Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pipeworks Brewing Co. Kate's Weirdo Wit

Pipeworks Brewing Co. (Chicago, IL) Kate's Weirdo Wit. 8 % ABV.
Imperial Wit Beer Brewed with Lemon Grass, Thai Basil, and Kaffir Lime Leaves. You might have noticed that I drink/review a lot of beers from Pipeworks. You might therefore surmise that I also favor this brewery's beers. Back to the task at hand, however. This is a respectable beer review blog, as you're by now fully aware. Kate's Weirdo Wit (a "weird beer" that uses unusual ingredients for a particular style of beer) pours with a nice amount of foam that dissipates quickly. The nose is almost sweet (Belgian wit yeast in there, friend), with just a hint of the lemon grass. It has a hazy amber color that beckons you to put the glass to your lips. Once you do so, you will be rewarded with a delightful take on the Belgian witbier. The lemon grass and basil are well pronounced, and the sweetness is cut with a nice touch of hops that creates a nice finish. Go grab a bottle today, otherwise you'll probably never get to try this beer, ever.

Pipeworks Brewing Co. Poivre Vert Saison

Pipeworks Brewing Co. (Chicago, IL) Poivre Vert (7% ABV)
We got this beer on draft at work on Monday, it was gone by Tuesday evening (1/6 keg). That's pretty fast for something that was not advertised at Hopleaf. There was a pretty good reason why it did not last; it is a good beer. This is a saison style beer brewed with peppercorns, celery seed, and cucumber. Since I'm working from memory, this will be a short review. This was a rare clear beer from Pipeworks, since their beers are typically unfiltered. It was cool and refreshing, sorta like a cucumber. The cucumber stood out, as did the peppercorns. That is all.

Update: October 8, 2014
I drank my final bottle of Poivre Vert last night. It was amazing. This is probably one of the great beers that makes Pipeworks my current favorite local brewery. They make a lot of beer; some good, some so-so, and some that are outstanding. Even their so-so beers consistently outperform many other breweries by simply avoiding some of the common off-flavors that frequently plague new microbreweries--though I've been highly impressed with the new breweries that are popping up all over Chicago lately. Nonetheless, Poivre Vert is a great beer and I would encourage Pipeworks to revisit this batch in the future, or at least make another saison with such ambitious ingredients.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Solemn Oath Wreckage Master

Solemn Oath (Naperville, IL) Wreckage Master American Double IPA
In case you haven't already deduced from my previous reviews, I like Solemn Oath Brewery a whole lot. I'm always happy to try new beers at work--such a crushing burden, I assure you--but I'm super happy when a new beer arrives from Naperville, or when one that I've already had rotates back into the bar. Though I certainly like the whole gamut of Solemn Oath's beer production, I'm particularly fond of their IPA's. Wreckage Master is no exception. The product description is as follows: "Juicy American Hop Character with Notes of Ripe Citrus and Tropical Fruit Accompany an Assertive Bitterness and Light Caramel Malt Backbone." Basically a bigger version of Snaggletooth Bandana, Wreckage Master possesses a orange-straw color and gives off a malty aroma. The citrusy hops are highly pronounced initially and linger well into the aftertaste; no surprise given that this DIPA clocks in at 115 IBU's. 8.5% ABV.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Solemn Oath Scare Ball Imperial Pilsner

Solemn Oath (Naperville, IL) Scare Ball Imperial Pilsner
Product Description: "Bready, Honeyed Pils Malt Sweetness Dominated by a Bold Fruity, Floral Hop Profile and an Intense, Lingering Bitterness."The description on the website differs from the one on the bottle, and it seems more accurate, in my opinion. This is a light-bodied, golden lager with a clean aroma and finish, but with an aggressive hop finish that lingers on the back of the tongue. The bottle says this is 9.4%, while the website states 7.8%. Either way, it's definitely an imperial pilsner. And I would easily recommend it to anyone who prefers a dry, hoppy pilsner.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Half Acre Brewery

Thanks to a fun morning spent at the Half Acre Brewery this past Friday, the day after a beer dinner pairing Maine Beer Co. and Half Acre beers at Hopleaf and upon the official release of Galactic Double Daisy Cutter, I had the chance to drink quite a few Half Acre beers (and some Maine beers as well). While Half Acre and Maine brewers were busy making a collaboration beer (a very hoppy pale ale) and nursing their hangovers, I was able to take a look around the brewery and sample some Galactic Double Daisy Cutter from the firkin in the tap room.

Half Acre has made a name for itself in and around Chicago for its hoppy beers, and the selection of beers described below are no exception to the hop-heavy rule.

Akari Shogun is an American Wheat Ale filled with Motueka hops clocking in at 5.5% ABV. Very hoppy aroma with hints of sweetness, has a hazy golden straw color. Hops hit your mouth immediately, followed by delicious refreshing wheat beer goodness. A perfect beer for the warm weather that has thankfully arrived in Chicago; it has become one of my go to summer beverages.                                                                      

Galactic Double Daisy Cutter will teach you what Galaxy hops taste like. As mentioned, I was able to sample some of this on its May 16th release date (brewed to coincide with Chicago Craft Beer Week) from a firkin. Later that evening, I drank a half pint out of a normal keg. It has a beautiful orange color, with strong citrus aromas and flavor. Did I mention that it's very hoppy?                                                                      

Pony Pilsner is another summer release. It's a German style pilsner that is both hoppy and crisp. 5.8% ABV. It pours with a decent head, has a light, golden color, and a nice, clean pils aroma. It's light-bodied and leaves just a touch of lingering hoppiness in its finish.

Golden Tuna is a great session pale ale at 4.7% ABV. It is incredibly well balanced and drinkable, with an upfront piney/citrusy hop profile that finishes nice and clean on the palate. I could drink Golden Tuna all day. This is a limited release ale, but is in consideration for becoming a Half Acre standard based on the positive response it has received.

I tried to review Bonestorm, which was on tap Monday at work. This is a black IPA with lots of pine notes. When I arrived Tuesday, the keg was already gone, suggesting it was a very good and popular beer. Good job Half Acre!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Unibroue Raftman

Unibroue (Chambly, Quebec) Raftman

Belgian Pale Ale brewed with whisky malt, 5.5% ABV. Hazy amber color, thick foamy head. Has the classic Unibroue aroma of sweet Belgian yeast. Fairly carbonated, medium body, thick mouthfeel. Bready, malty sweet flavor. There’s little smoky flavor, which is how the beer is described. Like all of the Unibroue beers, Raftman is a solid, drinkable Belgian-style ale.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New Brewer Showcase

Andersonville Brewing, aka Hamburger Mary's, hosted the New Brewer Showcase this evening as a part of Chicago Craft Beer Week. It was a pretty low-key event, but I attended to see what Slapshot and Bucket List would be offering. I was not disappointed.

Slapshot was pouring an English porter that was solid; filled with malted roastedness and plenty of coffee goodness.

Bucket List arrived with Hell Fire Club, which I had already had a chance to enjoy at Mash Tun's New Wave Brewers Bash in early May. This is a highly drinkable English brown ale, and I was happy to drink it again. However, I was really hoping to get a chance to taste Tai Hei, Bucket List's sublime white IPA. Sadly, it was not available; although I was not disappointed in any way by its replacement: Farm Team. Farm Team is a Belgian rye farmhouse ale (6.1%). The rye cuts the sweetness perfectly, meaning I could really drink a lot of this saison.

Bucket List is on my List of New Chicago Breweries to Watch

Pipeworks Brewing Co. Bunny & the Bird

Pipeworks Brewing Co. (Chicago, IL) Bunny & the Bird

Imperial British Style IPA, 9% ABV. English malt and yeast combined with East Kent Golding, El Dorado, and Nelson Sauvin hops. Dark copper color with a little head that dissipates quickly. Its aroma is a bit like acetone. Clean opening with a not unpleasant bitter finish that hits the back of the throat and lingers on the tongue. Not overwhelmingly hoppy,which is what one expects from an English style IPA.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pipeworks Brewing Co. Derketo

Pipeworks Brewing Co. (Chicago, IL) Derketo

Imperial Belgian Style IPA, 10% ABV. Galaxy and Amarillo hops combined with Belgian wit yeast, produces a clean, floral aroma. As this is an unfiltered beer, it produces a cloudy, dark straw color. The hops are not overwhelming, with a touch of sweetness in the finish, which is characteristic of double IPA’s, especially if they have Belgian yeast in them.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Solemn Oath Kidnapped by Vikings

Solemn Oath (Naperville, IL) Kidnapped by Vikings

IPA, 6% ABV. Product description: “Caramel malt sweetness is dominated by a piney, resinous hop character with notes of grapefruit in this American style India Pale Ale.” Like all Solemn Oath IPA’s, this is great. A standout beer with a clean aroma, dark amber color that suggests its resinous flavor. I’m a huge fan of Solemn Oath, and they deliver another amazing IPA with Kidnapped by Vikings.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Solemn Oath Whisper Kisses Saison

Solemn Oath (Naperville, IL) Whisper Kisses
Saison, 8.3% ABV. Product description: “Light bodied farmhouse ale with a bready malt sweetness and floral, fruity hop character. French saison yeast lends a tart, earthy balance with a dry finish.” Bready, sweet aroma with a hazy wheat/straw color. Bready, hops really stand out in the finish. Sweet aftertaste, but very hoppy as well--a strange effect. The high ABV is a bit of an issue for me. Saisons are traditionally a wide open style, but historically intended to quench the thirst of seasonal farm laborers. Somehow, the ABV on these beers has crept up in the ensuing time. It’s supposed to be a beverage, not a big beer--although some saisons do reach the 8% mark. However, I can understand, from the perspective of the brewers and many consumers, why they would want to make sure that a bomber has enough kick to it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mash Tun New Wave Brewers Bash Highlights

Saturday May 3, 2014

Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S. Morgan St.

Look! I took the same photograph as everyone else!

Mash Tun Journal, Chicago's craft beer-centric journal, hosted an amazing beer tasting event for Chicagoland's newest breweries in Bridgeport last Saturday. A couple of us from Beers and Big Shoulders attended; our general impressions were that this was a fun, informative event that introduced us to a lot of new local breweries and beers. We also felt that each of these breweries came with some very good stuff, too much to go into in a short amount of space. Therefore, it is prudent to simply share some of the high points from this event.

Forbidden Root really stood out. Randy Mosher has teamed up with Robert Finkel and BJ Pichman to spend a lot of time creating some very interesting flavors using botanicals. Sublime Ginger is a wheat beer that is full of real ginger flavor and aromatics--you get a little burn from it, like when smelling chopped Ginger. It has a nice, bright, easy lime note. 
The licorice porter is crazy, and unlike any other I've had. It's delicious, but maybe not drinkable in the long-term. More than one pint would be hard on the palate.

The cacao stout is really nice, but mostly because of the magnolia flower, which adds a "dankness" and clean green flavor that is intense and refreshing simultaneously. Totally clears the palate at the end of each sip, which is needed, because the cacao had an upfront tannin--the order of flavours was unusual.
One can only imagine the number of test batches these guys had to go through in order to create the deliciousness that is Forbidden Root.

Marz Community Brewing brought four beers, three of which I would drink anytime, anyplace. The Berlinerweiss was a tad too lemony for my taste, but the white IPA, Albino Bezerker (collaboration with Lake Effect Brewery), was superb. Think fresh Deschutes Chainbreaker. They were also serving two variations of an amber ale. The first was aged in oak, and the second in cherry wood. The oak variant was deliciously subtle and mellow, but the cherry wood was sublime, a close second favorite beer of the event.

Slapshot Brewery just started in January, and will begin distribution in June. Slapshot showed up with an ESB, 

Leather Leisure Suit,

 that was the perfect session beer. They also poured a very respectable IPA using Simcoe hops, the name of which escapes me. For those of you who like great sessionable beers, keep an eye on Slapshot. 

Bucket List was, in my opinion, another standout brewery. Right now they are sharing brewing space with Slapshot. They were pouring two very delicious ales: Hell Fire Club is an English style brown ale using El Durado hops, 7.5%. Tai Hei is a white IPA brewed with Sorachi Ace and Mandarina Bavaria hops. At 5.4%, this was a very sessionable beer with a great lemon-citrus flavor. Tai Hei was our favorite beer that day, which is saying a great deal, given the company that Bucket List was keeping.

Honorable mentions go to the following:

Cahoots Brewing brought No More S'more Stout, an imperial vanilla stout brewed with scotch soaked vanilla beans. Delicious.
Dryhop was pouring a double IPA called Blast from the Underworld IPA. It is super hoppy at 100 IBUs, but surprisingly light and dry, and not sweet. This beer has great potential as something lots of people could crave. 
Middle Brow Brewery had an Oud Bruin Tafelbier (Junta) that, despite a 3.5% ABV, had an amazing amount of flavor. It was brewed in collaboration with Transient Artisan Ales.
18th Street Brewery had a really nice pale ale (Lead Pipe Pale), but the standout was Soft & Sexy, a French saison. This was brewed with Breakroom Brewing. It was sweet at the start, but quite hoppy in the finish, which was a good thing in this instance.

Good things are happening in Chicago, and based on this great event, Chicago beer lovers have a lot to look forward with the arrival and growth of these new breweries.

Special thanks to Charitianne for keeping and sharing good notes when I stopped making sense.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fizzle Fizzle POP!

Hey Hey! The gang's all here! Well, except Pitt, who had to rush off to work.
Welcome to the first edition of Beers & Big Shoulders! We’re excited to kick off Chicago’s newest source of information about craft brewing and hope you will find our videos and blog interesting.

On a dreary day late in March, we gathered to drink beers, talk about them, and film ourselves while so doing. While this blog post is a poor substitute for the magic that transpired under the gaze of the camera--missing our witty, insightful banter--it shall have to suffice. Sadly, technical issues have eighty-sixed our first attempt at creating a video review. Rather than allow our efforts to go to waste, however, I’ve decided to post our first episode here to allow you, dear reader, a glimpse of our potential greatness.

All hands were present for this inaugural event, meaning Pitt, Joe, John, Mighty Slim, Charitianne, and myself (Mark). Beers & Big Shoulders, hoping to nudge warmer weather along, picked out six beers that evoke springtime. Saisons dominated our choices, but we also included a witbier, a nut brown ale, and a German-style bock.

We kicked things off with Brasserie Caracole's Troublette, a witbier from Falmignoul, Belgium. Pitt, who kindly declined to show his face for this posting, selected this beer, and it was delicious. As you can see below, Troublette pours with a nice foamy head and has a hazy, orange hue with plenty of yeasty sediment present. This light-bodied witbier is perfect for warmer days, with its slightly tart--hints of brett funk--and citrus aftertaste. We couldn't recommend this beer enough.

Next, we enjoyed St. Feuillien Saison. Johnny selected this, the first of the session's saison style beer, which is a classic. This is a traditional Belgian farmhouse ale, with a large head and warm, blonde color. This somewhat hoppy ale undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle. In any case, we all really enjoyed finishing off this bottle, which provided a great introduction to the saison style.

Who wouldn't be smiling after drinking such a great beer?
Charitianne went with local Pipeworks Brewery’s saison, Catch of a Lifetime, which turned out to be the crowd pleaser of the day. If you haven't already drunk something from Chicago's Pipeworks, do yourself a huge favor and find out why this brewery is listed as one of the world's best by RateBeer. This very yeasty saison, brewed with Meyer lemons and chamomile, is no longer available--probably because I fell in love with it and bought as many bottles as my budget would allow (I'm also out, by the way, having consumed my last bottle a few days ago).

I'm sorry that I drank your share of Catch of a Lifetime.

Yours truly, Mark, also went local with a saison, a collaboration from Chicago’s DryHop Brewery and Haymarket Brewery and Pub called Snuffleupagus Is A Muppet. I picked up a growler of this beer the day prior to our tasting, which gave me a chance to visit Haymarket on the way home from work. Haymarket opened in late 2010. Pete Crowley joined forces with DryHop Brewpub's (2013) Brant Dubovick to create this light and delicious India pale saison. DryHop utilized Galaxy and Mosaic hops in its version (Snuffleupagus Is Not A Muppet), which I drank while purchasing my growler. Snuffleupagus Is A Muppet used Centennial and Amarillo hops. Haymarket is brewing a solid lineup of beers, and this saison, with its light bodied, well-balanced bitter finish, is a great addition.

Then we changed pace, heading away from the light saisons toward dark and delicious. For our first non-saison, we went north of the Illinois border with New Glarus’ Fat Squirrel. Mighty Slim chose this beer because it was what he often likes to drink after a little springtime yardwork. Although this beer is only sold in Wisconsin, we didn’t have to go far, as Mighty apparently has a fridge well stocked with beers from New Glarus. And we can see why Mighty prefers to drink this malty, refreshing amber after a day working outside. Fat Squirrel is a great example of a nut brown ale--dark amber color, malty goodness followed by a refreshing, yet not overpowering, sweetness.

Last and certainly not least, we drank Red Velvet, the most obscure beer of the day. Brewed by Baderbräu, Red Velvet is a delicious German style bock beer, brewed to be consumed during Easter time. Joe somehow discovered this Chicago brewery, which is on its second life. After much effort, Joe was able to locate a six pack of Red Velvet, which is a classic example of a bock beer. Bocks tend to be strong (Red Velvet is 6% ABV), dark gold to amber in color, full-bodied with a malty, sweet flavor.

And that concludes our first round of beer reviews. Clearly, saisons and lighter, wheat beers dominated our selections, with two exceptions. Our group's warm weather preferences are probably typical for most beer lovers. There are some who might not be familiar with the rather broad category of saison ales. The "season" style originates from farmhouse breweries and was intended as a refreshing beverage to quench the thirst of migrant laborers who arrived for the harvest on Belgian farms along the French border. The beer was typically brewed during winter and drunk in summer. Saisons tend to be light, dry, and hoppy, although the style is wide open to interpretation.
Thanks for reading, and hopefully we’ll resolve the technical issues and get the next episode on youtube so that you can have as much fun as we did.

Mighty Slim, Joe, and Charitianne finishing off the leftovers.