44. Westvleteren 12

What a nice vacation.  Took about a month off from computer-related activity, well most computer-related activity (I’m totally kicking ass in Angry Birds Star Wars) and took in some delicious beer to celebrate.

The “End of the World” came and went.  The Mayan calendar started over from the beginning.  Kinda like our calendar starts over at the end of every December.  I’m surprised the conspiracy theorists behind this one never considered that the Mayans just flipped over the calendar like we do.  Oh well.

To celebrate:  Pipeworks – End of Days

EndOfDaysSight:  Dark.  Like staring quietly into a black hole, moments before it swallows you whole.

Smell:  Sweet and malty with some coffee and chili pepper notes.

Taste:  Thick and creamy with lots of chocolate and coffee.  The sweetness slowly subsides and leaves behind the mild pepper burn in your mouth and throat.  That burns sticks around long after the beer is gone.

My overall grade:  A-

Nice and sweet, a good amount of booze and a chili pepper kick.  Also, cacao nibs, so I love it.

Christmas Eve was upon us.  I decided to stick with the local theme.

To celebrate:  Revolution – Fistmas (it sounds dirtier than it is)

FistmasSight:  Copper red in color with a little white head.

Smell:  Spicy with hints of citrusy hops.  Lots of pine.  Seemed like a true Christmas ale to me

Taste:  The spices and pine were the shining stars in this one.  They showed up early and stayed throughout.  A malty sweetness tries to take over in the middle, but ends up giving in just before the bitter hops show up.

My overall grade:  B

Not a bad beer.  It kept with the Christmas theme and didn’t deviate far from the plan.

Christmas Day showed up, and I had to show up with something special.

To celebrate:  Anchor – Our Special Ale (2011)

AnchorXmasMagnumSight:  Dark brown, nearly black

Smell:  Malty, spicy (think cinnamon and nutmeg), and lot of juniper and pine.  Like being out in the forest on a cold winter day while eating a gingerbread cookie.

Taste:  Lots of malty sweetness up front and then a crushing blow of spice and pine that eases away to a subtle hoppiness.

My overall grade:  B+

This magnum (the big bottle you see in the picture) was carefully aged for a year to become a wonderful Christmas gift.  And by “carefully aged”, I mean left in my in-laws garage for a year.

Since I’m a father now, Christmas is a little less exciting for me (I’m not complaining).  My daughter tends to be the focus, and my presents tend to be minimal.  However, I gave myself the gift of beer this year.

To celebrate:  Westvleteren 12

Westy12Sight:  Reddish brown in color with a thin bubbly tan head, and oh so fancy in its personal glass.

Smell:  Malty sweetness with a mixture of dried fruits and molasses.  There’s also a slight sourness lingering in the background.

Taste:  Malty throughout with a little bit of cinnamon.  Dried cherries seem to sneak in about mid-way through.  It has a tight boozy flavor in the finish and end up pretty dry.

My overall grade:  A+

This beer is incredible.  Imagine a more complex Rochefort 10.  Delicious from start to finish.

Now to hide away my other 5 Westys.

43. Stone – Enjoy by 12.21.2012

Normally I just talk about beer, because I know beer.  I’m good at discussing it.  This week I want to talk about something more serious, partly because it’s tragic and partly because I don’t understand it.

On Friday morning, 6 adults and 20 children were shot and killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  It’s a tragedy.  I huge tragedy.  After hearing about it for a couple days, I’m really having a hard time with it.

Maybe it’s because I’m a father now, and the fact that so many children were senselessly killed is the problem, but I think it’s the fact I can’t understand it.

People have been comparing this to Columbine and other senseless shootings, but those I can understand.  I’m not trying to discount those events, because they were all incredibly tragic, but I get them.  I can see how and why those people went crazy and took out their insanity on people that tormented them.  I am in no way attempting to defend them, I’m just voicing that I can grasp what happened.

Friday’s tragedy is beyond my mental grasp.  I don’t get it, I don’t understand it at all.  What could 6 and 7 year old kids have possibly done?  How could they possibly deserve what happened?  I don’t get it.  I don’t think I ever will, and I think that’s part of the reason I’m having such a hard time with this situation.

I feel incredibly sad for everyone involved in that horrible tragedy and my heart goes out to them.  I know my little words and little blog can do nothing for those that have lost, but hopefully with the support of everyone the lives of those affected will one day regain some sense of normalcy.  My deepest condolences.

Well, I know talking about beer at those point is kinda lame, but this is a beer blog and I’m going to try and maintain my normalcy.

This week I had the pleasure of finding the Stone Enjoy by 12.21.2012.

enjoybySight:  Pale yellow with a thin white head.  Nothing extraordinary here, it looks pretty boring.

Smell:  This is where everything changes.  This beer is full of hops.  Tons of grassy, floral, citrusy hops crush your nose.

Taste:  All hops, all day.  Grassy, floral, sweet, citrusy, it has every hop flavor you can possibly think of.  There’s a mild maltiness along that backbone that holds it all together.  A light booziness makes an appearance in the finish, once you get past all those hops.

My overall grade:  B+

If you enjoy hops, you’re going to enjoy the Enjoy By series that Stone’s been putting out. This sucker is slammed to the brim with hops, multiple varieties with loads of aroma and flavor. It’s low on the bitterness considering how much hop flavor and aroma is present.  A great beer.  It may be tough to find this guy, but if you see it, grab it.  And remember, you have until next Friday to enjoy it.  Not because it’s the end of the world, but because this beer is only guaranteed fresh until then.

Now, I’m off to hug my daughter.

42. Five Big Beers

It’s been a month and a half?  Seriously?  Have you been counting?

I know, I’ve been away for a bit, but I have good reasons.  A few I’ll share with you.

First, I went to Beer Hoptacular again!  This time it was held at a venue that can actually handle a good number of people.  It was a blast, much better than last year’s.  The ability to walk through a location without bouncing off of people is highly underrated.

Second, I’m 5 beers (that’s right, five) away from reaching the 366 beers in 1 year goal.  It’s not even December!  Either I have a problem, or I’m very dedicated to searching out new beers (my money’s on the latter).  I’ll be heading over to Goose Island Clybourn after work today, might finish it up shortly.

Third, I heard about something new here in Chicago called Middle Brow.  It’s a startup brewery that’s going to be holding homebrew contests!  Winners will have the opportunity to have their beer brewed by a pro.  Interesting, huh?  Check out their Facebook or Tumblr if you’re interested.  I’m hoping to sign up soon!

Now to catch up on a few beers!

Rogue – Pumpkin Patch

pumpkinpatchSight:  Brown in color with a slight orange tint and a thick white head.

Smell:  Pumpkin pie spices with nutmeg seeming to overpower

Taste:  Creamy mouthfeel with a thick malty backbone.  It’s spicy with a lot of pumpkin flavor, but it never seems overwhelming.  A nice mild bitterness rounds out the finish.

My overall grade:  B+

If you like pumpkin beers, this is a great choice.  It’s pretty much the polar opposite of the Pum King on the pumpkin scale (it’s tastes like pumpkins instead of pumpkin pie).

Half Acre – Mr. Ouroboros

ouroborosSight:  Bright copper color with a light white head

Smell:  Lots of grassy hops.  Imagine sitting on your front porch just after mowing the lawn

Taste:  Soft, creamy mouthfeel with plenty of sweet light malts and a crisp grassy hop finish to maintain balance

My overall grade:  B+

A very easy drinking and refreshing beer.  I wish this one was around during the summer.  I’d be drinking it on my porch (couch) after cutting the grass (watching tv).

Pipeworks – Well Read Temptress

temptressSight:  Bright red (yes, red) with a thin pink head that disappears quickly

Smell:  Lots of raspberries and a mild sourness, very intriguing

Taste:  Very bubbly and sharp on the tongue.  Sweet and tangy with a light finish.  Lots of fruity sweetness at the end.

My overall grade:  B

This one was fun to drink.  Definitely out of the ordinary, a little funky and lots of bright flavor.

Boulevard – Nommo Dubbel

nommoSight:  Ruby red and slightly brown with a thick creamy head

Smell:  All Belgian yeast with a tiny lingering malty sweetness in the aroma.

Taste:  Thick and creamy with lost of malty sweetness.  The Belgian yeast shines through with plenty of spice and a mild dried fruit flavor toward the end.

My overall grade:  A-

A delicious beer worth drinking repeatedly.  It’s big and quite heavy, so working through a bottle may be a chore.  But, it’s definitely worth undertaking.

Pipeworks – Abduction

abductionSight:  Black with a thick tan head, like motor oil

Smell:  Molasses, heavy alcohol, and floral hops in the aroma.  It’s kinda frightening.

Taste:  Heavy malty sweetness, a little chocolate and coffee, like making hot chocolate on the stove and leaving it on a little too long.  Big boozy burn and a bitter hoppy finish.

My overall grade:  B

This imperial stout packs a punch.  You might want to share this guy.

Well, I better go get my Christmas shopping done.

41. MKE – Hoptoberfest

What a bad sports weekend for me.

Crying Tebow? Entirely relevant.

First, I was excited that the Nationals were able to force a game 5 against the Cardinals.  But then, on Friday night, they managed one of the most crushing losses I’ve seen in quite some time.  They were up 6-0, let the Cardinals back in it and then were up 7-5 in the 9th.  Sadly, Drew Storen had a meltdown (in easily the most important game of his career) and gave up 4 runs in the top of the 9th.  Crushing loss.  Then on Sunday, the Patriots crapped out against the Seahawks.  I hear the Seahawks are supposed to be decent this season, but I can’t grasp that concept.  The AFC East is a barrel of mediocrity this season as the Jets and Patriots will be battling it out for first place in a division that has 4 teams at 3-3.  Sad, very sad.

On to the beer.  It makes me happy.

Milwaukee Brewing – Hoptoberfest

Sight:  A nice welcoming copper color.

Smell:  Malty aroma, with a light biscuity smell mixed in.  Lots of grassy hops to brighten things.

Taste:  A nice malty sweetness throughout laying a nice groundwork for this Oktoberfest.  The biter grassy hops sneak in toward the end and leave you with a light slightly clingy finish.

My overall grade:  B

Likely to be my last Oktoberfest, this beer from MKE was quite tasty.  A nice ending to the season.

Two Brothers – Oh Brother!

Sight:  Bright orange color with a light thin head

Smell:  It’s definitely a Belgian style.  Subtle cloves with a bright fruitiness.

Taste:  Creamy with a powerful malty sweetness and a mix of light dried fruits.  Very bright and very good.

My overall grade:  A-

Another of Two Brothers’ 15th Anniversary beers that was definitely worth bringing back.  A very good tripel.

Now, I’m off to hope for a better sports weekend. (maybe the Yankees will be eliminated tonight!)

40. Southern Tier – Harvest Ale

It’s October, which means it’s MLB playoff time!  A fun time of year, if you have a horse in the running.

My beloved Red Sox were beyond miserable this season, and I wrote them off in late August.  It was a sad season.  So, I’ve been rooting for my adopted team, the Nationals (I lived in DC for nearly 10 years, it’s okay).

They’re currently on the cusp of being eliminated, and I’m fairly certain that them shutting down Stephen Strasburg is going to be a big mistake.  I know the argument is that by sitting him, it’ll give him years and years of healthy productivity.  My argument is this:  How often to teams make the playoffs?  I know teams like the Yankees or the Cardinals are perennial playoff teams, but what about mid-level market teams (like the Nationals)?  They’re always fighting to make it, and more often than not, failing to do so.  Why would you stifle your chances?  It’s not every season that you’ll be running on all cylinders and your entire team meshes together.  Why sit a guy who almost always gives you a win (or at the very least gives you a great chance of winning)?  Especially when the reason for sitting him (playing it safe after Tommy John surgery) has no evidence of actually helping.  If the Nationals fail to win the World Series, you will never hear the end of this conversation.  Sports writers are currently churning out arguments for playing Strasburg and they’re storing them up, just waiting to inundate you with them until Spring.  It’s gonna suck.

This week I tore through the Southern Tier Harvest Ale and the Two Brothers Victor’s MemoriAle.  Both quite tasty.

Southern Tier Harvest Ale

Sight:  Gold brown, like fried potatoes

Smell:  Grassy hops with a little light biscuit aroma.  Subtle though, nothing too crazy floating around in there.

Taste:  Malty flavor throughout with spicy grassy hops settling lightly on top.  The finish is clean and a little thin and the ends slightly bitter.

My overall grade:  B

As I’ve said before, Southern Tier tends to be hit or miss for me.  This beer’s a hit.  I really enjoyed this one.  They’ve created a highly drinkable beer with a lot of flavor.  Nicely done.

Two Brothers Victor’s MemoriAle

Sight:  Dark brown in color with the slightest bit of ruby red shining through.

Smell:  Molasses and coffee.  It’s like an old school breakfast.

Taste:  Thick and creamy mouthfeel with mild chocolate and burnt coffee, bitter but slightly sweet with a thick heavy finish.

My overall grade:  B+

Another of Two Brothers’ 15th Anniversary beers and this is a great one to remake.  A good setup for the colder weather too.  Thick and a little boozy.

Well, I’m off to put on my Nats cap and hope they can force a game 5 tonight.

Updates!

Oh. Hello there.

I have a bunch of updates (since it’s been a few weeks), so I’m throwing them all together into this one bullet-point-like post. I’ll try and avoid being boring.  It’s been a fairly hectic few weeks.  I’m going to boil it down to a few major points, so I don’t end up rambling on and on.

Read on!

- Festiv-Ale was awesome!
Great food, great beer, great people!  It was packed full of people, but it was never too packed to feel you couldn’t get a tasty beverage when you wanted.  Also, buying a VIP ticket was well worth the cost.  It allowed me to get in an hour early and get first dibs on some of the rarer beers.  And the delicious food.  Shining stars:  Flossmoor Station’s smoked porter, Solemn Oath’s Whisper Kisses, and Lagunitas Day Time IPA was a nice surprise.  Also, the short ribs from Wildfire were incredible!

- Brewed again!
Met with a friend to brew and I’ve got high hopes for this beer.  It started out with the standard stout recipe that Pyzocha and I had used for our Vanilla Stout.  Peated malts were worked into the mix and figs and butternut squash were added late in the boil.  Fermentation started a little angrily (the airlock was blown out of the carboy), but order has been restored and the bottling should be happening soon.  It’s like a Christmas Dinner Stout.

-Paddy Long’s Bacon Pairing!
I went to a bacon and beer pairing at Paddy Long’s.  Yes.  A bacon and beer pairing.  It was so good.  Local and house-made bacons (including jowl bacon, which was fantastic) paired up with seasonal craft beers.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

- Frequenting Sheffield’s!
I’ve been able to go to Sheffield’s quite frequently in the past few weeks, and I really love that place.  Their BBQ is incredible.  Sitting around eating delicious food and enjoying some of the best available local and far-reaching craft beers is a good way to kill a few hours.  Also, the Victory Old Horizontal from 2005 I had there on Sunday, was well worth the wait.

I haven’t been drinking too much bottled beer lately (due to my going to Sheffield’s).  But don’t you worry.  I’ll be stopping into Binny’s this week and I’ll get back to my regular format soon.

39. Magic Hat – Hex

Football is back!  It’s so good to waste away a Sunday afternoon again.  My beloved Patriots are off to a great start.  My former hometown team Redskins are showing a lot of promise.  My new hometown team Bears and looking a little shaky (better fix that O-line before Cutty gets killed).

This Sunday I’m hoping to catch some of the action while working my way through a growler from Half Acre.  I’m yet to pick up said growler, so who knows what I’ll actually end up with.

Good news for tonight:  I’m going to Festiv-Ale!

It’s the 6th annual Festiv-Ale to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  See?  My beer drinking does good things after all!

Over 20 local and national breweries will be passing out samples to satisfy my beer drinking ADHD along with many local restaurants keeping me from passing out.  It’s a win-win.

This week I “worked” through a couple more Oktoberfests, and finished off the last summer beer hiding in the back of my fridge.

First up, the Magic Hat Hex (Ourtoberfest)

Sight:  A nice bronze color, a little paler than some of the other Oktoberfests I’ve tried. A light thin head floating on top.

Smell:  Malty sweetness in the aroma with a little pumpkin pie spice

Taste:  Quite tasty.  Malty sweet with that pumpkin pie spice coming through.  Citrusy hops maintaining some balance and a slightly dry finish.

My overall grade:  B

A good overall Oktoberfest.  Nothing too crazy about it, but it did have that Magic Hat hops kick.

Next, Capital Brewery’s Oktoberfest

Sight:  Bronze in color with a thin white head (have you picked up on the trend yet?)

Smell:  Malty sweetness with a very mild spiciness lingering in the background.

Taste:  A malty sweet start that faded out fairly quickly and left the finish watery and bitter.  Decent flavor up front, but very disappointing at the end.

My overall grade:  C-

This one was a little disappointing.  It had so much potential and then it fell flat.  Too bad.

Deep in the back of my fridge I saw this guy staring my in the face.  Since summer is over, it was time to finish it off.  Revolution’s Coup d’Etat

Sight:  Pale yellow in color, lots of tiny bubble floating around in there.

Smell:  Very spicy, with a mixture of cloves and black pepper

Taste:  Very complex and spicy.  A big tangy flavor that hung out for quick a while and coated my mouth.  The finish was quite dry.

My overall grade:  B

A good finish to summer and a good lead into the cooler temps of fall.

Now, I gotta get ready for Festiv-Ale!

38. Two Brothers – Atom Smasher

Well, Labor Day has come and gone. Which means Fall is here! Or at least the Fall beers. I’m having a hard time saying that Fall is actually here, since it’s nearly 90 degrees outside.

Anyway, we got in our last trip to the pool this past weekend, and it’s now time to start getting out the warmer clothing and settle in with a fantastic Oktoberfest.

I love Marzens. They’re malty and sweet, and slightly refreshing. They’re warming, not winter beer warming, but subtly warming. A nice transition beer.

I really like this time of year.

I got a hold of a couple Marzens this week to get me started. First, the Two Brothers Atom Smasher.

Sight: Deep bronze in color with a light thin head. Just like the leaves on the trees (that will be turning soon, I know, it’s too early).

Smell: Biscuits, malts, a nice light hoppiness, and a slight red wine aroma (grapes and wood). Very interesting for a Marzen.

Taste: Malty and creamy, a sudden rush of carbonation. It settles into a light spiciness (like pumpkin pie) and a mild fruit flavor.

My overall grade: B

A good start to Fall. I like what Two Brothers did with this one. Something a little out of the ordinary, but didn’t deviate too far.

Speaking of deviating too far…

Sight: Brown with a subtle orange tint. A thin white head.

Smell: Huge hop aroma, very floral, not really fitting for what I would consider a Fall beer

Taste: Malty and creamy to start out. There’s a subtle spiciness to follow and then an explosion of bitter hops. The finish is very dry.

My overall grade: C

I understand that with a name like “Hoptober” I should really know what I’m getting myself into, but it was just a little too much. I appreciate that New Belgium was trying to do something a little out of the ordinary, but I was hoping for more malts and less hops. A decent beer, but not for the season.

I’m off to pick up a few more Fall beers!

37. Hopothesis – IPA

I finally made it out to a Cubs game. Been living about a mile away from the stadium for about 11 months and I finally, FINALLY, made it to a Cubs game.

Part of the joy of going to Wrigley Field is being able to relax and rip through a handful of Old Styles. Well, based on how the Cubs are doing this season, it may be the only joy. So, as you can see by the picture over there, I did my part and took down as many Old Styles as I could before the beer man said he couldn’t sell anymore. The sad part now is that untappd.com thinks my favorite beer is Old Style. Awful.

Anyway, we kicked back and watched the game from right field. Seats weren’t too bad, and the game actually wasn’t too bad either. Until the 9th inning when the Brewers decided they were tired of the Cubs hanging on and they put up 9 runs.

There’s always next year, right?

I got a hold of the Hopothesis IPA this week, which just started distributing around the area. I imagine the brewers hand delivering to all the local liquor stores. Seriously. It’s legal to do that here in Illinois (if you have a license).

Sight:  Deep bronze color with a nice creamy thick head

Smell:  Lots of floral hops floating about, it is an IPA after all

Taste:  Hoppy throughout, but not overpowering. It never gets too bitter. There’s a nice malty backbone and a subtle dry finish.

My overall grade:  B+

A great start for a new brewery. I’m looking forward to what they’ll come out with next.

The Bruery’s Tart of Darkness looks and sound scary. But, in the name of beer-tasting, I had to drink it!

Sight:  Pepsi. Honestly, it looks like I poured a Pepsi into that glass. Don’t be fooled though.

Smell: Mild coffee aroma with TONS OF FUNKY SOURNESS

Taste:  Sweet malts, chocolate, coffee, dried cherries, tangy sourness… it’s a little too complex for me to come up with everything. The finish was light and dry.

My overall grade:  A-

I’m fairly certain I could hear my taste buds exploding as I drank this. It’s definitely not a beer for everyone, but if you like sours, this is a good one.

Now, I gotta get my raincoat ready for Isaac’s visit.

36. Barley Island – Sheet Metal Blonde

This past weekend I went to the Oak Park Brew Review. It was AWESOME!

The event was outside in downtown Oak Park and it was beautiful outside.  About 50 breweries showed up and brought some great beer. For example:

Goose Island’s Gran Gas made an appearance, although very limited. This beer brewed with spruce tips and lingonberries only stuck around for about an hour (it was great, as can be attested to by all the people who ripped through it). Three Floyds brought their Mentol Brown, which was an English brown brewed in collaboration with Brodie’s in London. Destihl dropped off an incredible apricot sour, that forced me to circle back around in line and get it a second time. Finch’s offered up their Sanchez Stache (barrel aged coffee stout), which was absolutely incredible. It was a wonderful mix of coffee, vanilla, chocolate, and booze.

Also, my daughter was enjoying the outdoors. I got a great picture of her and my wife hanging out in front of a Goose Island truck. I like to think that big smile is because she already has an appreciation for good beer, even if she hasn’t tried any yet.

This week I gave the Barley Island Sheet Metal Blonde a try.

Sight: Pale yellow in color with a wispy white head that quickly disappeared.

Smell: Lots of wheat, which is to be expected. There was a little bit of cloves mixed in there, to let you know it’s a Belgian style wheat

Taste: Light with a malty middle and a bitter spicy finish. The Belgian portion kicks in a little late. The beer supposedly has “herbs and spices”, but I wasn’t getting any over the strong wheat flavor.

My overall grade:  C-

Nothing really going on with this beer. It was okay. Would I turn it down if someone handed me one? No. If it was in a cooler with other beer, would I consider the others first? Yes.

I’m off to put next year’s Oak Park Brew Review in my calendar.

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    Jeremy Tonzi

    Jeremy Tonzi

    Just a normal guy juggling the lives of a proud new father, a computer nerd, an ultimate frisbee player, and a craft beer geek; with as much grace as possible. I've recently moved from DC to Chicago. Hit the links below to find out what's going on.

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