Craft Beer Review-Preview: Lunar-Blue Cat Black Zemon

Today only, I get to tell you about a buzz-worthy local beer before it hits the taps in Chicago. Technically, I was trying Finch's Golden Wing right off the canning line last week, but that's another story.

This beer is a collaboration between LunaR Brewing Co. of west suburban Villa Park, and Blue Cat Brew Pubin downtown Rock Island, IL. Hard to believe this place has already been in business over 15 years. I had only visited before in about 2002, so I can't remember what beers I had there. But I do still have a shaker glass with the blue catfish logo. But the folks at LunaR (they spell it that way) had been talking up their series of collaborations, first with the Lucky Monk, and now with Blue Cat. The result of this collaboration was dubbed Black Zemon.

Lunar Brewing, Villa Park
Lunar Brewing, Villa Park

Following in the trend for beers with a black malt profile like the oxymoronically named "Black IPA," this is a Belgian farmhouse saison beer, again brewed with black roast malt, and with the addition of crystallized ginger.

Blue Cat Brew Pub, Rock Island
Blue Cat Brew Pub, Rock Island

The two brewers brought their labor of love to the Great Taste of the Midwest, where I'm told the keg kicked very quickly. Luckily, we have a chance to taste this stuff Tuesday, August 23 at 8:006:00 p.m., at LunaR (54 E. St. Charles Rd., Villa Park).

Myself, I was in the Quad Cities last week, taking my boy for a weekend with his grandparents. I figured it was finally time to revisit the Blue Cat and see if they had any of the Black Zemon pouring already. Success!

Now, I had lived in Rock Island briefly in the early 80's way before becoming the beer geek I am now, and I don't remember much of a beer scene at all. But the bartender told me they had been managing just fine since they opened. Being near the entrance to the U.S. Army arsenal didn't hurt, since a lot of their custom was from Army officers and contractors who'd gotten hooked on good beer during a tour or two in Germany. Bully!

So how does Black Zemon sit with me? Well, it pours black, with brownish highlights in the side of the glass. There's only a slight funk in the nose to start with. Then there's the ginger, coming in lightly, like a spicy ginger ale. Ginger is a bit more assertive in the first taste.  Yet it lets through the slight spice of wheat malts too, plus a slight hefeweizen note of banana esters. I'm holding back the impulse to gulp this down instead of sipping, since after all this is just one beer in a sampler tray. Despite some thick malts and the use of ginger, it avoids the heavy medicinal taste it could have had, and instead settles like a slightly sweet sarsaparilla. Then some black pepper fills my palate at the end.

In other words, it's a beer worth trying.

Correction:  The folks at Lunar notified me that I had the time wrong, 6:00 p.m. is correct. Also, they used Breiss Midnight Wheat malt, designed for schwarzbiers and black IPAs, rather than roasted barley malt.

I was going to preface this review by dredging up a phrase from one of my favorite cult TV shows:

"That gum you like is going to come back in style."

As mention by the Man from Another Place (aka "The Dancing Dwarf") in Twin Peaks. But then I mentioned my idea to the twenty-something tender of another bar, and he replied, "What's Twin Peaks?" Paugh!

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    Mark McDermott

    Writer, trivia maven, fan of many things. I thought to learn all there is to know about beer as a way to stay interested in learning. It is my pleasure to bring Chicago's craft beer scene to you.

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