AboutTaylor Laabs – 4/10 – PorchDrinking.com
Chicago beer fans are spoiled during this time of year. Between FoBAB and a list of nationally-recognized bottle releases throughout November, there’s never been a better time to be a barrel-aged beer fan. And though Goose Island, Half Acre, Begyle and Revolution Brewing (and more) all make exceptional barrel-aged beers, Cruz Blanca in the West Loop quietly released an equally impressive lineup of barrel-aged beers last year and is doubling down in year two with a bigger and better lineup that can easily challenge Chicago’s best.
Tis the season for barrel-aged beers. While many fervent craft beer fans will flock to the annual barrel-focused release parties of their favorite local brewer this month, there is only one event that brings more than 200 of the best barrel-aged brewers from around the country together for one decadent event. The Festival of Barrel-Aged Beers is now in its 16th year and has quickly established itself as one of the best beer – not just for stouts and barleywines – festival in the states.
The event is held at the UIC Forum in Chicago on Friday November 16 and Saturday November 17 and already has the attention of many beer fans, myself included, excited to indulge in all of the great one-off and unique barrel-aged offerings served two ounces at a time.
Two releases in and this year’s version of Revolution Brewing Deep Wood Series is shaping up to be its best so far. After the daring idea to can its barrel-aged creations last year, the Chicago-based brewery decided to push the limits even further in 2018 by expanding the lineup to 10 ambitious beers, including new offerings such as Code Switch and Deth by Currants. The second release happens this Friday, November 16 at its Kedzie Taproom location (3340 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL) and will feature the popular Deth’s Tar, the highly-acclaimed Cafe Deth and the new Deth by Currants, which won the fan vote for best fruited variant.
We were lucky enough to get early access to these three Deth-inspired stouts and came away wholly impressed. Here are our initial thoughts.
The twilight of fall is the best time of the year for beer people. Yes, I love my sweet fruited ales and lightly sour goses, but there’s something hearty about a viscous, dark brown porter or stout that warms your heart…and your stomach on a cold day. Now that November has officially arrived and the sight of Halloween and pumpkin ales are behind us, I wanted to highlight six crucial beers that effortlessly bridge the gap between the sweet malts of September and the boozy heat of December. I below that the below six beers fit that mold and can be reasonably located throughout the country – some more than others.
Quick Sips is our way of highlighting beer events, tap takeovers and other notable beer news around the city of Chicago. If you’d like to submit something to be included in the next Quick Sips, please email us at [email protected].
I was lucky enough to attend Oktoberfest, but that’s only part of the 11-day beer journey I took across four cities in early October. Outside of the Bavarian beer fest, Munich has a bunch of awesome beer history, quaint beer gardens and famed beer destinations like Hofbrauhaus. Much like Munich, the Belgian capital of Brussels is steeped in brewing tradition thanks to its array of world-renowned trappist breweries and Belgian beer bars like the Delirium Cafe. These two beer-fused cities offer an embarrassment of riches to any beer lover, but it’s the beers and experiences I had in the other two cities I visited: Budapest and Amsterdam, that really opened my eyes to just how diverse and vibrant the beer scene is in Europe. From beer baths in Budapest to a craft brewery situated under a picturesque windmill in Amsterdam, my beer experience in Europe was amazing. Here are my main takeaways from the unique beer scenes in each city I visited.
Ah, CBS. Founder’s highly-praised Imperial Coffee Chocolate Stout returns for a second consecutive year starting November 2nd across their distribution footprint. This year’s version is different than the 2017 variant for several reasons.
First and most obviously, the iconic “mountie” is missing from the bottle and branding. Why? Everyone has ideas and Twitter has seen its fair share of wild speculation. My guess is they just wanted to refresh the brand and focus on this year’s beer. Which, by the way, is very very good. After a six-year hiatus, the CBS that returned in 2017 was good, but its maple syrup sweetness dominated the palate. That said, this year’s version is great, dare I say exceptional, because it brings this insanely complex beer back to equilibrium. It’s much more balanced than year’s past, which lets several flavors shine.
Off Color Brewing is well-known in the Chicago market for pushing the limits of beer, but now they’re pushing the limits of packaging as well. Not content with traditional bottles, bombers and draft options, John Laffler and the rest of the Off Color crew are rolling out new 4-packs of 250ml (about 8oz) bottles to appease the thirsty masses.
Walking through the entry gates of Oktoberfest was like walking into a beer-soaked version of Valhalla. On a sparkling Saturday with warm weather and a faint breeze, I got to experience the best beer event in the world—lederhosen and all.
Quick Sips is our way of highlighting beer events, tap takeovers and other notable beer news around the city of Chicago, IL. If you’d like to submit something to be included in the next Quick Sips, please email us at [email protected].
America has a lot of beer festivals. I mean… a lot. I could practically book every weekend for the next few months with at least 2-3 Chicago beer festivals. The heightened popularity of these events resides on a foundational bedrock of human existence: people like drinking, and people like drinking together. And while things like the Great American Beer Festival draw massive crowds and a considerable amount of hype amongst USA-based beer drinkers, there’s typically one beer fest that appears on any beer fan’s bucket list across the globe: Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.
It is a great time to be alive if you’re a craft beer drinker. Between the innovation, quality and wealth of choice that the craft beer boom has offered the general consumer, there’s a lot to be thankful for. You can add packaging to that growing list. Craft brewers like Colorado-based Funkwerks are well-aware that their audience now demands a strategic combination of quality and uniqueness when it comes to picking out what beer they take home with them. One of the more popular packaging trends that fits this need is the surge in variety packs sold across the nation. Funkwerks is diving head first into the trend with their own unique twist. Instead of focusing on hops and IPAs, Funkwerks’ newest Winky’s Snack Pack wraps up four unique sours and saisons to a create a truly unique packaging format that stands out on shelves.
Allagash Brewing’s mastery of the Belgian beer category has expanded as the company has grown since its introduction back in the late 90s. And while staples like their famed Allagash White and even the newer canned version of Hoppy Table make their way across Allagash’s large distribution footprint, some of Allagash’s more ambitious creations have stayed local to their taproom. As demand for fruited ales and sours have grown over the past couple of years, Allagash has decided to release more of their offerings into the booming craft beer market. Their newest large-scale release, Pick Your Own, a sour red ale aged in an oak foudre with a myriad of Maine-sourced berries like strawberries, cherries, blueberries and raspberries, is now available on shelves. We got the chance to try out this unique brew. Here’s our review.
Deep in the heart of Wrigleyville, nestled between the macro-beer strongholds of Sluggers and the Friendly Confines, is a small, 400 square-foot box of craft beer paradise. Started last July, Lucky Dorr is one of the recent upgrades to the sprawling Wrigley Field complex that aims to give baseball fans and regular neighborhood beer drinkers alike a truly unique craft beer experience. The young craft beer spot focuses on exclusive, ballpark-inspired collaboration beers with local breweries as a way to provide patrons with something different from the Bud and Goose Island-filled stadium cups they’re used to. It’s an ambitious venture, but it seems to be working. We spoke to bar manager and brewer Niilo Hayes about the success of the craft beer bar and what he has planned for the operation — and for Wrigleyville — in the years to come.
When you speak of OG beers, few stalwarts deserve the title more than Oskar Blues Brewery’s Dale’s Pale Ale. You can call many brewers innovative, but being able to say that you canned the first ever craft beer definitely gives you some added bragging rights. Dale’s Pale Ale’s adept combination of floral hops and malt overtones was first packed into aluminum back in 2002, in the early days of craft beer’s infancy, before beer was served in snifters and incessantly critiqued on social media. The iconic “strong pale ale” is still one of the most recognizable beers on the market even as the style of Pale Ale has evolved and the India Pale Ale entered its heyday. Here’s why it continues to capture the taste buds of drinkers across the country.
Chances are, your local brewery has experimented in the Hazy IPA trend. It would be silly not to given the incredible popularity of the newish beer style that has taken the nation – and even GABF – by storm thanks to its fruit-forward appeal and inherent drinkability. Hazy IPAs have expanded into many areas of the craft beer economy, but they’ve yet to really make an impact on the 12oz can segment. That is all changing thanks to the vision of three nationally-known breweries, 21st Amendment Brewery, Deschutes Brewery and Odell Brewing Co., making their hazy offerings readily available in the easily accessible aluminum format. We asked each brewery why they’ve decided to can their hazy creations.
Located in the heart of Ravenswood’s Malt Row, Empirical Brewery has drawn a significant following thanks its scientific approach to brewing and great sour beers. Oh, and the cats are a huge draw too. You won’t find them roaming around the taproom or on much of their branding, but there’s no doubt that their three Ghostbuster-themed cats, Venkman, Egon and Raymond have had a significant impact on the staff at Empirical and on their business as a whole. On a given Saturday brewery tour, it’s common for patrons to be more interested in finding the cats hidden amongst pallets or perched in their cat castle than getting a close look at Empirical impressive experimental brewing system. We asked Head Brewer and COO Jacob Huston about his feline employees and how they’ve become a vital part of the brewery’s family – and business.
This past Saturday, beer fans from across Chicago (and the larger U.S.) made the trek to Half Acre’s Balmoral home to partake in the burgeoning beer fest called The Big North. Half Acre has hosted this event for three years running now. Each year is bigger, each year is better, and each year, the beer list grows to eye-popping quantities. The third iteration of Half Acre’s beer celebration did not disappoint as hundreds of sudsed-up beer fans took in a picturesque summer evening across Half Acre’s ever-expanding campus. The event is special for many reasons, but it’s also an important milestone for Half Acre’s self-titled pursuit of “duality,” which means that they’re able to make enough mainstream brews to keep business moving, while also keeping their creative and experimental programs producing at a high clip. The result of Half Acre’s pursuit was witnessed on Saturday, and boy did it taste good.
Oh, variety packs. What Hazy IPAs are to trending beer styles, the variety pack is to new packaging formats. And why not? You lower buyer’s remorse by offering more options and expose consumers to a wider array of your beer. Minnesota’s Surly Brewing has experimented with offering new beers available only in variety packs before (ala 60 Below Rye IPA), and its newest Hop Pack offering aims to build on this by offering two new beers in a hop-focused format.
Last July, Lagunitas purchased 20% of Michigan-based Short’s Brewing Co. When it was announced, Short’s spokeswoman Emily Sullivan noted that the agreement was strategic and helped them grow their business through easier access to materials and packaging that a brewing behemoth like Lagunitas can offer. Now, we’re seeing the first real activation of the partnership, as brewers from both operations joined together for a Midwest meets West Coast collaboration: Passion Grass Session Ale made with passion fruit and lemongrass. The new creation is the first consumer-facing example of their partnership and is sure to appeal to beer geeks nationwide. Here are the details.