AboutMathew Powers, Author at PorchDrinking.com
Forget golden rings. On the fifth year of holiday collaboration, The Open Bottle and Hailstorm Brewing gave to us, Santa’s Cookies & Milk Stout. And, it’s adorned in gold labeling, with a special glass to match. The stout is decadent, creamy, full-bodied and somehow still crushable; a real holiday treat. Yet, the real gift goes to Tinley Wish because a portion of sales aids the south-suburban Chicago organization that gives aid to needy families.
The 2019 GABF Gold Medal for Chicago’s Begyle Brewing Barrel-Aged Imperial Pajamas gave credence to those who boasted of its excellence, and the award did wonders for its popularity. However, medals only go so far; Chicago’s beer crowd can be downright snobby about BBAs. The annual Imperial Pajamas release enjoys increasing fanfare because of its consistency, quality and a taproom party consisting of hour-by-hour variant tappings. Sadly, the global pandemic prevented Begyle from throwing its annual gathering. Nevertheless, the three packaged Pajamas stand as exemplary BBAs and evidence of why the program now hangs with the big boys and girls of the strong barrel-aging beer world.
This year’s three Imperial Pajamas release consists of the classic in Heaven Hill barrels, a vanilla variant and a special version aged in Booker Bourbon barrels. “We’ve had a lot of fun with release day variants, the way we handled those hourly releases allowed us to explore many different flavor combinations over the years. With our first foray into canning a barrel aged variant we chose vanilla as it is one of the most versatile ingredients we use in several of the variant combos we have done in the past. From the feedback we’ve gotten vanilla was always the most popular flavor, whether it was just vanilla, or vanilla combined with other ingredients,” said Kevin Cary, Begyle co-founder.
The famous Chicago Fire began on October 8, 1871, in a barn owned by Catherine and Patrick O’Leary. The city went ablaze for 36 hours, destroying 18,000 buildings and leaving 100,000 Chicagoans homeless. A frightful October story, to say the least! But, Spiteful Brewing has taken that story, mixed it with some cow-blaming folklore and turned into a sweet Halloween treat: Mrs. O’Leary’s Chocolate Stout.
Eric Hinderaker’s The Two Hendricks Unraveling a Mohawk Mystery discusses two men during the eighteenth century who played significant roles towards maintaining the Iroquois Confederacy amid a French-English rivalry regarding their mutual goal to control North America. Their history, somewhat hidden within broader narratives, at one point included a belief the two were only one person. Hinderaker discusses each men’s lives while also informing how the two men’s history merged (as well as why that could not have been possible). The elder took a trip to London and met the Queen. The younger met with several prominent British colonials. The discussion of both men’s lives provides a lens into the Anglo–Iroquois alliance, notably as it pertained to their place within the British – French struggle.
The Open Bottle craft beer shop and taproom in Tinley Park, Illinois, has not only endured the challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak but proved successful enough to advance its pre-pandemic plans for opening a second location. This November, work will begin on its second location (a retail-ready store) in Lockport, Illinois, located near the intersection of I-355 and 159th Street.
The conversation that begat Jameson Caskmates transpired at a pub in Ireland’s County Cork in 2014, eventually evolving and growing into a program that included numerous U.S. Craft Breweries and ultimately a partnership with the Great American Beer Festival (2018 & 2019). Although GABF is virtual this year due to the relentless pandemic, Jameson remains focused as ever on its Caskmates and craft-beer partnerships.
Before 1492, the Irish had never seen a potato; the Italians had never seen a tomato, and neither cows nor horses had ever stepped foot in North America. For that matter, Blue Grass remained in Europe, not in what is today’s Kentucky. Europeans also brought dandelions. Pathogens came, too, which spelled disaster for the indigenous population (Native Americans); disease killed 80-95% of Native Americans within 150 years after 1492. Those are only a few of the numerous lessons provided in Alfred Crosby’s 1972 seminal work: The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. As we observe Columbus Day, it’s time to crack open a good beer and revisit the groundbreaking book that changed how we thought about 1492.
Maplewood Brewing & Distilling in Chicago, IL offered a dual homage to Bavaria this year with Festbier and Fest Whiskey, demonstrating its prowess in both realms of the imbibe world. Though Maplewood may have added distilling to its repertoire after opening its lauded brewery, creating spirits has always been part of the plan. Indeed, in 2016, Ari Megalis, co-founder and distiller, commented to PorchDrinking.com: “When we started, we almost considered only distilling, but it obviously takes some time before you can get your product on the market. But we love beer, and we ended up doing that, too. It worked out great because now we can do a lot of things with it.”
With the 2019-20 global pandemic still at-hand, The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild has announced details for a re-imagined 18th annual Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beer (FoBAB). Brewers from all over the nation have submitted beers for judging, and this year people can purchase 6 packs to-go, with 100% of the funds going to the host of FoBAB, the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. The money will ultimately support the broader Illinois craft-beer community.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is on a mission to fight climate change, one beer at a time. On September 19, Dogfish Head and Indigo Agriculture, a company intent on “harnessing nature to help farmers sustainably feed the planet,” released an Earth-friendly Re-Gen-Ale to its local beer fans. As explained by Dogfish Head, the beer serves as the first traceably-sourced beer to address climate change through agriculture using Indigo Carbon, a program that provides growers with a financial incentive to store carbon in their soils.” The beer release arrives in time for Climate Week (Sept 21 – 27).
It’s tempting to bemoan the fact that the industry remains in a lengthy pandemic-induced pivot. However, it’s time to start focusing on what is instead of what isn’t happening. For this year’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF), beer drinkers will have a chance to purchase a GABF Passport that gives them access to a host of good deals (an idea similar to Chicago and Illinois Craft Beer Weeks held in previous years). One can purchase the $20 GABF Passport and start enjoying brewery deals October 1 through October 18. As well, the passport gives beer drinkers an opportunity to attend (view) the star-studded Virtual GABF Festival (October 16-17) (which includes the awards ceremony).
As the sunset arrives earlier each day during September, it becomes abundantly clear that autumn is setting in. And, with that seasonal transition comes one the most recognizable fall beer festivals around — Oktoberfest.
While Munich serves as the home …
The global pandemic has put a damper on our oom-pah-pahs and Zicke, zacke, hoi, hois. Indeed, Oktoberfest 2020 — whether it be in Munich or anywhere else — is not quite the same. Nevertheless, the six official Oktoberfest breweries in Munich have not ceased in creating their beers. The youngest of the six, Paulaner, offers not one, but two versions: the historic Märzen that’s available year-round and the Oktoberfest Lager served in Munich during the festivities. For extra fun, search for the special one-liter can and glass mug set.
A multi-faceted demonstration of craft-beer community support will manifest at Downer Grove’s Orange & Brew Bottle Shop and Tap Room on September 19 (noon – 9 pm). The tap takeover will not only feature a dozen “Black is Beautiful” project beers — some of which have previously only been available in the taproom where they were brewed, but also benefit the Wood Family Pitch In project, which assists oft-ignored inner-city school districts by offering mentoring to kids as they transition from middle school to high school.
When Roaring Table Brewery won the 2020 USA Today Readers’ Choice “Best New Brewery” award, it didn’t come because the brewery engaged heavily in a marketing strategies, nor did it come from chasing trends or a producing a series of sexy releases. Beth May and Lane Fearing, married couple and founders of Roaring Table Brewing, created a brewery that at its heart and soul is a neighborhood tavern or pub that just happens to serve some of the best beer in town.
“Beer is more than just a drink; it’s an experience,” said Lane, who serves as Roaring Table head brewer.
It’s certainly well-known that there’s been an explosion of breweries and distilleries offering alternative beverages such as hard seltzers, ready-to-drink cocktails, hard sodas, and malt-based fruited drinks the past few years—and COVID19 has helped boost that category. Craft breweries have not been shy in cashing in on that trend, and finding their patrons to be quite receptive to their efforts. Two examples of how diverse that trend has evolved comes from Chicago’s Burnt City Brewing and Casa Humilde, two of the four breweries that make up the city’s unique District Brew Yards. They now offer their patrons a hard soda and a michelada-inspired beverage.
Dead Guy Ale, Rogue Ales & Spirits’ flagship beer and one we featured at PorchDrinking.com as part of our OGs of Craft Beer series, turns thirty this year. Rogue is celebrating those three decades of Dead Guy by challenging fans to ‘Paint the Can Dead.’ And, for those that really bring out the spirit of Dead Guy, prizes await them. For those that don’t win, it’s a great way to pass the time in a socially-distanced world; drink beer and do some coloring!
Pure barrel flavoring. No extracts. No syrups. No sugar bombs. The Imperial Oak Brewing Quiet Giant (strong) Barrel-Aged American Imperial Stout series, now in its sixth year, celebrates the artistry of barrel-aging in its purest form.
Yes, there are varieties with adjuncts, but only as complementary flavors. “Why put a beer in a barrel for a year and then completely cover it up? That’s why the two-year [BBA] is still my personal favorite. But, I do like our variants. They aren’t going to knock you in the face. That’s not our thing. None of them are going to be a chocolate bomb, coconut bomb..that type of terminology. I like adjuncts. But, I want it to be subtle and complement the beer,” said Brett Semenske co-owner and brewer.
Quiet Giant arrives each year for its anniversary, which this year enjoys the theme: Six years, Six Feet Apart (details can be found at the end of this story). The party slogan speaks to the challenges presented to breweries in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, Illinois’ case numbers are declining, patios are open and the beer remains consistent as ever. Going forward, most can expect five variants to arrive each May (this year in June due to the COVID-19 lockdown), with more two-year BBA for 2021. However, this year, Imperial Oak also has a one-time special beer from its Savage Oak room, offered in bottles.
While thousands of Chicago residents and many area breweries continue to mourn and speak out against last week’s police murder of Minnesota resident George Floyd, systemic racism, and police brutality, one Chicago brewery has taken a controversial stance.
Manteno, IL’s Steam Hollow Brewing, whose co-owner, Natalie White proclaimed on Facebook, “George Floyd isn’t dead, he is a porn star/actor who knows the officer, who isn’t even a real officer. Wake the f up.” That response comes in stark contrast to Illinois breweries like Half Acre, which posted: “We support our neighbors locally and nationally in the demand for justice and lasting change. Should you choose, you could donate the money you would have spent on beer today to one of the solid organizations helping to create equality for all. Black Lives Matter.”
On Friday, May 29, the full COVID-19 lockdown came to an end for numerous breweries across suburban Chicago, as long as they could offer outdoor seating and follow social distancing protocols (The city proper would have to wait a little longer). The questions were: How would breweries adjust to operating during a pandemic and would beer drinkers comply and behave?