ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: July 2022
Each month, we like to highlight twelve drinks 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 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 July 2022.
Craig’s Mixed Six
Sauvyn Tropica | Fruited Sour | Duneyrr Artisan Fermenta Project | Chicago, IL | 5.2% ABV – listen
Leave it to a brewery like Duneyrr to craft a crazy, drinkable, fruit filled summer crusher. Sauvyn Tropica features their trademark wine hybrid base (this one with sauvignon blanc grapes) along with pineapple, papaya, mango and the (scary) dragon fruit. All the fruit shows up in a way that you can pick which one you’d like to taste on each sip. The base beer brings a light and refreshing mouthfeel paired with a slightly dry finish thanks to the grapes. There’s nothing stopping you from finishing the entire can let alone a 4-pack. A fruity beer that is easy to drink and finishes dry? That’s one to put in the cooler for summers forevermore.
Matt | American Strong Ale | Hair of the Dog Brewing Company | Portland, OR | 11.5% ABV – listen
Hair of the Dog might’ve actually started barrel aging beer in 1994 and Matt – while not one of the original to be barrel aged – benefits from the years of experience of Alan Sprints. Aged in Kentucky Bourbon and Apple Eau de Vie barrels, Matt seamlessly moves from a candied sugar-dominated base beer to the vanilla and oak of the bourbon barrel to the sweetness and bite of the apple brandy barrels. You can’t tell where the beer stops and the barrels begin as you just move from flavor to flavor, enjoying the totality of the result. It’s a masterstroke from one of the originals and one that should be sought out while you can still get it.
Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine | Barrel-aged Barleywine | pFriem Family Brewers | Hood River, OR | 11% ABV – listen
We’ve had a fairly extensive experience on the podcast with pFriem, but most of it focused on their lambic-style beers and other sour offerings. If they can pull off those styles, of course they can pull off clean barrel-aged offerings. The BA Barleywine excels at integrating the barrel with the base barleywine just giving off a little heat to let you know you’re drinking a barrel-aged beer. Notes of butterscotch, toffee, baking spices and caramel come through in balance and the barrel adds all the vanilla and oak you could ask for. Even in the presence of Straight Jacket stacks in Chicago, this BA Barleywine is worth trading for to enjoy a well-crafted and balanced barleywine.
The Cut | Keller Pilsner | Seedz Brewing | Union Pier, MI | 5.5% ABV – listen (Patreon exclusive)
I seem to be on the hunt for bready beers lately. The Cut excels at bready aromas and flavors which give off both sourdough and pizza crust notes. It’s light and refreshing with a hint of grassy bitterness on the end making it very, very delicious and easy to finish. But the real test is the fact that as we started to drink it, we went off on random tangents (more so than usual) and didn’t really talk about the beer. No joke – that’s the highest compliment you can pay a beer. It’s so good and so lovely that you forget it’s in your glass. You’ll keep getting more, but a beer that pairs well with conversation is one to look out for. Another winner from Seedz that seems to keep producing winners.
Bavarian Hefeweizen | Hefeweizen | The Conrad Seipp Brewing Co. | Chicago, IL | 5.2% ABV – read
Hefeweizens tend to exhibit a few things – banana, bubblegum and clove. Rarely does it deviate all that much and it usually comes down to the intensity of those notes to see how good a particular hefeweizen is. Seipp’s Bavarian Hefeweizen hits on the banana and clove, lacks a big bubblegum note, but adds a lovely yet subtle grassy hop character. I love unexpected things in what I drink, and the Seipp’s take just adds it without really dominating the other aspects of the beer. While I think I might prefer a bigger banana note, the bitter finish does warrant repeated sips until the can is gone. Can’t wait to try Seipp’s take on other classic beers.
Many Phases | Barrel-aged Saison | Supermoon Beer Co. | Milwaukee, WI | 6.2% ABV – listen
There’s something about Supermoon beers that get me. I honestly think it’s that slight amount of funk Rob Brennan is able to impart on most of his beers through his house yeast culture. It could be the effervescence and light mouthfeel, supported by a pillowy mouthfeel. Or the barrel-aging that is subtle yet effective on most of his beers. Whatever it is, Many Phases does all three of these. Combined with a nice lemon saison base, Many Phases just asks to be sipped on multiple times. The wine barrels add some oak and a nice dryness on the finish and that funk is subtle but noticeable. No surprise – another Supermoon winner for me.
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Church Street Schwarzbier | Schwarzbier | Church Street Brewing Company | Itasca, IL | 5% ABV
As my summer alias of Patio Dad sees the sun setting on his vacation days, I reflect on some of my favorite patio experiences this year and going to Church Street was one of them. Other than the fact that my kids politely asked to borrow a frisbee from the brewery for their frisbee golf basket and then my son immediately threw it over the fence, it was an ideal night of live music and unbelievably easy-drinking beers like this Schwarzbier. It’s one of those beers where your intention to order other things from the menu becomes unnecessary, as this is the only beer you need. Perfectly roasty with a touch of bitter chocolate and coffee bean, it finishes like a crisp malty lager and is really perfect for any season.
Levain (Yuzu) | Saison fermented in oak w/ mixed culture and yuzu added | Is/Was Brewing | Chicago, IL | 5.5% ABV – listen
Mike Schallau is a true artisan when it comes to barrels, mixed cultures, and saisons. So forgive me for just coming out and saying that one of his carefully-crafted creations tastes like Lemon-Lime Gatorade and I. LOVE. IT. Now, yes, this is a wonderfully-made saison with complexity thanks to the yeast and bacteria cocktail used for the beer, but somehow that flavor blends with the yuzu to make a drink that tastes like my favorite post-Little League drink. This is either the most refreshing complex beer I’ve had in ages, or the most complex refreshing beer I’ve had in ages.
Watching the Mind, Watching the Body | Saison w/ Michigan pears, Chaat Masala, and honey | Keeping Together | Chicago, IL | 7.8% ABV – listen
We admit to having a near-obsession with Averie Swanson’s beers, and even though her time in Chicago is wrapped up, we’ll likely find a way to keep invoking Keeping Together for years to come. While we wait for her next step in New Mexico to get underway, we have a few bottles left to finish off. This standout from our Saison Death Match is teeming with a spice cabinet’s-worth of aromas: coriander, ginger, fenugreek, and anise all sprinkled over some honey-baked pears. In the flavor, it’s pear upfront with classic saison characters of citrus, black pepper, and bubblegum. There’s a slight influence of the masala and honey, but the blending of the pear and saison alone is enough to make this beer special.
Helles Lager | Helles Lager | pFriem Family Brewers | Hood River, OR | 4.8% ABV – listen
It’s no surprise that a Helles Lager from pFriem would be technically perfect, but for it to even stand above barrel-aged porters and barleywines means that this is a special beer. We’ve all had some excellent Helles Lagers I’m sure, but this is one that is so flawless that you’re scrambling to say anything about it that isn’t just *glug* *glug* *satisfied ahhhhhhh* This one is aromatically pronounced from the jump: it’s bright with big toasty malt and Nilla wafers, with some grass and flowers in the end. It has an effervescent mouthfeel but it doesn’t disappear – there’s notes of biscuit and malt that still linger, and it all wraps with a touch of grassy bitterness.
Coconut Deth | Imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels w/ coconut | Revolution Brewing | Chicago, IL | 15% ABV – read
I might be in the minority with this being my choice of the best of the Summer Deth releases, but I have no regrets (and it’s not like any of them are bad in any way.) Aromatically, it’s pretty even between brownie batter and toasted coconut, with a little charred oak thrown in for good measure. Right away you can tell it’s folding in the coconut rather than heaping loads of it to completely bury the base stout. The barrel is also adding to the harmony, bringing out some vanillins, burnt wood, and baking spices. The flavor follows suit, giving a good amount of coconut but not cramming it down your throat. That rich Deth base of bitter chocolate and roasted malt is still there – the coconut appears in the last two-thirds of the sip and stays even-keeled. It’s full-bodied and chewy with an initial bitter finish that smooths out entirely by the second half of the can. Unexpectedly, there’s a lot of cinnamon that comes through when it warms, and it serves to highlight the steady interplay between coconut and chocolate. I’ll need another can (or several) to truly back this up, but on first impression, this might be my favorite adjunct Deth so far.
Barrel-Aged Alpine Ridge | Barrel-aged imperial stout w/ coconut, hazelnut, and coffee | Riverlands Brewing Company & Foreign Exchange | St. Charles, IL/Aurora, IL | 14.5% ABV
Patio Dad is closing out July with a Patio Dad: Nights recommendation. My wife and I had a child-free weekend and made a short trip to the St. Charles and Geneva area, and dusk at Riverlands on their patio was about as good as it gets. In addition to an incredible Kellerbier (Cottage Cellar), good vibes steered me towards this barrel-aged collaboration. Unlike the Coconut Deth, this beer is unabashedly decadent – not afraid to layer on the coconut and coffee on top of an already luscious and chocolate-forward base. The hazelnut is certainly there amongst the wall of flavor, but the incredible Sazerac Rye and Weller Special Reserve barrels give it some much needed oak and heat to beat back the sweetness. Five ounce pours of this are the exact sweet spot (sorry), but by the time I finished my sample I was left hoping for another pour. This is decadence done right.