ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: February 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 February 2021.
Craig’s Mixed Six
Kadak | Imperial milk stout with chai spices | Azadi Brewing Company | Chicago, IL | 8% ABV – listen
We love trying new breweries, but it seems most new breweries today don’t take many chances. Hoppy things, hazy things, overfruited things, barrel-aged stout things. I get it, those beers pay the bills, but it would be nice to see some variety or chances being taken. Azadi takes those chances. A brewery dedicated to making beer inspired by Indian cuisine definitely qualifies as taking a chance. With Kadak, Azadi takes an imperial milk stout and adds some chai spices. Chai spices (or any spices for that matter) can easily be overdone in a beer. Or not there enough. Azadi hits the Goldilocks zone and manages to integrate the chai spices into the milk stout just right. A little zip of the spices gets backed by a full-bodied and smooth base beer, making Kadak a balanced, delicious, unique beer. Now I just need some Indian food to pair with it!
Tempus (Blend 13) | Barrel-aged saison | OEC Brewing | Oxford, CT | 5.9% ABV – listen
OEC Brewing does eccentric things. It’s right in their name. Tempus, however, is not that weird. It is an eccentric blend of three different beers, some lambic-inspired and some in red and white wine barrels. While being OEC’s flagship beer, Tempus still changes with each blend. Blend 13 gives you all the tartness and dryness you expect in a sour saison, but then adds some complexity. The lambic-inspired beer brings the funk, while the wine barrels provide some tannins, dryness and a fuller mouthfeel. The tartness does creep up to the edge of enjoyability, but the overall combination makes for an enjoyable and unique experience. Like most all of their beers.
Pressed Tiramisu | Imperial porter with coffee | Phase Three Brewing | Lake Zurich, IL | 12% ABV – read
Phase Three, right? Going in I know to expect bold flavors and the potential for things to get too sweet. Thankfully, Pressed Tiramisu hits on the former and misses the latter. Coffee roast and cocoa powder explode at you, while a bitter baker’s chocolate takes over on the palate. The coffee roast takes a back seat to the bitterness but is still there, while the choice of a porter most likely keeps this beer from going off the sweet end. The mouthfeel veers closer to stout rather than schwarzbier, leaving those bitter notes to hang around on the tongue for a bit. It is boozy, and the 12% really doesn’t hit you until after you finish the can and stand up. But by then it’s too late. You’ve been Pressed.
Genuine Bock Beer | Bock | Pipeworks Brewing Co. | Chicago, IL | 6.66% ABV – listen
When we do style shows, we always fear that everything will taste the same. It seems like that rarely happens though. Take our bock show. While there were variations on the style (weizen and doppel), we did have 2 regular bocks on the show. One leaned more hoppy, while this Genuine Bock Beer from Pipeworks hit everything I looked for in a bock. Big bready quality and mouthfeel. Smooth and creamy over the tongue with a hint of chocolate. It really bocked me down. Bocked me over? (I’ll stop now.) It was the most traditional bock on the show (in my opinion) and I definitely am in the market for some more Pipeworks bock.
Apple Brandy Barrel Ryeway | Barrel-aged ryewine | Revolution Brewing | Chicago, IL | 12.3 % ABV – listen
When in doubt, just stick to the barrel. While attempts at adding adjuncts to Straight Jacket usually resulted in overpowering the base beer, Revolution just threw their Ryeway to Heaven ryewine into Apple Brandy barrels. The difference is noticeable. The green apple notes come at you on both the nose and in the taste. But the ryeway punches back, keeping the caramel, toffee, and spices you love from the original in the mix. The low carbonation means those notes stick around on the tongue for a while and the beer, while boozy, never gets to be too much. The one beer I was most excited for from the Deep Wood 2020/2021 series delivers.
Peppermint Hot Cocoa Might Meets Right | Barrel-aged imperial stout with peppermint, chocolate, marshmallow and vanilla | Temperance Beer Company | Evanston, IL | 14.3% ABV – read
I love Thin Mints. Many listeners know this already, as we’ve twice featured girl scout cookies on our show. Heck, we’re only a few tweak from being a candy and cookie podcast. So when Temperance took their delicious Hot Cocoa Might Meets Right from last year and added peppermint, they basically targeted me. Having had it on tap as a keg-only one-off, I knew what to expect. Boozy Thin Mints! The peppermint and chocolate feature prominently, while the vanilla/marshmallow take a back seat. The peppermint hits first, followed by the chocolate and then the barrel with nothing overstaying its welcome. The trick with this beer? It never gets too sweet. Temperance made it taste like a thin mint without it going too far into pastry land. It still remains their award-winning Might Meets Right beer, just with some nice adjuncts. Buy a two-pack now and hope it comes back for an encore in next year’s lineup.
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Sebastian | Bock Lager | Alarmist Brewing | Chicago, IL | 6.66% ABV – listen
We are fully here for the Bock Uprising – even though the warmer months threaten its longevity. But for now, bock me like a hurricane, baby. This beer would’ve made the list on label alone, but it so happens to also kick ass as a beer. It pours burnt sienna and slightly cloudy, holding onto a fluffy finger of tan head. On the nose, it’s bready, spicy, sweet; you get notes of dark fruit, rye bread, molasses, and root beer. The flavor follows suit but adds in a significant noble hop grassy and spicy bitterness, adding an extra layer of complexity and another reason why the beer absolutely disappears from the glass. Drink this, wouldst thou like to live deliciously.
Gravitace | Czech Pale Lager | Art History Brewing | Geneva, IL | 5.1% ABV – listen
While there are some craft lagers that barely elevate themselves above the macros they mimic, there are also these craft lagers that remind you how fully transformative a bottom-fermented beer can be. This pours crystal clear with a half finger of head that never goes away. Aromatically, it’s lemon zest, sweet bubblegum, grassy hop, and corn chips. Each sip is a rush of flavor that peaks with some surprising bitterness on the back end. Pale malts add some almost honey cookie-like sweetness, but the earthy hop flashes near the end and stops just short of adding a resonating bitterness – just enough to keep it crisp.
Altbier | Altbier | Dovetail Brewery | Chicago, IL | 4.2% ABV – listen (Patreon only)
The frequency with which Dovetail drops new standard-bearers for style is iconic. Sure, everything they do is informed by history and rich traditions of brewers from centuries ago. But when Dovetail releases their take on a style, you can expect to compare every subsequent one you experience to it. On the aroma, this sings with hops: pine and flowers, mostly. The malt features like a cookie or sweet bread. Drinking this is oddly reminiscent of Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, mostly due to the harmony of malt and hops. Though the notes of bready malt and molasses are there, it’s the piney bitterness in the finish that surprises the most. It could be gulped down in no time flat, or sipped upon and savored to uncover the full depth of flavor and artistry of mouthfeel happening here. Now I need to try more Altbiers to compare to this one.
Vienna-Style Lager | Vienna-Style Lager | Goldfinger Brewing Company | Downers Grove, IL | 5% ABV – listen
I’ve found a tiny new hill to climb on and it’s this one: more beers named after their style, please! There’s a weird assumed proficiency with a beer that just presents itself as what it is and doesn’t need to fall back on a flashy label or pop-culture referencing title. Ok, I’m going to climb off this little hill before I trip over my own two idiot feet. Goldfinger has come to be in both an extremely unfortunate time (you know, 2020) and the exact right time. Thanks to local leaders like Metropolitan and Dovetail especially, appreciation for perfectly-executed traditional lagers has steadily grown as a welcome alternative to the lactose fad. Instead of “double dry hop”, here we are getting excited over “double decoction.” This copper-clear Vienna Lager gives some surprising floral hop and lightly nutty aromas on top of its bready malt base. The slight crisp herbal bitterness from the Czech Saaz adds a snap to the toasted bread and malt-forward flavor with a hint of almost honey-like sweetness. It’s perfect for an early Spring day on the patio.
Grow Greater Englewood | IPA | Half Acre Beer Company | Chicago, IL | 6.3% ABV
General policy used to be that if Half Acre put hops in it, I’d have to try it. But with the brewery releasing a more steady stream of rotating hoppy SKUs, it’s gotten harder. This one was a no-brainer, sold at a good price for a good cause. Portions of the proceeds benefit the beer’s namesake:
“Grow Greater Englewood is a nonprofit social enterprise that works with residents and developers in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago to create sustainable food economies and green businesses to support community wellness and generate wealth.”
This one pours a slightly hazy orangish-yellow pale, with an aroma that is wild blueberries, peaches, and a slightly herbal hop note. Drinking this reminds me of that “extra pale ale” pseudo-style from a few years back; it’s surprisingly easy in the body but has a light yet ever-present bitterness that spikes a bit on the end. Repeated sips bring out more tropical and pineapple notes with a hint of lemon zest. It’s a beer that fills you with brightness.
Straight Jacket | Barleywine aged in Bourbon Barrels | Revolution Brewing | Chicago, IL | 15% ABV – listen
Though there will be many imitators, Revolution is the undisputed local champion of the barrel-aged barleywine. Sure there have been a lot of fancy barrels and adjuncts used to dress up this beer, but the base remains the absolute best regular barrel-aged release you can still find for months on shelves. It pours like brandy, clear copper and ruby with almost no head. On the nose, a surprising note of chocolate peeks out behind larger notes of toffee, wheat, fig, and maraschino cherry. It tastes like a stroopwafel just gingerly dipped in light chocolate, or a dark pumpernickel bread pudding. But it’s restrained in its sweetness, fully attenuated, and completely dangerous. It’s so smooth it’s almost like the booze never hits your palate – it just warms you from the belly up. We’re truly spoiled with this one, folks.