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Monday, January 26, 2015

Arcade Brewery's Mega Milk Oatmeal Stout

  • Style: Oatmeal Stout
  • ABV: 5.3%  I love a lower ABV stout like a fat kid loves cake
  • Ease to locate: Pretty well distributed in the Chicago area.  Here's a link to their Beer Menu Page
  • Color:  Dark brown with black edging
  • Head: 1 finger light tan head that settles to a thick film.  Leaves behind some spotty lacing
  • Aroma: Dark chocolate, dark fruit, a hint of fig, some coffee and chewy grains.  Basically a traditional oatmeal stout
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body with a chewy feel but stil plenty of carbonation.  It IS a sessionable oatmeal stout after all
  • Finish: Unexpectedly long
  • Food friendly?:Yes.  The carbonation and lower ABV really lends itself to drinking alongside food.  Try it with roast beef or a veggie burger.  Also a perfect stout to cook with.

IPhone User's link: There's a nasty flu going around. Since the '80's

                                               Yes, I actually owned this album back in the day.  No, I'm not going  to tell you exactly when the day actually was.

I grew up in the '80s, otherwise known as the heyday of Atari.  Trying to explain to anyone under the age of 25 the allure and just spiritual pleasure of the act of going to an actual arcade, plunking your quarter (remember when you could actually use a quarter for something other than a drinking game?) down on a machine taller than the average fifth grader and hearing the melodic electronic streams of your favorite game start up is a lesson in futility.  And makes me feel really damn old.  I've noticed though, in the last few years, the video games of my misspent 80's youth are starting to make a comeback in the form of arcade craft beer bars.  A few have sprung up around the city in the last two years.  Imagine a craft bar, but instead of tables & booths, it's lined with wall after wall of  video consoles, blipping & bleeping in a swirling carnival of electronic nostalgia.  PacMan.  Mario Brothers.  Possiby even a Space Invaders with their quaint, caveman like graphics immediately take you back to a simpler time when all a young kid worried about was extra lives and the collection of those bouncy golden coins.   Alternatively, you could also just stay home, download PacMan on your phone & pop open a bomber of Arcade Brewery's Mega Milk Stout.

One would think that a beer with the name of Mega Milk would be a milk stout.  One would be wrong.  One should also learn to read the entire label.  But that's neither here nor there.  Mega Milk is a solid example of an oatmeal stout, just with a name that might make you wonder where the lactose sugar is hiding.  The answer would be in a bottle that's not an oatmeal stout.  I think I've mentioned my love of a well done low ABV stout before.  Mega Milk has only solidified that feeling.  It poured a dark brown color with highlights of black around the very edges of the glass.  A one finger, light tan head formed which settled to a thick film covering the surface of the beer for most of the drink.  Spotty, shallow ringed lacing trailed down the lower sides of the snifter.  I could smell the bitterness of dark chocolate mixed with the aroma of raisins, prunes, figs and just a hint of lightly brewed coffee.  The chewy grains that traditionally are showcased in a typical oatmeal stout were present on the nose as well, but took a bit of a back seat to the other flavors.  However, on the tongue, the chewy cereal grains really come out to play with the dark malts, rich chocolate and dark fruit characters.  It's basically almost perfect as far as oatmeal stouts go taste-wise.  The mouthfeel was a bit lighter than I expected, but when you take the ABV % into consideration, a medium bodied oatmeal stout makes perfect sense.  I possibly would have liked it to have been a bit creamier on my tongue, but if a lightly creamy presence is the trade off for an ABV that means I can enjoy more than one glass in a sitting?  I'll take it gratefully.   A drying abundant amount of carbonation contributed to the session ale profile as well.   And I was happily surprised by the long finish.  It began with the cereal grain and dark malt set of notes, changing into the rich light chocolate character and fruity presence, only to gracefully slide back to a distinct chocolate ending.  I absolutely loved this finish.  It was as if I had reached the ultimate game level and this was my ending reward.

Oatmeal stouts can sometimes be tricky to pair well with food.  I often err on the side of a hearty dish, such as a Simply Seasoned Roast Beef  a side of Green Beans with Carmelized Onions.  The low ABV and the crazy amount of carbonation of Arcade Brewery's Mega Milk will help cut through the richness of the red meat while the sweetness of the caramelized onions will marry with the fruity nature of this stout.  Personally, I loved cooking with this beer.  I had popped open this bomber one Sunday afternoon while I was concocting up a huge batch of turkey chili.  Normally I would add a cup or so of some left over red wine and let the tannins do their dirty work as the pot simmered.  This time I stirred in a cup of Mega Milk and was delighted by the results.  The bitterness of the chocolate and dark malts reacted in the best possible way with the chili's spices and tomato acidic base.  I plan on experimenting more with this oatmeal stout in the kitchen this winter.  Stews.  Mole sauces.  The sky is sort of the limit.  Because that's where the best golden coins usually are located anyways. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Marz Community Brewing The Bubbly Creek

  • Style: Berliner Weisse
  • ABV: 3.0%
  • Ease to locate: Brand new baby brewery so rather limited release.  Here's a link to their Beer Menu page but at the time of this post, only Maria's Package Goods in Bridgeport and Fischman's Liquors in Jefferson Park are listed as having any bottles.  Hopefully, Marz will expand distribution soon.
  • Color: Hazy, straw yellow liquid with highlights of amber tones
  • Head: One finger white foam with spotty lacing that settles into a delicate ring
  • Aroma: Somewhat shallow with notes of lemon, pineapple, a bit of funk, but not especially sour or tart like other Berliner Weisses that I've enjoyed
  • Mouthfeel: Crisp & dry with a light body and lots of carbonation.  Might have been my favorite thing about this beer
  • Finish: Short to medium.  Initial taste fades quickly, but the lemon note is stronger on the finish and lingers a little.
  • Food Friendly?: Yes, like most Berliner Weisses, it's very easy to pair it with a variety of foods.  Serve this with a seasonal hearty chicken stew or dress it up with a roasted pork tenderloin.

Apple User's link: The Bubbly Creek Bluegrass Band. I'm not even kidding.

Chicago is a city that loves it's choices.  Thick or Thin crust.  Cubs or Sox.  Mustard or Ketchup (Trick question.  No  Chicagoan will ever answer ketchup.  If they do, they're probably really from Indiana.) Still or sparkling water.  I mean bubbling.  A certain branch of the Chicago River, running through the Bridgeport neighborhood, is commonly known as Bubbly Creek.  And it has been for over a hundred years.  If you look closely at the surface of the water, you can see tiny blurps of air break the surface tension, hence the "bubbly" moniker.   I wish that I could say that it was a bizarre  natural phenomenon or the labored breath of our very own mythical Midwest sea monster.  Unfortunately, the truth is that the bubbling effect of the river's fork is due to the release of methane and hydrogen sulfide gas from the rotted remains of sewage and pollutants dumped there by the now closed Union Stockyards.   Not quite as lyrical, huh?  Even today the Chicago uses this area as a dumping ground for over flow during periods of heavy storms.    So of course, how could brand new Bridgeport baby brewery, Marz Community Brewing, even think to call their very first Berliner Weisse anything other than The Bubbly Creek?

My Bubbly Creek poured a hazy pale straw color with hints of amber tones.  A white, one finger head rose quickly and then settled to a solid surface layer.  A tight shallow ring of delicate lacing ran around the circumference of the glass.  The scent was not what I had expected at all.  I've been conditioned to expect a certain type of aroma from a typical Berliner Weisse.    This beer was not particularly sour in aroma nor measurably tart in nature (at least on the nose.) I found the shallow notes of lemon, pineapple and some murky dankness lurking in the glass as I inhaled deeply.  Because of this,  I was a bit trepidatious with the first sip.  Luckily, my fears were unjustified.  Everything was in the taste.  The flavors there  were proportionally bigger than the aroma.  I found a lovely tartness present that mingled with notes of lemon citrus, pineapple and other tropical fruit.  There was no dankness on the taste that I noticed on the nose however.  The mouthfeel was light in body but very crisp and dry with tons of carbonation.   The dryness and carbonation made this beer extremely drinkable.  A somewhat confusing short to medium finish concludes the Berliner Weisse.  The initial taste dissipated rather quickly but a lemon sharpness lingered on the tail.

Such is the nature of most Berliner Weisses, I'd pair my Bubbly Creek with a variety of menus. Berliner Weisses are wonderful Summertime beers and a natural to reach for when the temperature aces the nineties.  However, their inherent dryness and citric nature can easily lend them to heavier  winter meals as well.  A citrus forward Cuban Pork Tenderloin would compliment the flavor profile and benefit from the dry finish of this beer.  You should also try this one with a  Chicken & Sweet Potato Stew  The sweetness of the sweet potato will be tampered by the acidic citrus of the lemon and tropical fruit notes while working with the white wine being used in the sauce.  I actually have half a mind to try this recipe using Bubbly Creek in place of the white wine.  This particular Berliner Weisse would be an excellent ale to experiment with cooking.  Just maybe don't mention the whole Methane and Hydrogen Sulfide thing.  At least until desert.