Originally intended as our 71st episode, Chicago Tea Party just wasn’t meant to be.
Chicago Tea Party: The Episode That Never Was
by Ryan Ingwersen (@thefussydad)
At this point, we’ve recorded 77 episodes of Craig and I drinking beer and giving our arbitrary reviews and rankings. The first two episodes have never been released – our mic discipline was so poor that it sounds like we’re running circles around the room while talking. We have a few unreleased “vault” episodes in case of emergencies. All of those could be released at some point, and they probably will. But we’ve never recorded an entire episode and had to scrap it until this week. And this one had a good enough back story that I thought I’d try to do it some justice before I lock it in the containment unit.
The Monday after Chicago Craft Beer Week, Craig proceeded against the will of his physical well being to drink, this time with an out-of-state friend, at the Goose Island Clybourn brewpub. While dining and sampling a cherry milk stout, Craig saw Brewmaster Jacob Sembrano and gave him a friendly wave. Jacob has been a guest on our show, and Craig has made himself a nuisance in his presence many a time, presumably. So during their chat, Jacob asked Craig about how he enjoyed Stoutfest. Craig said he got really drunk and was disappointed he didn’t get to try Clybourn’s London Fog – a version of their Cthulu barrel-aged oatmeal stout with Earl Grey tea and cocoa nibs. Jacob told Craig they bottled some of it, headed to the back, and returned with a hand-labeled bottle of London Fog.
Craig texted me a picture of the bottle, and immediately I asked, “How are we going to build a show around that?” and Craig suggested tea beers. Within minutes we volleyed back and forth beer ideas and had the entire show planned. We were surprised at how many local breweries make beer with tea, and it seemed like it’d be an interesting show.
Then, to make it more interesting, Nick from Middle Brow gave us an advance bottle of the Moscow Mule Kombucha, which I’d heard great things about. Craig picked up the rest of the beers, and I bought a bunch of unnecessary distractions for the show, and we were ready to make digital love to Garageband with another installment of our Podcast Award nominated Food and Drink podcast.
And we did our mic checks, as always, and everything came up great. Then a few nights later, when I sat down to edit, every segment that followed sounded as if we were being consumed by static robots that get louder as our volume increases. It’s unfixable – the file is corrupt. It could’ve been prevented we now realize, but it never had been a problem in the past. I called Craig, and together, we had a good cry. So, I’ll do my best to give the beers their due time below, and fill you in on our usual stupidity that you “missed out on.”
Off Color’s Eille is a Biere de Miel, which from what we understand is kind of like saison (or maybe a “spiced beer” – whatever) with honey. The lemon and honey were dominant on the aroma and flavor, with some ginny juniper giving it a distinct mixed-drink feel. The chamomile for which this beer made the show is imperceptible, but there was a definite complexity that we both enjoyed. It was refreshing, but it kind of made us both want some fresh Le Predateur or Apex Predator instead.
The thing I am saddest about losing to the digital shredder is the kombucha experience. To accompany Middle Brow’s Moscow Mule Kombucha, we had to try the fermented tea drink for the first time before trying the beer. While on my daily Whole Foods visit, I bought two kombuchas from two brands I honestly didn’t even take note of – one was “original” flavor, and one was ginger. We noticed a loogie-sized globule floating in the original, which I believe is there to scare away sane people from drinking it. Before drinking them, I talked about what a SCOBY is and compared all of the bacteria and yeast in it to members of the 1992 Dream Team – it wasn’t a great comedy bit and it went on too long honestly. We smelled the kombucha and recoiled in horror; we compared it to vinegar and pungent summer subway body odor and salty-crusted sweat socks. The taste was something like apple, but it still has some distinct old hippie sandal flavor in it. We bailed quickly. The ginger flavoring in the other one cut the public shower drain taste mixed with sour chicken broth and rotten passionfruit. It’s worth mentioning that these bottles cost four dollars each, and I considered pouring them down my toilet, but I have more respect for my toilet.
When we finally got to the Moscow Mule Kombucha, we were relieved to find that it only retained some of the pleasant sour characteristic of the kombucha, with much more emphasis on the lime, ginger, and mint. I thought the beer could’ve even been poured over ice – there’s enough flavor that you wouldn’t lose much from drinking it very cold. The ginger and mint worked together despite one being typically spicy and the other cool and refreshing. Craig had a floating goo treat in his glass that was not quite as horrifying as the kombucha one, but it did prevent him from going “whole hog” on the beer as he wanted to. Middle Brow continues to be playful in their approach and masterful in their execution.
The next beer was the Double Jungle Boogie from the Community of the Future inhabitant Marz Brewing. Our rooibos tea sampling was such a hit that we had high hopes for the beer. The aroma was large citrus and tropical hops with no evidence of the tea. The flavor burst forward with juicy tropical flavor reminiscent of a Mai Tai, and the finish was made very easy by the rooibos. The label with tropical skull cups made a lot more sense. Huge hops and a balanced malt bill aren’t exactly original, but the hint of vanilla and drier mouthfeel from the tea gave it a finish that I haven’t had on any beer I can recall. This was an impressive offering.
When planning the show, we saw that Pipeworks had many beers that use tea – but they haven’t made any of them in a while. Surveying their list, we chose the Gussied Cochon, as it seemed like it would hold up the best to aging. The beer is defined as an English Strong Ale on Untappd, but I really couldn’t tell you if it fits into any style. I described the aroma as soggy wheat bread, faded hops, and light pepper. Craig was reminded of a tripel and perceived citrus and burnt barley. The taste wasn’t much better despite some Earl Grey bergamont orange and Belgian candi sugar flavors. We chalked this one up to a bad choice – this beer did not age well and seemed to be suffering from serious oxidation.
The final beer was the ringer. We knew the London Fog from Goose Island Clybourn would probably win. It’s a 12% barrel-aged oatmeal stout with tea and cocoa nibs, and it was my favorite beer at StoutFest. The official quantity of this bottling is, “some.” It was as delicious as I remembered. Craig made an inevitable BCBS comparison, claiming the London Fog was thinner in body, and I completely disagreed. There was a slight suggestion of bitter orange peel and tea leaf, but it was just a chocolatey bourbon dream, and it had no business drinking as easily as it did. Despite Clybourn’s reputation for brewing one-offs, if they can bring back the Nuthulu, I’d love to see this one return.
Here were some other talking points of varying asininity:
- Craig has some hardcore Tea Party values and a Rand Paul Fathead in his room that he touches on the head before slumbering each night.
- Craig has a surprising affinity for tea despite his complete hatred of coffee.
- We drank and talked about chamomile, rooibos, and Earl Grey tea. We were soothed by the chamomile’s earthy, floral flavors; the rooibos was the absolute standout with dessert-like vanilla; and Earl Grey was very light on much flavor outside of some faint orange peel.
- For the record, Craig was the first to make a teabag joke, because he’s terrible.
- We talked about Tibetan humming bowls used to infuse kombucha with good vibrations and tried very hard not to disrespect hippies.
- I made a lot of stupid references to Alice in Wonderland, referring to the sleeping Dormouse at the table on a few occasions.
- There’s about fifteen minutes of us trying to pronounce “Eille” (“E-lay? E-ell?”) which I would’ve tastefully edited down to six minutes.
- There was a long tea trivia segment that would’ve been a solid twenty minutes I would’ve cut from the show.
- We both ate crumpets for the first time, and we loved them. We now find English Muffins utterly pointless.
It was an hour and forty-nine minutes of something. We had a few beers we were privileged to have thanks to some generous brewers; I spent too much money on tea and treats; and we were scarred for life by a terrible tea fad. Cheers to the episode that never was.
1. Goose Island Clybourn London Fog
2. Marz Double Jungle Boogie
3. Middle Brow Moscow Mule Kombucha
4. Off Color Eille
5. Pipeworks Gussied Cochon
1. Goose Island Clybourn London Fog
2. Middle Brow Moscow Mule Kombucha
3. Marz Double Jungle Boogie
4. Off Color Eille
5. Pipeworks Gussied Cochon
“Tea for Two” – Doris Day
“Tea and Theatre” – The Who
“Afternoon Tea” – The Kinks
“Tea for One” – Led Zeppelin
“For the Price of a Cup of Tea” – Belle and Sebastian
“Earl Grey” – Fleetwood Mac
Ryan Ingwersen is the editor, producer, and co-host of ABV Chicago. He might start a daddy blog. Follow him on Twitter @thefussydad.