ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: April 2020
The pivot to curbside and delivery service for breweries, bars, and bottle shops has given something of a second life to many businesses and has redefined beer buying for the consumer. It won’t solve everything, and out-of-work employees of these establishments still need as much support as they can get. But it’s been a relief in all this worry that one can still get incredible fresh beer that directly benefits the people producing it. So, we’ve included links of how you can buy from the breweries on this list. Staying home is both necessary and terribly boring at times, but having a rad beer fridge from a little curbside cruise will make your week worth it. Trust us.
Craig’s Mixed Six
Lost Words | Hazy IPA | Around the Bend Beer Co. | Chicago, IL | 6.7% ABV
Order for pickup/delivery here
Sophomore slump? Not here. Lost Words is the second in Around the Bend’s #science series (following Recreational Chemistry) of hazy IPAs. Lost Words features the same scientific bent of Recreational Chemistry with different hops; Amarillo and Sabro in this case. Notes of pineapple, coconut and mint make this a very unique IPA, one that tastes more like a tropical cocktail than a beer. This uniqueness more than makes up for the lack of bitterness present, but hazy IPA people will love this. Don’t sleep on Around the Bend’s #science series.
Small Talk | New England style pale ale | Forbidden Root | Chicago, IL | 4.8% ABV
Order for pickup here
A sub-5% ABV hoppy beer with a ton of flavor? Those don’t come around too often. Small Talk features a ton of grassy notes with loads of citrus and tropical flavors that you would expect in an IPA. Except this is a pale ale. There’s enough juicy notes in there for you haze-individuals out there, but the real star is the bitterness at the end; it keeps you coming back for more. It doesn’t help that it drinks extremely easy and pairs exceedingly well with most foods; I just had it with Forbidden Root’s chicken sandwich and it was great. If Forbidden Root ever does 12-packs of anything, this should be at the top of the list.
Architects of Harmony | Saison with Illinois black locust honey | Keeping Together | Chicago, IL | 6% ABV
Order for cubside here (as well as Half Acre)
Don’t look now, but Chicago is slowly becoming one of the best saison cities in the country and Keeping Together is at the forefront of that movement. Averie Swanson’s second beer deftly follows her first (The Art of Holding Space) in being an extremely delicate, drinkable, and flavorful beer. Architects starts off juicy but finishes dry, with notes of flowers and lemon throughout. Slight notes of sweet honey and spices permeate and a certain balance is maintained throughout. Keeping Together is 2-for-2 on beers so far and there is little reason that they can’t keep the streak alive.
Beezer | New England style IPA | Old Irving Brewing | Chicago, IL | 6.9% ABV – listen
Beer menu here; call 773-916-6421 to order.
Do I really need to write anything about Beezer that hasn’t been said or written already? It won a gold in the hazy IPA category at the Great American Beer Festival last year, after all. The right amount of bitterness combined with just enough juiciness and not too much sweetness makes this an IPA that can appeal to both West Coast devotees and new-school hazy IPA lovers. Do a little quarantine side-by-side with 2018 gold medal winner Le Jus (from Alarmist) and you’ll be the envy of hazy IPA enthusiasts around the country.
Mystic Knot | Barrel-aged Irish Coffee Stout | Third Space Brewing | Milwaukee, WI | 10.5% ABV – listen
Order for curbside pickup here
I’m always wary of Irish coffee stouts. Usually meant to mimic a roastier Bailey’s, they’re the green beer of the craft beer world, typically released around St. Patrick’s Day. Most are well-executed but not very memorable other than its yearly release. Not Mystic Knot. Tons of coffee, a hint of vanilla/cream, a touch of barrel character, a smooth mouthfeel and extremely drinkable. I could easily down a 12oz can of this, failing to realize the 10.5% ABV. Third Space makes a ton of delicious, flavorful beers (Summer Home could’ve easily made this list as well), but the execution of Mystic Knot makes it stand out as not just another barrel-aged coffee stout, but one that I’m very interested in getting every year when it’s released – typically around St. Patrick’s Day.
Breakfast Sauce | Imperial Stout with coffee, vanilla, cinnamon, black tea and chai spices | Transient Artisan Ales/More Brewing | Bridgman, MI | 12.5% ABV – listen
Order for pickup here
A collaboration between Transient and More (when Shaun Berns was the brewer there) released over a year ago, Breakfast Sauce is nothing if not unique. The coffee and some vanilla may be gone after a year, but everything else is making up for it. Reminiscent of a hot toddy or a mulled wine with its warming qualities, Breakfast Sauce excels with its use of cinnamon and chai spices, all the while featuring an ample mouthfeel. The black tea’s contribution makes this beer much easier to drink, both cutting off any potential sweetness and drying it out on the palate. An odd, weird, unique – but well-made and enjoyable – beer.
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Tropic Nights | Hazy Double IPA | Black Lung Brewing Company | Waukegan, IL | 7.5% ABV
Find their beers at fine bottle shops offering curbside or delivery by checking here
This is my sixth beer from this tiny brewery that’s operating on altprop out of ZümBier, and it’s undoubtedly my favorite. Owner Joshua Grubbs sent me a little care package of beers right at the start of quarantine, and they didn’t have to be good, and I’d still have appreciated them. But this is outstanding. The combination of the Vic Secret and Centennial hops is a wonderful discovery. Aromatically, you get huge hits of passionfruit, pine, sweet pineapple, and mint lemonade. Upon tasting, you’re first met with a blast of sharp bitterness and lemon zest that subsides into a more even, but persistent, resinous pine edge. It flits across the palate, effervescent and spiny at points, feeling full but not heavy. A slight passionfruit tartness is a surprising note that peeks out after multiple sips. The sticky hop backend lingers a bit, making it a welcome change from hazy IPAs that leave an odd saccharine sadness in the end. You get more passionfruit orange juice character as it warms and the carb starts to wear off.
Junior Astronaut Juice | Double Dry-Hopped IPA | Illuminated Brew Works | Chicago, IL | 6% ABV
It didn’t register until we actually smelled this beer that the answer was Tang all along. This is probably my favorite discovery on this list, because it’s become essential that I get more of this ASAP. I’ve had some really great Illuminated beers but have passed over them more often than not when considering what I need for my juicy/hazy fix. But no more! The marvelous balance of sweet orange drink and moderately piney hops puts this into perpetual drinking motion. The body feels like it shifts from a slightly fuller hazy at the front to an effervescent pale by the finish. It’s about one of the most refreshing and fully satisfying DDH IPA’s I’ve had in some time.
Dæmon | Belgian Golden Strong Ale | Lo Rez Brewing | Chicago, IL | 8.5% ABV
Order for curbside here
This is entering the pantheon of my favorite beers in the city, as I’ve loved it since back when Dave & Kevin gave us a growler from their as-of-then unopened Pilsen brewery back in – holy shit – 2017. I don’t find that many local brewers are regularly brewing or packaging Belgian Golden Strong Ales. Maybe it’s a taproom experiment for some of the more stylistically diverse breweries, but I don’t know any that are good enough to be a standard. This beer balances between big strong Belgian flavor and a surprisingly easy-drinking body. There are sweet notes of baked pear and bubblegum, with a slightly bitter pepper and floral finish. It’s an 8.5% beer that sneaks up on you, and it’s one you won’t soon forget.
Endless Color | Hoppy Wheat Ale | Maplewood Brewing Company | Chicago, IL | 5.9%
Order curbside pickup here (and sometimes, there’s pizza!)
For once, I decide not to put a hazy IPA on this list. Instead, what we have here is…a hazy hoppy beer. Well, I tried. Aromatically, this is grapefruit, passionfruit, and citrus. Sweet lemonade kisses the lips before it expands into orange pith and pine that lends a bitter finish. But it’s “wheat ale bitter”, not “IPA bitter.” It’s snappy. The body is when you remember that it’s a wheat beer; it’s not fatty and chewy like a NEIPA, but feathery soft and easy in the middle. The last note I took when trying this initially sums it up: “Like holy shit, this beer.”
Easy Keepers | Oatmeal Stout | Pipeworks Brewing Co. | Chicago, IL | 7% ABV
Order for curbside here
Uncomplicated by today’s standards, this one emanates big roasted coffee aromas, with some supporting chocolate and subtle fruit notes. The flavor follows suit and ends with a moderate bitterness that makes it linger far beyond each sip. The body is soft but not thick, and it is firmly 7% – smooth but warming enough to give you a buzz once you realize you’ve already finished half of it. It feels like one of those beers that is actually true to the “We just brew the beers we like to drink” trope, because this is not going to gather any hype. It’s just a damn solid oatmeal stout that’ll make you think of Samuel Smith or Velvet Merlin, and when was the last time you had one of those?
Dreadnaught | Imperial IPA | 3 Floyds Brewing Co. | Munster, IN | 9.1% ABV
Order for curbside here
For a long time, “It’s Not Normal” made a lot of sense with 3 Floyds. Who else was freaking people’s minds with locally-made, fresh hoppy beers in the Chicagoland area like they were for the first two decades of this century? Then, everyone else followed their aggro-model for a while, and then it became “Well, It Used To Be Not Normal” for a time. Somehow, releasing a boozy, bitter, malty imperial IPA is “Not Normal” again, even though this beer is a classic in their lineup. With a label refresh and new packaging in 4-packs of 12-ounce bottles, this one returns to my semi-regular pickup lineup. It’s a big, mean-spirited beer. There’s sweetness like a marmalade biscuit that hits for a second, but the second wave is all muddled citrus fruit. It’s sticky resinous pine bitter finish lingers like an aged sharp cheddar. Alternate between this and 4-pack bottles of Arctic Panzer Wolf, and you’ll be in palate-decimating hop heaven.