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.

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.

15. Chi Town – Windy City Wheat

Oh homebrew, how I’ve missed you.

Finally getting back to brewing was a blast.  It’s been nearly half a year, so I had to shake off a little rust, but I got back into the swing of things fairly quickly.  Also, we were brewing all grain beers (as opposed to my usual extract and partial mash methods).

All grain is a step above my usual brewing.  It definitely gives you the feel of brewing like a professional and the results tend to be a bit more positive.  However, you’re looking at brewing longer and larger amounts.  For example, when Pyzocha and I were brewing, we maxed out at about a 3 gallon mash and 5 gallon boil, and brewed for 4 hours at most.  With all grain brewing, Jason and I had about an 8 gallon mash and 10 gallon boil, and brewed for about 9 hours.  (the mash is the first step in the brewing process, for more info check Wikipedia)

For this brew Jason threw together a recipe for a chocolate milk stout (which is right in my wheelhouse).  Lots of heavy grains, delicious looking dark wort, and a bunch of lactose sugar (something I hadn’t used before).

So far, the beer looks good.  It’s currently in the primary fermentation waiting for the yeast to do its best and turn that super-sweet liquid into something drier and full of booze.  After the primary, Jason plans on tossing in cocoa nibs (and you know I love those things!).

I can’t wait to try it!

This week I gave another Chicago beer a shot.  Coming from Chi Town Brewing, I had the Windy City Wheat.  The entire name is a long Chicago cliché, and the beer was a bit of a letdown.

Sight:  Pale yellow in color and crystal clear.  When I think of a wheat beer, it’s never clear.  This beer already seemed to be missing something.

Smell:  Mild cloves in the aroma with a slight Belgian scent.  There was a hint of wheat, but nothing crazy.  The aroma was a bit dull.

Taste:  Spicy and tangy.  There was a little banana in there with a slightly sour and crisp finish.  Blah.

My overall grade:  D+

I was very disappointed with the Windy City Wheat.  It has some Belgian-style flavoring to it, which is kinda nice.  But it just doesn’t seem to fit right with the beer’s overall design.

This Sunday is the Super Bowl!  I’m looking forward to the game.  Hopefully the Patriots pull this one off.  I’m sure I’ll be talking about it next Thursday.  In the meantime, here’s my baby to help cheer on the Pats!

Go Pats!

11. 5 Rabbit – 5 Lizard

Happy New Year!

Yes, that’s a picture of my daughter, and, no, it’s not photoshopped at all.

Today, I’ll be giving you a little peek into my New Year’s celebration!

That being said, remember I’m married with a baby.  So, if you’re expecting some debaucherous story about booze and naked people, you may want to stop reading now.  My sex, drugs, and rock and roll days are in the past.

For New Year’s this year we went to my sister-in-law’s place for an epic feast.  Everything started around 6pm and it was a meandering culinary trip until midnight.  Here’s the flow of the evening.

6:30pm

  • Stuffed Artichokes
  • Steamed Mussels in White Wine Sauce

7:30pm

  • Lamb Shanks in Olive and Orange Sauce

8:30pm

  • Grilled Balsamic Marinated Octopus
  • Fresh Tossed Salad

10pm

  • Coconut Sorbet
  • Grilled Pineapple with Cinnamon

11pm

  • Bacon-wrapped Dates

By midnight I thought I was going to burst.  The food was absolutely incredible!

But, you know me, and it’s not a New Year’s celebration without beer!  All while tearing through that amazing food, I was working my way through a growler of Half Acre’s Callow Knife (only available at the brewery in growler pours).  A fresh-from-the-tap APA with crisp Citra hops.  It was the perfect complement to everything.  It was a New Year’s celebration worth repeating.  Maybe next year?

My first review of 2012 is of the 5 Rabbit 5 Lizard.  I know the name doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it doesn’t really matter if you make good beer.  5 Rabbit is brewed right here in Chicago and celebrates its Latin culture.  The 5 Lizard is a Latin-style Witbier with some added spices and fruit.

Sight:  Pale yellow in color with a light bubbly head, which fits the witbier style perfectly

Smell:  It has a light wheaty, oatmeal-like aroma with a little citrus thrown in

Taste:  The flavor was very light and crisp.  It very refreshing and would be easy to drink a bunch of.  The only part I didn’t really like was the strong lime flavor in the finish.  It lingered a little too long for my liking.

My overall grade:  B-

The 5 Lizard is a great beer for a hot summer day.  Or, if you’re like me, drink it on the coldest day of the year… so far.

Now, I’m off to sign up for a new gym membership.  Gotta go burn some calories.

4. Ska – Euphoria

Fall is over, my friends.

It came and went in a flash.  Yesterday, I went to work in 50 degree weather.  It was chilly, but not too cold.  I went home in 40 degree weather.  Much colder, and the wind was especially brutal.  This morning, snow flurries.

It only took 24 hours.  You were such a good season, Fall.  I’m sad to see you go.

Another sign of the imminent Winter is that my office building locks down all of the doors that open to the outside and forces you to use the revolving doors.  This is definitely a good idea, so that there isn’t a huge rush of cold air blowing into the lobby (I’ll discuss the lobby to my building at another time).  The downside is that the revolving doors are at opposite ends of the building.  So, if you make a mistake and head for the regular doors (like I did yesterday) and find them locked, you’ve got a half-block trek back in the direction you just came to get to the revolving doors.  But, since it’s my first Winter here, I’ll be better at this next time around.

Also, this cold weather has started my hustle for warmth.  My windbreaker jacket isn’t going to cut it anymore.  So, where’s my Winter coat?  Who knows.  We haven’t quite gotten to that phase of the unpacking.  Hopefully I’ll find it soon.

Note:  I’m sure some of you are asking “What the hell takes you so long to unpack your stuff?  I mean, come on, you’ve been there for a month and a half.”  This is why:

See the look on her face?  That’s a look of a baby wondering why her father has stopped playing with her to take a picture.

In honor of the snow, here’s Ska Brewing’s Euphoria.  It’s Ska’s take on the Winter Ale, and since Ska loves hops, you know this Winter Ale isn’t going to be all cinnamon and nutmeg.

Sight:  A bright copper color that’s reminiscent of an IPA.

Smell:  There’s a mild sweetness to it.  Slightly spicy like cinnamon, and a bit malty.  And as expected, there’s a big grassy hop aroma

Taste:  It’s malty sweet with a creamy mouthfeel, at first it reminded me of an Anderson Valley Winter Solstice.  The sweetness quickly fades away and you get a big hoppy blast.  Very grassy and bitter.  Toward the end there’s a lingering nutmeg-like flavor that sticks around for a bit.

My overall grade:  B-

The Euphoria was an interesting beer.  It’s like taking a tasty Winter Ale and mixing it with a bitter IPA.  If you’re tired of the regular spicy Winters, this may be a good pick for you.