I've been looking forward to the first sign of Spring for weeks now. For some people, the first sighting of a robin in their backyard might be the sign they've been waiting for. Others might take their bag of Easter candy as a promise that warmer weather and no snow are just around the corner. Now, robins are all fine & good and I do love me some sugary jelly beans. But for me? Nothing beats Fischman's Liquor & Tavern's March Local #TapThis every year. I start thinking about it in January as I huddle around my portable heater. I may have issues. Many issues.
This week's post is going to be a collection of some of the local beers I was able to try at the event. I had seventeen breweries to choose from and believe you me, narrowing those down to just five was a feat worthy of Sophie herself (if Meryl Streep even drinks beer. She seems like a Scotch sort of gal, doesn't she?) The reviews will be mini in nature and should be considered an introduction to a beer or even a brewery that you may want to keep an eye open for this summer. I will once again apologize to the brewers for my IPhone 4's less than stellar photography skills. If anyone would like to gift a lowly beer blogger with an IPhone 6 so she may take more than stellar photos, I certainly would not be opposed to such a
bribe gift (why do I hear crickets?)
Temperance Beer Company- Manhattan Might Meets Right Imperial Stout 12% ABV
The new buzz word in the beer world today is BA. Barrel Aged anything automatically makes it tastier, sexier, and just all around better than what you're drinking, right? Not necessarily true. Unless it is. And Temperance Beer knocks this particular Barrel Aged Imperial Stout right out of the park. Temperance is situated in Evanston and headed by brewmaster Claudia Jendron, another of the spreading like wildfire expats of the Goose Island migration. Manhattan Might Meets Right clocks in at 12% ABV and was aged in High West Manhattan Whiskey Barrels (which is a distillary in, yes you guessed it, Park City, Utah.) This was possibly the best balanced BA Imperial Stout that I've had the pleasure to drink in a good long time. The nose was solid yet not over powering with it's whiskey barrel nature. I could definately pick out the alcohol note on the scent, but in a comforting warming sort of way. I also could detect aromas of a little chocolate, bitter roasted coffee and dark fruit. The taste offered a bit more of a distinct chocolate presence, but followed the nose pretty closely. There was absolutely no alcohol burn what so ever, which only contributed to the smoothness of this high ABV beer. Aesthetically, I enjoyed the delicate lacing and thick ring of foam that emerged even on my short pour of beer. This was my first beer of the night and the one I couldn't stop talking about to everyone I met all evening. If I annoyed you there, I apologize. If I talked you into buying a pour, you're very welcome.
Arcade Brewery- Graveyard Shift Pale Ale with Dark Matter Coffee 7% ABV
Arcade Brewery, located on the Northwest side of Chicago, is a brewery that I'm continually being impressed by with each and every sip. Their Graveyard Shift brewed with Chicago's own Dark Matter coffee is no exception. This was one of those beers that I had to try simply because something primal inside of me needed to know what a pale ale brewed with coffee tasted like. I should listen to that voice more often, because it tasted delicious. The beer was a deep honey golden color and left behind some really gorgeous looking lacing as I sipped from the glass. The nose was a mixture of grapefruit centered citrus notes and clean roasted coffee notes. The taste mirrored the nose rather well. Crisp with grapefruit heavy citrus and mildly roasted coffee character. It wasn't an overly complex tasting beer, but it delivered on the promise of the name Pale Ale With Coffee. I could see myself sipping this beer on a warm supper evening after a meal or even as an afternoon pick me up. I can't drink iced coffee all the time, can I?
Werk Force Brewery - Can Your Bagpiper Do This Wee Heavy 8.01% ABVOne of the best things about local tap take overs like this is the opportunity to become acquainted with some of the newly emerging baby breweries. I have heard tales of Werk Force, a small brewery located in Plainfield, that utilizes the benefits of it's beer supply store sister operation, Chicago Beer Werks. Their Wee Heavy was my first chance to taste anything from them. Not a lot of newish breweries bother to craft a Wee Heavy, but I suppose when you have an entire supply store at your disposal it's like a kid in a candy shop. A candy shop that he has a key for and just happens to own. A strong nose of sweetened caramel & toffee rose from my sipping glass. I personally found the aroma verging on the too sweet for my taste, but that's possibly just me. The taste mirrored the scent profile with emphasis on the sweet milk caramel and nutty toffee notes, but dialed down the cloying sweetness that I found a bit overwhelming from the nose. According to the description on the beer menu, I should have been able to find a note of chocolate in this ale, but for the life of me I couldn't detect any chocolate presence at all. I loved the mouthfeel, medium in body with a gentle tongue coating character that is one of my favorite qualities of a Wee Heavy. I liked this beer and I now look forward to my next opportunity to drink something else from Werk Force.
5 Rabbits Brewery- Arroz Con Leche Imperial Rice Ale 7.5% ABV
When I first began to get into Chicago craft beer scene, 5 Rabbits seemed like a brewery on the edge of doing great and delicious things. Then they got, lets just say, slightly derailed. But if the Imperial Rice Ale that I tasted that night is any indication of where 5 Rabbits is springing towards, I have a very good feeling about them once again. The liquid was a golden amber color with light brown honey tones. The nose was slight, but vaguely sweet reminiscent of the cream soda drinks of my youth. The taste reminded me even more of cream soda too, lightly sweet with vanilla notes. There was a bit of a rice pudding element to the flavor as well. The mouthfeel was decadently creamy and full with a syrup quality that coated the tongue nicely without ever feeling sticky. I enjoyed my small pour of this Imperial and really enjoyed that 5 Rabbits kept it to under 8% ABV.
Lake Effect Brewing- Whoopski Beer Amber Ale 6% ABV
Last Spring Lake Effect Brewing released a collaboration beer with local icon Superdawg Drive-in that was wildly successful. I'm not even a huge hot dog fan and it made me crave an encased ground meat tube when I cracked open a bottle. Well, the fine folks at LE must really love Superdawgs because they've released a second collaboration, an amber ale this go around. It poured an oaky amber brown liquid with a thick head of foam. The nose and taste were very similar in nature. I enjoyed the giant malt backbone with a subtle nuttiness to added in to give some depth to the flavor profile. It's not a complex sort of beer by any means, but it gets the job done for the intended purpose. I understand that this beer will be sold by the bomber at stores (not at Superdawg) with a red label. A wonderfully dry finish contributes to the appropriateness of pairing this ale with a variety of food, but most especially with all things sausage. Insert inappropriate beer fest joke here if you feel like it.
These are only a handful of the new beers that I was able to enjoy a short pour of at the event. Some of them will be bottled & released. Some will be found in kegs in bars all over the area. And some you may have to work a little harder to locate a pour or two. My advice to you is to take advantage of the warming weather, break out of that winter induced Bourbon County coma and seek out a new beer or two to try yourself. Think of it as a little Spring Cleaning for your beer soaked soul.
Drop me a line if you find a new local beer that knocks your socks off. You can find me on Twitter @marieecummins on Facebook at Down The Hatch or Instagram at @mariecummins1. Or just use the comments below.