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.

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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!

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.

21. Half Acre – Daly Double & Cipher plus Thomas Hardy

Today I’m going to start with an apology.  I’m sorry.

I know, I know.  It’s been a few weeks.  Please don’t call me lazy, I’ve been very busy.

You last heard from me about 3 weeks ago, so I’ve got a little catching up to do.  Below is my 5 minute summary of the past few weeks:

First, I survived St. Patty’s Day.  It was crazy.  Chicago takes St. Patrick’s Day very seriously.  And, on top of that, St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday.  Aaaaaand, on top of that, it was about 75 degrees and sunny outside.  So, it was a little out of hand out here.  I stayed out of the streets, to say the least.  We did, however, go on a boat ride in the morning up the Chicago River to watch them turn it green.  It was a blast.  Check it out:

Second, my daughter had her first birthday!  It was pretty wild.  Lots of fun, good food, good people.  We’re currently buried under new toys, clothes, and gifts.

Third, I was able to try a bunch of new beer.  Hooray!  Here are a few:

Half Acre Daly Double

Sight:  Dark copper color with a nice white lingering head

Smell:  Floral hop aroma with a green grape scent mixed in

Taste:  Lots of bitter hops in the taste.  It’s grassy and citrusy.  Also, it was slightly spicy, like a rye beer.  It finished fairly thin with a light bitterness.

My overall grade:  B-

Not a bad IPA.

This beer was named for Terry Daly, who sadly passed away recently.  To have a beer named after you seems like a great dedication to me.

Half Acre Cipher

Sight:  Bright golden in color.  It’s bright and clear with a thin head.

Smell:  Floral hops and cloves.  Its Belgian roots shine through.

Taste:  Tangy, citrusy, dry, with a slightly bitter finish.  It fit its Belgian Blond mold perfectly.

My overall grade:  B+

A very tasty beer, plus they put a tricky puzzle on the bottle.  A mind-bender on the bottle, a mind-number in the bottle.  Well done.

Eldridge Pope Thomas Hardy’s Ale (1987)

Sight:  Dark brown, slight red hues

Smell:  Dried fruits, and lots of booze

Taste:  Very strong.  Slight sweetness, mild sourness.  Very syrupy mouthfeel with a lingering boozy burn.

My overall grade:  A-

It’s nearly impossible to find and nearly impossible to drink by yourself.  But, it was my daughter’s birthday, so it seemed like a worthy celebration beer.

Now, hopefully I’ll write again sooner.  Oh, before I go, happy birthday mom!

19. Half Acre – Double Daisy Cutter

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of waiting outside in line in the cold. (pleasure?)  I was waiting outside Half Acre Beer Company waiting for the opportunity to pick up this year’s release of the Double Daisy Cutter. (ah, pleasure!)

I’m really starting to love Half Acre.  It’s a very small operation located only a few miles from my home.  The people working there are always very friendly and enjoy sharing the great beers they’re making.

A couple weeks ago I was able to visit the brewery with my brother and father.  We were taken around the small location, and given a quick private tour and learned a bit about their history.  My father showed quite a bit of interest, especially for someone who doesn’t really like craft beer.  Although, he did like The Hammer, The Bullet, & The Vice (Half Acre’s English Brown), so maybe there’s some hope for him yet. (Hi Dad!)

The line on Sunday wrapped around the corner, but everyone there was in high spirits.  It helped that people from Half Acre were providing coffee samples for everyone outside, and then Double Daisy Cutter samples once you made it inside.  They called it the Half Acre Speedball.  I called it all delicious.

So, I made it out of there with a few bombers and a growler of Double Daisy Cutter, which I’ll be sharing with a couple folks back in DC.  But first, here’s my quick and dirty review:

Sight:  Bright orange in color, slightly bronze with an opaque cloudiness.

Smell:  Big floral hoppy aroma, a little cut grass.

Taste:  A thick malty backbone that remains an undertone throughout.  It’s very hoppy and very bitter.  The finish fades out, surprisingly and leaves you with a mild boozy burn.

My overall grade:  B+

Was it worth the wait?  Yup.  It’s technically a pale ale, but it tastes closer to a double IPA.

I’m off to clean out my growler for the next fill-up.

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.

10. Christmas Beers!

Christmas!  The time of giving.  And, since it’s my daughter’s first Christmas, it’s the time of giving and giving and giving.  The gifts for her have already started rolling in and my apartment is slowly becoming FAO Schwarz.  Books, stuffed animals, dresses, shoes and socks (which she’ll only wear for about 5 minutes), various random toys, and lots of clothing.  The high point for me was when I noticed someone sent her Legos.  I’ll be playing with those until she’s big enough to know not to eat them or even later.  Perhaps when I’m willing to give them up (NEVER!).

It is very exciting though.  With it being her first Christmas, it’s almost like it’s my first Christmas too.  Except this time I’ll be doing less unwrapping.  Hopefully she won’t tear apart Grandma’s tree.

One good thing I need to tell you about:  Amazon Prime.  This is the greatest thing ever!  My wife signed up for Amazon Mom when we had the baby and it’s been a big help.  You can sign up to have it automatically send you new diapers and wipes and get a big discount in the process.  The shining star of signing up, though, is the free Amazon Prime.  Prime is basically Amazon’s Preferred Member program.  The part we use all the time:  FREE TWO DAY SHIPPING.  That’s right!  Guess how we did a lot of our Christmas shopping.  You are correct: point and click.  Then, two days later it shows up at your door.  If you don’t have Amazon Prime, get it now.

(Note:  I did not get paid by Amazon to say this stuff.  However, if Amazon were to give me a few more months of free Prime, I would not turn it down.)

This is my last post before the Christmas break (I may get one up next Thursday, but I’m not making any promises).  So, to prep you for Christmas, here are 3 holiday beers:

First, the Leinenkugel Fireside Nut Brown

Sight:  Bright copper in color with a thin white head that faded off quickly

Smell:  The aroma is sweet and malty.  It was slightly nutty with a little molasses thrown in.

Taste:  The flavor is sweet and malty, but surprisingly light.  It has a crisp mouthfeel and a light bitter hop flavor to finish it up.

My overall grade: B-

This was a decent beer; one that you could easily have a few of.  It didn’t have any real stand-out features, but it didn’t really do anything wrong.  Leinenkugel tends to overdo the flavoring in my book, but this one settles in nicely.

Next, the New Belgium Snow Day

Sight:  Deep brown in color, nearly black

Smell:  It has a grassy hop aroma, which surprised me considering it’s a winter ale

Taste:  Very mild sweetness at the front that fades into a thin hoppy finish.  It’s very crisp and not too bitter.  It seems light for a winter release.  It reminded me of a black IPA, or Cascadian or whatever you want to call it.

My overall grade:  C+

It was a bit disappointing, I think I was expecting more from New Belgium.  This beer seemed a bit watery to me.

Finally, the shining star in my Christmas tastings:  the Half Acre Big Hugs.  Brewed about a mile from my home with Dark Matter coffee, this is one big imperial stout.

Sight:  Black.  Like a coal mine.

Smell:  The aroma is full of coffee and sweet malts.  There’s some caramel hanging out and a little bit of chocolate.

Taste:  Delicious.  It’s a big beer full of coffee and caramel.  There’s a sweet dark chocolate mixed in.  It’s slightly syrupy in the mouthfeel, but much less than you would think.  There’s a slight bitterness in the finish to cleanse the palette and a mild alcohol burn to keep you warm at night.

My overall grade:  A

This beer is incredible.  They do run it in a limited number, so if you can get it… get it.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Beer Hoptacular

Saturday night I was able to stop into the Beer Hoptacular.  I was excited; it’s my first true beer event since SAVOR back in DC.  I had some high hopes for it since it would have a bunch of local breweries and a few national breweries bringing some hard to find brews.

The High Points:

  • I got to try out 12 new beers and even a few liquors from local distilleries.
  • Goose Island brought along Bourbon County Stout making me a very happy individual.
  • My favorite beer of the night came from Half Acre.  It was a barrel-aged Belgian sour.  It was fantastic.  Although, there were a lot of people getting it who thought “barrel-aged” meant it would be a stout and were unpleasantly surprised by the sourness.

The Medium Points:

  • Food was decent.  They had a good selection to choose from, and the jalapeno and cheese stuffed pretzel I had was quite good.
  • Lines moved fairly quickly and considering the crowd (which I’ll mention later), everything moved smoothly.

The Low Points:

  • It was dangerously crowded.  The Aragon was not designed to hold that amount of people for an event of that type.  Given that the center of the floor and outer edges were taken up by the brewers, there wasn’t much room for everyone attending to move around.

    Click to Enlarge

  • I overheard a few of the brewers saying that the evening crowd was much calmer and more polite than the earlier session.  It was pretty crazy during the evening session, so I’m glad I didn’t go to the earlier one.
  • I left after a couple hours because I couldn’t deal with the crowd.  I’ve been to Great American Beer Festival and that event is completely packed full of people, but you never feel like you can’t move.  At the Aragon, you couldn’t move.

The Beer Hoptacular was good.  With a shorter guest list or a bigger venue, it would’ve been great.  I’m sure I’ll go again (I can’t just give up on good-sized beer events), but I’ll make sure I’m earlier so I can get as much done as possible at the beginning.