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Monday, May 19, 2014

Middle Brow (Beer Co.)'s The Life Pursuit

  • Style: Dark Sasion brewed with vanilla & cinnamon
  • ABV: 6.6%
  • Ease to locate: Most craft & large Chicagoland liquor stores.  Here's a link to their Beer Menu page.  You can also check them out on their Face Book page here
  • Color: Hazy, ombre caramel brown with amber tones.  Think of it as a saison undercover
  • Head: One and a half fingers of foam with good retention.  Soapy, minimal lacing
  • Aroma: Carmel sweetness with a hint of vanilla, fruity yeast esters with nice peppery spice. Maltier than usual for a saison, but in a delicious way
  • Mouthfeel: Medium with lots of carbonation.  Dry & drinkable
  • Finish: Long that starts sweet and ends with pepper & cinnamon spice on tail 
  • Food friendly?:  Hell to the yes!  Saisons in general are great with food, but the maltier aspect of this beer gives it a bit of a heft.  Try it with something meaty like steak or mushroom dishes.  Pair it with a nutty cheese such as Asiago.

Apple user's link: Malkovich meets Malkovich

         Admit it.  After seeing this movie, you could name at least three people's minds that you'd love to briefly jump into.  John Malkovich wouldn't have been my 1st choice

I'll tell you a secret.  Sometimes I buy a beer just because the artwork is interesting and cool.  When I get to my usual store and scan the shelves for a new beer to try, a bottle that doesn't look like the same old same old will catch my  eye.  I may have just a passing knowledge of the brewery (or not), but if the label looks unique, I'll at least pick up the bottle to study it closer.  And if it is a style that I happen to like, it's going in the cart.  A few weeks ago I spotted Middle Brow's A Life Pursuit that exact way.  The very cool image created by Matthew LaFleur grabbed my attention immediately amongst a shelf of brightly colored and comic book inspired beer labels (not that there's anything wrong with those labels.  But just as they were once an unique presence on the shelf, can you really tell one brewery from another now with a glance?  I can't.)  It's a classy sort of drawing that is exactly what I imagine a brewer's brain to look like inside.   Minus a few empty bottles of aspirin and the random cat I always seem to see lurking around most breweries.   Plus it reminded me of Maurice Sendak books and that's always a good thing.    To top it off, I happen to adore saisons.  A dark saison brewed with vanilla and cinnamon, however, left me slightly skeptical.  This beer could either be wonderful or a total mess.  Either way, I plunked down my money, figuring that at least it would be an adventure. 

The Life Pursuit was a slightly hazy, ombre caramel brown color in my glass.  Soft amber tones reflected back when it was held up to the light. A well sized one and a half finger light beige head quickly formed with wonderful retention.  Minimal, soapy lacing coated the sides of the glass.   The first scent to hit me was a sweet, malty caramel note with the barest trace of vanilla.  Not what I was expecting from a saison.  It was quickly followed by the typical fruity yeast that I know and love in my farmhouse ales.  Some stone fruits and a bit of tropical notes were followed by a peppery spice on the nose.  The taste was very similar.  An abundance of caramel flavors, their sweetness off set by the slight vanilla note, mingled with the the bready, fruity yeast.  Subtle flavors of cinnamon and pepper balanced out the rest of the notes wonderfully.  This beer seemed to take the best characteristics from both a brown ale and a saison to make something perfectly unique.  Sort of like a mad scientist experiment gone horribly genius.  The body was firmly in the medium zone and nicely dry.  Personally I thought that it might have leaned a wee bit too carbonated for my taste, but that was ne of those "to each their own" sort of things.  A long and layered finish rounded out this ale.  It started out sweet and malty but ended with the expected spice on the tail.

Middle Brow's The Life Pursuit is the kind of beer that welcomes a variety of food pairing.  The fact that it's well balanced helps greatly, but it think it's even more important that it borrows food friendly qualities from two different styles.  Yeasty esters automatically lend their fruity qualities to many lighter dishes, while the malty sweetness help to add some heft to this drink.  This is the exact type of beer that you could bring to a summer party and just know that it will work with anything that the host may throw at you.  I'm going to drink my next bottle with Portabella Burgers on the Grill and a side of Memphis Sweet potato Fries made with a hint of Cinnamon..  If you've never tried any sort of french fries off of a gas grill, you have not fully lived my friend.  Middle Brow (Beer Co.) is a rather unique sort of brewery.  Many new breweries are started by former home brewers.  Middle Brow plans to actively seek out (via contests and other means) homebrewers to work with them in developing various homebrew recipe beers to be publicly released through out the year.  Sort of like Top Chef in the world of beer.  Or American Idol if you prefer.  God, I really hope that you don't prefer.  Judgement free zone here though.  (Not true.  If you tell me, I will totally judge you.). They will also distribute beers brewed with their own recipes in between the homebrew releases.  It's an intriguing concept for a brewery and a very exciting opportunity for a handful of talented homebrewers.  In fact, The Life Pursuit was developed from a personal recipe by a homebrewer named  Matt Holley.    And if you ask me, the dude has chops.  If you have chops as well, check out one of their competitions and maybe pursue a bit of a brewer's life yourself.