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.