Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Best of Goose Island Stout Fest 2016

If you're a stout lover, you will happily pass up green, watered down beer on St. Patrick's Day weekend and hold out for Goose Island's Annual Stout Fest. With a list of over 100 dark, flavorful and high octane stouts to choose from, strategy is always essential. We were on the lookout for some of the new breweries in attendance, as well as rare beers by some of our favorites such as Goose Island Clybourn, Perennial, and 18th Street. New this year: Alter Brewing, 2nd Shift, Maplewood Brewing, Cruz Blanca, Motor Row, Sketchbook Brewing, Horse Thief Hollow, Urban Legend, Aquanaut, Noon Whistle, Vice District and CHAOS Homebrew Club.

This year's sold out event took over the entire brewpub space, with well designated sections, much better traffic flow and shorter lines than years past. Food was available to order from the bar off of the regular menu, which was much needed half way through. 

Right: Brewers John & Steve of Goose Island Clybourn being presented with an ABV Chicago "Crotchee" award.

In years past the Goose Island Clybourn brewers had dominated the show for us, but we found so many creamy, balanced and flavorful stouts from neighboring tables, that it was extremely difficult to narrow down our top choices. Overall a fantastic experience that we hope continues at the Brewpub.

David and Andy from Horse Thief Hollow


MIND FK, Maplewood Brewery & Distillery
Black Tea Infused Russian Imperial Stout with hints of chocolate and coconut  |  11%

Double Milk Stout aged in Cognac Barrels  | 11%

COCOVORE CUVEE, Horse Thief Hollow Brewing
A blend of 60% Cocovore, 35% Cheval Deux (2014 World Beer Cup Silver Medal), 5% Pat Mac's Irish Red  |  9.8%

Hopped-Up Stout |  7%

Wood-Aged Belgian-Style Imperial Stout with Sour Cherries  | 11%

BITCHES BANK, 18th Street 
Russian Imperial Stout brewed with cinnamon, vanilla and cacao nibs  | 10%

PROPRIETARY, Goose Island Clybourn
Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Toasted Coconut  |  11.5%

Chewy, chocolately stout with Blueprint Chiri Coffee  |  11.5%

2015 BCBS COFFEE, Goose Island Brewing
Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Intelligentsia Los Delirios Coffee | 13%

Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout brewed with vanilla beans, peppers, cacao nibs & cinnamon |  10.5%

Spiteful Brewing took home the "Brewer's Choice Award." 

The People's Choice Awards went to Revolution Café Deth (3rd place), Spiteful Malevolence Chocolate Caliente (2nd place), and Goose Island Clybourn Propriety (1st place).

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Best of Cider Summit Chicago 2016

This year's annual Cider Summit at Navy Pier was bigger and better than ever, expanding to the second floor balcony with a selection of cider cocktails from The Northman, Woodford Reserve and Uncle John's. This year boasted 140 ciders with approximately 10 new Producers since last year's event. We found this year to be supremely enjoyable with very few lines for cider, food or restrooms and ample opportunity to talk with the cider makers themselves. Below is a recap of our "Best of" winners of the event.

Best Dry Cider
Farnum Hill Extra Dry Cider (7.5%)

Best Semi-Dry Cider
EZ Orchards Semi Dry Cider (6.4%)

Best Farmhouse/Wild Fermented Cider
Shacksbury Arlo (6.2%)

Best European/Import Cider
Manoir de Grandouet Cambremer Cidre de Tradition AOP Pays d’Auge (4.5%)

Best Barrel-Aged Cider
Vander Mill Green Mill Barrel-Aged Cyser (6.8%)

Best Fruited Cider
Starcut Ciders Squishy (7.5%)
Seasonal Hard Cider made with Northern Michigan Cherries, tart and dry finish

runner up:
Cider Brothers, Pacific Coast Apple with Wild Cherry
Semi-dry, stone fruit and spice, tastes like cherry pie

Best Newcomer to Chicago
Starcut Ciders (by Shorts Brewing), Elk Rapids, MI
Now available throughout the Chicagoland market

Best Cider Cocktail
The Northman "Ginger Snap"
Few Bourbon Whiskey, Vander Mill Ginger Peach cider, ginger syrup, soda water

Cider Summit view from the balcony
Kim (Hail to the Ale), David (Shacksbury Cider), Craig aka "John Apple" (ABV Chicago)

left: Uncle John's Old Fashion cider cocktail. right: The traditional Spanish long pour.

For more on tasting cider, check out our latest podcast appearance on ABV Chicago, Episode 109 "Cider House Rulez" where we taste 6 ciders from across the US, talk about the cider making process, and share a whole lot of laughs in the process.

Curious about the cider making process or learning more about apple varieties? Take a look at our Amazon book list devoted to Apples & Cider.

Check out your local bottle shops, as the selections of cider continues to grow. Don't see what you're looking for? See if they can request it or email the cideries for availability. The more demand, the better!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Guest Podcast Appearance on ABV Chicago: Episode 109

In preparation for the upcoming Chicago Cider Summit at Navy Pier (February 27th), we join Craig and Ryan of ABV Chicago Podcast series to talk all things cider making and tasting, along with some crazy banter and a lot of laughs. We hope you enjoy it!

Episode 109 – Cider House Rulez

We enter unfamiliar territory on this one by doing our first-ever cider show. Kim Leshinski of Hail to the Ale and MC Johnsen of Worth 1000 Beers join us to educate us on these fermented apple beverages. You’ll learn a lot about how ciders are made, apple varieties, local cider sources (including Broken Nose Cider), heirloom apples, and “the long pour.” We go from “cider stupid” to just plain stupid at times, as the diversions here are frequent and give Craig a good core workout. And Ryan is made to feel stupid by being the only one familiar with Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader. Listen and let us be the apple of your…ears?
Ciders reviewed:
Farnum Hill Dooryard Cider
Shacksbury Farmhouse
Bantam The Americain
Uncle John’s Apple Hard Cider
Vander Mill Chapman’s Blend 2014
Wandering Aegnus Wanderlust

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fourth Annual Cider Summit Returns to Chicago

SBS Imports and the Seattle Beer Collective are pleased to announce the return of their successful Cider Summit festival to Chicago, IL. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, February 27, 2015 in two sessions - 11am-3pm and 4pm-8pm in the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier.

Cider Summit will feature 140 ciders including regional favorites and international classics from countries such as England, Scotland, France, and Spain with owners and cidermakers will be on hand to inform and guide guests through the samplings.

NEW this year: 

  • The Fruit Cider Challenge where consumers vote for their favorite pilot batch made exclusively for the event.

Tickets are $35 and will be sold online only via Admission includes a souvenir tasting glass, 8 tasting tickets and a $1 donation to Heartland Alliance. Additional tasting tickets will be available for sale onsite at $2 per ticket. Designated driver tickets are available for $5, and include a bottle of water. A separate ticket is required for each session.

The Chicago Brew Bus will provide shuttle service starting at 10:30am between the Blue Line Grand stop, Red Line Grand-State stop, and Navy Pier throughout the day. CTA buses also run directly to Navy Pier. Onsite parking is available in the Navy Pier garages.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Abita's New Orleans Inspired Packaging Refresh

In celebration of their 30 year Anniversary, Louisiana-based craft brewery Abita unveils a packaging refresh of their flagship, seasonal and harvest series beers. 

The brewery, which has a deep connection to the Louisiana and New Orleans culture and lifestyle was looking for graphics to reflect its heritage.

"Our new look is inspired by the art, culture, history and colors of New Orleans. The personality of the city is showcased through eccentric new characters and quintessential New Orleans scenes depicted on the packaging." - David Blossman, President

The flagship Amber, Strawberry Lager and Purple haze designs are expect to hit shelves this month, with others releasing throughout 2016.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Design Trends in Beer: Metallics

A technique known as foil stamping has long been used as a way of elevating a printed piece – from business cards to posters and packaging. Like any other industry beer, cider, wine and spirits look for ways to celebrate a special release packaging, or elevate a cool design. As printing techniques improve, more options have become available to achieve a premium metallic feel. We'll walk you through the differences and show some of our favorite examples.

The Techniques:
Foil Stamping
Foil is adhered directly to the label using a combination of heat and pressure. Foil can also be used in conjunction with embossing. They can be metallic, clear gloss or even special effect or patterning. Foil stamping is not only reflective but also textural in appearance. Foils are more durable and have a longer lifespan than ink.

Metallic Ink
Metallic inks can be printed directly to the labels or mixed with Pantone colors to create a shimmery appearance. Because they are mixed inks, this technique offers a wide range of colors (the Pantone Matching System has over 1000 distinctive inks) and is more cost effective than foil. Inks provide a subtle metallic finish rather than being reflective like foil and is a great way to create a layered effect, rather than flashy. They are most effective for fine detail.

Metallic Substrates
Designs can be printed on labels or paper board that have a metallic base coat. The inks themselves will not appear metallic (although a gloss coat is typically applied for sheen), but any exposed areas will. The ability to print direct to beer cans offers a great opportunity to utilize the natural metals as part of the design. 

What does it communicate?
The presence of precious metals communicates luxury and achievement. Gold is associated with wealth, grandeur and prosperity. Silver is associated with industrial, sleek, high-tech and modern.

Fleeting or enduring?
Let's be honest, people love bling. Gold and silver have, and probably always will represent our idea of "premium." And with a range of options to achieve a metallic look, including metallic wax dipping bottles, we don't see this trend going anywhere.

Below is a collage of examples we found particularly interesting. Have thoughts, drop us a line!

Interested in more design trends? Check out our previous posts:
Design Trends in Beer: Line Craft

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Brooklyn Brewery & New York Comic Con "Defender IPA" Launches Nationwide

For the fourth year, Brooklyn Brewery has teamed up with New York Comic Con and illustrator Khary Randolph to create the official beer of the convention. It's an explosive West Coast-style IPA with a reddish twist thanks to a dash of roasted malt. Bold, fruity hop bitterness and an intensely resinous nose smash into a sudden dry finish that will refresh and entice you.

Starting in 2016, the Defender will be available in bottles and draft across the United States, standing tall for all those who believe in excellent beer.

Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery®

To celebrate it's launch in Chicago, Defender IPA is coming to 
Rotofugi on Friday, February 12 at 7:30 PM. It's going to be a welcoming party like none other, but a character like the Defender deserves the best.

Your $10 ticket grants you entry, three beer tickets, live comic book portraits from Chicago artist Kat Janda, and some sweet East Coast hip hop, funk and more from the Vinyl-Only DJ. You'll also be entered to win a Defender prize pack including a Brooklyn Brewery snapback, a set of Defender pint glasses, and limited edition artwork, all signed by this year's Defender artist, Khary Randolph. Even if you don't win, there will be plenty of Brooklyn swag to take home.

Grab your tickets right here, and get ready to #defendbeer!

Check out the Defender trailer for more on the collaboration: