ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: October 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 October 2021.
Craig’s Mixed Six
Renaissance | Barrel-aged stout | Dancing Gnome Brewery | Pittsburgh, PA | 10% ABV – read
Both of the other stouts on my list here are of the more modern variety – big on adjuncts and a little of the sweet side. Renaissance from Dancing Gnome tastes like a throwback. No adjuncts and full of bitter, not sweet, chocolate. It’s still a big one at 10%, but it drinks much lower than that. That lack of sweetness causes you – well at least me – to finish the entire 500 mL bottle happily and before you know it. I just wanted more. Even a small roasty character, as well as some fruits and nuttiness showed up on the palate to complement that bitterness. Very much worth it to try and get a bottle of this limited, brewery-only Dancing Gnome release.
Double Barrel Catch Hell | Barrel-aged stout with vanilla and cinnamon | Half Acre Beer Co. | Chicago, IL | 15.3% ABV – listen
Half Arce’s barrel program has been killing it over the last couple years, rivaling Revolution in terms of quality (but not quantity). Last year’s Cherry Brandy Benthic was my beer of the year and some would say Double Barrel Catch Hell – released earlier this year and selling out in seconds – is the pinnacle of this program. What Half Acre does so well comes in nailing the amount of adjuncts, in this case vanilla and cinnamon. Both are easy to overdo, yet in Half Acre’s hands DB Catch Hell features waves and waves of both, with neither becoming overpowering. The very thick and chewy stout helps things move as well, reminding me of a less sweet cake batter or icing. A treat if you’re able to get one.
Portugal. the Beer | Oat wine aged in Tawny Port wine barrels | Mikerphone Brewing | Elk Grove Village, IL | 12.5% ABV
Oat wines are very similar to barleywines; the only thing that’s different is it’s oats and not barley in the mash. So I’d be expecting very similar flavors to a barleywine – caramel, toffee, butterscotch. Those flavors are there on Portugal. the beer, but the real star of the show are the bountiful fruit notes that come along for the ride. The port wine barrels bring a bouquet of fruits – raisins, cherries, raspberries, plums – to the beer while still maintaining some classic barleywine notes. That barrel also imparts a dry finish usually not found on these types of beer. It really wasn’t what I was expecting when I ordered it, but I loved it. Don’t fear the oatwine!
River Yacht | Cold IPA | Moderne Dune | Chicago, IL | 5.5% ABV – listen
Sometimes low alcohol beers surprise you with a ton of flavor. Finishing dry and bitter, River Yacht packs a ton of cantaloupe, mango, and pineapple before it gets that far. You’d swear you were drinking a DIPA with the amount of flavor it has, yet it’s only a pretty-close-to-being-sessionable 5.5%. But it packs everything you want in an IPA, including a nice malty body and a current of bitterness. The dry finish might put off some, but it helps River Yacht in making it a little bit more crispy in the finish and therefore more drinkable. Maybe not the best beer for the winter months in Chicago, but when the middle of July rolls around, 4-pack should be in danger.
SoDaKolsch | Kölsch | Obscure Brewing Co. | Sioux Falls, SD | 4.9% ABV – listen
In a first for this podcast, I had to review this beer by myself on the show (listen to it for the why). Obscure Brewing’s SoDaKolsch checks all the boxes I look for in a Kölsch. It’s very flavorful and has a nice, light effervescent mouthfeel. Some creamed corn and lemon bread show up on the aroma and taste, but the nice little tinge of grassy bitterness is what does it for me. That bitterness makes you keep going back for more and more until it’s gone. Big flavor, big mouthfeel and a nice final bitterness make this a winning Kölsch in my book.
Primal Coconut Deth | Barrel-aged imperial stout with coconut | Revolution Brewing | Chicago, IL | 13.8% ABV
Revolution’s Deep Wood release party one-offs do have a little bit of history being canned in subsequent years. I won’t go through the list here, but Primal Coconut Deth should hopefully join that list in the next few years. A Wild Turkey single barrel of Deth’s Tar treated with coconut, Primal Coconut Deth was outstanding. Fudgy and thick with just the right amount of coconut added so you know it’s there. It never ventured into the sunscreen zone and was like drinking a Mounds bar. Not as fudgy as Goose Island’s Proprietor’s 2013, but it’s the closest thing I’ve had to that in a long time. The other standout from Revolution’s Deth’s Tar release – Weller VSOD – could also have been here, but there’s a near zero chance of that getting a canned release. I hope to see Coconut Deth on the Deep Wood list for 2022 or 2023.
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Good Morning Munich | Bavarian Style Helles Lager | Art History Brewing | Geneva, IL | 5.2% ABV
Art History is one of those rare breweries that in less than a year, I’ve gone from “barely heard of ‘em” to blindly buying any new lager or traditional style they release as if my life depends on it. This beautiful golden clear Helles pours with two fingers of frothy head, and it has an overall slight aroma of toasted corn, wet grass, and honey malt. A bigger earthy hop character punches through in the middle of an otherwise bright and crisp beer. Further sips bring out a touch of malt sweetness before the grassy bitterness comes in and hangs around past the sip. It’s only hoppy for a Helles – because it’s still outstandingly drinkable all the way through.
Sauvÿn Blanc | Sour Hybrid w/ passion fruit and Sauvignon Blanc grape must | Duneyrr Artisan Fermenta Project | Chicago, IL | 5% ABV – listen
When we spoke with Tyler Davis for the podcast, he detailed a whole bevy of other potential projects, like starting a winery, buying a vineyard, and maybe even distilling. He’s passionate about fermentation beyond simply the difference between an ale and a lager (though he also does those well). The concept of a “Sour Hybrid” might be a hard sell for some, but if you need an example of how exciting that can be, this is the beer you need. A modest amount of passion fruit aromatics mix in with a light white wine character, and sipping brings a bright summer cocktail, all tart and happy. It’s neither a wine-inspired beer, nor a beer-like wine – it melds the flavors and mouthfeel so evenly, you kind of forget you’re drinking either. Experience this for yourself, and go visit Duneyrr’s newly-opened taproom.
Tend | Winter IPA | Half Acre Beer Co. | Chicago, IL | 6.8% ABV
You can’t do this to me, Half Acre. Original Reaper is already my go-to Half Acre seasonal for the colder months. So what’re you doing releasing this aggressively piney and malty IPA now as another Winter seasonal? You realize I still have to maintain my Celebration shelf, but then I gotta switch it up now with this badass? This beer pushes up big aromas of pine sap, mango, and cloudberries – a real cosmic gumbo. The first thing you notice is a chewy bitterness that’s sharp at first and then just sticks around like oily resin and pine, lingering for a long while on your palate. You pick up some toasted malt and slight glimpses of indistinguishable fruit. This is a hearty Winter IPA that stiffens you out for the cold in a way very few modern IPAs can do.
Blood Run Belgian Dubbel | Belgian Dubbel Style Ale | A Homestead Brew | Valley Springs, SD | 8% ABV – listen
We’re going to fail our 2021 goal of “hitting for the cycle,” as we only succeeded in recording a Quad show. But we’re dedicated to doing shows on Singles, Dubbels, and Tripels, so we’ll just move that one over to the 2022 column in our Goals and Achievements Visualizer. This lovely South Dakotan Dubbel smells like raisin bread, bananas, mulling spices, cocoa powder, and a splash of dessert wine. The flavor brings in some plum and a little bit more distinct clove and allspice. It drinks far below the alcohol and can be enjoyed slowly to unravel its complexities, or guzzled a bit faster as you watch ferrets steal people’s laundry on YouTube.
Working Woman | American Brown Ale | Revolution Brewing | Chicago, IL | 5.9% ABV
Easily my favorite four-pack purchase this month was the combo of this beer and the Working Man Mild. This spot could’ve been occupied by its partner-beer, but I love how the toastier malt and slightly bigger body of this one brings out roasted nuts and a bit more caramel. There are some earthy hop characters peeking through as well, and the finish totally snaps. I will buy as many 4-packs of this as necessary to make sure it returns, so Rev, DM us and let me know about how many more I need to buy. For real.
Humongous Chungus | Barrel-aged Imperial Stout w/ toasted coconut, Madagascar vanilla beans, and Ghana cacao nibs | Werk Force Brewing Company | Plainfield, IL | 12.8% ABV
After a long afternoon of apple-picking with the family, the four of us rolled up to Werk Force like an Untappd ticker’s worst nightmare: bubble poppers, 7-11 snacks, and iPhones loaded with My Little Pony and Ben10 videos. And it was a perfect little early evening patio experience – neither of my children knocked over someone’s barrel-aged taster flight, nor did they infringe on the other patrons’ ability to talk about adult stuff with swears. The worst thing that happened was that I spilled a little of this beer on my hand as I was walking back to our picnic table, and it was thicc like Hershey’s syrup. This beer is a barrel-aged imperial pastry stout, and it proudly wears its adjuncts on its sleeve. (As did I.) It’s sweet enough to live up to its name, but the barrels take over the finish and dry it out just enough to make you seriously consider getting another pour.