Friday night was a wonderfully cool preview of autumn nights to come. So what a great time to just sit out late at night, and pop open a new craft beer. I’ve been slowly attempting to try at least one beer from every brewery in Chicago and its environs. It’s a tough job, but I’m up for the challenge.
Around the Bend Beer Co. appeared on the scene just last year. It was started by Dan Scheduler, a home brewer who, like so many others, decided to turn his hoppy into a business. With his brewmaster, Joe Cuozzo, he secured a co-brewing arrangement with Ale Syndicate on the Northwest Side. Their focus has been on standard beer styles charged up with unusual ingredients like exotic spices or fruits.
Case in point: Silk Road, one of their flagship beers in bottles. It’s a Pale Ale with five American hop varietals, and with the added kick of galangal, a rhizome found attached to plants mostly inThailand, related to ginger, but with a taste different enough that they thought to try this in a beer.
As I poured the beer into my glass, I got a mix of hop in my nose, vaguely spicy and citrusy, but not quite distinct. The beer in the glass is a hazy brown with gold edges, the haze coming from some sediment in the bottle that I just poured right on in. The head in this case is sudsy, but remains stiff for a few minutes, and helps offer some of the galangal smell. You know how, with some ginger ales, it seems you’re just drinking plain old sugar water, but then a jolt of ginger spice brings you out of that notion. That’s how I’d describe the nose. Even after the head subsides, there’s still a good nose of crystallized ginger chews.
I can question whether, when you are using an unusual ingredient in your beer, you should also throw in a boatload of hops. The galangal is there, suggesting not only ginger, but cinnamon sticks, lemon, and flowers. It seems a lot stronger than in other beers with ginger, but is that also the work of those extra hops (Chinook, Simcoe, Ahtanum, Amarillo, Citra). They also worked in some darker roast malts and a bit of wheat to add more complexity. does that take away from an already unique beverage taste?
Still this is the kind of question I ask of something I like, and want to know more about. I do indeed like this stuff, and I will be checking into some of the other beers as well.
Disclosure: This review is based on a beer that I purchased myself.