ABV Chicago Monthly Sampler: September 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 September 2021.
Ryan’s Mixed Six
Grand Crew | Belgian Quad w/ Piloncillo and Blue Agave | Bold Dog Beer Co./ Casa Humilde Cerveceria/ Beermiscuous | Chicago, IL | 11.5% ABV – listen (Patreon only)
This is a triumphant beer in terms of what it signifies – and it tastes pretty great, too. Brewed for Beermiscuous Lakeview’s 7th Anniversary and as a, “celebration of…the workers, brewers, bartenders, and everyone between,” this beer represents a joyous moment after an extremely difficult year-plus. Though certainly not the only business to face hardships during the pandemic, Beermiscuous was handed a uniquely frustrating and almost constant barrage of setbacks. The mayor’s confusing and downright malicious shuttering of “taverns” without food shortly after Beermiscuous had gone to tremendous lengths to ensure extremely safe indoor serving was devastating, leaving the beer café to pivot again (and again and again). And never once did they compromise their morals along the way, rebounding to lead the charge on safe indoor drinking and requiring proof of vaccination along with championing many other important causes. So hoisting this strong and flavorful Quad feels victorious – a true celebration of one of the businesses we admire most. And it’s a stellar Quad as well! Aromatically, it retains some of the dark fruits of a Quad while tipping towards mulled wine. It warms you up almost immediately, and the deep notes of plum and raisin rise in the flavor. Open this with your crew.
Blushing Star | Barrel-aged pilsner w/ Brettanomyces and Maine white peaches | Liquid Riot Bottling Co. | Portland, ME | 6.5% ABV – listen
About every other month these days it seems we have a beer style that pushes us to ask, “Why aren’t more breweries doing this?” That’s true for this barrel-aged “wild” pilsner – and oh how I long for a world of more barrel-aged wild pilsners. The aroma is borderline nail polish remover with its big Brett funk, but it’s also awash in sweet peaches and cream. It still retains its pilsner base in the taste, though the peaches, horsey funk, and tannic wine-like oak battle for attention. This is one of those beers that would enter a smaller FoBAB category and walk away with the Best in Show.
Java Logic | Pilsner with barrel-aged Hexe coffee | Lo Rez Brewing | Chicago, IL | 5.1% ABV – listen (Patreon only)
Okay, it might not be another barrel-aged pilsner, but it’s close enough that I’ll take it. Aromatically, it’s opening a door to a roastery, wet wood chips, and earth. The flavors somewhat clash, but in a way where you can enjoy both elements clearly until you appreciate how they are actually complementing one another. It starts with a wave of fresh roasted coffee, but the finish is mostly a wonderfully easy pilsner with a hint of dark roast. It’s a beer that manages to be strangely unique and comforting at the same time.
Della | Kölsch | Old Irving Brewing Co. | Chicago, IL | 5.2% ABV – listen
Since we were first wowed by them at a few beer fests in early 2018, Old Irving has quickly become one of our favorite breweries. We’ve built show concepts around individual beers of theirs just because we needed an excuse to drink them, and that doesn’t happen with many others. (Plus, Trevor was one of our very few mid-pandemic podcast guests, and that was rad of him). We were overjoyed to hear Old Irving won their second GABF medal – a silver for this immaculate Kölsch with a noble hop bite and notes of toasted corn tortilla and flowers. It pops a bit more than most Kölsch-style beers, and the floral hops that round out the finish leave an in-Della-ble impression. (Oof, sorry.)
Neon Burning Bright | Mixed-culture saison aged in gin barrels w/ ginger, lime, and Cara Cara oranges | River Roost Brewery | White River Junction, VT | 6% ABV – listen
This is one of the better examples of barrel-aged beer-as-cocktails we’ve had in a while, as I could see sipping this one on rocks. The gin botanicals and juniper meet your nose first, followed by a cosmic gumbo of juniper, orange peel, spicy ginger, and cheesy funk. On the sip you’re hit with a pulsating wave of bubbles that make this thing soft yet effervescent with a finishing tartness. The flavors are woody and floral, with a tangy-yet-dry citrus punch character. Just writing about this beer makes me want to scratch that mixed-culture saison itch by popping open one of my “special occasion” Keeping Together beers.
Dreamer | Hefeweizen | Tree House Brewing Company | Charlton, MA | 5.2% ABV – listen (Patreon only)
Is Hefeweizen back?? Did it ever really leave? There has been a bit more attention on the style recently that has prompted a few to wonder if it’s a “thing” again, but honestly, visit most brewpubs across the country with a sizable taplist and I’d venture a guess that there’s a hefe available. (Maybe I’m wrong.) It’s still one of the great crossover styles to get your craft newbie friends in the adventurous mood to taste more yeasty beers. This Tree House one is no exception, drinkable beyond reason with a touch of hop that makes it unique. It’s still that esthery and soft style you’ve come to know and love, but there’s just enough unique character to make it stand out.
Craig’s Mixed Six
Midwest Royalty | American Lager | Alarmist Brewing | Chicago, IL | 5.5% ABV – listen
On a show full of winners, Midwest Royalty stood out. Crisp, clean, and refreshing just begin to describe what Alarmist was able to pull off with this American lager. I typically get some creamed corn off these types of lagers both on the nose and on the taste. While getting a little corn on the nose, it really didn’t show up on the taste too much. Some fruit notes showed up along with some grassy bitterness that finished it off. And then I wanted some more. And more. And after the podcast more. It was just so flavorful and crisp with just a hint of bitterness that I wanted to keep drinking it. Thankfully it’s only 5.5% so you can kill a 4-pack if you’d like. And you will. This somehow got the bronze in its category. Think I might need to try the silver and gold if this is the bronze!
Coolship Cerise Estate | Lambic-style with cherries | Allagash Brewing Company | Portland, ME | 5.9% ABV – listen
We started off this show with four small batch, brewery-only, experimental Allagash beers and then threw the ringer on – a small batch, brewery-only, coolship Allgash beer. Guess what won? Featuring cherries grown on Allagash’s property out back behind the brewery, Coolship Cerise Estate does what Resurgam, Red, and even Peche do so well – balance the lemon, funk, tartness and fruit so expertly and elegantly while still remaining drinkable. While not getting the extreme funkiness and mustiness of Belgian lambic, this is about as close as you’ll get here stateside. This, as well as all Allagash Coolship beers, are a must buy for lambic/wild beer lovers.
Barn Hex | New England DIPA | Belleflower Brewing | Portland, ME | 8.5% ABV – listen
It really takes something nowadays to stand out as a hazy-style IPA. Barn Hex managed to do just that. A huge amount of fruit aroma greets you, which gives way to a juicy and fruitful taste. But there’s a few other things Barn Hex does that makes it really stand out to me. Some bitterness finishes the beer off and, most importantly, it’s not too sweet. If memory serves, it also features a relatively crisp finish for the style which just makes you want to drink it again. I was wowed by this while at the brewery and it’s a testament to its quality that I was wowed again in a controlled podcast setting. Good things from this new Portland, ME brewery.
Better Distractions | Peach lager | Goose Island Beer Co. (collab with Faye Webster) | Chicago, IL | 5.3% ABV – read
Note: This review was written days before the still very new article from Josh Noel in the Chicago Tribune was published that featured allegations of sexual harassment and union-busting at the hands of higher-ups at Goose Island. We in no way condone, support, or endorse any of those actions and are awaiting response and action from Goose Island in regards to these serious allegations, as those in charge must be held accountable.
Typically Goose Island’s collaborations for the Pitchfork Music Festival don’t get released. It’s on at the fest and the taproom and maybe an after party, but that’s it. This year – for the second time – their Pitchfork collab beer got canned and had a small release. Better Distractions features the best of the lager and the best of what fruit can offer. Typical lager notes of biscuit, lemon, and some grass join with some stone fruit notes that make this one to keep drinking. With the added fruit it actually suits the beer better for its September release (as opposed to July when the fest typically happens) giving it a creamier mouthfeel and more robust body. It’s pretty close to what I’d want in an autumnal lager – light, flavorful, but with some body behind it. If Better Distractions is still available, get some. If not, I’m hoping Goose Island makes something similar for a wider release. Maybe for the White Sox playoff run?
VSOP Orin | Barrel-aged American Strong Ale | Half Acre Beer | Chicago, IL | 13.9% ABV
I had it all planned out. Show up at Half Acre’s Lincoln taproom on the final day and have a final, classic beer one last time. Something akin to Daisy Cutter, Space, or Sticky Fat. While I settled on Space from the board, I noticed something else – VSOP Orin. So I ordered that as well. Glad I did. Big in flavor and most importantly extremely smooth, VSOP Orin was perfect for a sunny day with a slight chill. Some chocolate, some vanilla, some barrel and some raisins and figs, one can only hope VSOP Orin will be canned and released this year. Farewell, Half Acre Lincoln. See you later.
Zenith | Sour with strawberries, cherry blossoms, and pink Himalayan salt | Odious Cellars (collaboration with Mirepoix Gangster Kitchens) | Chicago, IL | 5.3% ABV – read
It only took nine months, but Odious Cellars finally released another sour beer! And, not shocking, it was delicious. A sour beer that stays tart and features some nice strawberry notes while not getting too acidic and having you reaching for the Tums is reason enough to celebrate. Zenith is an easy drinker and that 500 mL bottle will disappear before you know it. Odious Cellars is making the best sour beer out of Chicago right now and everything sour they release is a must get in my book. Ignore the $18 price tag. It’s a sour beer that takes time and with Reeve Joseph’s skill it is easily worth it. Really can’t wait for their taproom to open in March 2022 (target date; may change).