ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: May 2020
As I sit here assembling this post, taproom patios in the suburbs are preparing to open for the first time in months. Chicago won’t be far behind. While I’m excited for a return to somewhat normalcy, I’m also hesitant to embrace those feelings, as I’m sure many are. And you know what? It’s okay if you decide to still sit it out a while. I most likely will be staying away for the foreseeable future. I’ll ride this curbside wave to keep supporting local breweries, but keep myself distant a bit longer, because that’s what works for me. But if you do go out, be safe and smart – wear your mask when you’re expected to, wash your hands, keep your distance, and tip like a fucking rock star.
Craig’s Mixed Six
Coffee Liquid Spiritual Delight | Imperial stout with Blueprint coffee | 2nd Shift Brewing | St. Louis, MO | 11.5% ABV
One reason I don’t drink coffee is the way I would take it – pulverized with cream and sugar. I like my coffee stouts the same way, not necessarily sweet, but with a smooth creaminess and a light to medium roast. Therefore, I’m not a fan of using a fruit-forward coffee. Usually when a fruity coffee is chosen for the stout, it takes over and, in some cases, makes people think the beer is infected. That is not the case with Coffee Liquid Spiritual Delight (LSD). A hit from 2016 Stoutfest, 2nd Shift deftly manages a fruit-forward coffee in a thick, creamy, chocolatey stout to achieve something I didn’t think possible. It starts off just like a thick stout would, with some roast, chocolate and a creamy mouthfeel. The roast and more importantly the chocolate then act as a bridge to gently lead you to the dark cherry, raisin and prune finish of the beer. Coffee LSD takes all the best things you can get out of both a stout and a coffee and smashes them together. Delicious.
Meringue: Yuzu | Gin barrel-aged saison with yuzu puree | Afterthought Brewing Company | Lombard, IL | 4.7% ABV
Did I have an Afterthought beer this month? If I did, it probably ends up here. Meringue: Yuzu does everything you come to expect from Afterthought – a pillowy light saison, full of tart lemon with a hint of hay and spices. The gin barrel adds both depth and roundness to the beer all while imparting slight notes of juniper and accentuating the lemon characteristic of the base. Yuzu then adds another layer of tartness to the proceedings, resulting in a complex, refreshing, and enjoyable saison. I wonder what other brewery has a beer with yuzu that loves gin and could release a beer like this?
Dragon Fruit Mango Orange Slush | Sour ale with dragon fruit, mango and orange | Eagle Park Brewing Company | Milwaukee, WI | 8% ABV
Obtained as an extra in a trade, I was hesitant to try this Slush beer. I’m not overly fond of over- fruited sours and with a name like slush, well I better strap it down for some sweetness or tartness and not a lot of beer characteristics. Boy was I wrong. Despite the name, it wasn’t an over-fruited sour. It was easy drinking and refreshing, much similar to a Hawaiian Punch or Hi-C than a sludgy mess of a beer. The fruit was bright, the beer was tart and the overall end result was thoroughly enjoyable. Really makes me long for the days of simply fruited sours.
Black Walnut | Belgian Imperial Stout | Raised Grain Brewing Company | Waukesha, MI | 9.6% ABV
Yes, we had a version of this beer on the show, but that had coffee in it. Regular ol’ Black Walnut doesn’t and it’s still pretty damned tasty. Starting off with a ton of coffee roast, chocolate and a creaminess, the Walnut quickly pivots to a more traditional stout, with a fair amount of grassy bitterness and a fairly dry finish. The danger of this finish is two-fold. That bitterness not only hides the 9.6% ABV very well (think around 6-7%), but it also keeps you going back for more, much like certain IPAs do. Then a 16oz can of 9.6% stout is gone and whatever’s left of your day is ruined. But at least the stout was enjoyable!
Soaring Dragon | Imperial IPA with white tea | Stone Brewing | Escondido, CA | 8% ABV – Listen
We’re slowly becoming experts about what happens with tea in beers (or are we already experts?). You should expect tea to impart a dry finish and nix a lingering mouthfeel/throatfeel. Soaring Dragon does just that, but the ride beforehand is worth the price of admission. Floral and citrus notes dominate the nose (along with notes of Turkish Delight rose flavored candies!) and all those things show up in the beer in the flavor as well. It also helps that the beer drinks well below its stated 8% (probably due to the tea), and you have a Stone beer that you really shouldn’t pass up when it’s available on the shelf.
Launch Beer | American Pale Ale | Trillium Brewing Company | Canton, MA | 5.7% ABV
An American pale ale that smells and tastes like an IPA? Sign me up. Trillium nailed their launch beer for the opening of their Canton brewery in 2015 with this aggressively hopped pale ale. Tons of citrus aromas leads to a fruity feel at the beginning, but finishes easy with a fair amount of bitterness. It was so flavorful and drinkable that we couldn’t even come up with a reasonable comp to a Chicagoland beer; it was that unique and enjoyable. The combination of the low ABV, big citrus character, and bitter finish make Launch Beer one of the better pale ales I’ve had in some time.
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Triple Hop’d Lager | India Pale Lager | Bitburger Brauerei and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. | Bitburg, Germany & Chico, CA | 5.8% ABV – Listen (Patreon only)
Sierra Nevada’s my favorite brewery that I’ve never visited, and when they team up with a legacy German brewery (which they’ve done before), I’m in for a 6- or 12-pack (or, hell, 24 loose cans.) This one pours a beautiful golden orange with a full two fingers of head and ornate lacing. The aroma isn’t “triple hopped” anything – it’s grassy and earthy, with notes of sweet biscuit, flowers, and aluminum. That grassiness comes out in the dry end of the sip, but it’s not overly bitter. There’s even a touch of skunk in the flavor adding to a classic charm, and an almost yeasty dough character. And as a bonus, this will likely still be good in 6 months.
La Floridita | Sparkling Rosé Ale w/ hibiscus and passion fruit | Cruz Blanca Brewery | Chicago, IL | 5% ABV – Listen
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We’ve had mixed results with rosé-inspired beers in the past, but Cruz Blanca has a way with transforming wayward styles into something magical. (See entry: “Brut IPAs”) This is an ideal summer beer for grilling and hanging out with fewer than 10 people. Passion fruit erupts from the aroma with a supporting floral sweetness. It drinks with a light wheat-like body, tart passion fruit juice, and a slightly mineral dry finish. Absolutely buy this.
Hefeweizen | Hefeweizen | Dovetail Brewery | Chicago, IL | 4.8% ABV
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This, quite simply, is the best hefeweizen I’ve ever had. It is a still somewhat under-embraced Chicago treasure, probably because people think hefeweizens are all flabby approximations of Weihenstephaner’s classic or a ninth-generation Xerox of a Widmer-inspired homebrew recipe that can’t be choked down without an orange slice or three. Sweet banana first hits your lips before an effervescent wave of bubbles softly moves down the palate leaving a pepper and clove bite, with even the faintest hint of tartness. This beer redefined and ruined the style for me when I first had it at the taproom, as memories of that first pour had me chasing other breweries’ versions and always being a bit let down. Finally having this from cans, I appreciate how they’ve nailed the taste of a fresh taproom pour as close as they are able to, and I actually can’t help uttering an Owen Wilson-like “wow” with every sip.
Chula | Gose w/ mango and chile spice | More Brewing Company | Huntley, IL | 5.5% ABV
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This collaboration between a bunch of extreme flavor addicts unsurprisingly dumps the mango in with a heavy hand. But as a “juice” beer, it’s remarkably fun to drink, which is enhanced by the slight chile spice. It’s like sprinkling Tajín on a big glass of fresh mango purée, but there’s also a “beer” character to it as well in the form of malt like a tiny wedge of wheat bread. The salinity from the gose and the spice from the chile help keep the sweet finish of pure mangos from lingering very long.
Select Schwarzbier | Schwarzbier | Pipeworks Brewing Company | Chicago, IL | 6.3% ABV – Listen
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The ongoing series of Pipeworks lagers continues to amaze as they lean heavier on tradition than their tendency for big flavors, and this beer is no exception. Aromatically, the roast and chocolate are so slight that it belies its pitch-black appearance. Big roast and dark chocolate hit immediately on the flavor, but a noticeable hop and roasty coffee-like bitterness linger on the back, which ultimately finishes crisp like a lager. The body is where silky and effervescent meet, which sounds like a Cinemax series for beer. This is for when you want a porter or a stout and it’s 90 degrees out.Ⓡ (I’ll sell that slogan, Pipeworks, if you’re interested.)
PM Dawn | Imperial Stout w/ Cold Brewed Coffee | Trillium Brewing Company | Canton, MA | 9% ABV
Sometimes you just want a coffee stout to be a coffee stout, and this is an uncomplicated example of flavors working in perfect harmony. The aroma brings some walnut and chocolate, while the flavor is chocolate and roast with a light nuttiness. It’s a bit bitter in the finish, and there’s no sweetness to be found. It’s on the heavier side of a medium mouthfeel, though it drinks far easier than the ABV. It feels like a classic take on one of the best pairings in beer: coffee and stout.