ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: January 2022
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 January 2022.
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Oatmeal Dark | Non-Alcoholic Beer | Bravus Brewing Company | Anaheim, CA | < 0.5% ABV – listen
If the last non-alcoholic beer you had was a Kaliber (like it was for me), simply smelling this beer will tell you everything you need to know about the advances in non-alcoholic beers. As we explored more examples on our NA beer episode, we found almost all of them boasted of a “proprietary method” that retains flavor with none of the booze. Well however they’re getting it done, it’s pretty amazing a “beer” like this exists. Aromatically, it’s huge with roast and chocolate, even some coffee notes. The flavor carries most of this across, but it’s not exactly hiding the fact that there’s no alcohol in it. It does kind of disappear in the end, but each time you sip, the initial wave of roasty dark flavors give you that rush of porter or stout that makes it a lot easier to go alcohol-free.
Dreaming of a Common Language | Dry-Hopped Saison | Keeping Together | Chicago, IL | 6.7% ABV – listen
We’ve done two Keeping Together episodes in less than a year, and if we scrounge up another five KT beers, we might just do another. The first episode was a deep-dive into the project itself through our talk with Averie Swanson; the second episode was just us gushing over the artistry of every choice made to execute these perfect saisons. So I’m kind of worried the third episode would be really dramatically drawn-out satisfied mouth sounds, which absolutely no one wants to hear. This saison is dry-hopped with Hallertau Tradition, Tettnanger, and Saaz hops which adds some floral and earthy notes in each step of the experience. But it’s really all about the incredible base saison that pops with lemon-lime citrus, sweet green grapes, pear skin, and bubble gum. Effervescent bubbles tingle the nose on a deep pull. A wheat-like body gives way to a nice tartness like lemon curd spiked with pineapple. It’s completely dry by the end, and there’s no way you’re not bummed when the bottle is empty.
Beer For Lounging | American Pale Ale | Off Color Brewing | Chicago, IL | 5% ABV – listen
Once the initial shock of Off Color doing a pale ale wore off, everyone’s first reaction should’ve been, “Well, I must drink this now.” The whole Beer For series has an All-Star level batting average to begin with – and having one of the best breweries around make a “tribute” to the most important pale ale ever made is like they stole a page from my very personal wish diary. (To understand more of why they made it, you should read co-founder Dave Bleitner’s post about it, and of course listen to Dave on our recent episode with him.) The aromas are familiar – grass and pine, a thrust of citrus. A bready sweet malt character shines in tandem with the Cascade hops, and any hop bitterness is kept to the margins. It’s an easy-drinker that demands more than one can in a night. This has immediately carved a permanent spot in my beer fridge.
Dunkel | Munich Dunkel Lager | Pipeworks Brewing Company | Chicago, IL | 5.3% ABV
That Trader Joe’s shelf placement is the catalyst to a lot of impulse purchases, so whoever engineered that deal for Pipeworks hopefully got a nice bonus that year. This dunkel is right in line with so many of their forays into lager – a perfect homage to tradition without much modern influence muddling it up. This beer pours a deep mahogany and leaves ample lacing with each sip. Aromatically, there’s roasted malt, toasted wheat bread crust, and something akin to light molasses or cocoa bean. The flavor is malt-forward without being sweet, accented with unsalted fresh baked sourdough pretzel nuggets. Deeper sips bring out some maillard notes, oven-roasted nuts, and a subtle noble hop bite. It’s a fully satisfying beer through and through, and one that is built for everyday drinking
Freedom Lemonade | Session Sour w/ lemons | Revolution Brewing | Chicago, IL | 4.5% ABV – listen (Patreon exclusive)
For the last two years, Rev has been my choice for “best beer of the year” – and both were barrel-aged stouts. As it currently stands, this lemonade session sour is my favorite beer of this young year. Full disclosure, when Rev gave Craig and I a six-pack to sample, we split it and intended to save one for a recording. After my wife and I sampled the first can, there was no stopping us from finishing the other two. This thing hasn’t even been out a month and I am working my way through my third sixer. I’ve always enjoyed the Freedom session sours from Revolution, but this is on another level of execution and drinkability. Certainly it will be an appealing option for those that prefer seltzers or canned cocktails to beer, but what elevates it over that other sessionable lemony shelf staple from Chippewa Falls is that it still has the body of a beer. This one has multi-seasonal staying power, but not “staying in my fridge power” because I’m gonna drink all of it whenever I have it.
Cold Synergy | Cold IPA | Riverlands Brewing Company | St. Charles, IL | 7.2% ABV – listen
Time will tell if the Cold IPA is here to stay, but if they’re all made even half as well as this one, why shouldn’t they be in every hoppy brewer’s repertoire? This beer was made close to the specifications set by Oregon’s Wayfinder Beer, who invented the style. It’s not simply a hoppy lager, or an easy-drinking IPA – it utilizes corn in the grist to help maintain crispness despite the ABV. The lager yeast is certainly doing its job in keeping it cleaner drinking than any IPA, and the hops still push out big notes of tropical candy fruit. The 7.2% is almost entirely hidden, so watch yourself when you’ve got a cold four-pack and nothing much to do.
Craig’s Mixed Six
Woodland Chill | Cold IPA | Alarmist Brewing | Chicago, IL | 7% ABV – listen
Usually after finishing one of our style-focused shows, I’m able to both grab the concept of the style and have opinions on it. Not so with our Cold IPA show. I think I left more confused than when I started, but I know that I loved Woodland Chill. An aggressive bitterness supported the big fruity notes at the front. The finish hit dry, but not so bone dry you need to sip on some water. Basically, a West Coast IPA with a lager finish, which is what I thought a Cold IPA was. The aroma and taste pleasantly surprised me (compared to other Cold IPAs I’ve had) and made this one a winner in my book.
Crispy Nois | Imperial stout with Cookie Crisp cereal | Barreled Souls Brewing Company | Saco, ME | 11.7% – listen (Patreon Exclusive)
What a difference six months make. I had this on tap at Barreled Souls in July 2021 and wasn’t taken by it too much. In fact I actually preferred Crazy Squares 2.0. Maybe Crispy Nois just need to warm up. While a little on the sweet side, all that Cookie Crisp goodness comes out and plays nice with the not-too-syrupy imperial stout base. Vanilla, chocolate from either the stout or the Cookie Crisp and a dry-for-a-stout finish make this a joy to drink. That sweetness stays on the front of the sip, letting that dry-ish finish make you go back for more. Pleasantly surprised how well the adjunct meshed with the base stout.
Undulant & Impermanent | Barrel-aged saison with maple-roasted carrots and fernet botanicals | Keeping Together | Chicago, IL | 6.5% ABV – listen
We’ve had a carrot beer before and it wasn’t, well, good. I’ve had maple-glazed carrots before as well, but never in a beer of any kind. But I should know not to doubt Keeping Together. This might be their best beer overall and that’s really saying something. Both the maple sweetness and vegetal carrot come through on the palate, but in such moderation that it most definitely does not overpower the beer. The fernet botanicals and barrel-aging provide some depth and heft to the base saison. In probably our highest compliment, it made us feel like we were in the fall season, longing for crunchy leaves, windbreakers, and a slight chill in the air. An absolutely outstanding and unique beer that, if the opportunity arises, I will gladly purchase and consume again.
Beer For Bathtubs | Wit with citrus, flowers, spices, and epsom salt | Off Color Brewing | Chicago, IL | 4.5% ABV – listen
Those crazy mad scientists at Off Color strike again. A beer with all those things above in it working? And working well? Beer For Bathtubs’ mouthfeel surprises above all else, bringing a nice coating on the mouth despite being only 4.5%. The word again is moderation, as there’s a little citrus and perfumy note but nothing moving it to, say, a bottle of potpourri. The epsom salt assists in the mouthfeel and adds some salinity, but never so much that you’d think it was a gose. The Off Color Beer For series is one the both of us on the podcast anticipate eagerly. Some are nice attempts that don’t really work. And some, like Beer For Bathtubs, nail what they set out to do.
Forces Way Beyond Our Control | Barrel-aged Imperial stout with coconut and vanilla | Triptych Brewing | Savoy, IL | 15.3% ABV – read
These stouts are getting out of control! Triptych checks in with a big, burly, 15.3% barrel-aged imperial stout and somehow keeps it drinkable. Big chocolate and vanilla notes get support from a nice amount of coconut. But it’s a bitter chocolate that comes to the forefront, thankfully, as a sweet, big alcohol stout might be too much. The amount of alcohol left on the glass defies belief in a beer, while the medium mouthfeel doesn’t weigh you down too much. Very reminiscent of a fresh Proprietor’s Bourbon County 2013, but bitter instead of sweet chocolate. Don’t sleep on Triptych’s barrel-aging program.
Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Hey Mikey! | Imperial oatmeal stout with maple syrup and cinnamon | Windmill Brewing | Dyer, IN | 13% ABV
Among a bottle share with barrel-aged stouts, barleywines, and meads, a barrel-aged oatmeal stout needs to do a lot to stand out. Windmill’s Hey Mikey did just that. Apple-y goodness from the apple brandy barrels plays very nice with the oatmeal stout while not overtaking everything. The cinnamon really shows up but never so much so that it makes things spicy. Maple syrup doesn’t take over either and make things too sweet. The interplay between the barrel, adjuncts, and base beer is done exceedingly well, with no one aspect dominating the sip. It all adds up to something that resembles an apple pie with some chocolate. Hopefully I can get another bottle or two of it!