AboutMathew Powers – 2/11 – PorchDrinking.com
Born in 1988, the 30-year-old independent and employee-owned brewery, Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) has announced its 2019 lineup. Alongside favorites such as Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and Burning River Pale Ale, GLBC unveils its new, year-round Great Lakes IPA, an IPA that honors its employee owners. As well, GLBC has a new cocktail-inspired Buckin’ Mule Moscow Mule Ale, and the Moses Mix Variety Pack, which features Holy Moses White Ale alongside two variants. But, that’s not all. New cans, new branding and new beers highlight the schedule for next year.
New Year’s Eve is a time for renewal, a time for hope. And, a time for beer and drinks. Don’t miss out on some of Chicago’s best craft-brewery NYE events. Each one invites drinkers to have some food, beer, fun activities and, of course, a midnight countdown. This summary gives you the scoop, but we encourage you to click on the links to read some of the finer print.
Here’s to 2019!
Surly Brewing has announced its plans for 2019, which include (among other items) the return of its Brooklyn Center Small Batch series and Seasonal Variety Packs.
The popular Minnesota brewery also announced several new items for 2019 such as boxed six-packs (12 oz. cans) and a new, year-round hazy IPA in 16 oz. cans.
The nearly four-year-old Denver brewery, Call to Arms Brewing (CTA), won a 2018 World Cup gold in the Fresh or Wet Hop Ale category for a beer inspired by the crew’s love of Billy Madison with its More Like Bore-O-Phyll. In September, during GABF week, the brewery held its third annual [email protected]#*ing Call to Arms Catalina Wine Mixer! Simply, the brewery deftly intertwines the art of sophisticated beer production with relaxed, easy-going fun. And, the recent release of Really, Really, Ridiculously Good Tasting (RRRGT), a farmhouse ale aged in Chardonnay barrels with Brett Claussennii only further cements that concept; one should not feel compelled to stick out one’s pinky—just kick back and enjoy a beer that’s really, really, ridiculously good.
On Saturday, December 8, at 11 a.m., Schlafly Beer will release The Variant II at its taproom in St. Louis and, in limited fashion, to the broader market. The Variant II is a sophisticated blend of two different variations of the base 9.4% Imperial Stout, receiving flavor from barrels that once held brandy (usually made by fermenting wine), as well as with sour cherries. The elegant beer suits anyone seeking to indulge during the holidays, especially those who possess a mutual love of craft beer and mixology.
“Tart cherries are soaked inside a generous stout and aged in brandy barrels—it’s enough to make you skip right to dessert,” explains founding Brewer Stephen Hale. “Imperial is the right word. This rich, creamy, luxurious experience brings a taste of extravagance, sip after sip. All is right with the world.”
Just as Santa prepares to deliver toys across the globe, Founders Brewing has announced what gifts it has in store for beer drinkers throughout 2019. Founders, which recently expanded its distribution to a total of 47 states by adding Colorado, has unveiled its 2019 Beer Release Calendar. One item that jumps off the page involves the inclusion of its increasingly popular Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS).
Does size matter? Do name brands imply value? Last year, I dared to suggest that the best barrel-aged beer I tasted came from Crystal Lake Brewing — the 2015 Heaven Hill Rye Barrel-Aged Stout (aged for three years). That assessment afforded me an opportunity to receive several nasty, troll-like emails, messages and online commentary.
For some reason, boldly claiming that a brewery outside the realm of the “big boys” somehow banished me to the craft beer timeout corner. But why?
Once deemed “Black Out Wednesday,” to differentiate it from Black Friday and because the day before Thanksgiving ranks as one of the busiest drinking nights of the year, Black Wednesday has grown to become one of the craft beer industry’s biggest days. Chicago’s breweries and bars are regaling patrons with plenty of special beer, most of it as black as a winter night. So, to help you navigate Black Wednesday in Chicago, we’ve compiled a list to help you.
We can’t detail every event, but we tried to hit on the big releases and offerings. Did we miss something grand? Let us know via comments here or on social media. Have a great Thanksgiving Week!
The first shot of Jeppson’s Malört induces a reaction akin to sucking in one’s entire face, and that’s followed by a look of despair as one hopes and prays the aftertaste resembling something close to insect repellent will give way to something better. It doesn’t. Malört is awful. It’s vile. It’s nasty. And it’s beloved by an abundance of Chicago drinkers. The cult-like drink is part “bad decision,” part “right of passage.” These days, craft breweries and craft-friendly bars in Chicago regularly pair Malört with craft beer—or offering it to you after a night of craft beer. A communal sharing of Malört forges friendships and kinship. Simply, Malört is bonding in a bottle.
Born of the Great Depression, Jeppson’s Malört (now owned by Chicago’s C.H. Distillery ) was developed by a Swedish immigrant in Chicago (although it dates back to medieval times). The Swedish-style Bäsk liquor (Swedish for bitter liquor) flavored with “malört” (Swedish for wormwood), has been known to offer medicinal benefits such as settling one’s stomach. Indeed, our Midwest Editor, Mike Zoller, can confirm this — he swears it recently worked for him.
“Cider is too sweet. Cider isn’t beer.” If that’s your thought on the matter of ciders, I would implore you first to refrain from comparing cider to beer. Beer is beer. Whiskey is whiskey. Wine is wine. And cider is cider. Yes, the packaging and crafted nature of the business has often allowed the two imbibe industries to converge, but they are not the same. I would then suggest next that you explore ciders as its own entity; you’ll find that the ciders of today are nothing like the jugged-cider sold at family pumpkin fests, and they differ greatly from the hard cider that first emerged fifteen to twenty years ago. Cider today is innovative, nuanced and balanced, demonstrated exquisitely by Stem Ciders‘ Chile Guava Apple Cider.
Brickstone Brewery has won medals at FoBAB, the World Cup, and GABF. One can find Brickstone at every Jewel, several Buffalo Wild Wings, throughout Guaranteed Rate Field (White Sox games), at beer fests — and even gas stations these days. It’s tough to find a Chicago-area bar without some tap handles adorned by Brickstone artwork. Yet, most Chicago-area beer fans have never been to Brickstone. Born of a family-restaurant in the 1990s, the Bourbonnais business added a brewery in 2006 and has since evolved into a dually-located, full-fledged, 9k to 10k barrel-per-year brewery (with a capacity for 18k) and, as it always has been, family restaurant. Located 45 miles south of downtown Chicago, Brickstone has simultaneously discovered a way to cater to its local clientele while also existing among the biggest names in Chicago beer.
The first annual Far & Away festival hosted by Chicago’s Half Acre Brewery and held at the city’s popular Millennium Park offered beer fans a ‘27-Yankees level brewery and beer lineup; heavy hitters that did not disappoint in October. For the two PorchDrinking.com writers who attended each session, the immediate discussion afterwards included the comment, “best ever.” Granted, immediate conclusions can be wrought with over-reactions, but the mere fact that we both said that speaks to the festival’s sheer excellence.
Solemn Oath Brewing, located in the large and populous Chicago suburb of Naperville, has remained a stabilizing force within the broader, changing Chicago craft beer market. Since opening in 2012, the brewery has adapted to internal and external changes without ever losing its identity, nor its popularity among beer fans; that’s what good people serving well-executed beer will do for a brewery.
Solemn Oath is now ready to take the next step in its craft beer journey by expanding to a second location and joining a slew of breweries in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. But first, a pop-up bar is in the works.
With the baseball playoffs at-hand, one can now toast both the Atlanta Braves’ division crown and newly inducted Hall of Fame Braves player Chipper Jones with CJ10, a beer conceived by the prolific switch hitter and the folks at Terrapin Beer Company.
CJ10, an easy-drinking Kölsch-style ale, emerged from Terrapin’s unique ATL Brew Lab found at SunTrust Park in Atlanta during the summer. And, what better way to honor a switch hitter than with a beer that’s made with ale yeast, but is fermented like a lager?
Six years ago, only about 80 breweries operated in Illinois. Now, approximately 200 breweries create heavenly ales and lagers within the Chicago metro area alone. Coinciding with that eruption of breweries has been an ever-increasing amount of recognition, including Chicago-area breweries winning Great American Beer Festival (GABF) medals and winning them in highly competitive categories.
Granted, Chicago has consistently been able to boast about its bourbon barrel aging prowess—after all, it was conceived at Goose Island during its pre-ABI days and celebrated each year at the Festival of Barrel Aged Beer. But few people outside of Chicago seemed to notice the Chicago brewing scene until recently. However, at the 2018 GABF, Chicago definitely made its mark in the Mile High City.
The Great American Beer Fest is more than just the festival held inside the confines of the Colorado Convention Center; it’s a week-long celebration of beer with events held throughout the Denver metro region. In fact, there are events occurring throughout the city even as hoards roam the GABF booths. The truth is simple: one not need purchase a ticket to the main event to experience GABF, in a manner of speaking. If by some chance you can’t obtain a ticket next year, but still want to embrace the grandeur attached to GABF, there’s a way — several ways — to achieve that goal.
For example, even though I attended the main festival, I also partook in several open-to-the-public events that proved just as fun as the big party. I also had to forgo numerous other events simply because one can only be at one place at a time. Here’s a few of those events, as well as a few I missed, which demonstrate the fun one can have even if unable to grab tickets to the main show.
Some argued that the Jameson Whiskey presence at GABF may at first seem almost hypocritical, given the Brewers Association stance on companies such as Anheuser Busch InBev (ABI). As a writer who full-time covers both spirits and beer, I can confidently argue that one should never confuse the two industries. As liquids, they may be similar. They are not industry siblings, however, but instead distant cousins. Moreover, whereas companies like ABI seek to confuse the marketplace, actively targeting craft beer drinkers and even paying fines for unfair practices, Jameson has never hidden from its name and the distillery consistently champions and collaborates with craft breweries, both in the U.S. and Ireland.
(For my short commentary on Jameson and the spirits industry—vs. the beer industry—see the two paragraphs at the bottom of the story.)
Enter the BuckleDown Brewing taproom and you’ll find, among other elements, an arrangement of leather furniture around a table (barrel) that makes one feel as if they have been invited into the BuckleDown home. It’s a fitting setting for an inviting brewery where the people matter as much, if not more, than the beer served to them. Ironically, BuckleDown opened with a production mindset in place rather than a brewpub or any concept intended to draw people through the door. Nonetheless, people arrived and relationships were forged. Catering to people isn’t a business strategy at BuckleDown: it’s organic and genuine.
Only Child Brewing may not enjoy the street cred afforded to breweries located within the city limits of Chicago, but with its 3rd Annual Barrel Birthday Bash it’s abundantly clear that the skill needed to convert water into wine-barrel-aged beer (or any other BA beer) has nothing to do with a brewery’s geography. Indeed, the barrel aged beers proved to be spectacularly executed and artistically conceived. Throw in some terrific food, fun music, excellent weather, friendly staff and a lively crowd, and it’s easy to see why Only Child continues to grow more popular each year.
To describe each beer would be exhausting, but here are five beer experiences from the day (six beers total) that shed light on the Only Child bash.
Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Chicago’s Burnt City Brewing is making waves. The brewery already boasts of a chic brewpub and bowling alley on the always-hip Lincoln Avenue, a brewhouse located in the locally-famous, former Jay’s plant, eye-catching label artwork and a recent collaboration with Chicago’s illustrious Art Institute. But now it’s also churning out a diverse, impressive collection of beers including its Brett and Yeast friendly “Wildfire Series.”