ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: August 2021
Each month, we like to highlight twelve beers we found personally interesting, delicious, or exciting from (mostly) local sources with the hopes of passing on our recommendations to those that are interested in reading arbitrary reviews. Some of these drinks were reviewed on the podcast, some were for Patreon-only Low ABVs, and some are just things we bought because we love beer. Here are our highlights for the month of August 2021.
Craig’s Mixed Six
Flume | Double IPA | Battery Steele Brewing | Portland, ME | 8% ABV
Sometimes the best beer doesn’t make it on the show. Having already grabbed a Belleflower DIPA, I took the route of variety and got the milk stout from Battery Steele. But man Flume rocked it. Tons of tropical fruit, a smooth mouthfeel not near approaching the 8% ABV, and some bitterness on the finish had me wanting more. A 4-pack was purchased, but only for the wife to consume. Flume is definitely the flagship beer for Battery Steele – as it should be – and one you should get your hands on if you’re ever in Portland.
Sigil V | Barrel-aged Imperial Stout with cacao nibs and vanilla | Bissell Brothers Brewing Company | Portland, ME | 11.7% ABV
A good way to get on a best of the month list here at ABV Chicago is to nail a childhood food or drink so perfectly you can’t help but take notice. Bissell Brothers’ Sigil V did just that. They nailed the Swiss Miss hot chocolate with the beer. A maybe-too-thin body was relegated irrelevant when big waves of chocolate came rolling on the tongue. A little kick of vanilla near the end simulates the marshmallow of the hot chocolate. Sigil V drinks dangerously low in ABV as you’re basically done with your pour before you know it. Unfortunately there were no cans or bottles of this when I was there!
Point of Confusion | White stout with oats, coffee, cacao nibs, maple syrup and hazelnut | Hitchhiker Brewing | Pittsburgh, PA | 9.2% ABV – listen
Yikes! The can scaries are real on this one. White stouts usually hit me too sweet and with five adjuncts – including maple syrup! – it had me regret pouring so much. Then thankfully I took a sip. Little bits of coffee, chocolate, and hazelnut combined with a creamy mouthfeel, and nothing is overly sweet. The star adjunct, though, rests in the maple syrup. Providing a nice little kiss of sweetness on the finish is exactly what I want out of my maple syrup beers. Too much maple syrup makes the beer difficult to finish, and this one nailed it. All the adjuncts showed up at one point or another and usually not too much. Are my can scaries unfounded?
Say Uhh! | DDH Double IPA | Mikerphone Brewing | Elk Grove Village, IL | 8% ABV – listen
Blind tastings are always fun. Hiding the label and just going on taste usually brings some surprising results like Say Uhh! from Mikerphone. Mikerphone DIPAs are typically sweeter than most of their brethren, but that’s not the case with Say Uhh! Not too sweet, a nice bitter finish and a creamy mouthfeel really helps this one rise above the rest. Somehow there’s a big coconut or wood presence on the beer (although no Sabro), making it smell and taste closer to a pina colada. Mikerphone’s been on a nice run recently, especially with non-adjuncted barrel-aged stouts. Watch out if their hoppy stuff starts to remind me of Special Sauce Batch 1!
V.S.O.J. (2021) | Barrel-aged barleywine | Revolution Brewing | Chicago, IL | 15% ABV – listen
You knew this one had to be here. While not as earth-shatteringly amazing as the first one, V.S.O.J. 2021 still takes its place as one of the best BA barleywines in the country. While the big chocolate notes from the first release are less present, the smoothness and drinkability are still there. When a can of 15% ABV beer goes down so quickly that you’re amenable to opening another can, that’s saying something about the barrel-aging process at Revolution. Butterscotch, caramel, toffee and vanilla still dominate things, the smoothness can’t be beat, and this sipper just screams for a fire pit in the autumn.
Oktoberfest | Märzen | von Trapp Brewing | Stowe, VT | 5.6% ABV
I’m not immune to environment. Having von Trapp’s Oktoberfest in their taproom enjoying some absolutely astounding food while looking out at the Green Mountains while in Stowe probably influenced my opinion on it. Whatever. (Editor’s note: humble brag, much??) von Trapp’s Oktoberfest does everything a Märzen should do. Nice bready notes, a little sweetness from the malt, and a lager-like finish. Of course it paired perfectly with their “I’ll pay to have these shipped to me in Chicago” pork belly side. I debated on whether to grab this for our upcoming Vermont show or not. Let’s hope I made the right decision.
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Heady Topper | Double IPA | The Alchemist | Stowe, VT | 8% ABV – listen
Long before the boom of IPAs in 16-ounce cans – even before the advent of what we now call Hazy or New England-style IPAs – this was one of only a few highly coveted American Double IPAs with a relatively tiny footprint. (Only Pliny the Elder rivaled it in terms of desirability and legacy, in my opinion.) So, it’s good to know that despite The Alchemist expanding their production significantly over the last decade and the sweeping changes to the beer industry, Heady is still in high demand. Revisiting this beer for the first time in nearly five years, I was still blown away. And the can’s insistence is correct – there is a noticeable drop in flavor and aroma once it is poured in the glass, so keep your Teku out of it. The bitterness moves in waves throughout the sip, lingering in the back to remove any semblance of its ABV and pushing you back to the can for another. It’s as good as it ever was.
Arketype: Almond Fudge Macaroon | Imperial Stout w/ almond, cocoa nibs, and coconut | More Brewing Company | Villa Park & Huntley, IL | 14% ABV – listen
We like to use the phrase “table the label” when referring to a beer that might not deliver all of its promises but is still an incredible drink. This enormous stout promises a sticky pastry sweetness but instead delivers…an immaculately constructed rich stout that isn’t overly saccharine with adjuncts. For shame! If this one gets docked in any reviews, it’s for those expecting a liquid cookie – and they wouldn’t be wrong, based on the name. But it’s hard to deny that this is a sumptuous stout even without the obvious dessert character, and I could just dunk a cookie in it if I really need the excess.
Just Down The Road | Double IPA | Phase Three Brewing Company & Roaring Table Brewing Company | Lake Zurich, IL | 7.5% ABV – listen
These two Lake Zurich-based breweries independently make a great variety of both hazy and West Coast IPAs. So when they come together to make a West Coast-inspired hazy Double IPA, the best of both worlds collide. On the aroma, there’s some stank of onion, aloe plant, muskmelon, and watermelon candy. The flavor centers around this bitterness that comes on steady and increases up to the finish, before drying out and leaving a little citrus zest. There are some more traditional “hazy” fruit flavors like melon, orange, and pineapple before the wave of bitterness kicks in. It’s a delightful mashup.
Riot | Keller Pils | Revolution Brewing | Chicago, IL | 4.8% ABV – listen
Though we may be in the twilight of a Hot Rev Summer, we’re eager to transition into a Rev Festbier Fall before barreling into another Deep Wood Winter. Naturally, people tend to be a bit more excited over an extended-aged barleywine than a Keller Pils when it comes to summer releases, but I hardly encountered a more fulfilling and refreshing beer this summer than Riot. Pouring picturesque and golden clear with a steady stream of nucleation, this plush-bodied pilsner brings a mix of earthy and floral hops to complement the doughy biscuit malt. It all ends crisp while demanding repeated sips, and I hope it’ll continue to be a seasonal release – and not face the same sad fate as their excellent discontinued Kölsch, Ghost Ride. (RIP Ghost Ride.)
Doppelbock | Doppelbock | Riggs Beer Company | Urbana, IL | 8% ABV – listen (Patreon only)
We have our fair share of lagermeisters here in the more immediate Chicagoland area, but if you find yourself down where the Illini play, Riggs is your must-stop destination for beers that use terms like double decoction in the sexiest way imaginable. This doppelbock is about as good as they come. Inviting, complex aromas of baked pears, figs, nutmeg, and cranberry bread waft from the glass. The 8% ABV is not exactly hidden, and it’s part of what contributes to the beer’s substantial flavor. There’s a touch of deeply browned oatmeal raisin cookies, and it still finds a way to finish easy. ‘Tis a good bread juice.
Oktoberfest | Amber Märzen | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. | Chico, CA | 5.5% ABV
As the resident NevHead on the podcast, it is with great authority that I declare this the second-best Sierra Nevada seasonal, behind only the indomitable Celebration. Of course, it changes a bit each year, with the last few being a collaboration with a Bavarian brewer. This fresh batch, packaged in new sleek cans, is going to occupy my fridge until Celebration season. Aromatically, it’s honey wheat bread crusts and barley malt syrup. Lively and immediate in the flavor with lightly sweet caramel malt and a distinctly sharp grassy bite. It effervescently snaps in the finish with a little malt and bitterness left behind like a beautiful memory. It’s currently the best Oktoberfest I’ve had this season.