We’re well into the part of the craft beer scene where some brewers are celebrrating significant anniversaries, aren’t we? So let’s dip into a little Chicago-area brewer history.
Church Street Brewing Company of suburban Itasca marks its 10th anniversary in 2012. And the kind folks from their have dropped off a mixed sampling of some of their flagship beers and special editions. That’s my full disclosure that I’m writing about beers I have been given, owing to my still undefinable influencer status.
Church Street Brewing Company was co-founded by Joe and Lisa Gregor. There story will be familiar to most brewers: Joe, a chemical engineer, got a homebrewing kit from his son, and ended up liking his results so much, he went into the brewing business. The Gregors’ quest for a place to brew took them to a spot on Church Street in Addison, but they couldn’t secure a lease on it. They ended up in Itasca on an industrial drive (that’s the name of the street: Industrial Drive), but they had already moved ahead with licensing application under the Church Street name. The brewery features a family-friendly tap room and event space, with food trucks and a seasonal patio,
While Church Street does many beer styles, including the popular IPA’s, they include many German style lagers. This includes styles that usually use decoction mashing: taking some of the grains out of kettle and reheating them to extract more fermentables and gradually raise the mash temperature.
As is my usual wont, I’m posting this article with the first few beers they’ve sent me, them I’ll keep adding more beer information as I drink them.
Heavenly Helles Lager
I want to lead off with one of their flagship beers, one which has been around almost from their start focusing on German styles.
To my mind, the Helles style, also called the Dortmunder Export, is closer to the style used for the big mass-produced beers. This worries a little less about the water makeup than a Pilsener.
Not suprisingly, the pour is a bright gold, with no haze to break it up. A fizzy head that dwindled away as I was taking the pictures. The glass offers up the familiar “beer” smell of malt and just a bit of hop bitterness.
The taste is well balanced between malt and hop, with neither one being too much. Just a note of sweetness and then some German hop bitterness. At 5.0% abv, it firs in as a “lawnmower” beer, but it finishes off a bit more hearty than your “Lites”.
815 Different Not Broken
I actually started off with this limited edition beer because it is tied to a fundraising project. Different Not Broken is brewed in collaboration with Shooter’s Tap Room in Rockford. Proceeds from the sale of the beer are slated to support Autism programs in Rockford’s 815 area code.
The brew is described as a “Dreamsicle Cream Ale, flavored with tangerine and vanilla.”
A hazy, orange juice like pour, under a thick but fizzy head. Smell does offer some tangerine to the nose. Citrus makes the vanilla stay in the background, but there it does. The taste is indeed like a dreamsicle. Tangerine instead of orange gives it a juicier flavor. Only paring the score a bit because it’s pretty sweet, but that’s the risk with a cream ale base. Once finished, I can lick my lips and taste orange juice, so it serves its purpose.
Another German style, complete with Weyermann malts and a double decoction mash, spiced by three German hops. 7.1% abv.
A nice golden to brassy color, filtered to leave no haze. There’s some eggshell foam that dwindles away quickly. The smell has some caramel and toasted malt to it, not too sweet.
The taste is what I keeping calling “beer” as I remember it, but just much more of it. Toffee in the malts, with sweetness held in check by your basic German hop load. Hops themselves bring in a bit of light spice. A solid, and filling German style beer, ideal for springtime and Lenten fasting.
Here’s one of those lager styles that even lager brewers only served up once in a while. This is one that comes out at Church Street once in a while.
This pours almost solid black, with a stiff, parfait-like head. Smell has a little more roast than other schwarzes I’ve had. By the time I start writing about this, the foam has dwindled to the same scrum of suds as on many 5% lager beers.
The taste is roastier, too. Still dry enough to count as a lager instead of a stout. It finishes off like a mild coffee, with a soda pop effervescence. Not too filling, it still lands like a “regular” beer.
90 Shilling Ale
I probably don’t need to drop some knowledge in this field, but I will. The “Shilling” number for Scotch ales came from the pre-tax price of a barrel of the beer. Different strength beers were assigned different prices, with the currency sometimes express as “/-“, from mild 60/- beers, then increasing by tens until the 90 Shilling, or “Wee Heavy.” Some outliers of 140/- or 160/- are known, but that’s no nevermind right now.
This pours out very malty-smelling, as expected, with caramel roasts, or as they would say on the Isles, toffee roast. A warm and friendly brown with a little bit of haze. The foam remains pretty stable at the top, and I can already note some of the earthiness of the British hops.
The taste is similarly sweet, like a toffee, but not overly so. There is plenty of that English hop to keep it in check. The mouthfeel is slightly lighter than one would expect for a 7% abv beer. So it feels as though I can go on with the rest of my day once dinner is eaten.
Guessing from the name that this is a “junior” edition of their Brewcifer Hazy Double IPA, which we’ll get to a little bit later. This is a 5% abv IPA, made with Mosaic, Galaxy and Simcoe hops, and a note of lactose.
First off, I notice the tab on the cans has been a little “tight,” suggesting a secondary ferment might have driven the inside pressure up a bit. But no gushers so far.
A nice hit of pine and resin, with stone fruit, hits my nose when I do pop the tab. The pour is hazy as expected, under a sudsy head that can rise up a little above the rim of the glass.
I expected a bit of sweetness from the lactose, but it’s overcome by the bitter hit of hops. Now I can catch some mango as I sip further down. The usual pine and resin are rather subdued for an IPA, letting some of the fruity hops stay up front. Light malts make this end with a nice, dry finish.
Passion of the Kolsch
Maybe I’ll say I’m trying to hurry summer along with a summer drink? But it’s not working yet. But let’s pop a Kölsch-style ale for the summer, one with an extra summery addition of passion fruit.
Pours a gold body, a little lighter than the flash photo here suggests, with lots of floating bits of haze, probably by the added passion fruit. A big head can be seen here, though, when it finally settles down, it leaves some proper lacing.
The nose has plenty of that passion fruit too, to go along with a usually delicate kölsch nose.
Liking the taste just for the unusual passion fruit addition. It gives the beer a little tartness, and it may kind of overwhelm the light Kölsch malt profile, but I’m okay with that.