ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: September 2020
Each month, we like to highlight twelve beverages 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 liquids we bought because we love beer – and non-beer. Here are our highlights for the month of September.
Craig’s Mixed Six
Forgotten Not Lost | Barrel-aged Biere de Garde Bruin | 1840 Brewing | Milwaukee, WI | 11% ABV – read
Knowing is half the battle! It helps to know two things about this beer before drinking it – 31 months in a single wine barrel and bottled basically still – otherwise you might have concerns or problems with it. A wine drinker’s beer, Forgotten Not Lost goes heavy on the tannis, dark fruits and dry finish while also supplying some nuanced notes of caramel and toffee. Not one to chug, its value reveals itself after multiple sips over a period of time. Seriously, even decanting this might be in play here. Definitely not for everyone, but for those that are up to the challenge, you’re rewarded with a lovely evening sipper meant for night by the fire and romantic pauses. I would think.
Rubied Perspective | Sour aged on cherries and ceylon cinnamon | Odious Cellars | Chicago, IL | 5.6% ABV – read
It seems like sour beers and breweries have taken a back seat. Around the time we started the podcast (2014), they were all the rage and popping up all over the place. That has since slowed, as breweries have shifted towards the more trendier styles, so it was a welcome sight to see Odious Cellars releasing their first beers. Rubied Perspective is a tart, refreshing cherry beer with a hint of heat from the ceylon cinnamon. It’s got just the right amount of tartness and carb to make it enjoyable without making it a puckering nightmare or a chore to finish a 500 mL bottle by yourself. I’ll be trying to get as much as I can from Odious as they release if they continue to make these really balanced spontaneous and mixed-culture barrel-aged beers.
All For One, One For All | Imperial Milk Stout with hazelnut, coffee, vanilla, and milk sugar | Old Irving Brewing | Chicago, IL | 11.5% ABV – listen
We had Old Irving’s collab with Illuminated on a previous podcast and it was way too sweet, so I was hesitant going into this one. Confident that Old Irving knows its way around a milk stout, I dove in and was extremely happy with the results. Tons of coffee roast on the nose with some hazelnut help, while the chocolate and vanilla get the award for best supporting flavor in a beer. There’s some sweetness there in the middle, but it’s the right kind of sweetness, and the coffee cuts down that sweet finish by ending it on a more bitter note. The milk sugar makes All For One a smooth ride in Palatetown, and the balance in this beer is remarkable. Don’t sleep on Old Irving – get this (and a few others mentioned on the podcast) while you can. (Proceeds from this beer benefit My Block, My Hood, My City.)
Thundertaker | Imperial Rye Stout aged in Bourbon barrels | Revolution Brewing | Chicago, IL | 14.5% ABV – read
What was supposed to be released as a springtime Deep Wood beer got delayed due to the pandemic and joined the 2020-2021 Deep Wood lineup. So it spent more time in barrels. And hoo-boy is it a good way to kick off this year’s lineup. More barleywine than stout, Thundertaker features a ton of licorice, caramel, and toffee backed by some chocolate, vanilla, and oak notes. Sure it’s sweet, but it’s more bourbon sweet than candy sweet. The scariest thing about it is that 14.5% – more so that it drinks closer to a session beer than a big, burly, barrel-aged stout. You’ll finish your can in no time and reach for another. Which you should do. But don’t plan on doing anything the rest of the day.
Pliny the Elder | Double IPA | Russian River | Santa Rosa, CA | 8% ABV – listen
Does the world really need more words about Pliny the Elder? Possibly for a new generation of drinkers, ones brought up on hazy IPAs and fruit bomb sours (literally). Pliny the Elder – first of its name (Double IPA), tamer of palates – really shows you what a double IPA is capable of. Strong bitterness featuring both resinous and piney qualities, a malt bill that supports and accentuates the beer, and a drinkability that usually has you craving more than one bottle (good luck if not in Cali!). We always look forward to having a pint while in Denver for GABF (well, in a normal year) and it’s a treat every damn time. It’s one of those bucket list beers that you have to try if you say you’re a craft beer drinker (along with a few other Russian River bottles).
Florida Seltzer: Pineapple Mango | Fruited Hard Seltzer | Untitled Art | Waunakee, WI | 5% ABV – listen
I did not expect this. So hard seltzers are everywhere, mainly due to being a low calorie, low carb alternative to beer. If I go to McDonald’s, I’m not eating healthy, no matter what I order (even the Diet Coke), so I’m of the go all-in mindset on these occasions. While most of the hard seltzers were watery and sometimes odd tasting, this bad boy from Untitled Art went all in on the flavor and, yes, sugar and calories. Go big or go home. Pineapple and mango dominate the big flavor profile making this Florida Seltzer closer to soda than seltzer. Of all the 10 seltzers we had on the two shows, this one far and away stood out to me as being so drastically different from the rest of the pack that it will never leave my mindspace. I’m in the market for these Florida Seltzers if they’re all done this way. Thanks 2020. I said I’m in for a hard seltzer. Stupid year.
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Throop | Kolsch | Hop Butcher for the World | Darien, IL | 4.5% ABV – listen (Patreon only)
When Hop Butcher wants to do crisp, they can do crisp. (Crisp tends to move a liiiiiiitle bit slower, though.) This Riwaka-hopped Kolsch is certainly easy-drinking, but the New Zealand hop addition brings this a little closer to crushable pale ale. Aromatically green with notes of rain-soaked herb garden and vibrant grapefuit, the flavor shifts to lemon zest with an earthy herbal bite. The body is exceptionally easy, despite the ever-present hop influence, and it rides out dry and crisp. The redrinkability-factor on this is through the roof.
Glampfire Victuals | Golden Pale Ale | Hubbard’s Cave | Niles, IL | 6% ABV
When a beer is sold as a “brewery staff favorite” you can almost assume it’s going to be 1.) easy-drinking and 2.) no higher than a 3.75 on Untappd. Jerry and crew certainly enjoy selling their big adjunct stouts and hazy IPAs to the people, but this feels right coming from a guy who once told me his favorite everyday-drinking beer is Moon Man. Dynamic aromatics shift more than expected with a hodgepodge of musky berry, citrus, aloe leaves, pine, papaya, honeydew, and a tickle of cat pee. On the taste, it’s light-bodied with a prickly and piney bitterness that lingers into the dry finish, leaving a touch of orange pith. Something to drink by the glampfire, whatever the hell that is. (Oh.)
Pleiadian Play Date | Piquette-inspired malt beverage w/ wine grapes and hibiscus | Illuminated Brew Works | Chicago, IL | 6% ABV – listen
The month of September started with me drinking hard seltzers for the actual first time, and then trying the craft equivalents to some pretty underwhelming results. Admittedly, I have no real desire to leave beer behind as my drink of choice, and seltzer didn’t do much to change that. When I first saw this adorably diminutive can from Illuminated, I thought they were getting into seltzers. This is actually more of a carbonated wine cooler: a Piquette-inspired malt beverage in collaboration with City Winery. It’s like watered-down red wine except for the exquisite bubbles and sweet floral hibiscus bringing it back up. This is a wonderful surprise and one of the most interesting things ever made by a brewery whose whole-ass mission is to be intimidatingly weird. I’m going to buy this again.
Morever | DDH IPA | More Brewing Company | Villa Park & Huntley, IL | 6.5% ABV – listen
So, just to put this up front so my friend Aaron sees this, I want everyone to know that this beer is called Morever, not Moreover, despite Craig and I’s insistence on the show. It was a blind show, and we didn’t have the can in front of us, and we are actually pretty dumb. (Although, Moreover IS a good beer name if they decide to make a Double IPA version of this. Wink wink.) This pours like Sunny D and smells like mint orange sorbet. There’s a medium body that never gets too heavy thanks to even carbonation and a modestly herbal bitterness that appears at the tailend of the sip. The turbid appearance doesn’t prepare you for how “crushable” this one is.
Scentinel | IPA | Old Irving Brewing Co. | Chicago, IL | 7% ABV – listen
Just when I was feeling the haze fatigue, this beer came along and reminded me why I loved hoppy beers in the first place. Brewed with Citra, Mosaic, and Centennial hops, this beer marries the old with the new, pouring a clear burnt golden orange. While the Centennial is leaning towards the classic West Coast IPAs of yore, the Citra and Mosaic bring out more dynamic tropical, citrus, and berry notes. The noticeable malt sweetness and persistent sticky pine bitterness bring me back to when hoppy beers didn’t shy away from having an extremely long finish. This would absolutely be in my regular rotation if brewed year-round.
Nectar: Passion Fruit // Peach | Fruited Sour | Phase Three Brewing | Lake Zurich, IL | 5.4% ABV – listen (Patreon only)
“I was expecting chunks.” Typically, I’m not interested in over-fruited sours unless it serves a purpose for the podcast, and I’ve seen beer Twitter unroll a regular gallery of coagulated nightmare cocktails masquerading as beer that push me ever-closer to being a full-on craft beer crank. This one is certainly thick, but it doesn’t do more than leave a little sandy residue on the glass. I can live with that. And if I forget beer gatekeeping for a minute, this tastes like an early 2000s Jamba Juice order that I’d make regularly – and them’s good tastes. There are notes reminiscent of a bellini with ripe peach and a surprising tingly prosecco-like tartness. The passion fruit takes a rare supporting role, but it adds to the light pucker that makes this one taste more like a sour beer than not. (Admittedly, there was a sludgier finish to the pour from the bottom of the can that I left out which could’ve changed the whole experience.)