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Monday, June 30, 2014

Toppling Goliath Hop Patrol Series: ZeeLander IPA

  • Style: IPA
  • ABV: 5.5% (yes, you read that right.) Honestly, it's just so dang refreshing to see anything with the letters IPA in it that is under 7%
  • Ease to locate: Sold mainly in Iowa but can also be found in some parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Why no love for Illinois, TGB???  They do have a Beer Locator on their website and are pretty good with updating their deliveries via their Facebook page and their Twitter account
  • Color: Slightly hazy amber gold with a syrup sort of look to it.  Almost honey in appearance with some yeast floaties
  • Head: Gorgeous.  Two finger, fluffy, ivory head with wonderful retention.  Lots of creeping lacing. 
  • Aroma: Distinct Nelson Savin hops right on the front (leaning towards the grapefruit element here) Bit of lemon & floral bitterness, cereal sweetness and with some dank earthiness layered in.  Not a huge nose, but an effective one.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body with well balanced carbonation
  • Finish: Medium. Begins with Nelson Savin elements sliding into the earthy dankness then fading to a citrus/floral forward ending
  • Food friendly: Yes.  Think Summer favorites that already have a bit of brightness built into them, like summer Pasta Primaveria, berry accented salads or bar-b-que shrimp.  

 Apple user's link:  This is NOT a direct indication on anyone I should know (or be related to) from the great state of Iowa. Unless it is. You know who you are.

                                                                              There's nothing half way about the Iowa way to treat you when we treat you which we may not do at all.  You really ought to give Iowa a try.

I don't have a large immediate family.  People may get this impression because, while we are not extraordinary in number, we do tend to mull together more often than not and it's very easy to lose count that way.  I am, however, related to at least half of Des Moines  (and the other half probably drinks with my half anyway.)  My mom has exactly one sister.  And this sister beget seven children.  Who beget like a million scions.  The summer vacations of my youth were spent rolling around in the back of a blue Chevy station wagon as we drove through corn field after corn field (after another fraking corn field!), crossing the great Missip and finally arriving hot, tired and cranky at the door of my poor, poor aunt.  So when I first heard about this small, yet intriguing, brewery out of Decorah, Iowa, I was a bit skeptical.  Iowa was the state fair with deep fried (insert anything and everything here).   Iowa was fishing in the Skunk River and never catching anything.  Iowa was a soft serve cone from the Dairy Queen in Beaverdale.  It certainly wasn't a craft beer mecca.  Well, it wasn't until Toppling Goliath Brews opened it's brewery doors that is.  They are from I-oway.

I was lucky enough that one of my cousins smuggled a few bottles of Toppling Goliath over the Mississippi for my drinking pleasure recently.  ZeeLander is their lesser known brew (Pseudo Sue is their world class APA and an absolute revelation to drink fresh.)  ZeeLander poured the color of honey; a golden amber liquid with a syrupy look to it.  I could see bits of yeast floating around inside.  A perfectly beautiful two finger light ivory, very fluffy head formed which left behind generous amounts of thick lacing creeping up the sides of the glass.  The head's retention was amazing.  Basically, imagine your perfect version of an IPA head and ZeeLander delivered.  The nose was not huge, but it was extremely effective.  I could identify the Nelson Savin hops right off the bat.  Nelson Savin hops are known for their wine like characteristics, but they also can emit a grapefruit note at times and it was the almost orangey/grapefruit that hit me first.   It was followed by a citrus (lemon) brightness and a hint of cereal sweetness.  And at 80 IBUs its sort of your basic agreesive IPA blueprint, right?  But then this dank, wet earth scent crept in.  The best way to explain it was the smell of forest dirt just after a summer rain.  This wet earth dankness really shone in the taste however.  The citrus element of grapefruit, lemon and a bit of mandarin oranges was wonderfully counter balanced by a hint of grainy sweetness and the wet earth note.  Huge, hoppy IPAs are a dime a dozen nowadays.  I loved that TGB thought outside the box and brewed a grounded sort of beer, without compromising the expected (and adored) IPA qualities.  There was a bit of floral mixed into the over all flavor profile, but not enough to overpower the big picture.  A medium body that boasted just enough carbonation to cut through the flavors worked extremely well.  I half expected a slightly syrupy mouthfeel because of the honeyed appearance and was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong.   A moderate finish began with the Nelson Savin notes, slid into the earthy dankness and faded with a lightly citrus/floral bitterness on the end.     
ZeeLander Is a part of Toppling Goliath Brewing's Hop Patrol Series which features beers brewed with single hop varieties.  It would be easy enough for them to just brew a straight forward IPA that showcases the oh so trendy Nelson Savin hop and be done with it.  Everyone and their cousin would be like "Oh, its Nelson Savin hopped!  I feel so in the know and beer geeky right now."  (Come on.  You know you would.  Yeah, I'm talking to you.  The guy with the neck beard.)  But luckily for those of us who could get their grubby little hands on a bottle of this lovely beer, TGB used their Iowan stubbornness to create something a bit more than that.  I would serve ZeeLander with a bowl of Summer Vegatable Pasta Primavera. The dankess of the beer will compliment the unami flavor of the morel mushrooms and the citrus forward of the hops will help bring out the freshness of your farmer's market booty.  Alternatively, cook up a mess of Bar B Que Shrimp one night  and watch as the white wine in the sauce brings out the Nelson Savin notes to the 9th degree.  I've already got this year's trip to Des Moines on the books and am looking forward to it for all the usual reasons.  This is the first year that I will be bringing an empty suit case ready to be filled with bombers of fermented goodness, however.  You can keep your fancy trips to Belgium and Germany.  You say that you're heading out to New York or LA?  Eh.  I'm going to Iowa.  Try not to drool.

Monday, June 23, 2014

New Glarus Brewing Co.'s Berliner Wiess

  • Style: Berliner Weiss
  • ABV: It's New Glarus.  A close guess is the best I've got for you.  And I'm thinking of a number between 3% & 4%I'll let the math geeks out there figure it out.
  • Ease to locate: Again, it's New Glarus.  Easy enough to find in WI.  But so are Packer fans.  One is definitely preferable over the other,.
  • Color: Hazy golden yellow with soft orange tones & visible carbonation
  • Head: Generous 2 fingers of pure white, fluffy foam leaving clumps of creeping lacing
  • Aroma: More tart than sour.  Lemon, orange, lime, some wheat grains & a bit of bread yeast sweetness with distinct green grape notes. Slight funk at very end.
  • Mouthfeel: Light body and very dry.  So drinkable on a warm day
  • Finish: Rather short, but not to it's detriment.  Ends with a crispness that prepares you for the next sip.
  • Food friendly: Yes, a million times, YES!  OK, I'll take it down a notch.  Pair this baby with just about any summer meal and you'll be a happy and coherent camper.  I love it with everything from grilled fish to veggie kabobs to simple stir fries.  But my favorite pairings involve pre-dinner appetizers.  Because, let's face it, anything in miniature is just more fun.

Apple Users link: It's not often, but sometimes a remake is just better. Please don't tell Ringo.

                                                         Since this happened at Wookstock, there is the very real possibility that Joe Cocker didn't realize that he was singing a Beatles tune.

Last TV season was the year of the detective.  Between shows like True Detective, Broadchurch and Fargo, my evenings sitting in front of the TV were filled with smart, intriguing characters and well executed plots (not to mention talented actors.  Hell, it even made me a fan of Mathew McConaughey and never in a million years would I have thought that was possible.)    Next year, we start at ground zero again with completely new everything on True Detective and Fargo.  Of course Fargo itself was a remake of a movie without actually remaking anything from the movie.  Dontach know?  And, in the infinite wisdom of TV executives, FOX is remaking the BBC's Broadchurch, naming it Gracepoint and apparently hoping that David Tennent's American accent is enough of a distraction to make viewers forget who the murderer is.  Or isn't.  Or, wait,  I'm sorry.  The adorableness of David Tennent is on my TV weekly again.  What were we talking about again?  New Glarus has jumped on the band wagon and remade their Berliner Weiss.  So right now some places in the great cheese state have 2013 and 2014 bottles on their dusty shelves.  This was a lesson I happened to learn the hard way.  You see, I have a northern interstate connection (read, some guy I talk into bringing me back beer when he drives to Wisconsin) who delivered a four pack of red foiled goodness to my door last month.  I fell in love with NG's Berliner Weiss last summer and eagerly anticipated drinking the hell out of it again this season.  And I was ecstatic when I held that red & white labeled, shiny foiled gem in my grubby little hands.  Until, that is, it was pointed out to me that NG remade their Thumbprint series labels.  No more white backgrounds with red lettering.  No more shiny scarlet foiled caps.   The bottle I held in that grubby little fist was (the horror!) last year's bottle.  But don't worry, I drank it anyway.  I also talked some other guy (who I sent armed with a VERY detailed photo) into buying me a bunch of this year's crop. I can be very persuasive when  New Glarus is involved..

New Glarus' Berliner Weiss 2014 poured a hazy, golden yellow that was high lit with light orange tones around the edges.  It was deliciously juicy looking, with visible carbonation racing to the surface of the glass.  The appearance  was cloudier than I remember the 2013 version being and I don't recall the orange edging.  The huge, fluffy white two finger head was similar to last year's version though.  I loved the clumps of ginormous lacing that crept up the sides of my glass.    The aroma was just about perfect for what I expect from a Berliner.  A tart green grape character mixed it up with citrus notes that included lemon, lime and a bit of orange.  A slight sweetness of cereal grain, some sourness of wheat bread yeast and a ever so light hit of funk balanced out the tart crispness of the nose.  This, this is what I want to sniff on a warm summer's night.  It's also what I want to drink.  The taste reflected the nose perfectly.  In addition to the tart green grapes and bitter citrus elements, there was a note of straw which contributed to the dryness of the wheat beer.  At times I could swear that I tasted a tropical fruit note (pineapple came immediately to mind) but on other swallows, the fruit note was absent.  Maybe it missed the red foil too?  The mouthfeel was light, dry and oh so crushable.  A relatively short finish worked with the beer and not against it because of the inherent crispness of the swallow.  I remember that the 2013 version of this beer enjoyed a longer finish, but I honestly didn't find myself missing it as much as I thought I would.  

Berliner Weiss is the sort of beer that not only goes well with all types of meals, it's the sort of beer that can make an average meal that much better.   Fresh caught (well, not caught by me, so fresh purchased from a reliable fish monger) trout on the grill?  Yep.  Skewers of brightly colored veggies kabobbed in a mob?  Yep.  The crispness and dryness of this year's New Galrus Berliner Weiss will work with a wide array of Summer meals, but my favorite way to enjoy this beer is before the meal actually begins.  Pour a glass and set out a try of appetizers, like Cocktail Meatballs in a Cranberry Chili Sauce or Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Skewers at your next get together.  Personally I'm planning on serving it with some Fresh Homemade Guacamole this summer.  The tartness and citrus flavors will cut through the guac's creaminess in such a way that I might actually learn to love guacamole as much as everyone else in my family (hey it worked last winter with hockey.  Come to think of it, beer did play a large role in my becoming a former hockey agnostic as well. )  No matter how you plan on drinking it, be sure to grab the Berliner Weiss bottles with the maroon labels on your next trip to cheeseland.  Because red foil is so last year. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Begyle Brewing's Tripel Stamp

  • Style: Tripel (excuse me, but, "duh")
  • ABV: 9.1%
  • Ease to locate: Most craft stores in the Chicago area or at Begyle's new(ish) tasting room.  Here's a link to their beer menu page.  My batch number was #53.
  • Color: Golden yellow and clear. 
  • Head: A slight, half finger white head with very little retention.  Delicate ring of shallow lacing leaving hazy film on the surface
  • Aroma: Bit of lemon, banana esters, some caramel & cereal sweetness layered with a hint of cinnamon. There is a slight boozey note on the very tail.
  • Mouthfeel: Full body with a syrupy tongue coating character.
  • Finish: Medium with very little dryness.  Begins sweetly & bright and ends with a hit of alcohol induced heat 
  • Food friendly? : Possibly.  The syrupy mouthfeel and lack of dryness (typical in a Tripel) can make pairing difficult.  Try it with something substantial such as red meat  (any sort really.)  I'd also be curious to see if it would play well with a creamy cheese such as Swiss.

Apple users link: I think that I just MAY know the most annoying sound in the world... 

                                                                                                  I have it on good authority that it is possible to triple stamp a double stamp, but it is not advised

OK.  I'll admit it.  I have never seen Dumb & Dumber all the way through.  I haven't even seen it half way through.  Fine!  I've only actually watched the YouTube video I just posted above.  And even with that I was really playing the dinner scene from Big Night in my head (Hey, Mambo...)  My point is that I had absolutely no idea why Begyle Brewing named their new Tripel "Tripel Stamp."  However, I'm pretty sure that they named their Dubbel "Dubbel Stamp" just so they could name the Tripel after the movie though.  In any case, once I finally admitted that I didn't get the apparently hilarious reference to the Carey/Daniel "classic" I was met with a look of such disdain that my toes curled.   I'm guessing that it's the same look I give one of my sister-in-laws when she fails to get my "Booby Trap!" reference (honestly, how could  anyone who grew up in the 80's  not have seen Goonies ever???  This just boggles the mind.)  Luckily for me, the good people over at Begyle do not suffer from boggled minds and have brewed their beer to be easily enjoyed by the Dumb & Dumber ignorant.

Tripel Stamp poured a rich yellow color, almost as pure gold as I've ever seen in a beer.  It was relatively clear with a syrupy quality and visible carbonation.  The head was rather miniscule, barely a half an inch with very little retention.  A shallow and delicate ring of spider web lacing was left as a band around the surface of the beer.  The aroma was nicely layered however.  The top notes of lemon, fruity esters and sweetness from caramel and cereal were extremely well balanced.  Under those scents was a hint of cinnamon and a hit booze (which was expected given the style and the 9.1%).  The taste was slightly sweeter than the nose.  The sweetness was upfront with elements of caramel and cereal grain (possibly Belgian Candi sugar as well, but I'm not sure if Begyle used this in their brewing of their beer, so it's mainly speculation on my part.)  Notes of fruity yeast esters helepd to give the mouthful a true Belgian character. The citrus note gave the sweetness some needed balance and brightness.  A bit of spice from the cinnamon and the taste of alcohol made sure that there was absolutely no mistaking this brew for anything but a Tripel.  Slightly syrupy and full bodied were the key words for the mouthfeel.  The liquid coated my tongue and I honestly didn't miss the lack of dryness at all (Tripel are not known to be dry anyway.)  The finish was typical.  Medium in length which began sweet and ended with a hint of booze.  Easy to drink, even easier for that 9.1% ABV to sneak up on you.

Tripels are not easy to pair well with food.  The fuller mouthfeel and lack of dryness hinder them from playing well with anything light or delicate.  I'd stick with something substantial, like a medium rare steak or a rack of ribs and a baked potato.  Try Begyle's take on the traditional Tripel with Fruit Jam Sweetened Bar B Que Ribs on the Grill .  What I love about this recipe is that the sauce, which is sweetened with apricot jam, will compliment the fruity esters of the beer (plus, it also calls for a bottle of lager.  Metropolotian's Dymano any one?)  Throw on a russet potato to bake (for the cooking novices, please poke a few holes in said potato.  We're going for baked here, not popcorned) and you have a hearty summer meal. I can pretty much guarantee that unless I get captured by some crazed Jeff Daniels fan I will never actually willing watch Dumber & Dumber all the way through (and if that should happen, I will be replaying an equally bad Daniel's movie, The Butcher's Wife, secretly in my head. Jack Bauer and his counter terrorism tactics ain't got nothing on me.)  But I will undoubtedly purchase another bottle of Tripel Stamp (mainly because I now really, really, REALLY want those ribs) and pretend to get the hilarity of the label's movie reference.  It worked in film school when we had to watch any and all Woody Allen movies.  It'll work again. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kegs for Kidneys 2014

Beer fests are fun.  I think that might be the most straightforward statement I will ever write for this blog.  Ever. I mean, what wouldn't be fun about spending a few hours in the company of fellow beer geeks (please don't make me answer that)?  You are given the chance to sample a wide range of new and (hopefully) interesting brews, chat up the people who create those new & interesting brews (or at the very least the people who clean the steel tanks after those beers are brewed and honestly, brewer assistants are people too!) and are usually outside in the fresh air (and geeks of all species should take every opportunity that presents it self to get out into the great outdoors, even if the great outdoors is just a covered parking lot.)  But I'm not sure if any one else has noticed that beer fests, once some what elusive and scattered, have now become almost a  weekly event.  In the last three weeks since Chicago Craft Beer Week, I have counted seven different beer fests being conducted in the greater Chicago region alone.  Granted some were better than others.  Really, a beer fest that counts Blue Moon as a craft offering should not even bother landing it's invite in my event calendar.  I do have some standards. (they're low, but they do exist.)  This is exactly why last Friday's Kegs For Kidneys Beer Fest sponsored by Fischman Liquors & Tavern was so special.  Yes, there was not a drop of Blue Moon or ShockTop in sight, but more importantly, it was a chance for the beer community of Chicago to support an extremely worthy cause.  And when given the opportunity to drink good beer AND feel like I am doing good for others at the same time, that makes for one incredible evening for everyone involved.  So this week's post is going to follow a slightly different format.  Instead of writing about one local beer that you can run out and buy, I'm going to given you a run down of my top five beers from this fest. They are in no particular order (although I did have a favorite of the night.  See if you can figure it out and leave your guess in the comments.)

#1 Temperance - When Life Gives You Melons Session Pale Ale 5% ABV

This was my first beer of the night.  Walking in to the slightly crowed outdoor tent, with a semi square outline of jockey box after jockey box lining the outer edges, I sought out Temperance's offering like a heat seeking missile.  On April 29th of this year, thirty five women (gathered by the good gals of Hail to the Ale) from all aspects of Chicago craft beer got together at Temperance to brew session Pale Ale that was dry hopped with German Hull melon hops. On June 6th, one solitary female beer blogger enjoyed drinking the hell out of it.  So I like to think that it sort of came full circle.  The color was a slightly cloudy (which I attributed to the coldness of the keg) straw yellow color with a light off white head and shallow, delicate lacing.  I could taste the soft melon note immediately.  It was followed by a light bitterness that one associates with a fruit rind.  The drink finished with a bit of citrus which offset the fruitiness nicely.  Truth be told, I am not a huge fan of melons, but I found this Pale Ale very refreshing.  The finish was soft and the mouthfeel sweetly dry.  You can still find this session Pale Ale on tap at various places around the city.  Much like that always elusive date with the head cheerleader in high school,  I suggest that you seek it out while you are still able to.

#2 Transient Artisan Ales Maigre Berliner Weiibier 3.1% ABV

Berliner Weiss.  Are their any two more glorious words to hear on a sweltering summer's day?  OK, maybe "Marie, would you like a second glass of Berliner Weiss" are a pretty awesome set of words too.  Transient Artisan Ales is a rather new brewery focusing on producing mainly sour beers in the Chicago area.  We have needed someone to step up and take over this niche here in the Second City for a long time now.  And luckily for us, Transient seems to be more than up to the task.  The beer poured a clear, pale yellow color with hints of light green and visible carbonation.  Maigre smelled amazing.  There was a brightness to the nose that sometimes can get muted on other Berliners.  The ale tasted of fresh squeezed lemons with a delicious, refreshing tartness from a note of green apples.  To me, some of the best Berliners are simple ones where the brewer lets the trueness of the flavors shine. This was definitely one of those Berliners.   Honestly, I would drink this beer all summer if given the opportunity.  And at only 3.1 % ABV, I could probably carry on a semi intelligent conversation while doing so as well.  Win, win people.  Win, win.

#3 Lake Effect Brewing Pateque Saison 5.5% ABV

This was the beer that almost wasn't.  All night long people were buzzing about this amazing watermelon Saison.  I love Lake Effects.  I think that they produce some very solid stuff and am always happy to get to try something new from them.  Lake Effect, which is located about ten minutes away from Fischman's, was kind enough to bring two different Saisons to the fest. The first was named Shimmering Lake and is currently in bombers for sale.  Shimmering Lake was a citrus forward, slightly barnyard funky, dry ale and is definitely something that I plan on buying this summer.  I know this because when I finally made my way to the Lake Effects section of the fest, they had just run out of the Pateque Saison and I had to make due with it's non watermelon sibling.  But do you want to know just how cool the Lake Effects guys are?  Do you?  Well, when the keg kicked, Clint Bautz (part owner and head brewer) jumped in a cab to the brewery, grabbed a keg and raced back to the fest just so everyone could get a shot at tasting this delightful beer.  I, for one, am very thankful that he did (and special thanks to Christian Burd for seeking me out in the crowd.)  The beer poured a soft, watery pink hue.  The nose was lovely; slightly sweet and fruity from the distinct watermelon character, but with a bitter edge.  When I tasted it, the bitterness reminded me of a watermelon rind.  The mouthfeel was dry and light with a refreshing quality that just screamed Summer.  I sincerely hope that Lake Effects considers brewing this beer again before the end of August.  I think this might be the one that puts them on the Chicago must have beer map.

#4 Slapshot McLaughlin's Red Eye Coffee Porter 5.8%
 Full disclosure, I didn't get to try the Slapshot offering listed on the fest's lineup.  Once again I severely misjudged the average beer geek's drinking prowess and missed out on Baby Kola Rare IPA.  Luckily, they brought a second keg of one of my favorite coffee porters ever (although, I'm pretty sure that Lake Effects Clint would have shared that cab if you had asked, Steve Miller.  Just saying.)    I adore the nose on this porter.  Often with coffee porters, you get a Folgers sort of scent from them.  McLaughlin's sports a true espresso nose with a depth of flavor on the scent alone.  Slightly sweet while still having that roasted bitterness from the coffee beans.  It's the type of beer that I could sniff all day and be happy even if I didn't get one sip.  I did take a sip, however. More than one truth be told.  The 30 IBUs are very well spent in this rich porter.  There is a clean, french pressed espresso quality to the coffee note that elevates this porter over your routine coffee flavored beer.  A very slight chocolate note and an earthy hop quality are layered into the flavor profile as well, but there is absolutely no mistaking this beer for what it is.  A red eye, coffee forward, little piece of goodness.  The almost full mouthfeel and long, roasted finish round out a surprisingly low ABV porter.  I barely missed the baby kolas at all.

#6 Local Option The Exorcist Domestic Stout 8.5% ABV
When I first read the name of this Stout, I thought that Local Options was calling it a "Demonic Stout", not a Domestic Stout.  I would like to suggest to the good people of Local Option that they should consider adopting the term Demonic Stout  in any case, because this beer is so sinfully good that the Pope himself might let out a string of expletives that would make little possessed Regan McNeil herself blush.  Normally I don't try to judge a beer's head (or lack there of) from a pour from a jockey box at a fest because so many things are out of a brewer's control.  Often beers that have lovely, full heads with amazing retention come out like sad, bald old men from an improper pour at your typical fest.  I don't know what deal with a crossroad demon Local Option had to make to get the head on this beer, but it must have been a doozy.  The guy who poured it for me gave my tasting glass a two go pour (dumping foam, re-pouring tilted at an extreme angle while trickling more liquid into the glass.)  I appreciated his thoroughness but will still left with at least two generous fingers of thick, chocolatey tan head to settle. I would absolutely love to see this Stout poured into a proper glassware.  In my mind, the lacing would be angelic.  Most likely because of the full head, I didn't get much of a nose off of my beer.  A bit of sweetness from a milk chocolate base (without any milk sugar sweetness present) and some roasted grains, but not much more scent-wise.  The taste was thankfully fuller and wonderfully complex.  Beyond the expected sweetness of the chocolate and lightly charred roasted grains,  I found an earthy, wet hoppy presence that grounded the sweetness in a secure fashion.  There was a subtle note of dark fruit. (mainly raisins and dates) which lent a chewiness to this full mouthfeel stout.  The creamy, tongue coating aspect of the beer felt a lot heavier than the average 8.5% ABV stout often showcases.  I hope that whoever's soul was traded for this recipe at least got the first pour from the keg.

These are just a handful of the beers offered (and imbibed by your's truly) at this year's Kegs for Kidneys Fest.  According to my scorecard, forty three different beers, covering just about every sort of style that you could wish for, were offered.  Some I loved, some I didn't, but all were appreciated.  One of the things that I love about the Chicago craft beer community is that it's a Community with a capital C.  The owners of Fishman's Liquor & Tavern put together this fest every year with one purpose: to raise funds for the National Kidney Foundation Inc.  Gus & Shanna  have a special connection to this charity since their gorgeous little nice, Izzy was diagnosed with a solitary kidney in 2007.  And sure, the Karamaniolas family could donate privately or create a small tavern based event to benefit this charity, but instead they reached out to the craft community here and offered everyone an opportunity to do some good.   And from what I could see last Friday night, the result was almost overwhelming.  Patrons donated rare bottles & collectable swag to be auctioned off.  People from all aspects of the brewery world donated their time to pour beer, chat up patrons and make a huge event run as smoothly as your average neighborhood block party.  It was a pretty special night.  I highly recommend that you plan on checking it out next year.  But please don't drink the Baby Kola before I get to it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Off Color Brewing's Apex Predator

  • Style: Farmhouse Ale
  • ABV: 6.5%
  • Ease to locate: Most Chicagoland craft beer stores.  Much easier to find than their elusive ode to extinct reptiles who like toasted marshmallow camping snacks (elusive but oh so tasty).  Here's a link to their Beer Menu Page
  • Color: Golden amber with prominent orange tones.  Hazy & juicy, just as a proper farmhouse should be
  • Head: 1 & 1/2 finger fluffy, thick and  slightly off white foam.  Waves of lacing ringing the glass.  Excellent retention
  • Aroma: Lightly floral (lemon grass & flowery herbs) with peppery spice, fruity yeast and rustic funk.   
  • Mouthfeel: Dry with a medium body
  • Finish: Medium to long. Begins with the floral, herbal & yeasty notes that trails to a lingering hit of spice
  • Food friendly: Short answer?  YES!  Long one is more like a list of almost every sort of Spring/Summer?Early Autumn meal imaginable.  Personally, I think it'd be phenomenal with oily fish off the grill or with chicken & vegetable kabobs. 

Apple User Link: OK, I was (and always will be) slightly disappointed to find out that football sometimes means soccer

                                                          I hate soccer as a sport, but even I'll admit that if you threw a lion or two out onto the field, it'd probably be at least as interesting as, say, tennis

Let's get this out in the open.  I'm a huge fan of Farmhouse Ales, especially in the Summer.  There is just something about the hazy, juicy, almost pulpy look of a properly brewed farmhouse ale that makes my city girl mouth water.  The fact that this sort of spicy, toasty, dry, slightly funky drink pairs so well with a wide variety of food makes it an easy beer to grab from the cellar for Sunday night dinner. Plus, as you are all well aware of by now, I am a sucker for a gorgeous looking head of foam.  For long time readers of this blog (so, basically, just you, Mom.  Who am I kidding?  My mom doesn't read this)  you'll remember that the very first beer I ever wrote about was a local farmhouse ale, Two Brother's Brewing's Domaine DuPage.  Last year I even tried my still inexperienced hand at brewing one myself, which only helped to grow an appreciation for this under utilized style.  My result was...well, it was drinkable.   Let's just say that I am beyond ecstatic that Off Color Brewing decided to release their version of a traditional Farmhouse ale this summer. 

My Apex Predator poured a stunning golden amber liquid, sunlit with orange tones that almost glowed from inside the glass.  It was beautifully juicy, with a pulpy hazy that almost purred for you to take a sip.  A generous off white head of at least one and a half fingers rose in the glass.  The head showcased excellent retention, which slowly resulted in waves of thick lacing sticking to the sides.  So, so SO pretty.  The aroma was that of fresh lemon grass mixed with a flowery herbal quality.  Layered in was a rustic funk, a hint of toasty grains and a good hit of spicy pepper. Many people aren't intimately acquainted with the scent of lemon grass.  Lets face it, it's not an herb that many people cook with every day.  I recommend checking out your local grocery store and take a whiff of their stalks.  A little lemon, a little green and a bit of fresh air.  Basically, lemon grass smells like Spring to me.  Apex Predator tasted like Springtime to me as well.  The sweetness from the malts and the fruitiness from the yeast were exponentially easier to detect on the tongue, while the lemon grass and floral, herbal notes took a bit of a back seat.  The anticipated murky funk emerged in a delicate sort of way as well.  And I simply loved the pepper note, which not only balanced out the sweetness, but also under cut the herbal qualities in the brew.  The mouthfeel revealed a medium body that was thirst quenching in its dryness.  A medium to long finish ended this beer spectacularly.  The finish began with the herbal and floral notes, effortlessly slid into the fruity and funky qualities and then trailed off to the white  pepper spice at the very end.    

Saisons and Biere de Gardes are really the perfect Summer supper beers.  The floral, slightly citrus, funky, spicy qualities are not only a refreshingly pleasant thing to drink on a gorgeous evening, they are also the very qualities that pair them so well with just about anything you serve with them.  Try drinking Off Color's Apex Predator with Grilled Trout Wrapped in Foil along side some lightly charred summer squash and zucchini some June evening. The lightly rustic, herbal nature of this beer will help bring out the flavors of the fish in a most delicious way (you say that you don't like fish?  Well, then have two bottles of Apex Predator and maybe you'll amend your way of thinking.)  You could also throw together some easy breezy Nutty Lemon Chicken Kabobs one night.  The pine nut crusted, lemon drizzled, sage scented chicken will pair beautifully with the herbal lemon grass element of this brew.  Or just order a pizza and relax.  Off Color has really made the choice that easy here for you.  Because isn't that what a great Summer beer should be?