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Monday, February 23, 2015

Rhinegeist Brewery's Truth IPA

  • Style: IPA
  • ABV: 7.2%   75 IBUs  Yeah.  Wheelhouse = mine
  • Ease to locate: Do you live in Cincinnati?  Do you know some one who does?  Do you at least have a car? This is a Cincy only distribution right now, but one can dream
  • Color: Golden amber with orange ones
  • Head: Huge 3 finger ivory head with lots of gorgeous lacing
  • Aroma: Grapefruit, Mango and some tropical fruit. Solid nose
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body; dry and clean
  • Finish: Medium with a lingering grapefruit hop bitterness
  • Food friendly: Yes, with your typical IPA friendly food: sweet sauced barbeque, pizza, hamburgers, paninis.   You know the drill.

Apple user's link: River Spirits know how to party

                          Spirited Away is an amazing movie.  If only because it features a Daikon Radish Spirit in a Japaneses bathhouse.  Because who doesn't love a classic?

Rhinegeist Brewery is a small, but growing, brewery from the magical land known as Ohio.  They take their name from a historic section of Cincinnati know as the Over-The-Rhine area, which was once home to a large German population.  Since Germans have been known to brew a beer or two in their time, it didn't take long for a group of like minded Ohioans to find a small former brewery and return it to it's original glory.  Almost like awakening of the brewing spirits of the past (if you haven't already checked your Google Translator, I'll save you the finger poke. The Rhine is a  famous river located in Germany and Geist translates to "Ghosts or Spirits") They self distubte to the greater Cincinnati area and possibly a bit further.  I. Can. Not. Wait. For. Chicago. To. Be, A. Bit. Further.   Beyond brewing incredibility taste ales, I love that they can their beers.  And while, yes, canning is more environmentally friendly, cans also make it extremely easy for my Ohio connection to smuggle me back a few beers every trip home.  The environment is of course important, but lest not forget the forest for the trees people (the trees being Mother Nature and the forest being ME of course.)  Just being honest here.   

My Rhinegeist Truth poured a golden amber liquid glass of goodness.  I could detect orange tones when held to a light and a hazy, non see through appearance.  A huge (I'm talking HUGE) three finger head of ivory foam quickly formed.  It left behind great Styrofoam-like coatings of lacing.  I tried to explain the term "lace porn" to a person the other day.  I so wish I would have just had this photo to demonstrate why it is such a wonderful thing.  Clumps and clumps of foam lingered in the glass, eventually forming an island of foam in the center.  This was the sort of IPA that I could be happy just to gaze at for a while (stop judging me.  It;s art, not exploitation!)  The scents of grapefruit, mango and a bit of pineapple mingled pleasantly on the nose.     Truth is brewed with Amarillo, Citra, Simcoe and Centennial hops.  Nothing crazy, but when those four horsemen are put together in just the right way, magic can certainly happen. I could really taste the Citra note, but it certainly didn't overpower the other hops in any way whatsoever.  The taste was well balanced with similar characters as I found on the nose.  Grapefruit with distinct qualities of mango and a nice sweet tartness of the pineapple in the forefront while a subtle cracker note round the taste out.   It was bright with a crisp cleanness that I absolutely loved.  A moderate body and medium finish with the needed amount of dryness made this an all too easy to drink IPA.  The grapefruit note lingers on the tail of the finish in the best possible sort of way.  

I would pair Rhinegeist Brewery's Truth with your typical citrus friendly IPA friendly foods.  I drank mine with a steaming bowl of Chicken Torilla Soup (OK, truth be told, my bowl might have come from Healthy Choice, but I'm eager to prepare a pot of this recipe and try the pairing again.  I sacrifice and sacrifice for you all...)  But say that you aren't craving Mexican that night.  I feel you.   What about pouring out a can of this dryly clean IPA with  a plate of Slow Cooked Pulled Pork .  The Citra and Simcoe notes will cut through the sauce's sweetness (I'm considering trying it but replacing the bourbon for a can of Truth to see where that will take the taste.)  I say, let the spirit take you where it will.  Unless it's an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of town.  Then run like hell and don't look back.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Transient Artisan Ales' Henry Porter

  • Style: American Porter
  • ABV: 7.5%
  • Ease to locate: Transient is brewed in small batches and not overly easy to locate.  Right now this beer is easier to find on tap than bottled.  Here's a link to their Beer Menu page
  • Color: Dark, dank brown with black tar highlights.  Imagine a Kardashian's soul and there you go.
  • Head: True tan 1 & 1/2 fingers comprised of large bubbles that leave soft lacing.  Pretty
  • Aroma: In one word?  RICH.  Lots of bitter dark chocolate, some roasted coffee and a fruity layer of raisin & date.  Not a huge nose, but solid
  • Mouthfeel:Full body.  Not particularly dry.
  • Finish: Medium to long.  Ending on a reprise of the chocolate note.
  • Food friendly?: Yes, but choose carefully.  Pair it with simple winter meals such as beef stew or roasted meat with a coffee rub

Apple User's Link: Because Weird Al is usually as fancy as I get

There was a time when preparing a fancy dinner for two was many beer geeks nightmare.  It often meant a trip to that small wine boutique staffed by people who can actually properly pronounce words like "Beaujolais" and "Gewurztraminer".  Once there, staring at a shelf of tall, indecipherable labeled bottles, it would slowly dawn on most ale enthusiasts the horrible truth.  Not even one of those bottle was filled with beer.  Luckily for us, the nightmare is now over.  We are living in the Golden Age of Beer and finding the right bottle to pair with your "white table cloth/ use the non paper kind of plates" worthy meal is as easy as hanging out at your local bottle shop.  I mean, I know that you're there weekly anyway.  One of my favorite new American Porters is Transient Artisan Ale's Henry just happens to be encased in one of my favorite labels.  Matthew LaFleur is a local illustrator who has penned quite a few local releases here in Chicago (you can check his artwork out on Middlebrow's A Life Pursuit and Arcade Brewery's William Wallace among others.)  What I love about LaFleur's rendition for Transient's label is the cleanliness of the graphic.  Black on white with a interesting interpretation of just what the word transient actually means. No nearly naked women riding horses through rainbows.  No weird zombie trolls waging war.  No cute baby animals doing horrendously uncute not baby things.  It's simply refreshing in it's class and sophistication.  And it won't bring up any awkward relationship conversations that really should be best left until at least the second bottle of alcohol of the night.

My Henry American Porter poured a dark, rich, dank liquid into the snifter.  It sported black tar like highlights towards the edges of the glass which gave it a thickly luxurious appearance.  A one and a half finger true tan head consisted of mostly large tight carbonation formed.  It slowly settled to a shallow film and a thick ring on the porter's surface, leaving behind tails of soapy lacing clinging to the glass.  So pretty.     The nose was not huge by any means, but it was solid and well constructed.  I found an abundance of rich dark chocolate bittersweetness immediately, tempered by a distinct, if not giant, note of perfectly roasted coffee.  The presence of a bit of dark fruit sneaked it's way on the back of the nose (especially as the porter warmed.)  Just as uncompex but solid in it's presentation was the taste.  Lots of dark bitter chocolate, a hint of dark roasted coffee and a shallow layer of dark fruit (mainly raisins and prunes.)    As the beer warmed, I could taste a very light berry note towards the back of the mouthful that I thought rounded out this porter wonderfully.  A full and creamy body coated the tongue nicely and created a gorgeous mouthfeel.  It's no secret that I like my beers on the drier side, but when I find a porter or stout that knows how to do a luxurious mouthfeel properly, its a real treat.  The almost long finish began with the sumptuous dark chocolate note which gained depth when the dark fruit element was added and finished with a reprise of the bitter chocolate once again on the tail.  

I wasn't always a beer geek.   At one time, and this may be hard for some of you to hear, I was a dedicated oenophile.  I'm not ashamed of it.  I still enjoy a glass or two of wine with my meal.  But what I absolutely love is that I now have the option of  pairing my dinner with a bottle of beer that I'm not ashamed to leave sitting on the table as we eat.  Valentine's Day is quickly approaching (and in case this fact has slipped some of your hop soaked minds, here's your friendly reminder to keep you from sleeping on the coach this weekend.)   Serve a bottle of Transient Artisan Ale's Henry American Porter with a fancy sounding, yet relatively easy to prepare meal, such as a Spice Coated Rack of Lamb For Two on Saturday night for your significant other.  Break out the good plates and silverware (you know, the ones that can go in the dishwasher at night).  Maybe even set the mood with some well chosen music (I'll leave that up to you.  One couple's romantic music is another couple's death march.  Choose accordingly.)   What ever you do, try your best to to be like Transient and keep it classy folks.  You have 364 other days for Zombie Dust and that kinky stuff.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Slapshot Brewing's Curse of Muldoon

  • Style: Double Milk Stout
  • ABV: 7.5%
  • Ease to locate: Just now being distributed to Chicago & some suburban locations.  Check their Beer Menu Page for locations.  
  • Color: Dark brown (with no black in it).  It reminded me of very rich hot chocolate
  • Head: One finger, light beige, fluffy foamed head  with small, tight trails of lacing sliding down the glass
  • Aroma: Heaps & heaps of milk chocolate with sweet milk sugar and a bit of dark fruit on the back.  But don't mistake it.  This is the  chocolate motherload
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body and a bit lighter than I expected, but easy to drink
  • Finish: Medium & with a well carbonated dryness that packs a wallop of a chocolate end. 
  • Food friendly?: Yes.  Rather versicle for such a chocolate bomb.   Try with beef stew or chicken in mole sauce.

Apple User's Link:  This is not safe for work, un earmuffed small children and mothers everywhere (unless you're one of those families...)

                        Again, this is not the video that you want to hit play on at work.  Or at the doctor's office.  Or when picking up your kid from daycare. 

Sports and cursing kind of go hand in hand in many ways.  Newly light in the pocket season ticket holders complaining about the fat cat yearly price increase.  Colorful locker room banter that doesn't involve thanking Jesus for the win (although God in some form may be mentioned).  And yes, there is always the obligatory screaming of vulgar terms at the ref concerning his questionable maternal upbringing.  But I'm actually speaking about the more serious notion of sports curses.   The Cubs have one involving a smelly goat, an empty bleacher seat and one royally ticked off Greek guy.  The Red Sox actually over came their longstanding Curse of the Bambino when they won the 2004 Worlds Series.  And the Bears just have Jay Cutler.  The Chicago Blackhawks (GO HAWKS) have their own curse to contend with.  And by contend with, I mean, ignore completely.  In 1927, the Blackhawks lost their first round playoff series to the Boston Bruins.  Fredrick McLaughlin, the Blackhawks owner at the time and Pete Muldoon, the head coach, had a slight disagreement (read Housewives of New Jersey table flipping sort of discussion).  The sacked Muldoon cursed the team as he was giving the heave ho.  His parting words were reported as "Fire me, Major, and you'll never finish first. I'll put a curse on this team that will hoodoo it until the end of time."   Since the Hawks have won  five Stanley Cups to date, as far as curses go, it's not the most accurate of inga tings.  

My Curse of Muldoon poured a dark dark brown color without a hint of black.  It reminded me of rich, coffee shop hot chocolate in a snifter glass.  A one finger, light beige head formed.  It settled quickly, leaving behind trails of soft lacing, and ended in a thick ring around the surface of the beer.  The aroma of the stout was all about the chocolate.  Milk chocolate, to be exact.   Sweet & rich, but only lightly bitter in scent.  A good amount of milk sugar and dark fruit notes rounded out the nose. The taste mirrored the aroma for the most part.  A good amount of rich milk chocolate and milk sugar hit my taste buds first and foremost, with the dark fruit and a hint of bitter coffee creating a certain much needed depth.  This wasn't a complex double milk stout and nor would I want it to be.  To paraphrase a line from The Quite Man: When I drink whisky, I drink whisky.  When I drink water, I drink water.  And when I drink a double milk stout, I had damn well taste that chocolate.  As the stout warms, the dark fruit notes of prune and possible raisin emerge to a greater extent, but still remain a background player.  The mouthfeel was lighter than I had expected from a double milk stout.  I would label it as solidly medium in body and not at all aggressive in carbonation. For a beer with this amount of richness, I had expected more of a tongue coating experience than was delivered.  Again, not necessarily a bad thing in this instance.  The medium body and slightly dry nature allows for an easier process of pairing this stout with savory dishes.  A medium finish began with the chocolate & milk sugar notes which slid nicely into a middle section with a hello wave from the dark fruit and coffee notes.  The finish ended with an explosive bang of the chocolate character.  Seriously.  The amount of chocolate that hit my mouth on the tail of the finish should almost come with a warning label.  And I mean that in the best way possible.

I was slightly daunted at the notion of pairing a double milk stout with savory dishes.  A normal first inclination is to take the easy way out and drink it as a desert beer.  But as I sipped my snifter of Slapshot's Curse of Muldoon, ideas began to form in my chocolate satiated noggin.  Notions of Chicken in a Simple Mole Sauce come to mind.  This particular recipe concentrates less on heat and more on the complex flavors in a mole sauce.   Alternatively, you could also pair this double milk stout with your favorite chili or stew recipes.  Try it along side a pot of Beef Stew with a Savory Chocolate sauce on your next  cold winter's night.  The dryness of the Curse of Muldoon should temper the richness of the stew without adding any unexpected flavors to the meal.  Coach Muldoon may not have been the most talented of curse bearers (or of hockey coaches if you think about it) but he did help to weave a richer history of one of my favorite local sports teams.  And really, what would one call a Chicago team be without a curse or two to give them some character?

Oh yeah.  We call them the White Sox.