ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: January 2024
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Kräusen | Cold-Filtered Lager | Art History Brewing | Geneva, IL | 4.6% ABV – listen (Patreon only)
The technique of Kräusening a beer intends to create natural carbonation for a more satisfying mouthfeel, and Art History unsurprisingly nails this one. It’s got a little table water cracker crispness, a light honey drizzle, and a gentle grassy caress. Your tongue is inundated by the tiniest of bubbles – oh, so tiny. I sure as hell hope we see more Kräusening from Art History and at least two other breweries that spring to the top of my mind right now. (You know who you are, two other breweries. Wink wink.)
Lincoln Anniversary Stout | Bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout | Hop Butcher for the World | Chicago, IL | 12.5% ABV – listen
The Hop Butcher taproom is a year old, and though it certainly helps to be a hazy IPA lover when you visit, it’s been good to see regular lagers and even barrel-aged beers being regular draft options. This commemorative beer is rich and fudgy with a little maple sweetness, featuring charred oak and smooth vanilla from the barrels. It’s not just good for a Hop Butcher barrel-aged stout (considering it’s not their area of expertise, we mean) – this beer could hold its own amongst other well-regarded adjunct-free BA stouts.
Boogie Nights | Dark Wheat Ale w/ rooibos tea | Marz Community Brewing Co. | Chicago, IL | 8% ABV – listen
Jungle Boogie is just one of those fantastic Chicago staple beers that deserves to be on the beer equivalent of a Sight & Sound list. Adding some dark malts to an already perfect beer just warms my winter cockles, whatever those are. This beer still pushes out peach and citrus fruits but the black bitter roast character in the end latches onto the hops and tea for a lasting dry finish. Saving my money now for the Boogie Mix 12 Packs that I’m attempting to manifest into existence.
Day Off IPA | American IPA | Penrose Brewing Company | Geneva, IL | 5.7% ABV – listen
We had already crowned Penrose as the Flagship Hazy IPA Champs of Chicagoland last year, so it wasn’t all that surprising that another IPA from them would rock my world like this. I actually like this better than Goofy Boots, I think. The aroma is pure happiness: explosively juicy and fruity hops that smell like a bag of unwrapped Starburst or fruit punch-flavored cereal. Some of that carries over into the flavor, but there’s a healthy amount of dank bitterness to keep this thing crisp and eminently drinkable. This is my favorite IPA of 2024 so far.
Rustic Route | Country Lager | Pollyanna Brewing Co. & Goldfinger Brewing Company | Lemont & Downers Grove, IL | 6.5% ABV
Though I’ve lived in the near Western Suburbs for over 15 years, I had never been to Pollyanna until the afternoon of New Year’s Eve 2023. It’s like one of those “I’m a film nerd, but I’ve never seen 2001” kind of things that I’m glad to have finally rectified. The Lemont taproom is lovely, and their beers are unsurprisingly well-made and delicious. This Goldfinger collaboration almost made me abandon the rest of the taplist, but luckily they had 4-packs to-go. Just the word “Rustic” alone got my attention, but also, who makes a “Country Lager”? From my understanding (and from drinking this beer), it’s a slightly fuller-flavored take on a Helles that is halfway to a Vienna in terms of malt presence. It’s crisp and decently bitter in the end from the grassy “American noble” hops. Here’s another style I want every brewery to try this year.
Bamm Bamm Rubble Rubble – NOW WITH WATERMELON! | Sour ale w/ fruity rice cereal, watermelon, milk sugar, vanilla & marshmallow | WeldWerks Brewing Co. | Greeley, CO | 4.8% – listen
Of course my initial worry on this is that it’d taste like huffing a bag of powdered sugar, but it takes a welcome turn towards NOSTALGIAAAAA. Yeah, this thing is a straightforward mashup of Fruity Pebbles getting soggy in milk, and then this watermelon Jolly Rancher flavor kicks in to add a tart finish. I want to chug this and then suplex my Ultimate Warrior Wrestling Buddy off the top of my couch.
Craig’s Mixed Six
FrankenStan | Sour ale with strawberries and marshmallow | Artesia Brewing | Thawville, IL | 5.5% ABV – listen
I always approach these types of cereal beers with trepidation. It could be too sour, too sweet, or lacking the flavors of that respective cereal. 400 lbs of strawberries later, I can say FrankenStan nails the cereal it was going after. Franken Berry is on the sweeter side of cereals, so naturally a beer mimicking it will be too. The sour beer serves as a nice base, providing a little bit of tartness and and a light canvas. The strawberries also add some tartness to cut a little of the sweetness coming from the marshmallows. It all results in a fruity and sweet approximation of Franken Berry that feels real, i.e. used real fruit and marshmallow, as opposed to synthetic. Plus the color is a shade of pink you’d hope from a beer aping Franken Berry. I hope it’s not too much to ask to get ChocuStan, BooStan, MummyStan, or BruteStan made eventually?
Sour Mango Papaya | Sour ale with mango and papaya | Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co. | Charleston, SC | 5.5% ABV – listen
Edmund’s Oast has won 2 GABF medals – both for their sour beer. It’s all about that base (beer) there, as the Sour Mango Papaya just does everything right. It’s not an overfruited sour, where it just tastes like straight fruit juice. It has enough of the sour beer flavor in there to let you know you’re actually drinking a beer. A nice streaming thread of mango and papaya show up in equal parts allowing you to basically pick which fruit you’re going to taste. That fruit integrates well with the sour base, seamlessly going from fruit to tart Berliner Weisse-like finish. Sour ales can have a host of issues – too sour, not enough (or too much!) fruit, off flavors – but this one just hits all the right buttons. If more sour beers like this came out, sours might be a more popular style of beer.
Symbols of Math | Double IPA with Vic Secret, Sabro, and Simcoe | Hop Butcher for the World | Chicago, IL | 7.5% – listen
I’m a fan of compromise, especially if the quotient is still flavorfully appealing. Symbols of Math takes a West Coast IPA and divides it by some Hazy IPA hops to get the correct IPA without showing their work! It features the mouthfeel and bitterness of a West Coast IPA – crisp, piney, grassy – while using some of those hazy IPA hops like Vic Secret and Sabro to give off some juicy and coconut flavors. It basically give you the best aspects of both styles while remaining enjoyable and not veering too sweet. Ever since I had Scentinel from Old Irving Brewing for the first time in 2020 I’ve been looking for more of these Compromise IPAs out there. I hope they start making a dent as it scratches my itch for a juicy, tropical IPA without being bogged down by low carbonation, low bitterness, and sweetness. The beer has no limit!
Barrel-Aged Cuppa Stuffff | Barrel-aged Imperial Stout with vanilla beans, cacao nibs, and coffee | Maplewood Brewing & Distillery | Chicago, IL | 13% ABV – listen
The Cuppa series has been Maplewood’s stout of choice since its inception – the one where they experiment with additions or barrel-treatments. Naturally they’re going to do an Oreo cookie version of this beer and then barrel-age it. What I wasn’t expecting was how much like an Oreo it tasted like without being over the top sweet. Chocolate and vanilla absolutely steal the show here, while the Willett bourbon and Maplewood whiskey barrels add some caramel round the finish off. It also adds some heft to it. While not drinking quite like 13%, it feels like close to double digit ABV (thankfully). Coffee in this but it’s nowhere to be seen as a flavor; I think it comes through in some bitterness that helps cut the sweetness back a notch. It all adds up to one of the best Oreo-type beers I’ve ever had. Next step for this beer – somehow incorporate Maplewood’s award-winning Chocolate Liqueur into the mix.
West Coast Crush | IPA with Chinook, Simcoe, Amarillo, and Centennial | Middle Brow Beer Co. | Chicago, IL | 4.5%
If I’m in the mood for an IPA and see a West Coast on the menu, I typically grab a pour. I’m rarely taken aback like I was with West Coast Crush. Expecting something akin to a pale ale (4.5% ABV led me to believe that) with some nice bitterness, I was instead greeted with a blast of IBUs and flavor. It doesn’t drink like an DIPA but it has all the qualities of it. Pine and grassy bitterness lead the charge while some orange and other citrus fruits dance across the tongue. That low ABV means things really move across the tongue, leaving only bitterness in its wake. And that’s what keeps bringing you back. In terms of mouthfeel, you’re closer to an IPL than an IPA. I’m hoping West Coast hoppy things will make a dent in tap lists this year and that they feature the bitterness and low ABV of this West Coast Crush. Great with pizza!
Double Predator | Imperial Farmhouse Ale | Off Color Brewing | Chicago, IL | 9% ABV – listen (Patreon Exclusive)
Be careful, as this is a big one. A big nose of bubblegum, lemon, and other citrus fruit join forces together with a little boozy aroma to remind you of that ABV. Tasting it reminds me of Apex Predator, just amplified. Bubblegum and lemon notes are present and prominent, but it’s the juicy fruit notes that really change things up a bit. This might be the closest Off Color comes to releasing a hazy/juicy IPA in how much juicy fruit notes come off the beer. But it still retains its saison qualities thankfully. While the booze is perceptible, it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the beer or make it a chore to drink. I hope this has a chance to join their other once-a-year Predators (Hyper, Aqua, Juicy and possibly Le Predatuer) as a beefy winter version of their staple farmhouse ale.