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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pepe Nero (Goose Island)

I had this Belgian-style Farmhouse Ale on tap at the Goose Island Wrigleyville pub.

They had several GI beers on tap. After going on the GI pub tour and tasting several of the beers, I wanted to try something new. After tasting 8 or so different GI brews in my life, I wasn't expecting anything spectacular. But hey, I don't count any brewer out for one (or 8) brews that don't fit my tastes. They aren't terrible, just not great. Drinkable, yes. Something to go out of my way for, not so much. They were good enough (or at least had high enough distribution) for AB to buy them out....

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It was black from what I could tell. It had a thin layer of white head with tiny bubbles. I couldn't smell in the crowded bar.

Taste: It was roasted and creamy. Light malt. The aftertaste was dry. I can't say much about this with how much other stuff was going on. I'd try it again. I would say that it was probably the best GI I've had yet.

From the GI site:
Brewmasters Notes:
With an aroma of roasted chestnuts and a mysteriously dark, mahogany hue, Pepe Nero is a farmhouse ale brewed with black peppercorns. His roasty sweetness melds into a lingering, earthy, black pepper finish that is ideal for pairing with grilled meats and roasted vegetables.

Recipe Information:
Style: Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale
Alcohol by Volume: 6.0%
International Bitterness Units: 30
Color: Mahogany
Malt: Pilsner, Rye, Crystal Rye, Black Malt
Hops: Pilgrim, Saaz

Hercules (Great Divide)

I had this Double IPA on tap at Beer Geeks. It has been a long time since I've had any Great Divide beer on tap, so I figured it was time. Plus, I was in the mood for some hops.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It had a white head with tiny bubbles. It was a bright amber. I couldn't really smell much, but my smell was off.

Taste: The hops were very woody. I could taste grain and yeast. This beer was mouthwatering. It ended with malt and bitter, together. A great combination. It was a bit sticky/syrupy. It was a nice flavor overall. It hit all of my tongue with complex flavors.

From the Great Divide site:
Hercules Double IPA is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, fit for the gods.  HERCULES delivers a huge amount of hops from start to finish. Its hefty backbone of nutty, malty sweetness balances its aggressive hop profile.

Cuvee Brut (Liefmans)

I had this kriek on tap in Sheffield's in Wrigleyville. Kriek beers are definitely an acquired taste. They definitely aren't a taste that most people think of when they think of beer. This post is going to be light, because I was enjoying the food and company. The summary is....I really, really, really liked it. It did not disappoint.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It was a reddish-purple color to me. It had a thin, white head with little bubbles. It smelled like sour fruit.

Taste: I really liked it. It was sour. It had tons of cherry flavor. It was a very concentrated flavor all around, not just concentrated cherries. It wasn't as medicinal as some krieks are. I'd definitely order this kriek again. I would recommend this one to people trying krieks for the first time.

From the Lefmans site:
This Kriek is made with a completely different method from Kriek Lambic. It starts with old brown beer, with is macerated with fresh whole cherries in shallow, horizontal tanks [every 100 liter brown beer hold 13 kg cherries]. Then it matures for about 1 year, afterwards it is blended with both Oud Bruin and Goudenband of different ages. The result is a well-balanced sour and sweet Kriek of great complexity.

Four Stars (Goose Island)

I went on a tour of the brewery at the Clybourn GI brewpub last weekend. I've never been a huge fan of GI. It's not that they aren't drinkable, they just aren't great for me. I can't pass up time at a brewpub and a peek at operations though. Plus, I was looking forward to some special brews on site.

They had different taps at each side of the bar. It was crowded, so I just ordered one from the tap set in front of me. The was a good, quick pick.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It had a creamy, tan-colored head. It was really dark brown. I couldn't really smell it with all the smells of the food and drink around me in the pub.

Taste: It had some bitterness to it with light carbonation. I tasted fruit with a sour note. I could taste the grain, not sure what kind. The aftertaste was sweet, sweeter than I'd like with the other flavors going on. By the end of the glass it was just a bit too much for me. Very good for GI. I probably wouldn't order it again. I've had several of their beers, I'm wondering if it's something about their yeast or process that I don't like.

They have tons of beers listed on the GI site, and even a listing of what was at the Clybourn location the day I was there, yet....this beer isn't posted. Maybe it was a dream. I do have a picture of the tap in the background that I didn't crop out!

Resistance (Two Brothers)

This IPA was brewed by a brewery in Warrenville, IL. I had this on tap at Beer Geeks. Not only had I not realized that Two Brothers was local-ish, but I did not realize that this beer was brewed using their special "J Series" method. The beers in that series are aged in French oak foudres for at least 4 weeks to authentically oak the brews.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This gold-colored IPA had a white frothy head that clung to the glass. It was clear. It smelled nice and hoppy, as a good IPA should.

Taste: The earthy hops came through nice and smooth. It had some acid to it. I thought it was very good. A chill-inducing hoppy beer.

From the Two Brothers site:
The first beer we brewed for the J series, Resistance is aged a minimum of four weeks in our oak foudres. Complex aromas of oak, honeyed malt sweetness, and piney citrus hops leads to a full hoppy middle and a finish that's crisp, oaky, and pleasantly lingering. Why, oh why did we resist the subtle allure of IPA so long?

Elector (New Albanian Brewing Company)

I had this Imperial Red on tap at Beer Geeks. It was cold outside, and after having a wonderful spring brew (Gnomegang), I thought it would be good to have something to warm up. A hoppy Imperial Red seemed to fit the bill. I had tasted some NABC beers at the Indiana Brew Festival, and I liked them. I haven't had a taste since. Their label art is always interesting.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It was red with a white bubbly head. I could smell malt, but I think my smell was pretty much shot sitting in a bar (albeit a smoke-free bar).

Taste: I could taste the hops right on. It was pretty light with a mild to light aftertaste. It wasn't super complex, but was definitely better than some reds I've had in the past.

From the NABC site:
Excessive hopping rendered moot a modest plan for brewing a traditional winter warmer, but the resulting hybrid was delicious and redefines the Imperial Red style category. The first batch of Elector was brewed on Election Day, 2002, a mere two years after the nation's electors (most recently) made democracy pointless, and we persist in thinking that an Elector in hand is worth two Bushes in retirement, any election day.

Malts: Special Pale and Simpsons Medium Crystal
Hops: Triple hopped with Chinook pellets, finished through hop-back with whole cone Cascades
Yeast: House London
OG:  1.074 or 18.5 degree Plato
ABV: 7.5%
IBU: 62
Color:  11.9 degree Lovibond SRM

Beer Geeks

3030 45th. St. | Highland, IN

Beer Geeks is worth writing about. They are definitely in the same market for the Three Floyds crowd.

They serve great craft beers (kegs, bombers, and casks) in an unpretentious environment. Just to name a few gems they had on their menu: Dragon's Milk, Gnomegang, Elector, and Resistance IPA. To complement the great selection, the prices were reasonable.

It's a dark spot in a shopping center, and it has no windows. I hate to say it, but if not for the name and recommendations, I probably would not have walked in.

When you walk in, it's sparse. You see it all right there. The bar has all the brews written up in neon ink on a big black board. Easy for me to read. It was another place that, I realize now, is smoke free so you can really enjoy the smell and taste of the brews.

I didn't know this before I got there, but they don't serve food. It's not a complaint, but I need to remember to expect to feel the effects of the booze a lot faster if I go there with an empty stomach. Looking at the table cards and website, they do have a buffet on Tuesdays. They also have a byof policy and there is a pizza joint and gyro place next door.

The music they played on the sound system was an interesting mix. They have bands, although I'm not sure how they fit in the cramped quarters.

The artwork on the walls was super cool. I am taking a picture next time I go. They have really great drawings of famous characters and people drinking beer. Just to name a few: Doc Brown, Darwin, Mister Peabody, Yoda, the Beast, and Spock. They were really well done. They also have a color painting of "The Creation of Beer" mimicking Michelangelo's". The Creation of Adam". God is pouring a brown/amber-colored brew from His glass to Adam's glass. Sacrilegious and nice, all at the same time. Well done.

Totally love this place. If I can get in on a Friday or Saturday night, this may be my new evening hang out to go along with my off-hours Three Floyds visits (sorry FFF, but I don't like waiting in line).

Gnomegang (Ommegang and Brasserie d’ Achouffe)

As soon as I heard that Ommegang and La Chouffe were coming out with a collaboration Belgian-style strong ale, I wanted to start stalking the liquor store. They were supposed to start distributing early March and selling late March/early April. I checked out this new pub (Beer Geeks) and sure enough, they had it on tap. I couldn't have been happier.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: I could smell the straw-colored brew before it hit the table. It was citrusy, floral, and yeasty. It had a white bubbly head.

Taste: Creamy. I could taste the citrus and yeast that I smelled. This is totally my new spring beer, if it lasts that long. The aftertaste is dry. This it totally one of my favorites. N'ice Chouffe is for winter, and this is for spring.

I looked all over and could only find articles and unofficial postings about Gnomegang.

Friday, March 25, 2011

XS Russian Imperial Stout (Rogue)

This Russian Imperial Stout was purchased in a 7 oz bottle. It was really all you needed for a single serving of this dark stout. It had written on the bottle that it was bottled in 2009 and best after aging one year, and I was just over that.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It took a vigorous pour to get a thin coffee-colored head on this stout. Little bubbles from light carbonation coated the glass. I could smell the roast right on. The smell of the wort I was boiling messed with the smell on this. Even backed into a corner with my face in the glass, that's all I could separate.

Taste: The heavy roast was what I tasted first. It was a thick beer, but not sickeningly thick. It was really boozy too. The aftertaste was bitter from the roast, but it had caramel. It made my mouth water. Overall, not an overly complex brew. I wouldn't go out of my way for it.

The character was different, but I felt it was lacking. I usually find a coffee, chocolate, or oak flavor to complement the roast. This was basic and good. For an IS I go for a little more complexity, like Wake Up Dead.

From the Rogue site:
Tasting Notes:
The Emperor of Stouts. Rich in texture, broad, soft and creamy. The most robust and fullest of all stouts.

12 Ingredients:
Malts: Great Western, Harrington & Klages, Hugh Baird XLT-80, Black, Munich, Chocolate and rolled oats.
Hops: Willamette, Cascade and Chinook.Specialty: Two Secret ingredients.
Yeast & Water: Rogue's Pacman Yeast & Free Range Coastal Water.
88 IBU
73 AA
256º Lovibond

Dark Lord 2010 (Three Floyds)

Last year I had the chance to go to Dark Lord Day and pick up a few of their Russian Imperial Stout for the year. This green-waxed beauty only set me back the $10 for the event ticket and the $15 for the bottle, but now they are selling on eBay for crazy $$. Regardless, I drank it anyway, I like beer more than money.

I tried it when I bought it, celebrated my 2010 anniversary with it, and cracked open a bottle after getting DLD 2011 tickets in the short window before they sold out. It definitely mellowed out over time when I tried it this last time.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: Black with a thin coffee-colored head. I could smell really heavy dark fruit (cherry). In contrast I smelled espresso and chocolate, cigar tobacco, and.....wood. It is just amazing how complex the smell is. I don't want to sound like a BA nut, but that's what I smelled.

Taste:  It was thick and tangy. The viscosity was enjoyable. It coats the glass. It wasn't super carbonated, but it still has light bubbles. It was sticky. The taste was as complex as the smell. The dark fruit was heavy and strong. It was like a good port, that ripe fruit. The aftertaste was a roasted coffee and bitter. I tasted burnt wood. This isn't an oak...I can't explain it. I could taste anise when it warmed. It was mellow, but the alcohol still comes through. Very, very good. I wouldn't pay $100 for this, but I wouldn't pay that much for any beer.

From the bottle:
Dark Lord is a gargantuan Russian Style Imperial Stout, with a reverse cascading head that starts billowing the color of burnt oil like the Dark Lord rising from the black primordial beginnings. Its Resonant vinous aroma has been described as cherries, sweet, malt, molasses, burnt currants, plums, with a port wine alcohol undertow. Mochachino notes buried within. Motor oil consistency, hellishly smooth yet divinely burnt and vinous. The first sip coats your palate with a palatial charred fruit and chocolate blanket. Alcohol burn wiggles its way down your throat with a thick body. Enjoy and thanks for your continuing support.

Boddington's English Pub Ale (Hydes)

This pale ale apparently was the first to include a widget in a can for distribution. This is a blonde, creamy ale that seems to be a good alternative for people who like Guinness and Wexford.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: Beautiful to look at while is settles. Creamy head. I could smell the malt and light hops.

Taste: It was sweet and malty. It was creamy and light. It had a caramel flavor. I don't know if the overall creamy consistency caused that, or if it was the maltiness. The aftertaste coated my mouth. I got light bitter notes to remind me this was beer, but it wasn't strong by any means.

This has as strange of a past as Smithwick's. It started with Strangeways, then Boddington became the sole owner. Then it's all over the place. It is distributed by InBev, but is brewed in Hydes Brewery in Manchester.

From the distributor site:
Renowned for its golden color, distinctive creamy head, smooth body and easy drinking character, Boddingtons is a medium-bodied pale ale. It has a creamy, malty and slightly sweet flavor and features a clean, pleasant aftertaste.

Super Dry (Asahi)

I went to one of my all-time favorite Japanese restaurants and ordered a bottle of this this light lager to accompany my salmon and red snapper sashimi.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: Gold and transparent. It had a white bubbly  head. Smelled like a lager.

Taste: I could taste light hops and yeast. It was sweet for a lager, especially with the "dry" label. It was a really clean taste though. Very light aftertaste.

From the Asahi bottle:
Asahi beer is brewed from quality ingredients by using our pure cultured yeast and out advanced brewing techniques. Asahi beer has excellent richness, truly refreshing drinkability and satin smoothness. All year round you can enjoy the great taste of Asahi beer.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Brian Boru (Three Floyds)

I wasn't a huge fan of this red ale last year. Now I have the blog, so I can post what I liked/didn't like about it for my reference. I like reds, but this just wasn't anything special to me. Drinkable yes, but go out of my way for it, not so much.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: I could smell the malt, but the hops were stronger. It was red with a white, frothy head that took a bit to settle.

Taste: Caramel was my first taste, and it was very sweet. It was hard to take after a Topless Wytch. The aftertaste was all malt to me.

I'd have to try it again to really dig into the flavors, but for the purposes of this post it was drinkable. I'd drink it again, but I won't die when they are tapped out of this brew.

From the Three Floyds site and menu
Ireland’s first and last Ard Ri (high king) of the whole Gaelic race, Brian Boru was born in Munster, Ireland around 940. Brian Boru’s mother was killed by Vikings when he was a child. He spent his life uniting the Irish tribes to become the first king of Ireland only to be killed at Clontarf on Good Friday 1014 putting down a rebellion by the king of the province of Leinster. Brian Boru Irish Brand Red Ale is a very rich ale with toffee, caramel, citrus and pineapple notes. Brian Boru is brewed with several malts and Amarillo hops. February release.

Porter (Founders)

I tasted the Founders Porter on tap at Three Floyds after the Topless Wytch.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: The tan, creamy head stayed full for quite a while. It left lacing as it settled. I could smell the roast. It looked almost black in color.

Taste: This beer was a bit cold for my taste. The roast came through first for me. I could taste bitter chocolate and burnt coffee. It was creamy and thick. The aftertaste was dry. Nice brew.

From the Founders site:
Pours silky black with a creamy tan head. The nose is sweet with strong chocolate and caramel malt presence. No absence of hops gives Founders' robust porter the full flavor you deserve and expect. Cozy like velvet. It’s a lover, not a fighter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Topless Wytch (Three Floyds)

This Baltic Porter was a staple of mine last spring. As long as they had it available, I'd have a glass. One staff member's wife even made divine Topless Wych ice cream.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: The tan head lingers. Watching it settle is both relaxing and nerve-racking. I still want a bit of creamy head, but I let it settle some. It's an almost black brown. I smelled the roast coffee from where it sat. As it settled, light lacing clung to the glass.

Taste: Coffee, bitter, baker's chocolate. It's thick. The hops are warming. It almost gave me chills.

*They seem to spell it either Wytch or Wych on their menu/board. I'm finding more "wytch" I updated my spelling.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Old Foghorn (Anchor Brewing)

Still on my standards trip, I figured it was time to write a post for Old Foghorn barleywine. Barleywines are hit or miss for me. This one is the standard I compare it too. I like this better than Sierra Nevada's Big Foot, and even better than Three Floyds' Behemoth and Owd English. To accompany this purchase I got some other barleywines too, so I can really have an honest discussion about them.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It was a brown with a tint of amber. The tan head settled with lacing. It kept a ring of foam around it. I could smell the grains first, then the hops and malt together. It wasn't an overly sweet smell. It had a great balance.

Taste: It was malty. I could taste the grain (barley). I could also taste the hops (cascade).  As it warmed the flavors really came out. It had almost a spiciness to it that you'd find in holiday beers. The aftertaste was a sticky sweet, almost syrupy feel. I normally don't like that, but with its bitter taste it balances it out.

This is a beer to drink slowly and savor. It's warming, but I don't taste the alcohol. It hits all of the senses. It is a pleasant beer to drink.

From the Anchor site:
Old Foghorn® Barleywine Style Ale is brewed strictly according to traditional brewing methods, using only natural ingredients — water, malted barley, fresh whole hops, and yeast. Old Foghorn is based on traditional English barley wines.

Old Foghorn is highly hopped, using only Cascade hops. It is fermented with a true top-fermenting ale yeast. Carbonation is produced by an entirely natural process called "bunging," which produces champagne-like bubbles. Our "barleywine ale" is dry-hopped with additional Cascade hops while it ages in our cellars.

We have been producing small batches of Old Foghorn since 1975. Today, it is available both on draught and in twelve-ounce bottles. The high original gravity and full flavor of this ale make it a unique product, perfect for sipping after dinner. A lot of time and tradition goes into our Old Foghorn, and we hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.

Brother Thelonious (North Coast Brewing)

This Belgian-style dark abbey is a standard of mine. This is the one that I direct beer lovers too as well as people who have never had an abbey ale. The first beer I ever brewed was similar to this impressive ale. I figured it was time to get another pack of this standard brew. I was interested to try it again. .

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It was a medium to dark brown. No so much I'd say it was black, but just on the darker side. It had just a small bit of head. When I poured the rest in, the head was creamy but settled quickly. A foamy ring did linger, but this beer had no lacing as I drank it down. I smelled the grains and earthy-sweet malt.

Taste: I could taste the grain mixed with the malt. It had bitter notes, but it was mostly sweet. Call me crazy, but I was tasting tobacco in it and caramel. Odd combo, especially for an abbey ale. The flavors masked the 9.4% ABV beautifully. While it was light in weight, it still had a creaminess to it. The aftertaste was a coating of malt. This beer isn't as complex as some abbey ales, but it's warming and nice for a cold evening at home.

Lining this brew up next to some of the fantastic brews I've had lately, it still remains a go-to standard for me.

From the North Coast site:
Like a Belgian “Dark Strong Ale”, the beer is rich and robust with an ABV of 9.3%. The package is a 750 ml bottle with a traditional cork and wire finish or 12oz 4 packs and features a label picturing the jazz master himself.

When you buy Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale you also help to support the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz whose mission is to offer the world's most promising young musicians college level training by America's jazz masters and to present public school-based jazz education programs for young people around the world.  All of these programs are offered free of charge to the students and schools.

Zombie Dust (Three Floyds)

I really loved Cenotaph, the predecessor to this brew. I was only able to try that brew twice before it was all gone. Then, I found on the menu "Zombie Dust (The beer formerly known as Cenotaph)". Why did they change the name? I should have asked...Even though this is the same single-hop ale, I figured another review under the new name was in order (with a better picture too).

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It was gold with a white frothy head. I could smell the hops. Even though they are only using one type of hop, you can still smell the complexity to it, the spices and the earthiness.

Taste: It was very hoppy and citrusy (acid). I didn't think it was as spicy as the Cenotaph, but it's was a different day. It had a bitterness that lingered on the tongue.

From the menu (same as Centotaph):
A medium-bodied single hop beer showcasing Citra hops from the Yakima Valley, USA.

** I did ask what the scoop was with this beer. They just changed the name; that's all.**

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Threesome with Three Floyds

In writing this blog I find that my favored brewer seems to be Three Floyds. I must say that I've enjoyed almost every one of their brews that I've tried, which has been pretty much all of them over the past two years. When it comes for selection now, I generally don't order one of their flagship brews. So you don't see those on this site. With my favoritism of Three Floyds (that you'll see in most IPA and Baltic Porter posts), I figured it would be fitting to explain my little love affair with Three Floyds, shared with my partner.

It all started at a pub not too far from Three Floyds. My husband had moved to the area, and I was visiting to help find a house. He told me of this pub where they had this crazy local Indiana brew. They had three or so of them. As I sat down at this Munster-area pub, I ordered Robert the Bruce Scottish Ale. McEwan's Scotch Ale was my comfort beer, and I was a long way from home.

I put that cold glass up to my lips. As the red, malty brew entered my mouth I almost fell off of the stool I was sitting on. It was good. It was powerful and malty, but not too sweet. The other two were okay, but if a local operation could brew something this good, I knew that this could be the place for me. The bartender leaned in. She told us a secret; one that wasn't the best business decision she could have made. "You know, I probably shouldn't tell you, but the brewery is right down the street. They have a little bar too."

The Backbone (Boneyard)

This chocolate espresso stout post was hiding in my notes. I tried this one last month on tap at Three Floyds.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It had tons of white head. It was a dark brown color. I could smell a heavy roast, almost smoky scent.

Taste: Bitter chocolate and strong coffee. It was a decent brew. For a coffee beer, Hell's Black Intelligencer is my pick.

From the Boneyard site:
This rich, creamy stout combines three of our favorite things; espresso, beer and chocolate! Boneyard and Backporch coffee rosters have collided to create a very flavorful and aromatic ale. Using a cold extraction method. Breakfast or's up to you!! Just don't let you boss sniff yer coffee cup!!