35. Lost Abbey – Mo Betta Bretta

Last weekend was a great time!  I got a visit from Pyzocha (you may know him from J Street Beer), a great friend of mine from DC.  When friends of mine come out to visit, it usually means one thing:

We’re going out drinking!

With only a weekend to burn, Pyzocha and I embarked on the abridged Chicago Beer Tour.  We visited both Goose Island Clybourn and Wrigleyville, Big Joe’s for turtle races, and Half Acre for a couple growlers.  We hit Sheffield’s and Piece Pizza for beers and food.  We made it into Binny’s for beer bottle overload.  We even stopped into the Chicago History Museum (see, we’re not complete degenerates).

All in all, it was a beer-packed weekend that was an absolute blast.  Definitely too short.

Do you have suggestions on places we should’ve gone?  This will help my future planning.

I had the pleasure of getting a hold of the Lost Abbey Mo Betta Bretta.

Sight:  Orange-hued golden color with a thin bubbly head.  So pretty.

Smell:  Mild fruitiness in the aroma; I’d go with strawberries.  There was also a slight hint of sourness.

Taste:  Light berry fruit mixes with subtle sweet malts.  Light mouthfeel with a lot of carbonation.  The finish was soft and clean.  The beer was honestly begging me to keep drinking it.

My overall grade:  A

This beer would have to be considered if trying to come up with a top 10.

Half Acre’s Li’l Blaster was another of their summertime saisons that didn’t disappoint.

Sight:  Bright golden color with a light head.  Lots of tiny bubbles.

Smell:  Spices.  Lots and lots of spices.  Definitely a saison.

Taste:  Spicy with a tangy bite.  A thin malty backbone holds it all together, while it finishes subtly with a nice shot of floral hoppiness.

My overall grade:  B

Tasty and light.  A nice beer to relax with while dealing with the summer heat.

And I’m off to lunch!

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34. Breckenridge – Agave Wheat

I got a parking ticket on Tuesday.  I’m pretty disappointed by this.  Now, had I known that I was nestling my car into a No Parking zone, this wouldn’t aggravate me so much.  When I got to my car and found the ticket, I was dumfounded.  I did, however, figure out why I got the ticket, but I still think the City of Chicago is duping people out on Montrose Beach.

To explain my point, I offer the following picture (which I’ll call Defense Exhibit A):

 

The street you see there is Montrose Drive.  I had parked my car where the letter “B” is.  Now, there were 4 other cars parked ahead of me, and at the letter “A” is a No Parking sign.  My understanding when I pulled in was that any cars parked ahead of the “A” were in violation.  I thought I was safely behind the sign (and behind 4 other cars), so I left my car.  What I didn’t realize was at the letter “C”, there’s another No Parking sign.  So, I’m now stuck with paying the city what would normally be beer money.  Boo!

Oh well.  You live and you learn, right?

Before my funding was drained by the City of Chicago, I was able to enjoy the Breckenridge Agave Wheat and the New Belgium/Lost Abbey Brett Beer.

I picked out the Breckenridge Agave Wheat in hopes that it would be a nice summer beer that I could sit out in the sun and enjoy.  My hopes were confirmed.

Sight:  Light orange in color and slightly cloudy.  It looked thin and pretty bubbly.

Smell:  Mostly citrus aromas floating around.  A gentle mix of orange and lemon with a hint of wheat tossed in.

Taste:  Crisp, light and slightly creamy.  There’s a sweet orange and lemon flavor mixed in with the malts.  The finish is light and refreshing.

My overall grade:  B+

This really is a beer that you can relax and enjoy out in the sun.  I’m sure I’ll be getting more of these.

When I picked up the New Belgium/Lost Abbey Brett Beer, my only thought was this beer will be sour and funky and it will be awesome!

Sight:  A pale golden color with very slight cloudiness.  Lots of bubbles and a big head.

Smell:  There was a subtle fruitiness floating around; I’m gonna go with raspberries and strawberries.  A gentle spicy aroma stuck out with a mild funkiness, which seemed promising.

Taste:  A soft mouthfeel gave way to heavy carbonation and lots of tiny bubbles.  The flavor was sweet and fruity with a light sourness.

My overall grade:  B-

I was a bit disappointed with this one.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad beer.  But, I really was holding out for some funky sourness that never really showed up.  That Brett Beer label was a little deceiving.

Well, I’m off to pay my bills.

33. Stillwater – A Saison Darkly

We went to the Shedd Aquarium this past weekend.  It was awesome!  Well, it was pretty cool for me (cause, ya know, I’m old and I’ve seen lots of fish before), but it was incredible for my daughter.  Eleanora went crazy for the fish!  Or as she likes to call them “ish!”.  For this week, she wanted me to share a letter she “wrote”.

Dear Shedd Aquarium,

I’d like to let you know that you are the coolest.  I saw lots of fish.  And when I say lots, I mean LOTS.  The first tank had so many fish; I wasn’t sure what to do.  I like that I can get right up to the glass and yell at the fish so they will look at me.  Especially the big fish that look like they might eat me, but they seem too tired and slow to catch me.  Thank you.

I would also like to say that you might want to be more fastidious with your entry requirements.  There were so many kids there that didn’t seem to appreciate the sheer number and variety of fish in your building.  I kept yelling at them and pointing to the glass to make sure they truly noticed and appreciated all the fish, but many of them didn’t seem to grasp the intricacies of such a glorious establishment.

Thanks!

Eleanora

It really was a blast.  Her screaming at the fish was hilarious.

This week, I got a hold of Stillwater’s A Saison Darkly and the latest Two Brothers 15th Anniversary beer.

First up, the Stillwater A Saison Darkly

Sight:  Dark, dark brown in color.  Under the lights, there’s a slight ruby tint hiding in the shadows.  Also, very bubbly, pour slowly.

Smell:  Lots of spice and sweetness.  There’s and underlying mixture of dried fruits that sneaks out to let you know it’s more complex than it seems.

Taste:  Creamy mouthfeel with lots of fruit and spice.  It’s very complex and layered with plenty of flavor to keep your tongue guessing.  And just when you think it’s going to relax, a light coffee and chocolate flavor holds everything together on the back.

My overall grade:  A

This is a great beer.  If you find it, get it.  It’s kinda pricey for a single bottle, but it’s worth it.

Next, the Two Brothers Take Two

Sight:  A nice golden color and crystal clear

Smell:  Malty aromas, it seemed almost kolsch-like

Taste:  Malty flavor with a light mouthfeel.  The finish was a bit bitter, but not overpowering.  It honestly seemed like an overhopped kolsch.

My overall grade:  B-

The story behind the beer is pretty interesting.  Two Brothers decided to use 2 varieties of every ingredient going into the beer.  Two water sources, two barley types, two hop varieties, and an ale yeast and a lager yeast.  It’s a pretty good beer.

Well, I better get to Petco and find my daughter a fish tank.

366 Beers – Update

Some of you know about a lofty endeavor that a couple guys from JStreetBeer and I have undertaken.  It’s the 365 Beers in a Year Challenge, which this year ended up being 366.

The point of the challenge is to try new beers; a new one for every day, to be exact.

The rules are simple:

  1. For a beer to count on the list, it has to be the first time you’ve ever had it.
  2. You must have at least 4oz of the beer for it to count.  So, samplers and flights will work, but you can’t take a sip from a friend’s glass and count it.
  3. Variations of a beer can be counted.  For example, you can count Anchor Christmas multiple times since each year the recipe changes.  Pour styles count too, if you have a regular beer and then its cask version, or barrel-aged variant, you can count them all.  Basically, we rely on untappd.com to settle disputes.

We’re a little over halfway through the year and we’re rolling along.  Shintern and I are about a month ahead of schedule.  DK, sadly, is having a tough time keeping pace.  Currently, we’re at day 199 of 2012.  I’ve worked my way through 224 different beers so far this year, Shintern is at 241, and DK is at 110.

If you’re interested in seeing the list of beers that I’m enjoying, feel free to friend me on untappd.com, my user is jtonzi.  I’ll friend you back; I enjoying seeing what others are drinking.

32. Magic Hat – Elder Betty

I missed last week, and I’m late today.  I’m like the absent-minded beerfessor.

Here come my excuses!  This past weekend was Sandblast.  Which, in case you didn’t know, was incredible!  I and the rest of Bandit’s Trans Am were out on Montrose Beach running around in the sand playing ultimate for 2 days.  Since I was the captain, I spent the majority of last week trying to get all the final details sorted out (hence the missed post last week), and I’m still currently worn out and sore from playing (hence the lateness today).  Now that that’s all cleared up, let’s talk.

Sandblast was a ton of fun.  We played hard, lost harder, but laughed the hardest.  There are even pictures of me drinking from a championship trophy (don’t get too excited, we didn’t win).

Here we are in all our glory:

Now, beer.  Sadly, I didn’t have a single beer while on the beach.  Unless you want to count that Bud Light Lime I chugged from the trophy, which I’m going to pretend was something much better.  I did however enjoy John Daly’s.  They were the perfect drink for the beach.  For those of you that don’t know, go out and buy a big jug of Arizona’s Arnold Palmer half iced tea and half lemonade.  Pour out about a cup or so of the liquid (you’re free to drink it, it’s delicious).  Fill up with vodka.  Shake.  Enjoy.  Anyway, it’s beer time.

First up, Magic Hat’s Elder Betty

Sight:  A pale copper color, and a very confusing label.  I’m not sure if that’s a tree, a woman, maybe a long lost Georgia O’Keeffe painting…

Smell:  Lots of fruity aroma.  Fresh berries.

Taste:  Malty and sweet in the flavor.  It had a similar taste to a blueberry ale, but it was a little overdone.  Seemed to be too sweet to call it a weisse.

My overall grade:  C+

Big bottle:  Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer!

Sight:  Pitch black with a tan head, like a haunted cemetery… with a tan head.

Smell:  The aroma was malty and sweet.  It seemed slightly smoky and had some black licorice floating around in there.

Taste:  Very creamy mouthfeel. Lots of smoke.  A burnt coffee taste tossed in there for fun.  And a nice alcohol burn so you don’t get too carried away.  The finish was surprisingly easy considering everything that was happening to my mouth.

My overall grade:  B+

Now, I’m off to ice my feet.

31. Whistler, British Columbia!

Well, I survived my trip to Whistler.  Sadly, I didn’t get to do all the fun stuff I had hoped to do, like going up the mountain and enjoying a beer.  The only day I had free time to go up the mountain was overcast and rainy, so the top of the mountain was just a giant cloud.  It just seemed a little too pricey to be going up the mountain to stand in fog.  (“I’m not made of money.  Leave me alone!” –Farnsworth)

I did, however, get to go zip-lining, which was AWESOME!  Firing down the mountain at about 60mph while dangling upside down is pretty exciting!  Make sure that’s on your to-do list.

I did manage to test out a bunch of different beers while I was out there.  So, this week I’ll be running through a series of beers and giving you an overview, rather than a breakdown of one.

Off we go!

The breweries I got the chance to try out while in Whistler:  Stanley Park, Tin Whistle, Driftwood, Whistler, Granville Island, and the Brewhouse High Mountain Brewing Company.  Each was quite tasty, but I think the standout was the Brewhouse.

Stanley Park – 1897 Amber
Brewed up in British Columbia, this is a solid, everyday amber.  Good flavor, good drinkability.  It became a standby while I was there.

Labatt – Kokanee
Yup, it’s AB-InBev, but I hadn’t had it, so I had to try it.  Not a bad lager.  Not that great though.

Tapley’s – Lager
This was a house-brand lager, so I’m not really sure where it came from.  Nothing really special, but not bad either.

La Bouche – Lager
See:  Tapley’s Lager

Tin Whistle – Killer Beer Dark Honey Ale
Another BC brewery.  I was a bit nervous with this one.  It seemed to have a significant amount of honey.  At first taste, it was a little much, by the end it smoothed out and I enjoyed it.  I’d imagine their other beers would be pretty tasty.

Driftwood – Fat Tug IPA
Straight outta BC!  This brewery was hyped up a bit to me and they kinda let me down.  The Fat Tug was very good though.  I enjoyed the piney aroma and flavor kicking around in this guy.

Driftwood – Farmhand Ale
Probably my biggest disappointment.  Since it’s a farmhouse (or saison), I expected a lot of spice and complexity.  It felt a little boring.  It was slightly tangy, citrusy, and dry.  Fell short on the complexity.

Whistler – Whiskey Jack
Brewed about 5 miles from where we were staying (fresh!).  This beer was quite good.  It had kind of an ESB feel to it, though I think it’s actually an amber.  I was able to enjoy a few of these.

Whistler – Paradise Valley Grapefruit Ale
I was extremely skeptical on this one.  Fruity beers can be hit or miss, and the last time I had a grapefruit one, it was horrendous (I’m looking at you Shiner!).  The bartender assured me it was good, so I gave it a shot.  It’s actually quite good.  Not overpowering with the grapefruit and fairly refreshing.

Granville Island – Brockton IPA
Standard IPA.  Nothing glamorous.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  A true workhorse.

Granville Island – Cypress Honey Lager
I’d be hard pressed to say there was any honey flavor in this.  It came off fairly dull, just a regular old lager.  It had a little more body than the Kokanee, but it didn’t really impress me.

Granville Island – Cascadian Dark Ale
The shining star in the Granville Island batch.  This beer was dark, dark brown and smelled like fresh cut grass.  It had a nice malty flavor with a heavy bitter hoppiness that kept it in line.  Well done.

Brewhouse – Alta Lake Ale
Nice and light.  A hint of hops that enticed your palate and never overpowered.  Drinking a few of these would not be a problem.

Brewhouse – Lifty Lager
Light and refreshing.  A solid lager.  Sippy one of these on a hot day would be fine with me.

Brewhouse – Grizzly Brown
Nice maltiness with a pop of hops at the end.  It lacked some of the sweetness I would expect in a brown, but it was still very tasty.

Brewhouse – Big Wolf Bitter
A delicious ESB.  No frills on this one, just a solid beer that will not disappoint.

Brewhouse – 5 Rings IPA
This little guy was very heavy on the hops.  The malty backbone was light and the hop profile was huge.  Left you feeling like you chewed on a handful of grass, but amongst a bunch of malty beers, it was a nice break.

Brewhouse – Amber Hefeweizen
This one was a little odd to me.  It was sorta like a dunkelweizen, but lacked the heavier malts.  It was sweet and refreshing, and had the aromas you would expect from a hefe.  Imagine a Weihenstephan with a little more body to it.

Brewhouse – Russian Imperial Stout
Right in my wheelhouse.  This beer was big, malty, and boozy.  Saving this one for last was a good idea on the flavor spectrum, but a bad idea for my sobriety.  A delicious final touch.  Like have a big meal and then ordering the Tiramisu and realizing the lady fingers had been soaking in rum for a few days instead of a few minutes.

If you find yourself in Whistler, make sure you go up the mountain.  The Peak2Peak gondola is amazing (or so I’ve heard), go zip-lining with Ziptrek (it’s exhilarating and the views are incredible), and stop into the Brewhouse for their sampler (2 servings shown here).

Now, I’m off to work off my jet lag.

30. Dogfish Head – Festina Peche

As you’re reading this, I’m on a plane heading to America’s Hat (Canada).  Of course, I’m assuming that you’re reading it right when it posted.  And obviously you are, because I’m sure you were just chompin’ at the bit to hear about my latest endeavors in beer-drinking.  No?  Well, I’m probably already in Canada then.

This week I’m off to Whistler!  For work.  So no gondola rides for this guy.  Although, I’ll definitely be trying to head on up.  My hope is that at some point I’ll find myself way up on the mountainside looking down at the little village below, enjoying an ice cold beer, wishing my wife and daughter were with me (yes, I’ll miss my ladies, though I probably won’t miss the interrupted sleep).

I’ve started my research into beers and bars in the area, I’m just not sure what kind of free time I’ll have.  Hopefully I’ll have a post full of Whistler beers for ya.

If you have any suggestions for beers to drink or bars to visit in the Whistler area, let me know!

Dogfish Head Festina Peche

Sight:  Pale yellow in color, nearly clear, with a nice bubbly white head

Smell:  Lots of fruit, peaches, a little sourness mixed in there

Taste:  Light and crisp and very refreshing.  It’s very carbonated and leaves your mouth a little tingly.  It’s tart and has a subtle peach undertone.

My overall grade:  B

A nice, refreshing summer beer.  It’s making me feel like I should get on a sour beer kick soon.

Uinta Labyrinth

Sight:  Black like old motor oil with a thick brown head

Smell:  Coffee and licorice mostly.  There’s a bourbon oaky smell with a slight sourness mixed in.

Taste:  Big.  Very big.  It’s malty and heavy with black licorice and bourbon.  It crushes your taste buds with flavor, but then settles gently in the finish with a light booze burn.

My overall grade:  A-

Delicious beer.  I had seen this guy many, many times at the Whole Foods on P Street in DC.  For some reason, I always overlooked it.  Maybe it was the fact it’s from Salt Lake City (Utah has some odd liquor laws), or maybe it was the little cartoon guy (top-tier beers don’t have goofy cartoons on them).  Either way, I was keeping myself from having a great beer.  Don’t make the same mistake.

Now, I’m off to wait in line at customs.

29. Four Beers!

So, I missed another week.

Is anyone surprised at this point?

Last week was a little too hectic for me to write up anything.  We had a major phone upgrade project at work that kept me in the office until 1:30am.  Not my ideal situation.  So, as always, my penance will be writing more beer reviews today.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this post.  So, my one upcoming highlight is I get to go to Whistler up in Canada next Thursday for 9 days (YAY!) for work (BOO!).  So, be prepared for me to miss another post or two.

No more delays!  Beer reviews!

Central Waters Belgian Style Blonde

Sight: Bright golden color that crystal clear.  There was a thin white head that didn’t stick around too long

Smell: Belgian yeast.  That same aroma you’d find in almost every light Belgian beer.  Slight tangy sour aroma.

Taste: Light and sweet, but subtle.  Light tanginess and subtle sour finish.  It’s very delicate.

My overall grade: A-

I was pleasantly surprised with this beer.  I didn’t think it was going to turn out well, but I’m really starting to trust what Central Waters is putting out.

Lakefront Big Easy Imperial Maibock

Sight: Golden in color and slightly opaque, not much head to speak of.

Smell: All sweet malts and biscuits.  Like breakfast at the Pancake House.

Taste: Sweet malty flavor, but not overpowering.  A light citrusy hop flavor sneaks in at the end to round it out.

My overall grade: B+

Very tasty beer.  It’s strong, but doesn’t seem to crush you with the flavors.  I could enjoy a few, and then realize too late that they’re 7.7% each and pay for my eagerness.

Southern Tier 2X Stout

Sight: Deep, dark brown color, nearly black with a light white head

Smell: Coffee aroma with a light malty sweetness mixed in.  There’s a slight sour aroma due to the lactose.

Taste: Lots of coffee and chocolate that flows quickly into the lactose sourness.  The finish is slightly bitter.

My overall grade: B-

I’m always a sucker for milk stouts, and this one was good, but I wouldn’t put it near the top of the list.  If you’re picking between milk stouts, Left Hand and Duck Rabbit still rule the roost.

Pipeworks Close Encounter

Sight: Black like the midnight sky (assuming you don’t live in the city, cause that would be kinda yellow), with a creamy tan head

Smell: All grassy hops, which will alarm you if you didn’t read the label on the bottle.  Mild coffee notes mixed in there.

Taste: Chocolate and coffee throughout with a huge grassy hop flavor at the finish which ended up surprisingly clean.

My overall grade: B+

This thing is listed as a double stout, but there’s a lot of hops in there.  It’s like a double IPA and an imperial stout joined forces.

I’m off to start organizing my things for my Whistler!

28. Sixpoint – Apollo

By the time you read this, I’ll be in DC.  My little family and I will be taking a nice long weekend trip to the nation’s capital.

It’s gonna be a weekend jammed packed with visiting family and friends, which I’m sure will end with me being completely exhausted.  I’m beginning to find that my vacations aren’t very relaxing.  But, there’s never a dull moment, so that exhausted feeling is always worth it.

I’ll be sure to get a hold of a few DC-area beers, hopefully some hard to find stuff.

Let me know if you’ll be in DC this weekend and I’ll do my best to meet up with you.

This week I’ve started my shift into summer beers.  I like relaxing with a nice light beer while only mixing in the occasional big beer.  Ah, summer.

This week I’m reviewing my first canned beer.  Sixpoint recently made their way to Chicago and I’m sure their sales are through the roof.  Everyone here is talking about them (rightfully so).  I got a hold of the Apollo.

Sight:  Golden in color and slightly cloudy.

Smell:  Bananas and citrus fruit with a wheaty undertone. Like a fruit salad in an open grain field.

Taste:  Citrusy and tangy with a gentle sweetness.  It’s not malty and settles in nice and light.  A nice wheat beer, and especially exciting coming from a can.

My overall grade:  B+

A great beer to sip while sitting out on the front porch yelling at the damn kids to GET OFF THE LAWN!

Two Brothers 15th Anniversary Beer #4 – Pillar of Salt

Sight:  Bright golden color and crystal clear.

Smell:  Light malty scent, very slight rye spiciness, not a lot there.

Taste:  Thick malty backbone with a spicy rye bite.  Surprisingly bitter finish.

My overall grade:  B-

This one wasn’t as good as the others, but still a decent beer.  I was able to find this on draft at Sheffield’s, but I’m hoping to find a bottle soon.  It’s becoming like a little treasure hunt at the local liquor store.

Now, I better get packing.  Let me know if you want me to say hi to Obama.

27. Barley Island – Dirty Helen

Have you ever looked at your upcoming calendar of events and said to yourself, “Man, I don’t want to be here for that.”?

Well, this weekend is one of those situations.

It’s already ramping up now and I’m currently looking for ways to avoid it, but the NATO Summit is rolling into town this weekend.  Everyone seems to have different views on NATO and its implications on the world, but I’m not here to discuss that.  And, in all honesty, I don’t really care.

What I do care about is how this event is going to ruin my day.

Already protesters are being arrested around the city and this thing hasn’t even started yet!  The protesters are out protesting something that isn’t currently happening.  It’s like protesting the air or the sunshine.  The only thing they currently seem to be doing is aggravating residents.  People who may even agree with the protesters’ message (whatever that happens to be, I still can’t really figure it out) are getting aggravated, and they’re not even the targets of the protest.

Local news and organizers for the Summit have suggested that people in Chicago dress down this weekend.  The idea is that if we’re out there in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, the protesters won’t think we’re involved with the Summit (because, obviously, if you wear a suit you’re a NATO delegate) and we won’t get insults or worse (bags of crap) thrown at us.

A nice weekend to wander the city is ruined.  Even the Shedd Aquarium will be closed this weekend.  50 of their staff will be locking themselves inside the aquarium (in case of emergency).  Doesn’t that seem ridiculous?

At this point we’re trying to decide if it’s better for us to stick it out at home or gather up and head out in the traffic to the suburbs.  We’ll see.

This week, I tried the Barley Island Dirty Helen.

Sight:  Brown with a slight reddish hue and a thin white head

Smell:  Lots of grassy hops with light malty sweetness lingering in

Taste:  Sweet malts and biscuits.  There was a light bitter finish that ended kind of watery.

My overall grade:  C+

I expected this brown to have a little more malty character, but it fell a little short.  Not terrible, but not great… hence the C+.  Dirty Helen is named after a tavern owner in Milwaukee.  She tended to curse people out, giving her the nickname for her dirty mouth.  Knowledge!

I wasn’t able to find the 4th beer from the Two Brothers Anniversary, so, I give you Half Acre’s Ginger Twin!

Sight:  Deep red in color and very opaque.  Under the lights it glowed like a hot ember.

Smell:  All hops.  Lots and lots of hops.

Taste:  Big grassy hop flavor.  It kind of punches you in the mouth with hops.  I expected it to immediately fade into a huge bitter finish, but it flowed into a light malty backbone and finished up light and clean.

My overall grade:  A-

Get this beer.  Now.

Well, I better pack my bags and get out of Dodge.