  Lots of citrus hops mingled with banana and melon (cantaloupe I believe) yeast esters. The dry cracker note was not as present, but the spice element was easier to find on the taste (it seemed to be clove to me).  It was exactly how I wanted a hoppier version of a Belgian inspired Pale Ale to be.  The mouthfeel had an almost DIPA syrupy feel to it, but that worked with the abundant carbonation to balance out the medium body.  A moderate finish nicely ended on a grapefruit, lemon peel note.
I love Belgian Pale Ales with food.  They help to take so much of the guess work out of pairing and really are one of those "Everybody's Happy" sort of beers.  I served SOADDG with homemade chicken tacos and Mexican rice. And in case a certain sister-in-law is reading this, I never said that the dinner was homemade by ME.  (It was delicious, by the way.)  The brightness of the citrus notes and the dryness of the carbonation worked brilliantly with the heat from the Mexican spices.  This Chicken Taco Recipe with Carmelized Onions would be equally delicious, but unless you can talk your own  talented sister-in-law into cooking it for you, not as much fun as my meal.  In fact, everything about experience with my first introduction to Only Child Brewing's was sort of fun.  My favorite part?  Walking into the liquor store (Capone's on Elston Ave if you're really curious) to pick up my replacement beer and telling them that Only Child  had left a beer with my name on it.  Little did I know just how actuate that statement actually was....


Monday, March 17, 2014

Begyle Brewing's Dicey Riley Irish Red Ale

  • Style: Irish Red Ale
  • ABV: 5.5%
  • Ease to locate: Seasonal for March & draft only.  It's  Beer Menus page  lists it on tap at The Fountainhead as well as other Chicago bars.  But my favorite place to find it is the Begyle Brewery Tap Room for a sealed growler fill.  The generous samples have absolutely nothing to do with it.
  • Color: Dark amber with golden edging.  Hazy and juicy looking.  This is a corker of a beer.  What a corker you are.
  • Head: One & a half fingers of light ivory head that falls to a rim.  Leaves delicate lacing
  • Aroma: Slight nose, but opens as it warms. Caramel, burnt sugar, bit of earth & floral notes.
  •  Mouthfeel: Moderate body with a but of syrup to coat the tongue.  Still a bit dry from the carbonation
  • Finish: Medium finish with the caramel & floral notes lingering
  • Food Friendly?: Yes. This is the perfect beer to pair with an early Spring meal.  Try it with everything from roasted chicken to hamburgers to mac & cheese.  Or you could drink it alongside, you know, a  corned beef sandwich.  Pair it with a good cheddar cheese, such as Kerry Gold or  or any sort of nutty/creamy cheese like Swiss.

Apple Users link: Learn this and suddenly movies like The Commitments and The Quiet Man make sense. And you'll STILL sound better than Tom Cruise did in Far and Away.
                                                              Nope, not insulting at all to actual people with brogues.  Plus he has a flask so it must be authentic, right?

I was named after a remarkable woman, my maternal grandmother.   When she was sixteen years old, the age when most girls are thinking about how to get the cute guy in Math class  to notice them or how to convince their parents to extend their curfew an extra hour, my grandma journeyed across the pond from County Mayo in Ireland to Boston. On a boat.  By herself.   When I was sixteen I was just overly annoyed that I had to take three buses to get to high school.    Needless to say, I had a lot to learn from her.  One of the more important things that Grandma Down the Hatch taught me (other than how to cheat at Gin Rummy and that a steaming cup of tea could fix just about any problem) was that taking pride in what you do will show in what you make.  While I'm 99% sure that the guys over at Begyle Brewing never met my grandmother (I can' be 100% sure because she did get around a lot when I was a kid) I'm thinking that they may of had grandmothers of their own to pass this knowledge on.  

My Dicey Riley poured a deep amber liquid, glowing with golden highlights around the edges.  It was hazy and juicy, yet as you can see in the photo above, the carbonation was clearly visible rising in the pint glass (um, it's an Irish sort of beer.  What else would you put it in?  Don't get all posh on me and use a snifter.  By the way, ignore the final photo.)  A pale ivory, one and a half fingers worth of  foam rose in the glass.   It fell quickly and rimmed the glass for the rest of the drink, leaving behind a delicate web cluster of lacing.  It really was a lovely looking pint.  The nose was slight with notes of caramel, toasty grains and a bit of floral hops. The taste was much more substantial however.  The flavor of rich caramel mixed with just slightly burnt brown sugar gave the beer a sweet quality while the floral hops evened out the profile nicely.   I felt rather than tasted a wee bit of citrus brightness layered under the other notes. The medium bodied  mouthfeel had a light syrupy coaing, giving the swallow a slick sort of feel.  The abundant carbonation helped to dry the ale slightly, keeping it from going overly slick.  A moderate finish left a lingering note of lightly burnt caramel behind.  

Irish Red Ales are difficult to find.  When you happen upon a good one, it's like finding a real brogue in the middle of a Lucky Charms Fan Club Convention (if such a thing existed.  Does such a thing exist?  That would be awesome, right?)  I would serve this Irish Red Ale with a Homemade Mac & Cheese (because we can do better than a blue box meal, right?)  You could also pair Dicey Riley with an above average Bacon Wrapped Hamburger.  Yes, you read that right.  Bacon wrapped.    I understand that fried chicken is now becoming the new bacon, so you should think about getting your last licks in while you can. I tend not to dress up in green suspenders and shamrock tattoos on St. Patrick's Day because, you know what?  I'm Irish every day, not just once a bloody year.  I could also be very happy to drink Begyle's Dicey Riley's Irish Red Ale more than just around the middle of March.   Then again, I listen to The Pogues in June too.  Grandma Down the Hatch also taught me that awesomeness doesn't have a season.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Going Local (Slapshot, Off Color & Lake Effect, oh my!)

This week's post is going to be a bit different.  Last week I attended what can only be referred to as an EPIC local tap take over at my favorite Northwest Side craft beer bar, Fischman Liquors and Tavern.   They do various TapThis events a few times a month, but as we've already established here in this blog, I am a relatively antisocial (OK, more homebody than anything else) individual who on most days prefers to drink with friends and family in her own personal backyard beer garden.  What can I say? The shows on my DVR are simply not going to watch themselves, people.  In any case, last Thursday was a night well worth braving the Chicago cold  and a crowd of tee shirt clad neck beards for.  Fifteen Chicago breweries, ranging in size from well established places such as Half Acre and Revolution to smaller baby breweries like Slapshot and Une Annee, offered their beer on draft.   Now, some people might see a fifteen brewery beer list and think "How am I ever going to choose?"  Yours truly only just worried about what order to drink them in.  My mom is so proud.

I chose my favorite six beers of the night (plus one surprise bonus)and am sharing my impressions of them.  Why do I call them impressions and not reviews?  Because I don't think that I can adequately review a beer from a single 4oz pour on a night in a bar surrounded by a crowd of well lubricated  and increasingly pretentious beer geeks while listening to some guy running through last night's XRT playlist on his acoustic guitar.  I don't think any one can, really.

                                The above is meant as an aid for all of you who were born in the 80's. It's called a commercial.  We used them as an excuse to get snacks.  It'll become clearer by the end of the article.

Disclaimer: Actually more of an apology.  Most of these photos are not the greatest.  They were taken in the bar with my IPhone (yes, I have a 4S.  Want to make something of it?  I've already been mocked my my 2 year old nephew.  Bring it.)  I fear that if you see me at another event like this I won't be the geek snapping photos and obsessively writing notes on her phone.  I will be the geek walking around with a Cannon Rebel T3 hanging around her neck, obsessively taking notes on her outdated, toddler-mock-worthy phone. Stop and say HI!

Buckledown: Painted Turtle APA 4.5% ABV, 36 IBU

Buckledown Brewery opened late 2013 and at this point is a draft only brewery.  I was very excited to get a chance to try this beer without having to drive all the way out to Lyon, IL.  Because, lets face it, I was probably never going to drive all the way out to Lyon for a beer anyway. (I know, it's basically only 20 minutes outside the city, but as we've discussed earlier, I'm a lazy drinker.) Starting the night off with an APA seemed like a good idea too.  Hey, I'm full of good ideas at the beginning of a night.  My first impression of Painted Turtle (beyond how much I loved the name) was that if you had just blindly plunked the glass down in front of me I would have insisted that it was a Half Acre Daisy Cutter.  It was a golden, ever so hazy, liquid with spotty minimal lacing.  The aroma and taste was that of floral and pine notes with an ever so slight citrus brightness.  The hop profile of Cascade and Chinook hops were the stars here.  With an ABV of 4.5% and an IBU of 36 this was a true session beer.   I can see why it's one of Buckledown's early favorites.  I'm glad I got a chance to try it, but personally I don't really see the point of driving all the way out to Lyons when I can just walk down the block and buy a can of Daisy Cutter.  

5 Rabbit: Huitzi Belgian Ale 8.7% ABV

This Belgian ale was the surprise of the night for me.   I'm not a huge 5 Rabbit Cerveceria fan to begin with.  When 5 Rabbit first burst on the scene, I was excited by the cultural and unique point of view they could bring to the Chicago brewery world.  Unfortunately they've been better known for their legal issues than their beers for the last few years.  I wasn't expecting much when I tasted this ale.  And in fact, I almost refused to believe that this was the 5 Rabbit offering instead of Forbidden Root's beer (so much that I actually sent one of my brothers back to get another Forbidden Root pour only to realize which was which at that point.  Apparently my good ideas ran out faster that night than I had hoped.)  The pure white head and lovely dripping lace looked gorgeous with the light brown, amber tinted beer.  The prominent note of sweet, slightly lemon accented, honey made it an eye opening sort of beer for me.  It's hard to find a drinkable honey beer to begin with and to find one from a brewery that I had previously written off made me sit up and take notice. 

Lake Effect: Brett Framboise American Wild Ale 5.5% ABV

I may have peeked at the tap list before this event (read: scoured the Facebook page until I could recite the brewery order in my sleep.)  This beer was one of the offerings that I was most excited to try.  If you read last week's post (and if you did, you're an awesome person.  If you didn't, there's still time to become an awesome person.  We'll wait for you to catch up.) you'll recognize this beer from the regular Session Brett American Wild Ale from Lake Effect Brewery.  What makes Brett Framoise different, you ask (and I'm guessing that you're asking because you don't speak French)?  Raspberries, my friend, the jeweled candy of the Gods.  Or so I tell my nephew so he'll eat them instead of M&Ms.   I liked Session Brett, if you remember.  I loved Brett Framboise.  It was a light red liquid with a slight white head that quickly rimmed the glass.  The nose announced the fruity addition with a huge fanfare,  The Brett and raspberry characters played well off of each other without one overpowering the taste at all.  My initial impression was a light, crisp and refreshing beer that could appeal to a wide segment of beer drinkers.  I'm looking forward to drinking this again as the weather warms.  As is my non beer drinking sister in law who slyly stated that if a bottle should turn up in my beer fridge over the summer, she would not be opposed to having a glass with me.  Once I picked my jaw up from the ground, I was sure to pass that compliment on to the guys from Lake Effect.  Another non craft drinker was brought to the raspberry tinted dark side. 

Slapshot: Stick to the Nuts Brown Ale 5.1 ABV,  24 IBU

This peanut butter brown ale held the distinction of being the only beer of the night that I had previously tried.  However, I was still looking forward to another helping none the less.  When we were kids, my mom would buy industrial cans of Skippy Peanut Butter because we tended to go through the stick to the roof of your mouth goodness at an alarming rate.  So I was excited to share this brown ale with my brothers.  It didn't disappoint.  The color was a rick  amber brown with hints of gold around the edges (don't go by the photo above.)  A tight, white head rimmed the glass and left a few splotches of lace .  The nose was delicious; toasted light grain, a roasted peanut scent, and a bit of brown sugar sweetness. The taste was very similar, lots of light grain, subtle sweetness and roasted peanuts that lingered on the finish.  I've had other peanut butter beers before.  At one fest I stood in line on three separate occasions trying to make the cut for a particular brewery's sample. Unfortunately, that one tasted like someone burnt a load of brown sugar and smeared some generic peanut butter into it.  In retrospect, I should have just chowed down on a jar of Jiff instead.  It's very easy to verge into a cloying, novelty for novelty's sake drink when doing a beer like this.  Slapshot Brewery  instead delivered a highly drinkable, power play worthy, brown ale.  Plus those guys have the coolest brewery swag ever with their green and white Slapshot hockey jerseys.  Awesome is as awesome does.

Temperance: Root Down Robust Porter 5.2% ABV

Temperance Brewing opened in 2013 located in the once famously dry Evanston, IL.  I've heard relatively good things about them (mainly from Evanstonians who are probably still just tickled that they can legally drink.)  Their most talked about beer is their Root Down porter.  Now I don't normally enjoy smoked beers.  In my opinion, a lot of breweries really embrace the whole smoked aspect of their beer and it just over powers anything that I might like about the brew in the first place.  So I didn't have very high expectations going in.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The smoked malts were more of an accent on this beer than a focal point.  A hint of chicory and licorice round out the roasted profile.  In all honesty, I don't like chicory or licorice either.  Yet the perfect storm combination of the three flavors that I actively avoid somehow worked.  I let this beer open a bit on the table and the flavors melded and mellowed.  I doubt that I'd personally be able to drink more than the 4oz pour that I had here, but I could see how others might enjoy this low ABV porter on a chillly winter's night.

 Off Color: Dino S'mores Imperial Stout 10.5% ABV

I'm a sucker for a good name.  Dino S'mores is an excellent name.  Just try to say it out loud without smiling, I triple dog dare ya.  Luckily, it's also an excellent beer.  I'll admit it, I was way too excited to have a chance to drink this Imperial Stout.  Now, I'm a stout sort of girl at heart to begin with.  I'm also a S'more sort of girl as well.  This was one of the highlights of the night for me and earned a place in my top five of desert beers.  The rich, dark brown almost muddy liquid produced a huge, fluffy head.  Thick, light beige lacing clung to the sides of the glass and lingered for all of the drink.  I could smell the chocolate and sweet marshmallow notes easily.  It tasted exactly like you'd expect a beer s'more to taste.  If you closed your eyes, there was no mistaking what was in the glass.  A hint of vanilla helped the drink from veering too sweet to drink.  A hint of earthiness grounded the drink from going over the top as well.   The body was creamy, but the finish was surprisingly short for an Imperial.  Possibly this worked well since the flavor profile was so distinct.   All I know is by the second sip, I was longing for a fire pit, a long pointy stick and a bag of Stay Puff Jumbos. 


I promised you a bonus beer in the beginning of this post and I'm a woman of her word.  I was lucky enough to run into Steve Miller from Slapshot  at the event and he(with an assist from Brandon Weninger) came up with the brilliant (nay, I say Nobel Prize worthy) idea of adding an ounce of Dino S'mores to his Stick to the Nuts tulip glass.   The result was a Reese Peanut Butter influenced beer.  Sweet chocolate layered with roasted peanuts, creamy body and a long finish.  I would buy that beer if anyone should ever want to bottle it.  And I'd be more than willing to help recreate the commercial posted in the beginning of this article.  Purely as an educational exercise for brewing purposes. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lake Effect Brewing Company's Session Brett Ale

  • Style: American Wild Ale with a Pale Ale base
  • ABV: 5.50%
  • Ease to locate: A small brewery (scroll down to see my The Espresso Gone Stout post of a few weeks ago) but easily found in Chicagoland craft beer stores.  You can find them on Beer Menus or like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter to learn about deliveries.  
  • Color: Golden amber & very clear
  • Head: A little less than one finger head of soft, white carbonation.  Delicate, web-like lacing
  • Aroma: Only slightly funky with some fruitiness and honey sweetness.  Earthy hops round out the profile.  A very clean and mild nose
  • Mouthfeel; Light to medium with a palate scrubbing dryness
  • Finish:  Short and dry
  • Food friendly: American Wild Ales often go well with fruit because of their acidity.  Because this is such a mild, Pale Ale based Wild, I think even a noobie can easily pair it with something like roasted poultry or  white fish.  Try a creamy cheese, like baked brie (and if you add some fruit to it, such as cranberries, all the better)

 Apple users' link: You're wearing the shirt of the band you're going to see? Don't be that guy.
                                                                                                       Even George wisely knows that some times you just gotta bring the funkBecause we want the funk.

Most of my non craft beer obsessed friends have absolutely no idea how many varieties of beer there are out there for them to be completely oblivious  to. Recently I was dragged kicking and screaming to enjoyed an evening at a local dive bar   a humble and homey neighborhood establishment with some of these blissfully beer ignorant folks.  They gleefully enjoyed their bottles of Bud Light and Corona (yes, with a lime.  No, I only rolled my eyes once.  It was a party.) I was happy to discover that they had a few cans of Half Acre's Daisy Cutter behind the bar (I didn't want to consider just how old these cans were or why the bartender asked me if they used real flowers in the beer.  I just said yes.)  I was ecstatic when the bartender offered me a clean glass with it.  OK, the clean part may have taken  two tries, but at least it wasn't frosted.  In any case, the slightly dented can of Daisy Cutter was a hell of a lot better than anything that I was expecting to drink that evening and helped to spark some interest in the people that I was out with.  And where there is a spark of interest, there is always the possibility of fanning that spark into a full fledged fire.  Or at least get one or two people to try something new.  The next night we were gathered for another get together (yes, my life is obviously just one big party.  No, I didn't consider it a huge weekend because I was social both Saturday AND Sunday night.  Well, maybe.)  I took the opportunity to introduce my friends to the glorious wonders of Brettanomyces.
I am responsible for only 2 beers in the above photo.  And it's NOT the Redd.  Although they drank that first.  Sigh.

Brettanomyces, AKA Brett, is a type of yeast used in creating some wonderfully funky, earthy, yet incredibly tasty beers.   The name actually means "British fungus" which, by the way, is another AWESOME name for a band if you're keeping count.  The yeast can be pitched into the beer during the brewing process (like in Goose Island's Matilda), added directly to the bottle (as the Orval Trappist Monastery does) or aged in a wine barrel (Russian River is a great example of this.)  Some of my favorite ales get their wonderful funkiness from Brett.  But if you aren't used to the intensity of a pure Brett beer, baby step beers are the way to go.  And Lake Effect Brewing Co has made the perfect shallow end of the pool sort of Brett beer with your name on it.  Well, I suppose, only if your name actually is Brett or if you have a sharpie and decent penmanship.

My Session Brett poured a golden amber color that was clearer than I had expected.  My largest experience with Brett brewed beer is mostly Saisons and Farmhouse ales, which are traditionally a bit hazy and juicy in appearance. As you can tell from the photographs, this beer was rather see through.  Of course I needed to remind myself that it was not a Saison, but an American Wild with a Pale Ale base.  A slightly less than one finger head formed of soft, just off white foam.  As it fell, the head left behind a low webbing of spun cotton lacing.  I could smell the sharp fruitiness of the Belgian influence immediately.  A very mild note of funk lurked under the fruit scent.  A bit of malt sweetness and some hoppy earthiness rounded out the nose.  It was a clean, approachable and simplistic sort of Wild Ale nose.  The taste had a bit more going on, however.  I tasted tart, cidery apples with a hint of lemon.  Some honey sweetness and cracker notes were layered into the taste.  The funkiness of the 100% Brett emerged towards the back of the swallow, but in a very "oh, hey guys, didn't see you there" sort of way.  I was expecting it to be fully in my face, but instead the funk lingered around the edges.  The earthy hops, which helped to ground the flavor profile, was a welcome addition.    The body was light and dry, which again, assisted in it's ability not not scare off a Brett noobie.  A short and dry finish really assisted in making this beer a great dinner ale.

I would serve Lake Effect's Session Brett Ale with any sort of meal that would benefit from some tart, earthy, funkiness.  Think Rosemary Roasted Chicken cooking in it's own herb juices.  The tartness would also work with the delicate yet herby Halibut baked with Chives, Capers and Tarragon.  I didn't convert everyone at the party to the abundant joys of Brettanomyces.  Hell, I wasn't even able to get one person to pronounce Brettanomyces correctly.  But a few of the guests did finish their glass and one actually asked me to write down the beer's name.  There is something to be said for a light touch when producing a bold style of beer.  Now, Lake Effects is a relatively young brewery and it's possible that subsequent versions of this beer will be heavier in the funk aspect.  I'm personally looking forward to sampling their raspberry infused version of this beer at a local tap take over this week.  And yes, some of those newly converted Brett heads may be with me.  Now I'll just have to figure out a way to get them to drink pink beer.