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WhiskeyFest Barrel-Aged Beer at Twisted Spoke

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Rohit Naimpally

Pol Sci, Econ and Cricket geek who loves a good pint

To begin with a hackneyed reference, 'it was the best of times, it was the worst of time.' Twisted Spoke (on Ogden and Grand) featured 20 taps of barrel-aged beers last night, part of the WhiskeyFest debauchery that hits Chicago tonight. I had posted the potential tap list in an earlier post and needless to say, we were rather excited; Matt and I journeyed up to Twisted Spoke at close to 6:30 yesterday evening in the hopes of partaking of a few of the libations on offer (more after the jump.)

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The tap list promised to be great: Port Older Viscosity, Lost Abbey Angel's Share, Great Lakes Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout, a few "rare surprises" and Founders' CBS, KBS and Hand of Doom starting at 8 pm. Given that we had already had a number of the beers on offer, we were mostly heading up to Twisted Spoke in order to have the CBS, a beer that I have only had the privilege of having on two other occasions.

Thankfully, the bar wasn't too crowded when we arrived and we managed to park ourselves in front of a screen showing the Bulls-Cavs game (good on the Bulls, incidentally) while waiting for a seat. The first surprise of the evening proved to be the New Belgium tap: not the La Folie (a personal favorite that has been freely available all through the city over the past year) as promised, but even better, the Tart Lychee. I fell in love with this beer at the Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers and remember going through a few goblets at Sheffield's as well; this time proved no different. I am not overly fond of lychees, finding them a tad too sweet, but this beer manages to ferment out a lot of the sugars. New Belgium brews the Tart Lychee with souring agents and Brett, aging it in oak and then blending it with lychees and Ceylon cinnamon. The result would delight any lover of sour ales: tart, slightly citrussy and wonderfully funky (the Brett comes out beautifully). Despite selling a number of barrel-aged stouts for $10 a snifter, Twisted Spoke priced tulips of the Tart Lychee at the ridiculously affordable price of $5: definitely the high point of the night.

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My second beer of the night was the Barrel-aged Blackout Stout from Great Lakes Brewing Co. out of Cleveland. Unlike Matt, I was not able to make it up to the Map Room in time to have this during CBC week, but had heard plenty of good things (largely from Matt) and was looking forward to trying it. Great Lakes is one of my favorite breweries, making a mighty drinkable porter (Eddy Fitzgerald) and a superb Vienna Lager (Eliot Ness) that pairs rather nicely with deep dish pizza. The regular Blackout is a solid imperial stout and the oak-aged version transforms it into an even better brew. This is a beautiful, beautiful beer: pitch black (no light gets through this one) topped by a fluffy brown head- I could just look at this beer all day. Both the nose and the flavor are dominated by vanilla, no doubt from the oak aging, which to me was the most positive shift from the base beer. A friend described this as a great dessert beer, which I have to agree with: milk chocolate, vanilla, oak undertones and a heavy roasted malt backbone. The beer goes down like a chocolate truffle, rich and luxurious. Had it not been for the promised CBS, I would have been happy to end my night with the Barrel-Aged Blackout.

Come 8 pm, we expectantly made our way up to the bar for the CBS and each of us ordered one. We had been reasonably satisfied with the glassware up to that point- unlike the Stone event, the beers were coming in glassware that was largely appropriate to the brew it contained. However, that record was broken with the arrival of our CBS in...highballs? Well, more like tapered versions of highballs, but certainly not the snifters that such a beer cries out for. It got worse though: one sip of the beer and we knew it was off. I remember the CBS as having been a rich, complex brew with maple syrup sweetness, strong coffee notes and a whole lot more. The CBS this time around tasted almost rancid- an overwhelming sourness (not a good thing in this case) dominated the brew and there was no trace of the maple-oak-bourbon troika that we were expecting. We were not alone in thinking all this- patrons all along the bar were sending their beers back, complaining that it had gone off. To top it all off, the CBS was sold out within 6 minutes, peculiar given the number of people at the bar.

Although the bartenders promised to replace our beers with another brew, it took me a good 25 minutes to finally get my beers. Matt had mentioned being struck with the poor service during the Stone event and it was no different this time around- despite having no less than three bartenders on the job, the service at Twisted Spoke was rather poor and coupled with the spoiled CBS, put a dampener on the event somewhat. As we ascertained from a few other patrons there, we weren't the only ones that had come primarily for the CBS; luckily, the consolation prize (the KBS) proved to be fine.

All-in-all, I commend Twisted Spoke on their tap list (the Tart Lychee in particular), but yet again, find that the service there leaves a lot to be desired. On an unrelated note, Matt and I had a moment of personal gratification when we ran into a reader of the blog at the bar (here's the promised shout out Dan); we love hearing feedback from all of you, so keep it coming! We have our sights trained on Dark Lord Day tomorrow, so expect plenty of coverage when we get back (and the conclusion of our Imperial Stout tasting- Speedway Stout and Dark Lord coming up). Have a wonderful, sozzled weekend everyone. 

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1 Comment

ChitownGeorge said:

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Service at the Twisted Spoke was bad? Shocker!

Seriously, the service there is always bad, even if it's a weekday afternoon and there's only a handful of customers.

Still, sorry I missed this. I forgot completely about this event, and I work just a couple blocks away.

Oh, well.

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