Brewery: Tallgrass Brewing Company
Beer: Buffalo Sweat, 1 pint can
POP: Gift from Kate of The Can Van
Price: It was a present, duh.
This lovely can of stout (!) comes courtesy of my friend Kate, a beer pioneer of sorts as one of the founding members of the aforementioned Can Van. Kate – who lives in my former state of California – has been a great beer saint, even risking life and limb at the hands of the law to traffic beer across state lines to bring me a Pliny the Elder, as well as other delicious brews.
Like this one.
Maybe the novelty of stout in a can hasn’t worn off on me yet. Maybe it’s the fact that this beer pours like a Pepsi – dark brown with a bubbly tan head – that trips me out a bit. Regardless, the size of the can (a full pint – more than my “pint” glass) and the wonderful dark chocolate and toasted malt aroma brings me back into adulthood.
The taste is basic dry stout – no surprises or sweetness from caramel malts. Even as it warms, it’s a bit watery in the finish, but otherwise I can find no faults with this beer. Beautiful lacing down the glass as well as a thin layer of foam that sticks around until the very end showcases that this is a well brewed beer with the highest quality ingredients.
Perhaps you’re already indoctrinated into the canned beer community. You may have even attended Canfest in Reno recently. And if you did, you probably got to crack open some aluminum with some fine folks who are furthering matters in this world without being a commercial brewery. Enter The Can Van.
Here’s the shtick. There are breweries out there who bottle and keg exclusively. There are those than can and keg exclusively. We’re starting to see an uptick in breweries that do both. (The Beer Student’s favorite Chicago local Half Acre Beer comes to mind.) But for the most part, this packaging mix is being slowed by the two things facing almost every micro, nano, and craft brewery in the US: space and money. The Can Van’s idea is that not every brewery that wants to can needs to have a full-time canning line. As such, they’re investing in a canning line of their own and making it mobile by placing it inside a trailer and hauling it from brewery to brewery. Thus, a brewery with an output that doesn’t warrant the cost of an entire canning line can now jump in the pool and send cans to the masses.
Look for this to really jumpstart the smallest of breweries. The number of craft beers available in cans is still relatively small, and as such, being one of the first players in this market will likely benefit for a much longer term than just the small influx of cash from the sale of a 4 or 6-pack.
I’d explain more about the process, but it would be better to let the experts take care of it. They’re crowdfunding the startup on perennial small business site IndieGoGo. Check out the video, read the story, invest. And get to drinkin’.
Brewery: Half Acre Beer Company
Beer: SS Simon Short, growler
POP: Half Acre brewery store, 4257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Is it January? Naw, man, it’s August! Er…December.
Damn, I’ve been out of it for a while, it would appear. Pair things like school being busy, work picking up, a crippling addiction to the far reaches of the internet, and a fear of publishing anything that hasn’t been meticulously and unnecessarily critiqued by yours truly, and that’s gonna happen.
Once again, the folks over at Half Acre hit it out of the park with a small batch brew. This past Friday was the annual release of the Big Hugs coffee imperial stout. Saturday, I showed up to get the Big Hugs and walked out with this. Let that sink in. Now, don’t get me wrong, I bought some bottles of Big Hugs and will try to snag a growler too if it holds on for a while. But after tasting it, I could not pass up this limited run.
But, before getting into the SS Simon Short, this begs the question (complete with poor grammar): How come nobody brews porters any more? Let me take a stab at this. It’s hard. That’s why. I’ve had a few porters that have been, well, pretty weak. Like, yeah, it’s dark and has a faintly earthy/nutty flavor and nose, but it’s not complex and there’s no body to it.
Now. Half Acre wouldn’t stand for this kind of porter. So they made a good one, perfect for this stupid cold weather. Straight out of the growler and into a pint glass, it’s deep brown but not black with an uneven, bubbly tan head. This smells perfect – roasted malts and a hint of sweetness, but not overpowering on the nuttiness. The taste is very much the same, with just the slightest hint of hops. The body is full, with a balanced, but not heavy, mouthfeel. Plus, at only 6% ABV, this is the perfect beer to pour a big pint, take a healthy swig, and be glad you’re inside where it’s warm.
And thus, my love affair with Half Acre beers continues. Carry on, fellas.
Brewery: Goose Island Beer Company
Beer: Hex Nut Brown Ale, Pint
Style: Brown Ale
POP: Goose Island Wrigleyville
I live on the North side of Chicago. I don’t live in Wrigleyville proper, but I am walking distance from Wrigley Field. Though I’m mostly indifferent about baseball, I did grow up a White Sox fan. So…yeah. But all my friends are Cubs fans, so as such, I’ve been to way more Cubs games than Sox games.
The beginning of August was no exception. My friend Mike, a teacher, had some time in between the end of his grad school classes and when he had to go back to teaching in Indianapolis. Dude headed up here to catch a weekday Cubs game, and I of course accompanied. Because my schedule is flexible like that, and it rules.
Seeing as how I’m pushing 30 and I prefer to drink flavorful beer out of clean glasses, most bars in Wrigleyville aren’t my favorite. But a saving grace for me every time some pregame beers need to be had is Goose Island’s Wrigleyville location. While not as robust of a tap selection as their main Clybourn location, this definitely does the trick.
This day I tried their Hex Nut Brown Ale, formerly just the Nut Brown Ale, and now only available on tap in brewpubs. (This article explains why – that basically everyone’s going gaga for Belgians and IPA’s right now, and since breweries have to keep the lights on, are brewing the more popular styles.) Goose Island’s brown ale comes in a pint, cold and with a foamy off-white head. The taste presents hints of chocolate and lots of malt flavor with a low carbonation, almost creamy feel. I do find it to be a little lacking in flavor though. I would describe it as watery, but that would take away from the excellent texture of this beer. Maybe I just wanted a fuller finish. A sessionable beer for sure, and now a rarity.
Brewery: Revolution Brewing Company / Three Floyds Brewing Company
Beer: Sodom (snifter) & Gomorrah (pint)
Style: Russian Imperial Stout, Small Stout
POP: Revolution Brewing Company, Chicago
Price: $9 snifter, $5 pint
Sometimes I struggle with whether or not to post about limited-run beers that I know are gone. Most of the time I spend so much time worrying and procrastinating (a debilitating vicious cycle, as Hyperbole and a Half demonstrates here and here) that by the time I reach ultimatum time, the release is so far past that it wouldn’t even matter.
But dammit, I’m gonna crank this one out while at least one of these beers is still on tap, and the other one is still alive in recent memory and not just my poorly typed iPhone notes and beer-stained thoughts.
The fine folks at Revolution Brewing Company here in Chicago and 3 Floyds Brewing Company met to do a collaboration on two half-batches of beer from the same full batch mash, a method called parti-gyle. The end result was Sodom and Gomorrah, a Russian Imperial Stout and a small stout, respectively. Hearing that the last keg of Sodom was on the ropes, I took a break from work (freelance FTW) and biked over to Rev for lunch.
Sodom, the big Russian Imperial Stout, is an 11% monster poured into a snifter. Tastes just as bold as Revolution/3 Floyds described, but with the chalky feeling and hint of semi-sweet chocolate on the palate, which I did not expect. It works quite well for this beer. The medium sized brown head sticks around on top and on the sides of the glass throughout the whole beer, with an oily residue that stains the glass a pale copper. As it warms, the finish becomes nice and sticky-sweet. Phenomenal.
Of course, I couldn’t leave without a pint of the Gomorrah small stout. Comparable to a dry stout, it’s poured straight up in a pint glass, a deep brown with an off-white head. Gomorrah is the Danny DeVito to Sodom’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. A bit watery, but purposefully thin, instead of savoring tiny sips of Sodom, Gomorrah begs you to take a big swig and peer out the window onto sunny, bustling Milwaukee Avenue. A perfect beer for a warm-but-starting-to-feel-like-fall day. The coffee notes come through more than the chocolate did in Sodom, and the hops are subtle and subdued more than I expected. While I like this as a cool concept beer, it might not stand on it’s own.
Overall, a cool collaboration. And hey, I even learned something about a brewing style I’d never heard of before.
*As of this posting, I’m sure Revolution is tapped out of Sodom. No idea about the 3 Floyds brewpub. Gomorrah is still available on tap.
Beer: Duvel Green, on draft
Style: Belgian Pale
POP: Witts, Chicago, IL
Trivia! Wednesday night is pub trivia night at Witts, where a couple friends and I have been making occasional efforts in brain power. The regulars include a new beer student prodigy, who, I’m proud to say, has graduated from downing Bud Light to loving porters. Porters! Call me Obi Wan. The student has become the teacher. Or something.
I had seen Duvel Green a couple of places, but have initially been skeptical. I like Duvel, but sometimes I just have to be in the right mood for it. Our refreshingly knowledgeable server described it as “green…as in new or fresh”: fresh hopped and single-fermented, unlike the double-fermented bottle conditioned Duvel of old. Of course, a single-fermented and cold-filtered beer is going to be more clean and crisp than a normal bottle of Duvel. Considering it was a perfect summer evening and we were outside, this sounded like an absolute winner.
And my goodness it was. For as many “summer ales” or whatever that are out there, this one actually delivers. Poured into a specialty Duvel Green tulip glass, it presents a huge, frothy white head atop a transparent bright gold liquid, much like we’re used to with the original. The first smell and sip reminds you that this is very much a Duvel product – crisp, lively carbonation, distinguishable yeast flavor – but better. The dry finish makes Duvel Green stand out from the original. This beer only presents a minimal aftertaste of very mild hops that can kind of be described as “grassy,” sticking with the “green” concept. Plus, at 6.8% ABV, this makes for a very sessionable summer beer.
Duvel USA’s Sommelier gives an even better comparison here at GreatBrewers.com. But I do have to ask: When are they going to stop using “Sommelier” and pick up the properly named, beer-specific “Cicerone” title? This distinction needs to gain acceptance, and it needs to come from brewers like Duvel.
Two things regarding our server at Witts: First, dear server, your description was spot-on perfect and not full of useless adjectives (which us beer people, this writer included, are known to do). Second, thank you for pronouncing it “DOO-vull”, not “doo-VELL” like so many wannabes. I know Witts doesn’t get street cred for being a beer bar due to its limited number of taps and location nowhere near the über-hip Blue Line neighborhoods, but this spot is a gem for those of us in the neighborhood.
Brewery: New Belgium Brewing Company
Beer: New Belgium Trippel, 12 oz. bottle
Style: Belgian Trippel
POP: Whole Foods, Lakeview, Chicago
Price: $9.99, 6-pack
You may remember from a previous post that I was geeked up by the (apparent) arrival of New Belgium Trippel to the Chicago market. See, that post was in February, and I was supposed to see this beer hitting shelves sometime in April. Well hi there, it’s late July, and I finally picked up my first sixer of this bad boy last week. Although, it was the last one on the shelf at Whole Foods, so I’d say I might not have been the only person anxiously waiting its arrival.
Anyway. It’s here. And it’s in the new style packaging. As always, poured into my lovely Dogfish Head globe glass, this looks like everything that a nice trippel should be: golden-amber hued with a slowly rising and dissipating white head.
I don’t know that I’ve ever known what coriander tastes like before this, although I suppose I could say that it’s the magic ingredient in the New Belgium Trippel that makes it so wonderful. It’s got a bit of a crisp hop bite to it, but not a whole lot. But it’s an interesting bite – which, after raiding my spice rack for a sample, I can definitely say is coriander. The finish is crisp and clean, more so than a few other trippels that have a lingering yeasty flavor. This is a great beer for summer, and the fact that it comes in easily portable 12 oz. bottles encourages sipping this beer outside in the fading summer sun.
Final verdict: At $9 or $10 a six pack, I’d put this up against a lot of more expensive (and real) Belgian trippels. I’ll buy it whenever I see it, which hasn’t been a whole lot.