Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Half Acre!

Monthly Beer Social at the Hopleaf Welcomes Half Acre Brewing!

Come hang out with a stalwart of Chicago's craft beer movement! Half Acre has been on the scene in Chicago since way back in 2006, churning out great brews and paving the way for the current explosion in local breweries. I'm sure we'll talk about this, and probably about the newly-operational second brewery in Bowmanville. Oh, and there's a rumor that Big Hugs will make an appearance on the Hopleaf's taps for this event!

$25 grants you access to what promises to be an interesting talk while sampling four beers and enjoying some tasty snacks from the Hopleaf.

Tuesday, December 8 at 7:30 PM in the upstairs bar of the Hopleaf.

Brown Paper Tickets

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Rare Lambic Tasting: Hanssens

I haven't posted much original material in some time, but felt inspired enough by an event on November 5th that I thought it was time to write something more substantial. I was running late to this event, which I was supposed to be bartending, so things were not looking good. However, my mood quickly brightened when I remembered that this was the evening that the Hopleaf was tapping five kegs of rarely seen on draft Hanssens sour ales.

Hanssens was founded in 1896, when Bartholome Hanssens bought a farm in Dworp, which he converted into a brewery. During the First World War, the Germans occupied Belgium and took the copper and metal from many local breweries, including Hanssens. Thus, brewing was no longer an option for Hanssens. In 1918, Hanssens blended beer purchased from neighboring brewers to produce lambics and geuze. Since then, Hanssens has purchased beer and put it in barrels with an open bung that allows natural yeast in, causing spontaneous fermentation to occur. These are more traditional lambics, meaning that the sugars are almost fully fermented out of the beer, which results in a more tart and funky/earthy sourness without any hint of residual sweetness. Hanssens lambics stand in stark contrast to the very sugary and commonly available lambics created by Lindemans.

These very traditional and special beers are now being produced by the fourth generation of the Hanssens family. Sidy Hanssens and her husband John Matthys, both of whom have day jobs, continue the family tradition. They have even added some new beers to the Hanssens repertoire. The new experimental raspberry and experimental cassis (black currant) were joined at the Hopleaf by a Geueze, the hard to pronounce Oudbitje (a strawberry lambic), and of course the Scarenbecca Kriek.

The beer that stood out, both in terms of flavor and scarcity, was the Scarenbecca Kriek Lambic. This beer appears only when Hanssens can procure enough cherries from the few remaining cherry trees in the Brussels neighborhood of Schaerbeek (Scarenbecca is a 12th century reference). Prior to succumbing to the pressures of urbanization, this area was filled with cherry orchards whose fruit was primarily destined to become sour beer. Suffice it to say, there are scant few of these Scarenbecca cherries to be found today.

However, there is a strip of what was, following the Second World War, low-income housing, that now contains yards with a variety of fruit trees, including the famed Scarenbecca cherry trees. These cherry trees yield very tart cherries that the owners were not interested in eating. Thus, the cherries simply fell from the trees and rotted. Several years ago, Sidy and John, along with other local lambic blenders, including Cantillion, went around these houses asking if they could pick the cherries. There are not many cherries available, and the harvest can be inconsistent based on multiple factors. Suffice it to say, this is a very rare beer that does not arrive in large quantities. In fact, it wholesales for about one dollar per ounce of liquid.

I would venture, after having tasted the Scarenbecca on draft for the first time, that this sour ale is worth every penny. This beer was simply amazing. There were lovely hints of cherry on the nose. The color was reddish-brown. As is typical for a traditional lambic, there was no carbonation. The tartness of the cherries was quickly replaced by an earthy funk in what is a very complex ale.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Forbidden Root!

Beers and Big Shoulders welcomes Chicago's Forbidden Root Brewery, maker of botanic beers that have intrigued our taste buds since arriving in the Chicago market about one year ago. Randy Mosher, Robert Finkel, and BJ Pichman teamed up to create some very tasty beers using unique ingredients. Here's your chance to try the beers for yourself and get to know some of the fine people who are making the beer world a better place.

Tuesday, Novemeber 10 at 7:30 PM in the upstairs bar of the Hopleaf. Tickets are limited to 30 guests and can be purchased in advance at Brown Paper Tickets.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Ten Ninety Brewing!

Ten Ninety Brewing will be the next guest at the Monthly Beer Social! This brewery has made an impression with their high gravity beers. Come meet the brewers on Tuesday, October 13 at 7:30 PM in the upstairs bar of the Hopleaf (5148 N. Clark St.). Tickets cost $25 and include four beer samples, delicious treats from the Hopleaf's kitchen, and an interesting and entertaining opportunity to get to know more about Chicago's ever-expanding craft beer scene.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Temperance Beer Co.!

Thanks to everyone who has been coming to the Monthly Beer Social! We've been having a lot of fun while getting to know the people who make the beers we all love to drink.

We'll be keeping the ball rolling in September when Temperance Beer Company joins us on Tuesday, September 8 at 7:30 PM in the upstairs bar of the Hopleaf. Tickets are $25 and include four samples of Temperance beers, delicious snacks by the talented chefs at the Hopleaf, and an informative and entertaining talk with Evanston's first craft brewery.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Spiteful Brewing!

Spiteful Brewing will be the next guest of the Monthly Beer Social on Tuesday, August 11 at 7:30 PM at the Hopleaf's upstairs bar (5148 N. Clark St.). Come for the amazing beers and delicious snacks, stay for the fun and entertainment. Learn about one of my favorite Chicago nano-breweries that churns out superb beers at a frightening pace. Tickets are $25 and include four beer samples, some tasty snacks from the Hopleaf, and a chance to get to know the people that make Chicago a great beer town.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Metropolitan and Off Color Brewing at the Monthly Beer Social

The third installment of the Monthly Beer Social is close at hand! On Tuesday, July 14 at 7:30 PM at the Hopleaf, Metropolitan Brewing and Off Color Brewing will be my guests. We will, among other things, be discussing their decision to break with the prevailing IPA trend in craft beer by brewing lagers and other German-style beers. Please join us by clicking on the link: