Chicago Beer Travelers

Reviews Archives

10 Beers For When You're Snowed In 2011

user-pic
Matt Tunnell

Frisbee player, beer lover

Well, here we are again, almost a year after the most successful post in Beer Travelers history, once more discussing the best beers to drink in the wake of a baleful storm.  This years Snowpocalypse/Snowgasm/Blizzmageddon beats last years surprise early February storm in both advance hype and eventual delivery.  Anyway, this is a list of beers to fortify and stimulate you during the doldrums of your winter internment.  Like last year, I had the foresight to already have many of the beers, but once more I assure that these are worth venturing out past the wreckage of Wrigley field for.

Gallery sneak peek (11 images):

View the gallery...

Wet Hopped Ales

user-pic
Matt Tunnell

Frisbee player, beer lover

   Fall is my favorite season and fall beers play a large part of that.  Fall usually brings a slew of warm, malty flavors in the form of nutty brown ales or spiced pumpkin beers.  However, one variety of fall beer really stands out from this trend, looking back to spring and capturing bright, intense, and even green flavors.  This fresh-hopped, wet-hopped or, occasionally, harvest ale is brewed with hops within days of their harvest.
    These freshly picked hops are at the height of their aroma, which is infused into the beer at the end of the boil when the warm wort is run through a chamber known as a hopback on its way to the fermenter.  The flavors of a fresh-hopped ale are familiar, like an IPA or pale ale, but the fresh hops add a new dimension.  Citrus  and tropical fruit flavors will come across as juice-like while grassy and piney flavors will be downright resinous.
    Like the hops themselves, fresh-hopped ales fade quickly, so I'd recommend acting quickly to seek out some of the gems listed below.

Gallery sneak peek (4 images):

View the gallery...

Interview with Charles Bamforth (Part III): Beer Cultures, Globalization and "Real Guys"

user-pic
Rohit Naimpally

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

bamforth_beer.jpg

Photo Credit: UC Davis

In this, the third and final installment of my interview with Professor Charles Bamforth, we discuss "beer cultures" and the globalization of beer. The interview was conducted as part of my review of the Professor's latest book, "Beer is Proof God Loves Us". Part I, on the relationship between big brewers and small brewers, and the role played by the "big guys" in developing beer, was posted on Tuesday. Part II, covering responsible drinking, as well as Maggie Thatcher's infamous anti-monopoly beer laws, was posted on Wednesday.
 

Continue reading...

Interview with Charles Bamforth (Part II): The Iron Lady (and separately) Responsible Drinking

user-pic
Rohit Naimpally

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

bamforth_beer.jpg

Photo Credit: UC Davis

In this, the second part of my interview with Professor Charles Bamforth, we discuss responsible drinking, as well as Maggie Thatcher's infamous anti-monopoly beer laws. The interview was conducted as part of my review of the Professor's latest book, "Beer is Proof God Loves Us". Part I, covering the relationship between big brewers and small brewers, and the role played by the "big guys" in developing beer, was posted on Tuesday. The third and final part, discussing "beer cultures" and the globalization of beer, will be posted on Thursday.
 
Continue reading...

Interview with Charles Bamforth (Part I): The "Big Guys"

user-pic
Rohit Naimpally

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

bamforth_beer.jpg

Photo credit: UC Davis

In this, the first part of my interview with Professor Charles Bamforth, we cover the Professor's views on the relationship between big brewers and small brewers, and the role played by the "big guys" in developing beer. The interview was conducted as part of my review of the Professor's latest book, "Beer is Proof God Loves Us". Part II, covering Margaret Thatcher's infamous anti-monopoly beer laws, and responsible drinking, will be posted on Wednesday. The third and final installment, discussing "beer cultures" and the globalization of beer, will be posted on Thursday.
 
Continue reading...

Reviewing The Summit Unchained 04 Belgian-Style Golden Ale

user-pic
Rohit Naimpally

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

One of my best friends from college is huge fan of Duvel. He has often asked me for beer recommendations based on this preference; Summit Brewing Company out of St. Paul, MN may have made my task a little easier.

Summit recently sent me some samplers of their Unchained 04 Belgian-Style Golden Ale, a strong Belgian Blonde Ale that is very much in the brewing tradition of beers like Duvel. From the brewery's official description:
Light golden in color, pours effervescent with a thick, rocky head.  The aromas of fruity esters produced by our Belgian yeast strain dominate, while a subtle spiciness from the Czech Saaz and Styrian Golding hops linger in the background.  Brewed with 100% Belgian Malt and tons (literally) of Belgian Candi Sugar, the body was lightened, and the alcohol increased.  The end result is a sublime drinking experience!
100812081528resized_Label.jpg
I think that sums the beer up rather nicely, without too much embellishment while highlighting the brew's strong points. It is perhaps a little less effervescent than Duvel, but one would be well advised to pour it into a Duvel glass, or any other tulip with embossed writing on the inside that would amplify the effervescence of the beer. The esters hit you right up front and dominate the aroma (pears seem to be the dominant fruit), along with a heavy yeastiness. The alcohol is definitely there as well- as with Duvel ("Devil"), the devil is in the drink and designated drivers would be advised to take this one slowly. The flavor holds an almost sour yeastiness; bready and heady. The use of Candi Sugar complements the grainy malt-character rather well, lending the beer a decided "chewiness" in the mouth.

All-in-all, a beer that hits all the notes the brewer's were aiming for and can hold it's head up high in any conversation about the style. Duvel lovers can rejoice at a local option that affords them many of the same delights.

I'll be posting my review of Charles Bamforth's book next week, as well as a two or three-part interview with him. He had plenty of interesting stuff to say, so you'll want to check that out. The newest addition to our blog, Matthew Horn, will also be putting up his first post at some point next week. But more on that then. For now, see if you can have someone from Minnesota get you a six-pack of the Summit Golden Ale to toast the last few days of summer (I refuse to accept that summer is over). Have a good weekend; prost! 

Capital Supper Club Lager: "Not Bad" Indeed

user-pic
Rohit Naimpally

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

"But I don't like the taste of beer." It's a phrase that one often hears; in the course of my proselytizing mission to convince one and all of the divine qualities of beer, I hear it more often than most. Said offensive phrase ranks right up there with "But I don't like the taste of curry" as a sentiment that is, at the simplest level, faulty on a logical basis. Much as curry is the broad cateogry encapsulating most gravy-based dishes from the Indian subcontinent ("curry" refers to the gravy or sauce), beer is more a crude categorization of a diverse range of beverages that are produced through the fermentation of malted grains, hops, yeast, water and more often than not, a wide range of interesting additive ingredients. It is very difficult to pin down a single flavor that can be classified as "beer" (more after the fold).
Continue reading...

Stone Brewing Menu at C-House

user-pic
Matt Tunnell

Frisbee player, beer lover

      Rohit and I recently had the good fortune to meet Executive Chef Nicole Pederson of C-house and to taste her June beer menu, which featured pairings from Stone brewing.  By talking to her during the meal I was impressed by both her knowledge of beer and her efforts to incorporate it into the C-House menu.  These beer menus have gone up every month since November, featuring a different brewery each month including, in the past, Three Floyds and Founders which is impressive given the lack of an available draft system for the pairing beers (everything has to be available in bottles).  The move to a brewery farther afield for June was prompted by the restaurants new wine manager who used to work for Stone.  As for the future, she teased us with the possibility of a Michigan beer menu showcasing three different Michigan breweries, which would allow her to feature one of her (and our!) favorite breweries, Jolly Pumpkin.

Gallery sneak peek (11 images):

View the gallery...
Continue reading...

Imperial Stout Tasting: Round 2

user-pic
Matt Tunnell

Frisbee player, beer lover

This is only the second stout tasting but we've already deviated from the plan set out in Jeff's initial post.  These two stouts were not on the original list; in fact they were little more than a glimmer in my eye when this project was first conceived.  Friend-of-the-blog Josh scored New England Brewing's Imperial Stout Trooper from a New England buddy.  Back when I mentioned the Imperial Stout Trooper in my list of beers for a lonely Valentine's day I didn't imagine that I'd get to try it.  However, it's good that I did now, since this is the last year that Imperial Stout Trooper was available with its distinctive label.  Thanks to a cease and desist letter from Lucasfilm new artwork will grace future releases.

Gallery sneak peek (3 images):

View the gallery...
Continue reading...

First Impressions at the Fountainhead

user-pic
Matt Tunnell

Frisbee player, beer lover

All the way back in March I posted my eager anticipation of the Foutainhead's opening and I was finally able to get satisfaction when everything fell into place in the middle of last week.  To recap, I was excited because of the personnel at the helm of the Fountainhead, whose other work I've been impressed with in the past and also about the presence of two hand-pumped beer engines.  To add to the anticipation, I had been hearing rumblings about the opening for several weeks, including a tweet from Ray Daniels that advertised the fateful day as April 26th, which led me, Rohit, and several of our friends on a fruitless trip to an unfinished bar.
     On Thursday, the day after the real opening, I again trekked up to Ravenswood and met up with Rohit so we could finally try the bar we'd been hearing so much about.  Word had gotten around, and while there wasn't a line out the door, there were people at all of the tables.  It was fortunate that Rohit had gotten there early and staked out a table, but it didn't look like anyone had to wait too long to be seated.  There was a bit of a run on menus, but I was able to track one down soon after I joined my table.  

Gallery sneak peek (3 images):

View the gallery...
Continue reading...

Mikkeller Single Hop IPAs

user-pic
Matt Tunnell

Frisbee player, beer lover

I always like to pass beer tastings off as a learning opportunity but Mikkeller's series of single hopped India Pale Ales is truly an educational beer tool.  Each of the IPAs is built on the same malt recipe so that the only the differences in the hops will separate the final beers so that beer drinkers can learn about particular hop varieties.  This is fine because IPAs are mostly about the hops anyway.  In addition to their own aromatic compounds, each variety of hop has its own level of alpha acids, which are the compounds that make beer bitter.  Since some hops are more bitter than others the beers probably weren't made by identical procedures; the less bitter ones would probably be added in larger quantities or for longer durations in order to make the beers more drinkable.  I haven't seen the final word on whether this was the case, but these beers are nevertheless an extremely useful tool for learning about hops.   

Gallery sneak peek (7 images):

View the gallery...
Continue reading...

The Beers of the Craft Brewer's Conference Week

user-pic
Matt Tunnell

Frisbee player, beer lover

CBC week is over now and since I'm well on the way to recovering from that lengthy beer-fueled ordeal, I'd like to reminisce about some of the most interesting and exciting beers that I was privileged to try last week. 

Gallery sneak peek (5 images):

View the gallery...
Continue reading...

CBC Tuesday Event Recap

user-pic
Matt Tunnell

Frisbee player, beer lover

There were more events last night than we could possibly make it to, but we did our best to be beer travelers and make the rounds.  Rohit and I started the evening, or rather the afternoon, by showing up at the Map Room to see what "special" "exciting" beer Shelton Brothers had dropped off there.  Normally, I'm not inclined to rush out on the vague promise of something special, but I trust the Map Room and I'd been impressed by the lists of other beers that Shelton Brothers did not feel the need to keep secret.  We were not disappointed.  The Map Room featured Dieu De Ciel's Péché Mortel on cask.  Péché Mortel, French for mortal sin (as opposed to the unaccented mortal peach), is an imperial stout brewed with coffee and it's one of my favorites.  Dieu de Ciel's beers almost never show up draft, let alone cask, so this was truly a rare treat.  The low carbonation and warmer serving temperature really brought out the complex, strong coffee character of the beer and it made for an excellent drinking experience.  Factor in beautiful weather and a wide open front window and I would have been happy to stay there for hours more.  Alas, given the number of events, we had to keep moving.  

Gallery sneak peek (5 images):

View the gallery...
Continue reading...

Stone Party at the Twisted Spoke

user-pic
Matt Tunnell

Frisbee player, beer lover

     This is just a quick write up of the Stone release party at Twisted Spoke on Thursday night.  Unfortunately there were a few negative things marring an otherwise fine night.  First and foremost, all of the beer was served in plastic cups, this is why there are no photos, as beer in a plastic cup is just not very photogenic.  This was a necessary evil given the sheer volume of people in attendance tonight, but I'll ever be a proponent of beer in its proper glassware.  Thankfully, most of the beer was so delicious that it didn't suffer too much from this presentation.  The upshot of this plastic cup service was that all pours of the beer were the same size and they were all the same price, so we were able to enjoy generous pours of carefully cellared beers at a bargain price.  
     Beyond that, the service of the bar was rather poor.  I understand that it was going to be a madhouse as the bartenders rushed to fill the orders of the people waiting at the bar while also filling beers to be carried over to the restaurant portion of the Twisted Spoke.  This should only have led to long waits, but when one of my friends paid up front for a round, he only received two out of three beers and was subsequently ignored by the bartenders for an additional 15 minutes.  After he insisted, the beer was eventually produced, but it was not accompanied by an apology or any acknowledgment.  Click through for the redeeming qualities.
Continue reading...

3 Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek

user-pic
Rohit Naimpally

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

The three of us love lambics, whether they are unblended, blended, or fermented with fruit. Most people are familiar with the Lindemans fruit lambics, most famous of which is the ubiquitous Framboise. While I find the Framboise- and Lindemans' fruit lambics in general- to be too sweet, there are a number of fine lambics available on the market. Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen are two breweries that are especially renowned for their beers in this style. The high price tags associated with these beers pose some constraints to the beer lover on a budget, but one can rarely go wrong with a Cantillon or a 3 Fonteinen.


Continue reading...

Night of the Living Ales

user-pic
Jeff Bean

hophead, fisherman, and Nebraska-native

One of the best things about Chicago the quantity and quality of its festivals.  And its beer festivals are no exception.  Matt and I, along with a few other friends, attended our first Night of the Living Ales this past Saturday evening.  The event featured over 40 cask ales from around the region.  Cask ales are also known as "living" or "real" ales because they are unpasteurized and unfiltered, and are packaged without added CO2 (like a keg) and continue to change in the cask.  As a result, cask ales have a very different characteristics than those served from a keg or bottle.   The mouthfeel is extremely silky, and carbonation is limited.  Certain styles, like English Style Bitters and Milds are traditionally served this way. 
Continue reading...

Half Acre Beer Company: The Beers of Half Acre

user-pic
Matt Tunnell

Frisbee player, beer lover

    Half Acre is the most exciting brewery in Chicago.  I'm not generally one to gush with praise, but I find myself checking their blog several times a day because I'm so hot and bothered about the possibility of a new release (although they roll out pretty regularly, about once a month).  The brewery started by contracting brewing out to Sand Creek Brewery in Wisconsin, which is where I believe the Lager and Over Ale are still made and bottled.  Half Acre has only been brewing in Chicago since March 2009 but they have certainly made a strong showing so far.
     Baumé, a rye stout, marked the first brew at the Chicago Facility and it has already been reprised this year to mark their anniversary.  It was exciting to see a new brewery plunge right in with a rye beer since brewing with rye can pose extra difficulties.  Rye can be difficult to mash, which is the extraction of fermentable sugars and other compounds from malted, due its tendency to retain water and gum up in the mash tun.  In addition, recipes containing rye can be difficult to balance properly because pretty much every variable in the recipe affects how the rye flavor will come through in the end.

Gallery sneak peek (9 images):

View the gallery...
Continue reading...

Beer Traveling: Two Brothers Taphouse

user-pic
Jeff Bean

hophead, fisherman, and Nebraska-native

·        Cabin fever convinced us that it was finally time to do some traveling.  Monday night, we made our way through the sleet and snow to Two Brothers Brewery in Warrenville, IL.   We've enjoyed their beers in bottles and on tap throughout Chicago, but this was our first visit to the taphouse.

Gallery sneak peek (7 images):

View the gallery...
Continue reading...

Revolution Brewing: Opening Night Impressions

user-pic
Rohit Naimpally

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

Given the intriguing food menu at Revolution Brewing, we should have probably held off on dinner until we got there. As things turned out, honorary Beer Travelers groupie Ben cooked up some delicious Cuban sandwiches for us, so we finally wound our way up to Revolution round about 9 pm. The brewpub was reasonably crowded even when we arrived, but we still managed to grab a table.

The decor and ambiance of Revolution are quite comforting as one enters: muted lighting casts a warm glow over proceedings, reflecting softly off of the restored tin roof. A finely crafted wrap-around wooden bar dominates the center of the room, with booths and tables dotting the walls around the spacious interiors. Large windows in the rear of the room give patrons a glimpse of the brewing facilities (which will be open to tours this Spring), but you might be waylaid by the tap line on your way over to said windows. The ubiquitous upraised-fist taps, derived from the brewpub's logo, beckon to visitors even as courteous hostesses offer to seat you immediately. I had my eyes on the tap line right from the get-go and was also curious about a couple of hand taps that I noticed at the bar; I expect these to feature cask conditioned beers in the near future.

Gallery sneak peek (13 images):

View the gallery...
Continue reading...

Burgers and Beer: Kuma's Corner

user-pic
Jeff Bean

hophead, fisherman, and Nebraska-native

Even as pairings of food and beer grow more adventurous and precise, few combinations can rival the classic pairing of burgers and cold beer.  And few places make a burger like Kuma's Corner.  This small Avondale restaurant and bar has gained a tremendous amount of press in recent years.  Numerous publications have named it among the best burger joints in Chicago, and some have even placed their burgers among the best in the nation. One things for sure: they make some truly epic burgers.  It turns out their beer selection is nothing to sneer at either.

Gallery sneak peek (5 images):

View the gallery...
Continue reading...

Quencher's Stout Fest 2010

user-pic
Jeff Bean

hophead, fisherman, and Nebraska-native

Monday night, Matt and I finally trekked up to Quenchers Saloon for their Stout Fest 2010.  The fest lasts all of January, and features about 20 stouts on tap, most of which are American imperial stouts.  Check out their menu here.

Gallery sneak peek (10 images):

View the gallery...
Continue reading...

Dispel the Monday Blues at Reggies

user-pic
Rohit Naimpally

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

"Whats on the Surly tap right now?"
Oh, something called The Darkness.
"Wait, Surly Darkness?!"
Thats the one.
"For $3 a pint?"
Indeedy.


Beer drinkers from most parts would have been ecstatic if that conversation had played out in real life. Good news: it was. At around this time last year, a couple of us decided to make the short trip out from Hyde Park to Reggies at 21st and State, following up on a tip from another beer drinker. Not only did we discover that they had a solid list of taps (featuring, inter alia, permanent taps from Three Floyds, Surly and two from Bell's), but that come Monday, all draft beers sold for the princely sum of $3 a glass. That night, we knocked back a few pints of the Darkness- 16 oz. for $3- while doing due diligence on the Three Floyds Munsterfest and Bells Double Cream Stout. Oh, and lest I forget, Monday nights also bring with them $1 tacos. Now thats the good life; Reggies has been a Monday night favorite ever since.

Reggie's is known principally as a music venue and record store, but as we have discovered, it boasts a healthy selection of draft beers. The bloke picking out the beers evidently knows his stuff, even though the bartenders seem less into the beer on the whole: most beers come served in a standard shaker, regardless of style. Puritans should realize that this can often be a good thing- imagine receiving a 16 oz. pour of the Affligem Triple, where a smaller goblet would usually be the norm. Better yet, imagine receiving multiple 16 oz. pours of some of the finer beers on offer, all without breaking the bank- as beer specials go, Reggie's is a veritable mother lode.

Gallery sneak peek (6 images):

View the gallery...
Continue reading...

Most Active Pages Right Now

ChicagoNow.com on Facebook