Monday, October 6, 2014

The Best Thing I Swallowed on Sunday Episode 18

Welcome to Sunday Swallow, where I choose three interesting beers that are new to the Hopleaf's tap menu--or at least me. Another Bears game provided me ample time to consider my choices before the post-game rush. This week, I had a very tough time picking my favorite beer. There's always a lot of good stuff on tap, but today we had some very exceptional options. I narrowed my selections to Firestone Walker's Double DBA, L'Abbeye de St. Bon Chien by BFM, and The Machine pale ale from local hero Marz Community Brewing.

Double DBA, L'Abbeye De Saint Bon-Chien, and The Machine

Hopleaf was lucky enough to acquire a keg of Firestone Walker's rare Double DBA (Double Barrel Ale). Double DBA is an imperial special bitter that packs a punch at 12% ABV. Its appearance is dark amber and it holds a thin head with a bit of effervescence. The aroma is pure toffee, which comes from the generous use of malt. The flavor generally matches the nose, with a rich, malt-toffee sweetness. Double DBA provides plenty of alcohol warmth as it makes its way down the back of the tongue. There is a little effervescence in the mouthfeel in this full-bodied ale. There's a reason brewers like to age their beers in some sort of barrel--it makes them extra delicious. Double DBA sits in American oak, and the effects are wondrous. Had it not been for my next selection, Firestone would've carried the day.

We've had some really great sours on tap at Hopleaf over the past few months. Duchesse de Bourgogne made a return to draft after many years of only seeing it in bottles. As much as I would've liked to include it in today's review, I'm quite familiar with the Duchesse. Therefore, I choose another sour ale as her champion.

Even if I didn't really enjoy the flavor of L'Abbeye De Saint Bon-Chien as much as I did, I would have to award it today's top honor simply because of the sheer effort that went into making this powerful, flavor-filled sour ale. Brasserie des Franches-Montangnes, located in Switzerland, brews sour ales on occasion. The keg of Saint Bon-Chien currently on tap is a sour from 2010. After the brewing process, this beer is separated into eleven (!) different wine barrels where it ages for a year. Post aging, the barrels are blended back together for a delightful mixture of sour goodness. I allowed this to warm quite a bit before giving it a sip so that I could enjoy as many of the flavors it holds as possible. At 11% ABV, Saint Bon-Chien is stronger than your average sour by a long-shot. Even though I drank only a few ounces, combined with the Double DBA, I was feeling quite warm after this review. Saint Bon-Chien (named after the brewery's first cat, ironically named "Good Dog") has a dark, reddish-brown complexion. There is little foam or carbonation in this sour to speak of, which is not entirely unusual for the style. Saint Bon-Chien has the classic sweet funky aroma of a good sour beer. There is also a trace of wood in the nose. It is very tart and funky. The acidity works its way across the tongue and even hits the back of the throat. A lingering sweetness coats the entire mouth. Its much more sweet than the typical Flemish sour, which tend to exhibit oak, vanilla, or vinegar notes. Perhaps the wine barrels are responsible for this effect? In any case, this Swiss sour is great by any definition and is the best thing that I swallowed on Sunday.

I'm very excited about the last beer in this episode. Marz Community Brewing is a perfect example of the great brewing scene that is quickly evolving in Chicago. This is a collective of amateur brewers turned pro who are clearly rooted in Bridgeport with beers named after the iconic Bubbly Creek or simply The Machine (a reference to the powerful Democratic organization that has run city and state politics since at least the 1930s). The Machine pale ale is the brain-child of Tim Lange (each of the individuals get to create beers on their Psychobrew system), and he has every right to be proud of his creation. Lange blended Warrior, Amarillo, Simcoe, and Nelson Sauvin hops into one of the most floral pale ales I've had the pleasure of drinking in a long time. The Machine is clear, golden, and with nice head that dissipates quickly. The aroma of this pale ale is simply mind-blowing. It's so floral and hoppy. You steel yourself for what should be a bitter, palate wrecking hop bomb only to be greeted by a very friendly and highly drinkable beer. This is a plus, at least in my book. The flavor is rewarding, much like a cool breeze on a hot day. Light and drinkable doesn't even begin to do justice to The Machine. Don't make no waves--find this beer and drink it.

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