Wednesday, December 25, 2013

All I Want For Xmas Is A Mixed 6 Pack

In an effort to find a distraction from the stress of holiday shopping, we popped into our neighborhood package store, Bottles & Cans to make a mixed 6 pack of this year's Christmas beers and get ourselves in the holiday spirit. Some of these we've had in past years and a few are new ones we were curious about. Below are 6 local(ish) seasonal beers and our opinions of what we drank. All are rated on a 5 tree rating system. Wishing you a happy, healthy, craft beer filled holiday season!

From: Milwaukee, WI
Style: Spiced Ale 
ABV: 9.4% 

This dark amber colored ale had a nicely spiced nose, with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, fig, honey and a touch of orange zest. Toasted malt and honey dominate the flavor bringing a lot of sweetness, which is complimented by the spices that linger on the tongue. It finishes with slight warmth and was surprisingly smooth and balanced for a 9.4% beer. Seeing as their Pumpkin Lager was also very high on our list in October, I think it's fair to say that Lakefront is a dominating force in the spiced beer category.

From: Chicago, IL
Style: Spiced Ale
ABV: 6%
The warm copper colored ale with ruby hues had a woodsy, piney hop aroma that stays in the forefront from beginning to end. The flavor had an initial bready, malty sweetness that becomes dry and bitter very quickly, similar to a hoppy English Ale. The hop bitterness and ginger lingers on the tongue in a bit of a competition. We've loved this beer in years past, but felt it was lacking some balance this time around.

From: Kalamazoo, MI
Style: Scottish Ale
ABV: 5.5%
Bell's winter scottish ale has no spices whatsoever for a holiday edition beer, but won us over with the complex malt aroma and mouthfeel. This beer has tons of layered toasty malt and kettle caramelization as well as a nice balance of hops. Less in the festive in nature, but so complex and drinkable in design. Definitely one of our favorites of the bunch.  

From: Cleveland, OH
Style: Spiced Ale
ABV: 7.5%
Hands down, still the best of the holiday beer category. Copper in color, this winter warmer has detectable layers of brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger without being overpowering. This ale is beer meets gingerbread cookie in the the most balanced, desirable way. It has a sweet, spiced start with a dry, slightly hoppy finish. Without a doubt, exactly what we'd want a holiday spiced beer to be - start to finish. Cheers Great Lakes Brewing!

From: Marshall, MI
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 8.75%

Cinnamon, nutmeg, molasses and dried fruit fill the nose. The super malty, almost bitter roast flavor with hints of coffee dries the palette, with a spice and licorice finish. This winter warmer is very complex in flavor with a bit of alcohol bite to it that is interesting in the least, but hard to consume in large quantities. Definitely one to share around a warm fire.

From: Lakewood, NY
Style: Spiced Ale brewed with Glögg
ABV: 8%
After developing a new found love for glögg at a local Andersonville competition, we were very curious to try Southern Tier's ale brewed with figs, orange peel and spices, reminiscent of traditional glögg. It was mahogany in color with a prominent spice aroma. The flavor itself we found to be a bit muddled, a lot of spice and malt characteristics competing with each other, with a bitter finish from the orange peel that dried out the tongue. We applaud the concept, but it was not quite what we were hoping for.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Beer Geek's Christmas List Part 2

The holiday season is upon us once again. We've been scouring the internet since last year in search of unique gift ideas for your beer loving companions... or your own wish list. After all a beer gift is the best gift of all.

NOT Your Average Crappy T-shirt

Craft Beer Typography T-shirt ($18)
Etsy store

Bike Hoppy ($24)
From Forked Apparel

Drink Local Chicago Beer T-shirt ($20)
Etsy store

Lagunitas Hand-Painted Little Sumpin' T-shirts ($24)
These designs are carved out of linoleum, painted and apply it to each garment by hand. Available in men's and women's sizes and colors. Available exclusively through the Lagunitas store.

The Gift of Local Craft Beer & Spirits

Atlas Brewing is offering a number of great gift packages to choose from, available at their brewpub. 2747 N. Lincoln Ave.
“Date Night” – Two tulip glasses, empty growler, $12 gift card ($20)
“Winter Warmer” – Hoodie, empty growler, $22 gift card ($45)
“Corner Store” – Empty growler, growler koozie, 5 x $12 gift cards ($65)
“Super Fan” – Work shirt, two logo pints, growler, growler koozie ($55)
“Holiday Party” – Six empty growlers, twelve pints, 4 x $12 gift cards, 2 x $22 gift cards ($150)

DryHop Brewers is offering a 64oz growler (empty and good for one fill), one t-shirt (men’s or women’s), two Belgian 13oz glasses, and a sticker for $43. You can also choose 64oz growler (empty and good for one fill) and two Belgian 13oz glasses for $26. Available at the brewpub. 3155 N Broadway St.

KOVAL Distillery 3-pack spirits gift set ($50)
It may not be beer, but Chicago is all about our craft beverages. This brilliant gift set contains 3 200mL bottles of their Rye, Four Grain and Bourbon Whiskeys. For ideas on how you can mix your own beer cocktails see my post here. Available at their store 5121 N. Ravenswood Ave, or at Bottles & Cans.

With a year under their belt, neighborhood bottle shop Bottles & Cans' build your own 6-pack (from anything in the store, mind you) is still top of our list. Stop by for one of their many tastings from local breweries and distilleries while you shop. 4109 N Lincoln Ave.

Especially for the Beer Lovin' Ladies

Beerings by Katie Rains Designs ($5)
Handmade earrings from upcycled beer caps by local artist Katie Rains. Want a pair made from your favorite brewery? Katie accepts custom orders via her Etsy store.

Handmade Insulated Growler Bags by Growler Girls ($28) 
Two girls, a sewing machine and a passion for making sure that good beer stays fashionably cold. Indianapolis based Growler Girls have a full shop of designs to choose from in their Etsy store.

For the Artsy Beer Lover

2014 Beer & Food Calendar ($24)
Each month you get an illustrated food & beer pairing, drawn by Minneapolis artist RedCruiser. Etsy store

Illustrated Prints from His & Hers Beer Notes ($7.50-$20)
One of my new favorite beer blogging couples Daniel & Darcey have a variety of handmade gifts from 6-pack notecards to 8.5x11 prints. He writes, she draws and together they bring their beer experiences together in such a unique and artistic way. Etsy shop

Anchor Brewing's Christmas Ale Poster ($6)
The 2013 poster features 39 years of Christmas Ale label art. Lithographed on heavyweight paper. Available through their online store.

The Experiential Enthusiast

Chicago Brew Bus Tours ($20 off of 4 tickets)
Take a guided tour of some of Chicago's best local breweries such as Atlas, Lake Effect, Haymarket, Revolution. DryHop. They also provided suburb brewery tours as well as the day trips to Michigan and Wisconsin starting in 2014. More info available on their website.

Tales, Taverns & Towns Tours (prices vary)
Chicago is rich with beer history and tavern historian Liz Garibay has developed just the experience to satisfy your curiosity. She plans unique walking and bus tours like the upcoming Laguinta's Hard Hat Beer & History Experience (1/10) and the Ferris Bueller's Tavern Tour and Movie Screening (1/25). More info available on the website.

CHAOS Brew Club (Trial 60 day membership $30)
Chicago Homebrew Alchemists of Sud, is a group dedicated to the education of all things craft beer: from brewing to appreciating. One of the unique benefits of their club is the community brew space for members at 2417 W Hubbard in Chicago. More information available on their website

For The Glassware Collector

Duvel Art Glass Designer Collection ($10 each)
The limited edition "Duvel Collection" of artist designed tulip glasses are available to purchase for your own collection through the Brewery Ommegang store.

Whether you're looking for a Snifter, Pilsner, Flute, Tulip or Stein you can choose individual or sets of glassware at Beerables. They have many rare and limited brands of glasses as well as clothing, iphone cases and any other kind of beer swag one could need!

The Beer Library

The Complete Beer Course ($15)
Journalist Joshua M. Bernstein comes to the rescue with The Complete Beer Course, demystifying brews and breaking down the elements that make beer's flavor spin into distinctively different and delicious directions. Structured around a series of easy-to-follow classes, his course hops from lagers and pilsners to hazy wheat beers, Belgian-style abbey and Trappist ales, aromatic pale ales and bitter IPAs, roasty stouts, barrel-aged brews, belly-warming barley wines, and mouth-puckering sour ales. Available on amazon.

Water: A Comprehensive Guide For Brewers ($14)
The 3rd in John Palmer's Brewers Publications’ Brewing Elements series, takes the mystery out of water’s role in the brewing process. The book leads brewers through the chemistry and treatment of brewing water, from an overview of water sources, to adjusting water for different beer styles, and different brewery processes, to wastewater treatment. Available on amazon.

Allagash: The Cookbook ($35)
This cookbook offers home chefs an opportunity to work with recipes designed for ten of Allagash’s most celebrated creations. With award-winning dishes created for these beers over the years, chef James Simpkins shows off the versatility and wide gastronomic range of each beer. Available through their online store.

So, You Want To Start A Brewery..? Lagunitas Story ($17.95)
Written by founder, Tony McGee, this is the story of the first 20 years of one brewery among hundreds that brought a flowering of uniquely American brewing styles that will still be brewed a generation from today. Available exclusively through their online store.

Holiday Beer Cocktails with KOVAL

December's Chicago Beer Gals event was a special collaborative Holiday Beer Cocktail Party with KOVAL Distillery and Bottles & Cans. We crafted four holiday-inspired cocktails combining spirits and liqueours with craft beer. The "beertails" trend has been on the rise and we were excited to put together (and sample) our own take on them.

We hosted our party at Brew Camp's Classroom and allowed the gentlemen to join us this month. Karen and Halle from KOVAL were behind the bar mixing up cocktails as well as giving demonstrations for some really fun garnishes to help bring your holiday cocktails to the next level. We were privileged to have the owners of KOVAL, Sonat Birnecker and Bottles & Cans, Carly & Joe Katz in attendance. Sonat spent some time talking to the group about the history and growth of KOVAL as well as the distilling process.

We raffled off some fantastic prizes including gift bags from KOVAL and Bottles & Cans, an insulated growler carrier bag from Growler GirlsDelirium Noel glassware, Anchor Brewing's Christmas label posters and a Beerables global glassware set.

We've included the beer cocktail recipes cards below for you to print and enjoy yourselves! 

Wish you the happiest of holidays from your friends at Brew Camp, KOVAL, Bottles & Cans and Hail To The Ale/Chicago Beer Gals!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chicago Beer Gals - December Event

Hey Ladies! Join us for an evening at the Brew Camp Classroom. This month we will be ringing in the holidays with a Beer Cocktail Party featuring custom made recipes by KOVAL and Bottles & Cans. We’ll be providing a special tasting of cocktails as well as snacks.

Special Guests:
Sonat Birnecker, KOVAL Distillery Owner
Carly Katz, Bottles & Cans Owner

Limited seats are available, advanced tickets recommended through Brew Camp HERE
Have questions about the event? Want to be a future guest speaker? Feel free to email me.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Art Glass Painting Night with Duvel

We are excited to announce our partnership in this fantastic event, combining our passion of beer + art. Join us Wednesday, December 4th to learn THE ART OF BEER and Glass Painting. Duvel's Andrew Berlanstein, who will be sampling beer and giving a presentation on "Why Beer Is Art".

Fans of Hail To The Ale receive 20% off of your ticket by using the code ALE20

The event will be held at Bottles & Bottega, 2900 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago IL 60657
Wednesday, December 4th, 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Tickets are $35 per seat (before discount)

Ticket price includes all paint supplies, instruction, aprons, glassware, and FREE beer tasting featuring Duvel (a Belgian Strong Ale) and Duvel Tripel Hop (a specialty brewed with three hop varieties)!

This event is held in partnership with River North Beer, Duvel and Bottle & Bottega Lakeview.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Celebrate The Return of Surly Brewing 11/18-19

We know you are most likely going to be thirsty after a couple of hard days of working for the man, so why not treat yourself and welcome Surly Brewing Company back to the Windy City with a giant bear hug! If you don’t know why Surly’s return to Chicago is such a big deal we suggest you catch-up by reading this Chicago Tribune article.

For those of you in the know can follow along real time on Twitter: @SurlyBrewing #surlyreturnschicago

Monday, November 18

Hopleaf (5148 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60640)

Founder Omar Ansari will be at Hopleaf shortly after 6pm serving up some rarities: Cacao Bender (Oatmeal Brown Ale with coffee, vanilla bean and cacao nibs), Dampfbier (German Steam-style beer) and also the ever-popular Furious (IPA).

Northdown Cafe & Taproom (3244 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL 60657)
The folks at Northdown see a “sick” day in your future....actually you should just take a half day today since they are tapping Surly's flagship beer, Furious (IPA) at 11am

Tribes Mokena & Tribes Tinley Park (11220 W. Lincoln Highway, Mokena, IL 60448 & 9501 West 171 Street, Tinley Park, IL 60477) will open at 11AM with $4 Furious (IPA) pints in honor of Surly's return to IL (while supplies last!)

Tuesday, November 19

Sheffield's Beer and Wine Garden, (3258 N Sheffield Ave., Chicago, IL 60657) 
Slinging drafts of Furious (IPA), Dumpster Fire (Smoked IPA with Puya Chilies) and El Hefe Negro (Imperial Dunkel with Mexican Cone Sugar)

Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap, (41 E. Superior St., Chicago, IL 60611)
Will furiously be pouring Furious (IPA), as well as Dumpster Fire (Smoked IPA with Puya Chilies) & Dampfbier (German Steam-style beer)! The first tapping starts at 6:30pm and rumor has it that Surly's Founder Omar Ansari will be around!

Riverview Tavern(1958 W. Roscoe , Chicago, Illinois 60657)
Riverview will be tapping a keg of Furious (IPA) at 6pm. Also, to make things interesting, we are going to raffle off a bottle of this year's SURLY DARKNESS!

World of Beer, (1727 Freedom Dr., Naperville, IL 60563)
We know that WOB Naperville will be slinging some Surly Brewing Company starting this Tuesday per this Facebook event, but no draft list has yet to be posted.

Submitted by Ken Getty

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Sour Lovers Christmas in November

This weekend is undoubtedly the Christmas morning for Barrel Aged Beer lovers, but with all of the hullabaloo surrounding FoBAB we look at the line-up of events all over the city tomorrow and ask ourselves... could tomorrow be sour lovers Christmas in Chicago?!?  You decide.

Goose Island ClybournSpecial Tapping of Brettanomite before bottles go on sale Saturday morning at 10am. Remember only 25 cases of this beauty exists!

Jake Melnick's - BeerFX Series Beyond the Brews: Sours featuring Upland, Perennial, Side Project, Penrose & Goose Island

Whole Food Lincoln ParkBeerification of the Red Star Bar featuring Blaugies/Hill Farmstead collaboration, La Vermontoise, and an opportunity to purchase a bottle of Sam Adams Utopia for $3 (yes, only three US dollars!) is being raffled for $1 per ticket from 5pm-7:30pm

Haymarket PubMini FoBAB featuring Three Special Haymarket Pub tappings & Guest Taps from Revolution, Firestone Walker, Solemn Oath, Stone

Also... next Tuesday Lake Effect Brewing will be releasing a Brett Pale Ale at Fountainhead, 6pm.

Submitted by Ken Getty

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Iron Brew Homebrew Challenge with 5 Rabbit

Homebrewers, get ready for the class of a lifetime! 

For this installment of 5 Rabbit Cervecería Event Series, Randy Mosher will be sharing his knowledge and experience on "Brewing with Specialty Ingredients". The material covered and class discussions are tailored for experienced homebrewers. 

Both installments of this 2-part beer workshop will be held at 5 Rabbit Brewery in Bedford Park, IL. Session 1 will take place on Saturday November 23rd, 2013 at which a "secret ingredient" will be revealed, extending a homebrew challenge. For those wishing to participate, Session 2 homebrew judging will be held on Saturday, February 1st, 2014. Further details to be unveiled at the event.

This event is held in collaboration with Kim Leshinski of Hail to the Ale and Liz Garibay of Tales, Taverns & Towns.

Session 1 (Saturday, November 23rd, 2013): 

12:00pm: Bus pick-up at Sheffield's Beer & Wine Garden, 3258 N Sheffield Ave

12:30pm: Ride to the brewery. Chicago beer history from Liz Garibay of Tales, Taverns, & Towns.

01:30pm: "Brewing with Specialty Ingredients" presentation by Randy Mosher. Randy will also reveal the "Iron Brew" Secret Ingredient Challenge. 

03:00pm: Brewery tour from 5 Rabbit Brewmaster John J Hall.

04:00pm: The party continues! Leave the brewery and return back to Sheffield's where there will be a special and unique food menu paired with 5 Rabbit brews as well as a selection of 5 Rabbit beer. (Not included in ticket price, event open to public. Pay per consumption.)

Tickets for Session 1 are $45, which includes charcuterie and a selection of cheeses, bread, and tapping of special beers, exclusive to the Iron Brews event. It also covers transportation to and from the brewery from Sheffield's where, upon our return, the good times are open to all. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pilsner Urquell: Unfiltered and Unpasteurized In Chicago!

This past week Pilsner Urquell shipped fresh kegs of their rare unfiltered, unpasteurized, barrel-aged beer to Chicago, closely guarded by third generation Brewmaster Vaclav Berka. Both made appearances at Map Room, Local Option and Paddy Long’s on November 7th for the exclusive tappings.

Pilsner Urquell is offering this limited opportunity to taste their historical pilsner in celebration of the 171st Anniversary of it’s creation as well as to promote their express shipped cold” initiative. The initiative ensures that drinkers in the US will have the same experience as those in the Czech Republic.

Only 80 kegs were flown to the US, 2 each for the top 24 bars from Draft Magazine and 8 kegs for the top bar.

Map Room served Pilsner Urquell on a German style slider tap, which rather than pulling vertically, rotates the handle horizontally ensuring the desirable, head-prominent pour. When asked why the traditional “slice” pour, which is ⅓ beer, ⅔ foam is desirable it was explained that the thick, tight bubbles create a smooth, creamy mouthfeel similar to what we experience with beers served on nitro. It was indeed a new and very enjoyable way to enjoy this classic style of beer. This article by Esquire illustrates the four types of pours well.

Brewmaster Vaclav took to the mic to share his love for Pilsner Urquell, how it defined the category and what makes their beer unique.

Welcoming Maine Beer Co. Into The Chicago Market

The Maine Beer Co. portfolio. Photo credit Nathan Eldridge.

For the craft beer fans following the emergence of small-batch New England breweries into the scene, there was much buzz over the announcement of Windy City Distribution bringing Maine Beer Co. into the Chicago market earlier this month. 

Since 2009 Maine Beer Co. had been quietly and modestly producing some of the country's best American-style beer in a small industrial park location in Portland, Maine. This past spring with very little publicization they moved to a much larger, custom-built space in Freeport, Maine which includes a 15-barrel system, retail shop and taproom. 

"Our Freeport location allows us not only to produce more beer, but also to be more accessible to the public," said Colleen Croteau, Director of Operations. "The new space offers spacious views of the brewery, 8 taps for visitors to try, as well as bottles of beer to go. We typically have 2-3 brewery-only beers available, in addition to our regular lineup."

15 bbl Brewery. Photo credit Nathan Eldridge.
Freeport Taproom. Photo credit Nathan Eldridge.

From the beginning Owners and brothers Dave and Daniel Kleban have taken a "less is more" approach to their beer, always focused on what's in the bottle and dedicated to producing quality beer that they want to drink. This approach is what made Maine Beer Co. an extremely desirable partnership for Windy City Distributing.

"Maine Beer Company was attractive to us because of who they are and what they do," say Wes Phillips, Director of Business Development for Windy City Distributing. "They differentiate themselves by making exceptional beer, first and foremost and operate with a very functional and sustainable business model." The conversation between Owner Dave Kleban and Windy City started over a year ago after a visit to the brewery. With the expansion in place they are now making enough beer to be able to distribute outside of New England.
Dave & Daniel Kleban. Photo credit Nathan Eldridge.

The Klebans, natives of Michigan still have family ties in the area and were familiar with the Chicago market, making it a natural move. All of their regular portfolio, including the highly sought after Lunch IPA will be available in the Metro Chicago area. There will be some draft accounts but the focus will be on bottles, as in all of their markets.

Another piece of Maine Beer Co.'s commitment to sustainability lies in their "Do What's Right" campaign, donating a portion of sales to a number of environmental charities, including 1% For The Planet. In addition, 100% of tips from the taproom each month go to local charities.

Find Maine Beer Co. in Chicago by using Windy City's Beer Hunter page.

You can also join Windy City for a Maine Beer Co. and Allagash Brewing collaboration event TONIGHT at Trenchermen in Wicker Park, 8pm.