Beers in Chicago

I was in Chicago for work, but had a little time to explore. Chicago is an awesome city, but this post is dedicated to drinks.

Although I continue to believe San Diego makes the best IPA’s, Revolution Brewing‘s IPA was not bad. It’s entirely a thing of preference, but I like west coast IPA’s – super hoppy and aggressive. IPA’s hailing from other parts of the United States tend to be a bit less pungent.

On Saturday night, we bought a 6 pack of pick-your-owns at the closest grocery store (pictured above and below). I tried to get non-California beers, but caved on the Stone Pataskala Red IPA because I had never seen it or heard of it before, so it counts as something new. Whenever encountering a pitiable hotel room that features no fridge space, or no fridge at all, the sink and a trip to the ice machine is all it takes:

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Ironically, I made 3 laborious trips to the ice maker per my usual routine in hotel rooms because so many of them don’t have refrigerators these days… then looked down under a shelf and discovered there was a completely empty mini-fridge in the room.

Later on in the night, we went to an awesome pizza and cocktails place called Pi Gallery. The pizza there was absolutely amazing. To my husband’s initial disappointment, we were in Chicago, and this was not deep dish, but this was actually to my great delight, because I really think thin crust is the best. This kind of statement likely is akin to blasphemy/sacrilege in Chicago, but I’ve left the area now so they can’t get to me. We ordered the veggie pizza which had a balsamic sauce. We both really liked it and I’ll say that it was one of the best pizzas I ever had.

My first beer was Archer Avenue Pale Ale by Blue Nose Brewery. This was a lovely and flavorful pale ale. This beer is so new (and/or obscure) that it only has one review on Beer Advocate, and does not yet have a score.  This does not surprise me, because the owner of this awesome joint introduced himself, and we learned that he is really into music and the arts, so it would make sense that he would have good beers on tap “before they are cool.” The next beer I had was an amber ale that tasted slightly floral, slightly hoppy, and reminded me of candy. We tasted a couple of other beers, did some shots of Jameson with the owner, chatted with him about music, and this was a really great night.

Pi Gallery seems like it may have only recently opened, as it only as 21 Yelp reviews, but I thought it was a gem of a find. It doesn’t have a flashy entrance, and is located upstairs, so you sort feel like you’re walking into a mystery. If you’re in the area I highly recommend this joint.

Other notable beers while on this brief weekend sojourn included the Matilda (Belgian strong pale ale by Goose Island) and The Poet (stout by New Holland).

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Beer Tasting At Slater’s 50/50

Yes, Slater’s has some pretty good burgers, but what I find even more impressive is their beer selection.

Their burgers are a bit ridiculous. Their normal burger could feed three adults. The Alarm Burger is so spicy they serve it with gloves (hand and eye protection I suppose). It’s not that I don’t enjoy their 50/50 burger or the Alarm burger. Both tasted fantastic. It’s just that I could never eat the entirety of any of their burgers in one sitting without eating myself sick.

In many ways, their beer selection is as excessive as th eir burgers, so it’s sort of the same concept. They have about 100 beers on tap, and we stopped by for a tasting recently (after some grocery shopping next door). Next time, I’ll probably just come for some pints, as I found their taster flights to be somewhat pricey.

I present to you the first flight:

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Shipyard’s Pugley’s Smashed Pumpkin: 9.0% ABV. ‘Tis the season, and I cannot resist a pumpkin ale every once in a while, particularly when it comes to ones I have not tried before. This one tasted like pumpkin pie with a nice bite and a bitter finish. It was a little citrusy, sweet, and I thought there might be some orange zest in there. It had surprisingly light feel, consider it’s 9.0% ABV (be careful with these!)

Delirium Nocturnum: 8.5% ABV. I love Delirium Tremens, and I love Delirium Nocturnum. This is not a new one, but this Belgian is always a treat during the holiday season. It’s warm, malty, roasty, and reminds you of everything you love about the holidays.

Hop Concept IPA: 8.5% ABV. It’s hoppy, fresh, pretty bitter, and everything you expect of an IPA. It’s full-flavored, smells floral and citrusy, and overall decent. I’m not sure I really get a big “tropical” impression, but that’s OK. To be honest, it’s a little heavy for the island life.

North Coast Stellar IPA: 6.0% ABV. This was not fresh, citrusy, or floral enough for an IPA. It almost had an amberish taste, though it wasn’t sweet like some ambers are prone to be – it was plainly bitter.

Flight number two was just as fun:

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The Great Pumpkin: 8.1% ABV, brewed by Elysian. Beer Advocate gives it a 92. This one also tasted like pumpkin pie, although it also tasted strongly of clove, which is again reminiscent of the holiday season. It was overall a warmer and stronger taste than the Shipyard pumpkin ale.

Zumbar Imperial Stout: 9.3% ABV. Beer Advocate gives it an 87. Brewed by New English. Deep coffee and bourbon flavors. Not bad.

The other two were a pumpkin ale by Avery and a stout by Mother Earth that I’d had before. Didn’t keep notes because sometimes you should pay more attention to your husband than the details of your beer.

 

Green Flash

I had the pleasure of hitting up Green Flash and tried a couple of new beers, as well as a couple of my old favorites.

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I started with the Jibe Session IPA (4.0% ABV), which I kind of feel is a West Coast IPA light. It’s hoppy, light, fresh, smooth, floral, with just an edge of bitterness. It’s really easy to drink, and is a pale golden color (but not as light as a lager). It would be easy to knock back three of these while sitting on a beach, if it weren’t illegal pretty much everywhere in Southern California. Green Flash’s tasting notes on this one: woodsy, oroblanco, pine, eucalyptus. I had to ask what oroblanco was – apparently, a seedless sweet citrus hybrid fruit similar to grapefruit.

Next, I had the Soul Style IPA (6.5 %ABV), which sounded familiar for a reason. I had it for the first time in New Hampshire several months ago. I described it already in the previous post, but I’ll just add that in comparison, it was a bit less well-rounded than the Jibe Session, and not as notable as their West Coast IPA. The session is pictured left, below, while the Soul Style is on the right:

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The Trippel was warm, fruity, and 9.7% ABV, though you would never know by the taste. This is probably a dangerous beer. Its smoothness and unassuming flavor belies its strength. I thought I tasted some plum, but the tasting notes report ripe banana, cane sugar, and pepper.

Hop Head Red (8.1% ABV) is one I particularly like. Tasting notes advertise luscious caramel malt and resinous hop. The caramel is obvious, and goes well with the hoppiness (though the pairing is somewhat unexpected). This is sort of an IPA/red ale combo. This beer is on the bitter and heavy side.  Beer Advocate considers it “very good,” and classifies it as an amber/red ale, though it probably has a lot more flavor and punch than 90% of the ambers/reds out there.  Interestingly, Beer Advocate notes, “In 2011 the recipe was altered to bump the IBU’s from 55 to 70; ABV also increased from 6.4% to 7.0%. In 2014 the ABV increased to 8.1%.” I used to order several of these when out at bars, but it’s getting to be a heavier beer (see below, beer on the right).

The West Coast IPA (8.1 ABV) is one of my all-time favorites. Green Flash declares it is extravagantly hopped (no doubt about that). It is also described as “pine, citrus, floral.” The beer really hits you in the face, in a good way. It’s vaguely nutty. It’s a beautiful beer that pairs well with happy times.  Similarly, Beer Advocate indicates this beer was 7.2% ABV before 2014, but has an 8.1%ABV beer after 2014 (beer on the right, below).

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Beers at Wine Bars

We recently met up with some friends in San Clemente and hit up a couple of wine bars. I tried a flight of wine tasters at San Clemente Wine Bar, They were all great, but after that, I moved onto beers. First up was the Oskar Blues G’Knight Imperial Red IPA (See picture above). It was hoppy, nutty, smooth, flora, and light. It had the scent of apples, but did not have a strong IPA smell to it. A fresh, solid IPA. Beer Advocate considers it “Outstanding.”

We then moved on to The Cellar, another wine bar (which has a fantastic weekend brunch with live music, by the way). There, I had the No Name IPA. It was nutty, with mild hoppiness (mild by San Diego standards). It was on the lighter side of what we’re used to on the West Coast. It had a thin head, and a bit of a metallic smell. In reading its Beer Advocate page, the lack of characteristic hoppiness is explained by the fact that Cody, the brewery, is located in Massachusetts. East Coast IPA’s tend not to be quite as hoppy.  This is going to sound awful, but occasionally, it had the scent of wet dog. To be fair, I asked everyone else at the table to confirm, and they did not perceive this wet dog scent, so maybe I’m just a loony toon.

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A Few Notable Beers over the Holidays

From the Stone Stochasticity Project – Master of Disguise. I caught sight of someone drinking it at a Christmas party and had to try some myself. This is a blond stout, and it’s the first I’d ever heard of one or tried one. It was smooth and nutty. The color was deceiving, as it was sort of a golden color, yet lacked the hoppiness or assertiveness that is typical from Stone. The name sort of speaks for itself: it tastes like a stout, but is blond in color (that’s a glass of it to the left, barely visible in the picture below). It’s a full and rich flavored beer.

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Voodoo Doughnut Pretzel, Raspberry, and Chocolate ale by Rogue is an American brown ale. My dear friend brought a bottle of this over for my birthday, and I did not drink it until about a week later (had to clear my palate from all the beers I did consume on my birthday). Beer Advocate gives this a 79, which is just “ok.” I rather liked it, though it’s a little bit on the sweet side for me. Then again, that’s to be expected from the raspberry and chocolate. I didn’t taste the pretzel at all. It’s a little bit thin, but overall, its flavors make it a nice cozy beer to share during the holiday season.

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Affligem Tripel. Nothing new about this one. I’ve had it many times, but it’d been a while. It’s a Belgia tripel with notes of orange and spices. It has a floral quality and an ABV of 9%, though the flavors hide it. It’s full-bodied, with a nutty edge.

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Lost Abbey’s Red Barn Ale. Also not new, but it was another lovely bottle brought to us (by my brother-in-law) for my birthday. This is a floral, light, Saison/Farmhouse style beer. According to the Lost Abbey website, this beer is lightly spiced with ginger, orange peels, black pepper, and grains of paradise. It’s a golden/orangish color. I tasted slight notes of apple.

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Back To The Bellows (Again)

Last time we were at The Bellows, I posted about a lovely Hangar 24 Essence IPA. We were back at Bellows again recently, and had a couple of more gems.

The first was the Avery IPA, a West Coast IPA with an abv of 7%. Avery is located in Colorado. Beer Advocate gives the Avery IPA an 87% (“very good”). It was hoppy and very floral, with a sharp bitterness. It came to our table with a big thick head.  The beer has a crisp and fresh feel overall.

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Next, we had a Serpent’s Stout, made locally by Lost Abbey (pictured above). You can’t usually go wrong with Lost Abbey; almost all of their beers are pretty amazing. At their inception, Lost Abbey tended to specialize in Belgian-style beers, though I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case any longer. I do have to say I appreciate a lot of their Belgian-style beers more. Serpent’s Stout was OK. It’s an 11% Imperial Stout. I could definitely perceive the alcohol flavor. The beer was malty, with coffee tones, thick lacing, thick head, rich texture, and a sort of metallic edge I could have done without. However, Beer Advocate considers it world class, so my opinion may be in the minority.

Idiot IPA

The first time I had this double IPA was years ago, when we were visiting the Hotel Del Coronado, and happened upon Coronado Brewing. It is a nutty and bitter IPA, with less floral and citrus tones than some of my favorite IPA’s. It doesn’t smell particularly distinct. It’s 8.5%, but one might not immediately guess it’s a double IPA. It’s rated as “very good” by Beer Advocate. My friend brought a 6-pack over and I refamiliarized myself with this nice beer. Not bad.

Libertopia 2014

Libertopia was last weekend, and as usual, it was a good time. Jeffrey Tucker was Master of Ceremonies. Good times and good beers were had all weekend. There was even some home brew in the Hospitality Lounge, but it was all gone before I got to it. While I tabled and listened to speakers, I had a couple of these:

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I like stouts, but tend not to drink too many of them, as they feel a bit heavy for me. Stone’s coffee milk stout is on the lighter side, but is not watery at all, as some poorly-done stouts can be. It’s got a lovely, smooth flavor, and is only 4.5% (which was a bit surprising to me).

Also had a couple of these:

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Sierra Nevada got a bad rap in my mind, since the most common pale ale you see everywhere isn’t that great. However, they do have a couple of really decent beers, like the seasonal Celebration, and this Torpedo extra IPA. Beer Advocate considers it world-class with a rating of 93, and I tend to agree! Fresh citrus and pine flavors, and of course, bitterness. It’s on the darker side of IPA’s and is 7.2%. Some people are also really fond of the Bigfoot barleywine they make, but that’s really not my thing. A bit too heavy and powerful, even for me.

 

Hangar 24 Essence (Imperial IPA)

Went to Bellows to celebrate a friend’s recent promotion. Bellows is the whiskey/scotch-focused, classier version of Churchill’s. I like whiskey too, but I learned in my early twenties that drinking Jack on the Rocks makes the night go by way too fast. Bellows has some great food, but their beer selection pales in comparison to Churchill’s. Of course, that’s the point. Churchill’s has all the beers and greasy pub foods, Bellows has all the scotches and fancy foods you can’t pronounce. The stuff they do have is thoughtful, though.

Had a Hangar 24 Essence IPA. It’s a fairly standard IPA (and I do not mean that in a bad way at all). Beer Advocate gives it an 86 (“very good”). It does the citrus tones and hoppiness very well. I liked it enough to have two of them, and I am only now realizing was an Imperial/Double IPA. If I had known when I was drinking I might not have had two of them then gone on to drink wine. In retrospect, I should have known, since the beer came in a smaller, tulip-style glass. Then again, I’ve been to snooty foodie places with craft beers that pour regular IPA’s in 10-ounce servings too.

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