ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: March 2020
Well, a lot has changed since our last monthly sampler. Most obviously, Ryan drank a lot more stouts than IPAs this month. Ok, ok, sorry. In reality, this monthly roundup was meant to highlight beers we either had together on the podcast, or out at taprooms, or alone in our separate residences. And now only the latter will apply for the immediate future, but we pledge to continue filling your time with beer content to distract you from (gestures broadly). But if you feel so compelled – and you should – stop reading this and donate to local bars, restaurants, or breweries struggling through this crisis. Also, donate to healthcare workers and others putting themselves between us and this horrible virus daily. But we sincerely hope good beers and our inane analysis of them can be a small distraction for you as you stay safe and do your part.
Craig’s Mixed Six
Tootsie – Raspberry | Fruited sour oat cream ale w/ raspberry, cacao nibs, and milk sugar | 1840 Brewing Company | Milwaukee, WI | 6% ABV
A fruited sour with raspberries, cacao nibs, milk sugar, and oats? Whoa, that just sounds like Sea Foam with different fruit! The mouthfeel is there, the raspberries really pop, and it still retains a tartness to identify as a beer. The cacao nibs, however, were minimal and possibly only perceived because it was listed as an ingredient on the bottle. You know what? It was extremely enjoyable and I finished the bottle extremely quickly. I’m definitely in the market for any of 1840’s oated fruited sours they release and you should be as well.
Arctic Panzer Wolf | Double IPA | 3 Floyds Brewing Co. | Munster, IN | 9% ABV – listen
I first had this at the Map Room a long time ago, then returned a few nights later to have some more and the “rare” keg of it was gone. I remember it being aggressively hoppy and bitter back then, and I’m happy to report that it’s just as good as I remembered it, if not better. Citrus, pine and tropical notes give way to an aggressive and enjoyable bitterness that will have you longing for the days of the IBU wars.
Fat Bear | Peanut butter imperial stout w/ chocolate | Hop Butcher for the World | Chicago, IL | 10.5% ABV – listen
My winner of the surprisingly varied peanut butter cup stout show, this Hop Butcher beer exhibited everything you’d want in a peanut butter cup stout. Fat Bear featured a thick mouthfeel, tons of peanut butter on the nose (with some chocolate), tons of chocolate on the palate (with some peanut butter), and an overall enjoyable experience. Not too sweet but reminding you of that Reese’s you had at the movies, Hop Butcher absolutely nailed it with this stout.
Dunkel | Dark Lager | Kinslahger Brewing Company | Oak Park, IL | 5.1% ABV – listen
Continuing my Descent into Dunkel™, Kinslagher’s Dunkel is exactly what a dunkel should be – some lager characteristics and some stout/porter notes. Good amounts of roastiness and nuttiness (and a slight hint of chocolate) mixed exceedingly well with a nice, crispy lager finish. This is exactly what you need when you want to have something with some roasty notes while still be able to accomplish things other than sitting on the couch/sleeping for the rest of the day.
Cashmere Pulaski | Pilsner dry-hopped with Cashmere | Maplewood Brewing Company | Chicago, IL | 5.1% ABV
Maplewood took their Pulaski Pils and added cashmere hops and produced a winner. Light and refreshing with a crisp finish, Cashmere Pulaski adds some tropical fruit notes to the base beer. There’s also some lemon, biscuit, grass, and herbs showing up as well. Flavorful, enjoyable, and easy to drink. Let’s hope this gets released again next year for their Pulaski Day celebration.
Catalina Breeze | West Coast IPA | Mile Wide Beer Co. | Louisville, KY | 7% ABV
It started off juicy and fruity, and finished with some bitterness that steadily grows. Somehow Mile Wide was able to accomplish what few have – melding the juice and fruit of the hazy IPA while maintaining the bitterness of the west coast IPA. It wasn’t missing anything, including the seamless transition from the haze to the west and bitterness that wasn’t too aggressive. I wish there were more beers like this out there. Wow.
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Wigsplitter | Imperial oatmeal stout w/ espresso | 3 Floyds Brewing Co. | Munster, IN | 7.7% ABV – listen
Craig tested me to name another 3 Floyds non-Dark Lord stout, and I came up with “Blot Out the Sun” and this beer. I’m probably way off base, but I hadn’t really considered that 3 Floyds is hardly a stout brewery outside of one of its signature beers. This beer will have you questioning why they don’t make more, especially if you want an aggressively coffee-forward stout to give you a second wind when you should probably be wrapping things up. The aroma gets to you before even bending an elbow: aggressive dark roast coffee, burnt leather, chocolate mousse, and cigar tobacco. The flavor is all fresh ground espresso, dark chocolate, and campfire-charred marshmallow. But the lactose-like smoothness helps bail out any burnt roast flavor in the end, and it turns out surprisingly easy to drink for a 7.7% coffee stout.
Slam Dunkel | Dunkel Lager | Falls City Beer | Louiseville, KY | 5% ABV
From the folks that brought you Billy Beer, this dark lager celebrates March Madness, which is a thing many people participated in once. This beer gives you more than just one shining moment, as the aroma is nutty with some subtle sweet malt, sarsparilla, molasses, and black currant. It’s more aromatic than most dunkels, and the mouthfeel is impressively effervescent. The nflavor is reminiscent of brown ale malts – it’s not sweet, a touch of roasted peanuts is evident, and it finishes easy and crisp. Mass quantities required.
Guinness Draught | Irish dry stout | Guinness | Ireland? | 4.2% ABV
When I had this beer, it was damn good – better than I remember a proper pour of Guinness tasting. But in retrospect, I didn’t know this beer would carry the meaning it does for me now. On Sunday, March 8th, my parents came over to babysit the kids while my wife and I went out for drinks. After spending some time drinking at Oak Park’s One Lake Brewing, we decided to end our night at one of the many Irish dive bars populating Madison Street in Forest Park. My wife had heard that Duffy’s Tavern – a right proper dive bar with a bathroom so mystifyingly small that you are likely in constant contact with any number of unsanitary surfaces – was under new ownership. We walked into an empty bar with just the new owner tending bar, playing some upbeat Irish bar rock. I ordered a proper Guinness pint – which he poured to perfection – and he told us stories about having to clean the blood of twenty-somethings from the sidewalk out front after the previous day’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Then a man with a thick Irish accent and a ten-string guitar, who seemingly appeared from an unknown back entrance, sat at the bar and plucked away gently while continuing the conversation. It was the last drink I had in a bar prior to the acknowledgment of the outbreak and the beginning of quarantine. And it’s kind of a great memory that I’ll hold onto for a while.
Original Reaper | American stout | Half Acre Beer Company | Chicago, IL | 6% ABV – listen
Perhaps my biggest quarantine regret was not buying many, many more 4-packs of this beer as my local Jewel had it for $10 a 4-pack. There are a lot of stouts featured in my mixed six this month, but this one is my favorite of the bunch. It’s one of those beers that you could argue is both simple and complex because on one hand, it’s big on aroma and full of flavor. But it also drinks easier than most stouts you’ve ever had, especially if you like a little bitterness to round out your dark beers. It smells of bitter cocoa nibs with a slight grassy hop character. The flavor is coffee and chocolate roast and slightly bitter herbal hops, with a light-medium mouthfeel. There’s no way you won’t follow your first one with another.
Rain Sleet or Snow | Imperial oatmeal stout | Icarus Brewing | Lakewood, NJ | 8.2% ABV – listen
An absolute gem from a generous New Jersey-originating shipment from listener Mike Bobal, this one divided Craig and I on the podcast. Craig insisted it was more black IPA than stout, while I commended the bitterness to help round out the complex roasty, chocolatey, and nutty stout. It’s close to espresso-levels of darkness, and dark chocolate pops in before the hops. It starts with this soft and creamy mouthfeel before tightening up into roast and bitter that give it a whole lovely, repeatable progression.
Beer For Tacos | Gose w/ lime juice, coriander, and pink Himalayan sea salt | Off Color Brewing | Chicago, IL | 4.8% ABV
Okay, my second biggest quarantine regret was making delicious tacos for dinner and completely forgetting to open one of these beers. So, take this as a qualified review, as I have not realized this beer’s actual purpose. But on its own, it smells like a virgin lime margarita, and the flavor matches with the perfect salinity to dry out the finish. For every esoteric or anachronistic beer this brewery makes, they produce a consistent lineup of endlessly drinkable – yet fun – beers. This beer is year-round and running about $10 a 4-pack, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t pick this up.