ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: June 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 June 2021.
Craig’s Mixed Six
Saison Meer: Lilac (Wine Barrel-Aged) | Saison with lilacs aged in white wine barrels | Afterthought Brewing | Lombard, IL | 5% ABV – read
Afterthought recently (and finally!) opened their Lombard taproom. After some mini-golf in some very hot temperatures, I stopped in. Naturally, I had to get one of the wine barrel-aged saisons available. I’ve had only a handful of beer with flowers in them (the most notable being Vera Mae from Hill Farmstead), so I wasn’t scared. And hot damn it was delicious and quenching. Big lemon tartness with some floral notes backing it up on the tongue, while the white wine barrel really makes its presence known in the dry finish. It’s soft across the tongue and moves things along, leaving only tartness behind. Definitely worth the trip to the taproom to try this and a vast array of other Afterthought saisons.
Au Jus | Black IPA | Alarmist Brewing | Chicago, IL | 7% ABV – listen (Patreon exclusive)
Alarmist just had to be a little too funny with this. Missing our Black IPA episode by a mere month, Alarmist announced Au Jus on April Fool’s Day. Everyone thought it was a joke, until they brewed and released it. Of course we ran out and got it and, let me tell you, it would’ve been at or near the top of the Black IPA show for me. Tons of grassy bitterness from the Simcoe and Chinook hops paired with a copious amount of chocolate malt hit both ends of what I’m looking for in a Black IPA – bitterness and chocolate. The chocolate hits first, then you ride out on the bitterness. It’s delicious and I hope this becomes a year-round – or at the very least yearly – beer.
Barrel-Aged Imperial Smells Like Birthday Suit Spirit | Imperial Stout aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels | Mikerphone Brewing | Elk Grove Village, IL | – listen
It’s a tale as old as time – the festival pour. When having BA Birthday Suit at Mikerphone’s Smells Like a Beer Fest 2021, it got upstaged and dominated by all the adjuncted things on the menu. Subsequently, I liked the Super double BA, double adjunct Bean Spirit variant the best. Then I had BA Birthday Suit on the show, away from all the menacing adjuncts, and it stole the show. Tons of chocolate and brownie notes and an expertly integrated barrel character led to comparisons with Goose Island’s Bourbon County – but only the Bourbon Counties that are very chocolatey and don’t have a ton of barrel heat out of the gate. That barrel provides some nice vanilla and oak notes and rounds off the base beer nicely, but doesn’t really add any sweetness. It’s long since sold out (only available as part of a 3-pack), but it’s well worth a trade.
Colorful Noise | West Coast IPA | Milk Money Brewing | La Grange, IL | 7% ABV – read
If you’ve listened to the podcast recently or read some of my reviews, you know that I’m on a West Coast IPA kick. Seems like I’m craving that bitterness in 2021, and Milk Money’s Colorful Noise has come to scratch that itch. With a lovely old school/new school mix of Citra, Mosaic, and Cascade hops, Colorful Noise hits you with bitterness well beyond its stated 65 IBUs. The malt sweetness provides a nice counter to all the bitterness and it finishes dry. Colorful Noise moves and doesn’t linger on the tongue long, leaving only the bitter behind. If you’re craving bitterness, Colorful Noise should be on your must try list.
Wendy Peffercorn | Golden Milk Stout with coffee and vanilla | Rally Cap Brewing Company | Baton Rouge, LA | 5.5% ABV – listen
I’m always trepidatious about golden stouts of any kind. In my experience they run sweet with nothing to keep it in check. So I was gobsmacked when I enjoyed Wendy Peffercorn as much as I did. It never gets too sweet, the coffee is present but not overbearing, and the lactose and vanilla support both the base stout and the coffee exceedingly well. The whole thing comes off as a light-cream coffee. The big kicker on this? The 5.5% ABV. You can drink a whole can or 4-pack of this and still be coherent. As long as the brewery keeps the adjuncts in check and melds it well with the beer, I’m in. Rally Cap has done so with Wendy Peffercorn.
DDH West Coast Hero | West Coast IPA | Revolution Brewing | Chicago, IL | 8% – listen
Yup, another West Coast IPA. I’m bringing ‘em back! Revolution’s West Coast entry in their Hero Series shows that they made their name not with hazy, juicy beer, but with malty, bitter ones. West Coast Hero balances that bitterness with a malt sweetness, leaving a lovely combination of sweetness, bitterness, and nostalgic memories of IPAs past. Tons of pine and grass aromas greet you, while some citrus and tropical notes round things off on both the aroma and palate. It never veers close to that 3 Floyds level of bitterness thanks to a big malt backbone that cuts into it a bit and adds a kiss of sweetness. Grab a four pack or a case for the summer and enjoy!
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Soul Head | Strata-hopped IPA | Hop Butcher for the World (and The Smashing Pumpkins) | Chicago, IL | 6.5% ABV – listen
Though the biggest story involving Hop Butcher is certainly the purchase of the Half Acre Lincoln Ave. taproom and brewery (which you can hear co-owner Jeremiah Zimmer talk about at length with us in this podcast episode), making a beer with some alternative rock legends from Chicago is pretty cool too, I guess. Though you won’t find any mash paddle photos of Billy Corgan on the Hop Butcher Instagram, this conceptual collaboration combines inspiration from the teas at Billy and his wife Chloe’s shop, a story about a mythical amp, and the deeper meaning the Strata hop holds for Hop Butcher. (Again, listen to our episode to hear about it. We only keep pushing it because we think it’s really good.) The beer itself is a combination of three different lots of the Strata hop, and it’s aromatically propulsive with notes of wet wood, coconut water, passionfruit, honeydew, and musty herbals. It’s both tropical and creamy, but it’s rounded out perfectly by the bitterness and dry finish. This is one of those hazy Hop Butcher beers that actually teaches you the surprising range of a single hop but also makes you want to break out your CD copy of Gish. You know.
Coaster King | Kölsch-Style Ale | Maplewood Brewing Company & Goldfinger Brewing Company | Chicago, IL & Downers Grove, IL | 4.5% ABV – listen
When we do blind tasting podcasts we hope to learn more about a particular style, adjunct, brewery, or barrel-treatment. We are usually successful in that regard while being infamously unsuccessful about guessing almost anything correctly about the beers we are drinking. After a few blind sips of this one, I remarked, “Oh, this is a Goldfinger,” which was a pretty rad coincidence given that I’ve had less than a dozen pours of their beer and I’m absolutely terrible at calling my shot. But truthfully, Goldfinger isn’t afraid of really leaning into making a beer taste like it got sent over from Europe and gathered a little dust in the “IMPORT BEERS” aisle before you brought it home. That’s not to say their beers taste old, but they certainly taste Old World. They also seemingly end up on this monthly sampler every time they make a new beer, so I don’t know how else to convince a non-believer about drinking their beer. But let us not forget that Maplewood’s aesthetic is all over this can, and that they are an Ale brewery that is incredibly adept at making lagers and traditional styles as well. This take on the Kölsch, compared to the others in our blind tasting, had more malt, earthiness, and heft, with a kiss of fruitiness before getting a little bitter and a lot dry. This is an absolute bullseye and must be made again.
Flor De Jamaica | Gose w/ hibiscus, pink sea salt, and cinnamon | Miel Brewery & Taproom | New Orleans, LA | 6% ABV – listen
Hibiscus beers, in my experience, can be tart and dry spritzers or a mess of rusty flower pot water with very little in-between. This stunningly delicious beer was the clear standout surprise for me on our listener-donated Louisiana show (thanks Andrew!) because it Frankensteins the best parts of every other hibiscus beer I’ve had into this one slightly tart but fully flavorful, floral, and softly effervescent gose that I’m kind of obsessed with now. The way the cinnamon supports the rest of the beer without dominating it might be the most impressive thing, but honestly, the whole dang beer is just a master stroke.
Barrel-Aged Flipped the Switch | Imperial Czech-style Dark Lager aged in Smoke Wagon bourbon barrels | Mikerphone Brewing | Elk Grove Village, IL | 10% ABV – listen
When we last talked to Mike Pallen (at SLABF 2021), his face absolutely lit up when talking about this particular beer. It’s a combination of something traditional with something Mikerphone – take the traditional dark lager style, crank that shit to 10, and then toss it in some badass barrels for a few months. Aromatically, there’s slight chocolate, char, coffee roast, toasted hazelnut, prunes, and light tobacco – all easy. The flavor is toasted marshmallow maillard, coffee roast bitterness in the end, and even a little hint of grass. As it warms, the flavor turns to chocolate milk, yet it retains a bit of its lager drinkability despite the inflated ABV. At times, it’d be easy to confuse this for a Baltic porter. It works cold, and it works warm – it’s never not good.
DDH Nelson Wizard | Double IPA | Miskatonic Brewing Company | Darien, IL | 8% ABV – listen
We all know everyone loves “Summer Craig,” but I’ve been workshopping my own identity for 2021 that almost defiantly stands in contrast to the existence of SC but also loves a good beer-drinking adventure: I am Patio Dad, searching the suburbs for the best outdoor brewery spaces to bring two young and unruly children while not upsetting the whole non-breeder set. Yes, my wife and I bring Slurpees and bags of white cheddar popcorn and Goldfish, and hell yes we let our children play dumb games on our cell phones so we can drink in peace for like 20 minutes. We’ve been to Miskatonic twice now, and it’s high on our list amongst the best outdoor seating options with room for our hyperactive kids to do jumping jacks or whatever while not swatting someone else’s IPA flight to the ground. (Maybe the Slurpees have something to do with this – I don’t know.) Anyways, this West Coast-style IPA absolutely rips with the greener parts of Nelson, while also bringing in some of that sweet gooseberry that makes the hop so alluring. Aromatically, it just hurtles itself at your nose like opening a fresh bag of dank marijuana. It’s also pretty massively bitter, as it should be, making you resent that it’s only a 12 ounce can. Also, it tastes pretty good with unattended Goldfish crackers.
O’Neill’s | Dry Irish Stout | Wolfden Brewing Company | Bloomingdale, IL | 5% ABV
As alluded to above, my 4-year old son has come to demand that we go to more “beer fests,” as he calls them, which is really just the few times my wife and I have brought he and his sister to a brewery with ample outdoor seating. Our impromptu “beer fest” at Wolfden was magical – the outdoor patio area is enormous, with multiple seating options, and plenty of places for kids to be goofballs while not disturbing the rest of the patrons. (It’s also extremely accommodating for dogs, with a special menu section just for doggie treats and doggie beers, and a doggie pool for splashing.) This dry Irish stout was actually ideal for an early evening summer beverage – just enough roast to enliven the senses while Nitro-smooth all the way to the easy finish. Sure, I may have ordered it because its namesake brewer Ross O’Neill has been a longtime friend and supporter of the podcast, but it hit every note I like in an easy-drinking stout while never feeling “watered-down” or like some weak porter masquerading as a stout. It’s legit, and you should hit that patio for your own “beer fest,” pronto.