ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: February 2020
For the month of February, Craig and Ryan’s lists are heavily local, though that’s mostly where the similarities end. Apparently, Ryan spent the most of the month drinking IPAs in his basement (it’s true), and Craig went looking for sours and adjunct-enhanced malt experiences. If you think we missed something, let us know by emailing us at email@example.com.
Craig’s Mixed Six
Sea Foam | Fruited Sour | 1840 Brewing | Milwaukee, WI | 5% ABV (listen)
We were able to sample this while talking to Kyle Vetter last year for our Brew City show and immediately wanted it for a proper show review. Good call, us! Tons of pineapple backed with some tart passion fruit and a smooth, lactose- and oat-backed mouthfeel, Sea Foam brought the best of the over-fruited slushy craze while still maintaining the Berliner Weisse-like beer qualities. Oh, and it’s blue/green in color. Look for this on my year end list.
Cafe Declaration | Rye whiskey barrel-aged imperial stout | Lo Rez Brewing | Chicago, IL | 10.4% ABV
I’m always amazed by some of the aromas and tastes that emit from what I think would be a relatively straightforward beer. Rye whiskey barrel-aged with coffee and cinnamon? Of course it smells and tastes like a Heath bar! Coffee roastiness is present, but those Heath bar notes steal the show. The booze definitely makes its presence known, but not so much as to be prohibitive. Lo Rez has been releasing some damn good beers recently, so don’t sleep on them.
Cherry Almond Vanilla Chocolate Layer Cake Stout | Milk Stout | Spiteful Brewing | Chicago, IL | 6.7% ABV
Restraint is always the key on these pastry stouts in my opinion. Most of the time it goes overboard with whatever is listed on the can. But not Spiteful! This beer gave me the label scares, but upon drinking it all fears were assuaged. Although the almond was imperceptible, everything else stated was there – in moderation – in a stout that was very easy to drink and of a relatively low alcohol. It’s a throwback stout and one that most “pastry haterz” would drink up.
Snap | Spiced Porter | Goose Island
Clybourn Brewhouse | Chicago, IL | 7% ABV
I think there’s a theme here. So this spiced porter has ginger, vanilla and coconut – in moderation! The vanilla and coconut stand out with the ginger supporting, but the real star here is the nitro pour. This gives it a smooth, creamy mouthfeel that accentuates the vanilla and coconut nicely and really makes this porter pop. It’s not too heavy in terms of booze or maltiness, allowing for multiple pours to be consumed without being fatigued.
Ten Year Beer | Barrel-aged barleywine with cherries | Revolution Brewing | Chicago, IL | 12.5% ABV (listen)
Revolution finally released an anniversary beer after taking a five year break! In what is essentially V.S.O.J. with cherries, Ten Year Beer’s strong suit is balancing the cherries and the barrel-aged barleywine base. The sweet cherries dominate the nose and the palate, but there’s enough of the barleywine shining through to make it more beer-like and less boozy fruit juice. As per most of the recent Deep Wood beers, the booze is extremely well-hidden, leading to a potential for multiple can consumptions in one night and some rough mornings ahead. Go on, you (and Revolution) deserve it!
Berliner Messe – Kyrie | Berliner Weisse | The Referend Bier Blendery | Pennington, NJ | 4.8% ABV
The Referend are very careful in their brewing process and it shows in the delicate balance the beer exhibits. It gets close to smelling like Luden’s cherry cough drops, but not quite. It almost gets too sour, but then it pulls back. You’re able to keep drinking it and drinking it, enjoying the tart cherry taste with a hint of cinnamon and a slice of raspberry and then, poof, it’s gone and you’re left wanting more. It’s so easy to drink and full of flavor that it’ll happen before you know it. Always a treat to be able to have The Referend on tap in Chicago.
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Recreational Chemistry | Galaxy & Mosaic-hopped Hazy IPA | Around the Bend Beer Co. | Chicago, IL | 6.7% ABV
Whether it’s tongue-in-cheek at this point or not, some proclamations that “hazy is lazy” still exist, and though it may be true in some cases, get a load of this giant blurb from the spec sheet for this beer:
“For Recreational Chemistry, we have designed a malt bill that addresses the finding in one study which holds that beers with high protein and carbohydrate levels have significantly more intense dry-hop flavor. The addition of chit malt provides higher levels of beta-glucans, adding to the desired effect. We also selected hops and used them in the boil, whirlpool, and dry-hop processes in such a way as to extract the maximum amount of linalool; the oil in hops most closely associated with citrusy flavors. We were careful to choose an early boil hop that is high in a-acids to reduce overall plant material required for desired bitterness, but low in a-humulene and b-caryophyllene to avoid developing oxygenated sesquiterpenes. This would result in herbal/spicy flavors that would fight with the fruity/citrusy flavors we are trying to develop. Finally, the chemical make-up of the brewing water has been altered to provide a higher ratio of chlorides to sulfites, which results in a rich, silky mouthfeel.”
This ultra-turbid beach-scented candle of a beer pours heavy, and immediately explosive aromatics of dreamsicle, peach, lemon zest, and pineapple weed abound. It’s a fruit cocktail of lemon, lime, lychee, orange juice, green grape, and passion fruit that is sweet for only a second. The mouthfeel is full and creamy early before a surprisingly effervescent and dry feel at the end, partially due to a bitterness of orange pith and pine sap taking hold on the finish that lingers well beyond the sip. It does everything I particularly want in this style: it gives you that big chewy haze with outsized tropical and citrus characters but wins you over entirely with its bitter and dry finish. This is really something.
Hype Moves| Sour vegan gluten-reduced milkshake IPA double dry-hopped w/ Sabro, super-fruited w/ mango & pineapple, and conditioned on vanilla beans and toasted coconut | 1840 Brewing Company & Back Channel Brewing | Milwaukee, WI & Spring Park, MN | 8% ABV (listen)
Abandon all preconceived notions you have about sour vegan milkshake gluten-reduced IPAs, because this one truly breaks away from the monotony of that style. If you’re a real stickler about your beer being super beer-y, well, you stopped reading this entry a bit ago. It’s a tropical juice smoothie: upfront with the mango, backed up by the pineapple, finishing with vanilla and coconut. It’s not really beer, but it is a much more interesting experience than any singular overfruited kettle sour or milkshake IPA I’ve had. Somehow, this chaotic medley finds a real flavorful harmony, and I will certainly judge all other sour vegan milkshake gluten-reduced IPAs on this new standard.
Blizzard of ‘67 | Citra, Mosaic, El Dorado & Ekuanot-hopped Triple India Pale Ale Brewed With Honey | Hop Butcher for the World | Chicago, IL | 10% ABV
My boardroom pitch for this one is this: HopSlam for a New Era®. It’s not a perfect comparison, but this beer has the sweet kiss of honey drizzled over a swimming pool of fruit and pine that brought me back to a time when expressions of hop excess were delegated to special releases. On the aroma, it’s peach sorbet, mango, passionfruit, and pineapple. The flavor is similarly tropical, starting out a bit soft before the sweet honey and hop resin cling to the roof of your mouth. This beer goes all Mr. Nanny on you: big and burly with a soft side that wins you over.
Lahgerwood #3 | Baltic Porter aged in a Quincy Street Distillery Rye Whiskey barrel | Kinslahger Brewing Company | Oak Park, IL | 11% ABV
The clock on the wall at Kinslahger looks to be permanently set to 3:11, which is just another reason for me to love this Oak Park lager producer. Their Baltic Porter on nitro is an experience that you desperately need. This wood-enhanced version adds a layer of cherrywood and spicy rye that gradually gives way to the luscious chocolate roast and oily nutskin of the base beer.
Bodem | IPA | Half Acre Beer Co. | Chicago, IL | 6.7% ABV
One of my biggest regrets of 2019 was somehow leaving this off of my year-end Top 50 beers list. It’s a weird exclusion, because I probably bought a case’s worth of this beer last year. Now that it’s in 12-ounce cans in 12 packs, though, I can finally make amends and feature this beer in an arbitrary listicle. Most everyone knows this beer rules, but the feeling of being totally impressed every time I open a new can has not worn off. Aromatically it’s candied apricots, dank marijuana, tropical mango, and cantaloupe cotton candy. Hitting at something like 40 IBUs, it’s bitter enough to combat the dominant fruit juice from the orange, melon, mango, and apricot melange. The finish is lightly bitter and dry, and it becomes very hard to stop drinking. If its job was to meet in the middle of NEIPA and IPA, it absolutely nails it.
Retrace | Double IPA with Centennial, Chinook, Cascade, Citra, and Cryo Citra Hops | Pipeworks Brewing Company | Chicago, IL | 8% ABV
Yeah, I bought this at Trader Joe’s, and I remember when you used to have to “know someone” to get certain Pipeworks bombers upon release. But Pipeworks hasn’t lost their touch or relevance: they’ve matured, and lately their beers have been reminding people that they ran this hop hype-train while the current popular brewers were still drafting their day job exit strategies. Aromatically, this beer is grapefruit, orange pith, peaches, melon rind, pine and spruce. The flavor is super snappy with big orange, apricot, and grapefruit with resinous pine bitterness. It’s big but drinkable, hazy yet bitter, and the mouthfeel is on the lighter end of full but is teeming with fine bubbles. Couple this with their all Ekuanot-featuring Place in Space – which is not hazy – and Pipeworks has released two new IPAs this month that are decidedly different but both worth seeking out.