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.
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 I will be the geek walking around with a Cannon Rebel T3 hanging around her neck, obsessively taking notes on her outdated, toddler-mock-worthy phone.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.