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Friday, April 25, 2014

Begyle Brewing's BA Maybe Next Year 2014

  • Style: Barrel Aged Brown Ale
  • ABV: 9.0%
  • Ease to locate: Ain't gonna happen unless you have access to a Delorean and a Flux Capacitor (or know of someone who happens to have a bottle).  Begyle  barrel aged a gross or so of this 2013 brown ale and it pretty much sold out in a matter of days.  However, there was a two bottle limit, so it's possible that some one could be sitting on an extra bottle.  Make some friends and find out
  • Color: Dark, cola brown with amber highlights.
  • Head: One finger light beige head that falls to a ring. Spotty & slight lacing
  • Aroma: Do you like good bourbon?  Excellent, because that's the dominant scent here (and if you aren't a fan, maybe you should rethink the whole BA prefix thing.).  There's also some lighter notes of caramel, brown sugar and a sort of sharpness that comes from spirits.  
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body with good carbonation.  I's a barrel aged brown ale, not a stout and has the body to prove it
  • Finish: A little deceptive, you tricky Begyle guys you.  It felt short at first, but then the bourbon note sneaks back onto your palate and lingers.  I found it a bit hot for my taste, but not enough to hurt the beer 
  • Food friendly?: Eh, this feels like an after dinner short of drink to me.  The bourbon darkness is strong with this one.  I'd be curious to see if it mellows as it ages. It could possibly pair nicely with a mild, yet slightly sweet sweet, sort of desert.  I'd love to try it with a moist & chewy banana bread.  

Apple User's Link:  We take our sports just as seriously as we take our beer here in Chicago

Steve Goodman gets to the heart of what it means to be a Cubs fan.  While it may be appropriate to listen to this song with an Old Style in hand, I give you my permission to hold the Chicago beer of your choice instead. 

I'm a Cubs fan.  I bleed Cubbie blue.  I've spend many a sun baked afternoon in the left field bleachers. Onion water soaked hot dog in one hand with a rally hat perched defiantly on top of my head.  Because, as much as it kills me to admit it, we Cubs fans are walking talking stereotypes of the very image of a perpetually under achieving sports franchise.   We're can't even lament that the Cubs are always the bridesmaid, never the bride.  Hell, most of the time we're the team that doesn't even make it past the kids table.  Eternally optimistic with our rally cry of "Wait until next year!" Always disappointed that our "next year" never seems to come.  And, between you and me and the fencepost, I kind of like that about us.  So, in honor of the 100 year birthday of my favorite baseball team, win or lose, I recently cracked open a very special bottle of Begyle Brewing's Barrel Aged Maybe Next Year Brown Ale.

Last Autumn, right around the time that the Cubs were once again breaking the collective hearts of Northside Chicagoans everywhere, Begyle socked away some of their Maybe Next Year brown ale in bourbon barrels.  The plan, as I understand it, was much like one made by the Cubs' own management.  Let the product rest over a long winter break and see what developed the next April.  And, at least for Begyle's good fortune, this wait and see plan worked out well for one of them.  My BA Maybe Next Year 2014 poured a dark brown, sort of cola colored beer.  I spied soft amber highlights when held to a light source. I wasn't expecting the over abundance of carbonation that greeted me in the glass, but I didn't feel that it deterred from the drink at all.  I'm just not used to having so much fizz in a barrel aged beer.  The one finger, light beige head fell rather quickly (something that I am used to in a BA beer) to a solid ring of bubbles.  The lacing was very spotty, shallow and delicate.   Again, this is par for the course for a BA brown ale and didn't surprise me in the least.  The nose was predominately made up of the bourbon note.  Strong is too simple of a word to describe the aroma.  I could still detect the bournon character from the beer as I placed my snifter down on a table;e in front of me.    I'm pretty sure that I cold also smell my brother's glass of beer halfway across the room too.  And again, I'm so not complaining about this.  Upon closer inspection, I could also make out some notes of sweet caramel and slightly burnt brown sugar on the nose too.  The taste was rather similar to the nose in as the bourbon flavor was the highlight of the mouthful.  Again, there was the burnt brown sugar and caramel sweetness, but I also could taste an oaky wooden note buried under the stronger layers.   An ever so slight hint of vanilla balanced out the sweetness nicely. I like a beer that knows what it is and this certainly fit that bill.  The mouthfeel was medium and pretty much what you would expect a brown ale to possess.  The finish though, I absolutely loved the finish.  At first I was disappointed as the sweetness fell short and disappeared.  But those tricky manipulators over at Begyle were obviously just messing with me (sort of like how the Cubs often mess with their fans in early September by going on a winning streak just as it's almost too late to make the playoffs except as a black horse wild card.)  The sharp, a little bit hot for my taste, bourbon element rallied back to make a late appearance to linger on the finish.    I have to wonder if this heat might mellow with a bit more age.  It makes me wish that I had saved a second bottle to cellar and revisit in another six months.  

Begyle Brewing's BA Maybe Next Year 2014 is a very bourbon forward flavored brown ale.  I usually prefer to sip my bourbon, very slowly, after dinner.   If I absolutely had to pair this ale with food, I could see a moist and not too sweet quick bread, such as a slice of a Classic Banana Bread,  playing nicely with the taste and texture of this barrel aged brown ale.  Alternatively, an Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce could also pair well with this beer, the buttery caramel topping echoing the caramel vanilla aspect of the ale.  It's entirely possible that more food pairs might come to mind once the bottle has had a chance to mature and mellow a bit with more age on it.  I'm hoping that since Begyle purposely labeled this beer with the year 2014 printed very clearly on their classy and minimal label, I might have a chance to revisit this brown ale again in the coming years.  In any case, this is (to my knowledge at least) the second barrel aged offering from Begyle's fledgling and promising barrel age program.  I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with next (QUAD!  I WANT A BEGYLE QUAD!) No pressure.  (BUT I REALLY NEED A QUAD PLEASE!)   This is the sort of beer that I would crack open in the company of like minded friends while consolidating over yet another heartbreaking loss in the 9th and dreaming fervently about the day when we can once again call our beloved Cubbies the World Series Champions.  Ah well, maybe next year.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Lake Effect Brewing's Kiwi Snow

  • Style: White Pale Ale brewed with New Zealand Hops (Nelson Savin & Motueka Hops)
  • ABV: 6.5%
  • Ease to Locate: Bottle shops and liquor store here in Chicagoland are well supplied.  But you know the drill.  Follow them on Facebook here or on Twitter here to keep updated on their deliveries
  • Color: Golden straw sunshine in a glass.  Very clear with visible carbonation
  • Head: Two fingers of pure white foam head.  Very tight bubbles leaving delicate, creeping lacing.  So pretty, mate.
  • Aroma: Tropical fruit, lemon & lime citrus and a slight note of wine.  So good, mate.
  • Mouthfeel: Light to medium body with abundant carbonation.  Dry & highly drinkable.  Have another, mate.
  • Finish: Long with a lingering note of lime.  
  • Food friendly?: Hell, yes!  Poultry, white fish, veggie dishes, you get the idea.  Do you want to eat a light, bright meal this Spring?  Have I got the perfect beer for you.  I'd serve this with a creamy cheese, such as brie to play off of the brightness of the drink.

            I know.  I was shocked that Paul Hogan was nominated for an Oscar too.  But it was for WRITING remember.  Any hack with a working knowledge of the alphabet can write.  Or so I've been told. 

It's been a bitch of a winter.  There's really no other way to put it.  The amount of snow and the sheer number of days we spent here in Chicago that were inhumanly well below zero (even without the wind chill factored in) were enough to make even the most die hard Chicagoan consider packing up their Bears jersey and dibs chairs for a move to Brazil.  (Dónde puedo poner mi silla dib?)  But we didn't (well, I didn't anyway.  You may be reading this blog post on the sandy beaches of Rio De Janeiro.  And if you are, kudos for you for still keeping it real, my friend.)  Our reward for braving out one of the snowiest and coldest winters in recorded history?  Lake Effect Brewing made us a beer with the word snow in it.  Not cool, guys. After I purchased this bomber of this fermented hopped bliss, I stared at the lable, thinking to myself that I never want to see another thing that reminded me of snow again.  Snow is the new "S" work in my house (the old one being "Silly Putty"  Don't ask.  And also don't let someone leave it in their jean pocket when doing a wash.)  Luckily, Lake Effect stuck a funny looking Australian bird skiing on their label to distract us from the dreadful word.  And even luckier is that the beer inside the bottle tasted like liquid sunshine.

My Kiwi Snow poured a golden straw color.  The beer was completely clear, making perfectly easy to witness the millions of tiny carbonation bubbles that raced to the surface.  Just under two fingers of tight, pure white foam formed a solid head.  It produced soapy, delicate lacing that crept high up the sides of my tulip glass.  I'll be honest, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Sitting down outside for the first time in months with a gorgeous looking beer in hand felt as if Spring had finally arrived.  I could smell juicy tropical fruit immediately on the nose.  It was followed closely by the bright citrus notes of lemon and lime (you can thank the Motueka hop for that.)  Nelson Savin seems to be the new "hip" hop of choice for many brewers now (would that make it the Grandmaster Flash of hops?)  And I'm not complaining.  I loved the white wine character that this hop gave my Kiwi Snow.  It didn't taste like wine per say, but the slight tang reminiscent of mineral Saviaugn Blanc or an old world Chardonnay  gave the nose a depth of flavor.  The taste leaned heavier towards the notes of lemon and lime, but the Nelson Savin hops presence worked it's magic just as it had on the aroma.  I love a well layered beer.  I tasted a hint of pineapple and possibly a bit of stone fruit, but neither were the main feature.  Since most people might expect a flavor note of the fruit Kiwi when drinking a beer names Kiwi Snow, the highly savvy brewers over at Lake Effect made certain to state right on their label that absolutely no kiwis were used when brewing this beer.  No kiwis were eaten when brewing this beer.  The brewers even avoided the produce section at their local supermarket during the ale's brew days just to be sure.  (OK, the last two might have been implied.  A label really only has so much room.)  A light and heavily carbonated mouthfeel made this a very easy to drink ale.  I particularly enjoyed the long, lime accented finish.  

Some beers are easier to pair with food than others.  I loved that after a few sips of Lake Effect's Kiwi Snow, the possible pairings far outweighed the "Oh my god, what have you done to my lovingly prepared meal that I slaved over for hours with your improperly paired fermented swill!"  Quite seriously, this is a wonderful white pale ale to pair with many Spring dishes.  I particularly like the idea of serving it with a Grilled Tilapia with Vegetables where wine wine is an ingredient in the marinade.  You could also make a Creamless Pasta Primaveria for dinner using whatever fresh vegetables look good at your local market.  And then open a window, breath in the non sub zero air, enjoy the ever so precious glimpses of sun shine and rejoice that we made it through another soul squashing midwest winter.  Because honestly, if I even see another frozen flake that isn't in a snow cone, someone will pay dearly.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Pipeworks Brewing's Game of Jones

  • Style: Imperial Milk Stout (have there ever been such a glorious string of random words?)
  •  ABV: 10%
  • Ease to locate: Released in the end of February (my batch # was 126/127) but I've still seen bombers on shelves at various places.  Look around. Or just check out this beer menu link for it
  • Color: Deep brown with slight golden tones
  • Head: One finger tan foam with little staying power and slight, spotty lacing
  • Aroma: Lactose sugar sweetness, milk chocolate, hint of espresso and true vanilla note.  Really wonderful nose
  • Mouthfeel: Full body, creamy & velvety but still plenty of carbonation
  • Finish: Long.  Mostly chocolate and coffee note, but a bit of heat lingering at the end (which also mellows out nicely as it sits)
  • Food friendly: I'm going to go with ice cream.  Vanilla.  Chocolate.  Carmel Crunch. Spin the wheel and take your pick.  It's all good.  If you like beer and you like desserts, this is the brew for you.

Apple User's Link: I could watch this scene all day and twice on Sundays

                                                                                                                               No spoilers here. Just good old fashioned Joffrey slapping.

Winter is coming.  Actually, winter has come, went, come back and, like a third cousin who shows up for Thanksgiving but hangs out until New Years and won't go the frak away.  But what is finally here is the fourth season of the additive TV show, Game of Thrones.  I love GoT.  Dragons.  Smart alec dwarfs.  Some guy who just says "Hodor" all the time (we all know somebody like that, right? And if you can't think of anyone in particular right off the bat, you may want to expand your own vocabulary a wee bit just to hedge your bets.) I'm also reading the George R.R. Martin books that make up the series.  I'm all ready to start book four as soon as the current season has finished, because I think that having two GoT stories running through my head at the same time might result in a cerebral black hole of some sort.  Well, at least that's the working theory.  Anyway, I've been looking forward to the show's premier for weeks now.  Something as monumental as that deserves a special beer to drink while watching, right?  And since I don't have any sour brown ale (the Westros craft drink of choice apparently) in the house I'm very glad that Pipeworks Brewing Company has my back covered.

My Game of Jones poured a deep, tree bark like brown with pretty golden tones.  There was no black in it, just various degrees of brown.  A slight, dark tan half a finger head rose and with in a few minutes, fell to the beer's surface.  A minute or so after that, there was absolutely no head left to speak of, just a tight ring of bubbles around the snifter.  Think of it as the Ned Stark of  foam.  The lacing was spotty and took a swirl or two to produce.  But the nose more than made up for any shortcomings.  I immediately smelled the sweet lactose milk sugar and milk chocolate notes.  There was also a nice showing of vanilla and roasted malt with just a hint of bitter espresso.  It was an extremely tasty sort of nose.  On my first swallow, the milk chocolate, almost fudge like in flavor, hit me like a ton of Willy Wonka bricks (some day I will explain exactly why Willy Wonka is an evil parental properganda film used to frighten little girls into not eating all of their Halloween candy.  But not today.). The sweet milk was very present as was a distinct note of vanilla.  Often vanilla is used in brewing like it is in baking, as a way to enhance other flavors in the recipe.  Here, it was it's own character and really helped to keep all the sweetness from becoming cloying.  A very slight bitterness from the roasted malt & the espresso also assisted in balancing out the stout.  I could have sworn that I tasted a cherry note on the very end of the swallow, but that could have been the booze talking.  The body was full and velvety, gently coating the tongue.  The abundant carbonation was a welcome presence, helping to dry out the body just a bit (this was not a dry sort of stout at all.  I'm merely saying that the fizziness kept  the beer from being to thick or syrupy.)  Heavy is nice, but so is a conversation with Hodor until you realize that he's been talking smack about you for the last twenty minutes without you realizing it.  I loved the finish.  Long, smooth and mostly chocolately with a mellow warmth from the alcohol. This is an imperial milk stout that really benefited from sitting out for a bit.  As the beer warmed in my glass, it opened gorgeously, becoming this smooth, balanced glass of goodness fit for whom ever ultimately sits on the Iron Throne (Go Daenerys!)


Milk stouts can be tricky to pair with main meal foods.  An imperial milk stout is more trouble than it's worth to make it work with a meal.  Why not instead embrace the desert aspect of Pipework's Game of Jones and serve it alongside a bowl of homemade Mocha Latte Ice Cream and let the ice cream bring out the slight espresso flavor in the stout?  Or pair it it with a few scoops of Cherry Bourbon Ice Cream and let the tartness of the fruit offset the milk chocolate sweetness of the beer.  Either way, you're eating ice cream and drinking beer.  It's all good.  Now if you happen to be eating your ice cream and drinking your Game of Jones on Sunday nights, a friendly reminder is to make sure that you carefully place your glass and bowl on a table right next to you as you watch Game of Thrones.  You see, I've read through Book Three and well, without spoiling anything, you definitely need to be prepared.  Valar Morghulis indeed.