Friday, June 28, 2013

Portland, Maine's THE Festival 2013

Written by Dave Leshinski

This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend THE Festival in Portland, ME. The two day brewfest was organized by The Shelton Brothers and Twelve Percent Imports, showcasing some of the most rare and sought after beers in the world, along with the master brewers themselves. 

Guests included (but not limited to) Brasserie Cantillon, De Ranke, Drie Fonteinen, Tilquin, De Struise, Mikkeller, and Westvleteren, incredible New England breweries Hill Farmstead, Allagash, Maine Beer Co, and Oxbow, as well as countless others. 

It was was an overwhelming but incredible experience, taking place in a classic New England, craft beer-centric city. Here’s a list of my top 12 beers from THE Festival (Not in order of awesomeness):

1. “Kriek” Drie Fonteinen (Belgium): Incredible Belgian sour. Dark pink color, intense funky nose, cherry flavor is “all up in your grill” yet balanced at the same time.

2. “The Green Dragon” Against The Grain (Kentucky, US): This was crazy intense yet smooth at 12.5% ABV. Classic, chewy barleywine with a boatload of New Zealand hops added to lend it a lemon creme finish. I came back to this table multiple times.

3. “Surette Riserva-Aged in Peach Whisky Barrels” Crooked Stave (Colorado, US): A farmhouse ale aged in peach whiskey barrels. Boom! Nuff’ Said.

4. “Flora” Hill Farmstead (Vermont, US): A wheat saison aged in wine barrels with local bacteria. This brewery can do no wrong in my opinion. Everything they make is a work of art and this brew is no exception. Light, floral, and tart. An excellent summer sipper.   

5. “El Cedro” Jester King (Texas, US): A farmhouse ale copiously hopped and aged in cedar with Brettanomyces. This was my first experience with Jester King and I was thoroughly impressed with their selection. All very creative and boundary breaking brews. El Cedro had a little bit of everything going on - barnyard funk, piney resinous hops and a distinct dry finish that can only be achieved from cedar aging. They also had a gin barrel aged nordic beer that was BIZARRE but very tasty!

6. “Pilot Pale Ale” Maine Beer Co. (Maine, US): A new pale ale brewed solely with Simcoe and Citra hops. Light, crisp malt bill, with a unique “juicy” tropical fruit finish. A-mazing. For you Chicagoans, it is very reminiscent of Half Acre’s “Taco Day”.

7. “Agamemnon” Omnipollo (Sweden): An imperial stout brewed with maple syrup. Smooth, creamy, maple-y goodness. Definitely one of the best maple beers I’ve had yet.

8. “Okie” Prairie Artisan Ales (Oklahoma, US): An imperial brown ale aged in bourbon barrels. Yikes...this was delicious, as was ALL of their offerings which is why it was so hard to pick the best. Okie was everything you’d want from the style and more. A robust, chocolate malt bomb with a smooth vanilla/toffee finish from the bourbon. GREAT beers from a GREAT new brewery.

9. “Mexican Cake” Westbrook Brewing Co. (South Carolina, US): An imperial stout brewed with cacao nibs, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, and habanero peppers. I’ve had some chile pepper beers before but this definitely takes the cake (hehe). A velvety smooth mouthfeel that leads into dark chocolate and spices that swirl on the palate. I was worried about the habanero, but its subtle and complements all of the other flavors. Definitely something I would search for in the future.

10. “Trappist Westvleteren XII” Brouwerij Westvleteren (Belgium): Hands down, BEST belgian quad I have ever tried. Your taste buds are overwhelmed by layers, upon layers of dried figs, plums, and raisons, and for 10.2% abv, the finish is like silk. The part that blows my mind is that this table had no line the entire time! The volunteer actually looked bored. If this brew was easier to obtain I’d dedicate my life to it.

11. “Saison Framboise” Brasserie Trois Dames (Switzerland): A farmhouse ale brewed with raspberries. Very intense raspberry on the nose and on the palate, with a tart, funky finish. An extremely flavorful raspberry inspired brew. Trois Dames was the most underrated brewery at the festival. Their head brewer in attendance, Raphael Mettler, was so friendly and knowledgable it was hard not to stay and talk beer for the remainder of the afternoon.

12. “Ginger Libation” Green River Ambrosia Meadery (Massachusetts, US): Not really sure how to classify this meadery’s only “mead-less” offering. It’s basically a high gravity Kombucha, slightly sweetened with cane sugar, pineapple and citrus juice. It’s light, effervescent body gives way to a tart, fruity ginger-bomb. I could see how non-believers would misconstrue this as a girly drink, but at 9% abv I’d slap on a pink bikini and sip this all summer long.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Berghoff Brewing Relaunches With New Packaging and Recipes

If you think you know Midwest-based Berghoff Brewery, you may want to take a second look. Owner Ben Minkoff has been working over the past year to revive the 126 year old brewery, from the recipes to the brand message. Minkoff consulted with brewing experts Randy Mosher and John Hannafan to create the recipes for the top-notch German-style beers. They broke down the elements of each recipe and reformulated based on modern brewing techniques to give them individual personality and character. 

Max Hertwig (1881-1975) German stamp designs
Randy Mosher, an acknowledged craft beer expert and accomplished designer contributed to Berhgoff’s new packaging and brand messaging. His goal was to fulfill the promise that the brand's heritage was supposed to be all of these years. 

"I wasn't reinventing the wheel here. I was putting the wheels back on the wagon and helping the brand be what it wants to be by reviving its heritage," says Mosher. 

He began by locating the original, pre-prohibition Berghoff labels through beer label curator, Bob Kay. Mosher turned the clock back even further, exploring what the brand would have looked like if it had been bottled in much earlier days. He was inspired by German typographer Max Hertwig, who's style he refers to as "the sweet spot". Hertwig's 1920 era work in particular combines the richness of gothic black lettering, calligraphic techniques and a touch of modernism. Mosher used this approach when creating the typography seen on the new Berghoff label designs. 

Vintage Berghoff labels

"Many of the original US breweries did not survive because they were essentially all making the same product. The only real difference was how well they could sell and market their product and how cheaply they could produce it," says Mosher, who was excited for the opportunity to work with a brand that has such an "iconic stature." "Berghoff is a proud and confident brand with deep rooted Midwest history. Chicago needs an old-school beer brand with character."

Two of Berghoff's new labels designed by Randy Mosher

Berghoff will debut its lineup of new beers this Thursday, June 20 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. with a festive Launch Party at Sheffield’s (3258 North Sheffield Avenue, 773-281-1350). Berghoff aims to capture a larger audience of beer lovers with its revamped product and this Launch Party is an opportunity for discerning Chicago beer lovers to sample their new recipes firsthand. 

“We are truly excited to be launching our new beers at Sheffield’s. We’re proud of our updated portfolio, and we look forward to sharing them with old fans and a whole lot of new consumers who have never tried Berghoff before,” says owner Ben Minkoff, whose family has owned General Beverage Distributors for the past 80 years and purchased the Berghoff brand in 1994.

The Launch Party will feature all Berghoff beers on draft for $5 each including: 
  • Solstice Wit Beer (5.2% ABV), made with Calamansi juice, an Asian citrus fruit, and spices, for a refreshing summery beer from a long tradition of unfiltered wheat beers
  • Straight Up Hefeweizen (5.2% ABV), a Bavarian hefe-weizen, with the creamy goodness of wheat, plus a fruity and spicy nose
  • Dortwunder Lager (5.5% ABV), a classic and evenly balanced pale lager in the Dortmunder tradition
  • Reppin’ Red Ale (6.2% ABV), a serious red ale that mixes tangy rye and crisp toasted malts with plenty of American hop character
  • Sir Dunkle Crispy Dark Lager (5.5% ABV), smooth and malty, with a bright crispness, making a drinkable and very satisfying beer. 
New logo by Randy Mosher
Berghoff will also introduce the first beer in its Überbier Series, Germaniac Extra Pale Ale (6.3% ABV), brewed with honey and molasses, it will be a briskly hopped extra pale ale patterned after the old “outlaw” beer style, Kottbüsser. 

A DJ will be spinning live music and beer lovers will enjoy selections from Sheffield’s menu including pulled pork, brisket and pulled chicken tacos, with a choice of side, for $10 each throughout the event.

For more information about Berghoff Brewing visit, follow them on Twitter (@BerghoffBeer) 
and like them on Facebook.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

DryHop Brewers Official Opening

Today is the day that East Lakeview craft beer lovers, scratch that - most Chicagoland craft beer lovers have been anticipating for months. Tonight at 5pm DryHop Brewers will officially open it's taproom and kitchen to the public, showcasing six craft beers ranging in style from hop-centric and traditional to Belgian and experimental and a rustic, gastro-style dinner menu.

DHB Brewery

Head Brewer Brant Dubovick is behind DryHop’s beer program, creating beers that are rebellious, challenging and unconventional, while balancing elements like acidity, bitterness, aroma and roast to derive the perfect combination of flavor. DryHop’s opening beer offerings, all available at the brewery and to-go in 64- and 32-oz. growlers include:

1. Shark Meets Hipster – Wheat IPA (6.0% ABV): Your next love affair. Light bodied American Wheat Ale featuring truckloads of Galaxy hops. Expect strong notes of passion fruit.

2. Batch 001 – Chicago Common (4.6% ABV): Yes, our very first brew. Pre-prohibition Cream Ale and Steam Beer hybrid. It’s a session ale brewed with barley, maize, and wheat.

3. Velvet Divorce – Czech Pils (5.2% ABV): Paying our respect to those who were innovating long before us. The classic, crisp, and dry lager.

4. Judge – American Pale Ale (5.4% ABV): This year’s cool kid hop gets weird with last year’s love affair - Mosaic hops join Amarillo hops for this citrus bomb.

5. The Angry Samoan – Coconut Milk Stout (5.5% ABV): Baseball, BBQ, and coconuts scream summer. Jet black with a hint of coconut.

6. Vampire for Your Love – Saison (6.2% ABV): Belgian farmhouse ale brewed with Kafir lime leaves and Sichuan pepper. This is the only Saison that matters.

DHB Kitchen

Craft beer is social, so DryHop Executive Chef Pete Repak designed the menu to complement the ideals of community and respect for the craft of brewing. The plates are shared and each dish showcases the flavors and seasonality of the brewery. DryHop’s cuisine is unpretentious, everything is prepared from scratch and, the menu is constantly changing to focus on seasonal ingredients and elements sourced from local farmers and purveyors. DryHop’s late night menu embodies bold flavors that are slightly off center, and appeal to the inner foodie.

DryHop’s dinner (5 p.m.) and late night (10 p.m.) menus are available starting Thursday, June 13. Lunch (11 a.m.), dinner and late night menus are available starting Friday, June 14. Normal business hours are Monday – Friday from 11 a.m. ­ 2 a.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. ­ 3 a.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. ­ 2 a.m. The kitchen closes everyday at 1 a.m.

About DryHop Brewers DryHop Brewers is a brewery and kitchen in Chicago, Ill. DryHop brews hop-centric ales, in addition to traditional, Belgian, and experimental craft beers – all only available in Lakeview and to-go in DryHop’s 64- and 32-oz. growlers. DryHop’s kitchen menu showcases the flavors and seasonality of the brewery through unpretentious shared plates.

Visiting DryHop is all about being in a brewery; feeling connected to the craft brewing and culinary worlds; and most importantly, feeling a personal connection to a community of craftsman. For more information, visit Follow DryHop on Facebook and Twitter @Dryhopchicago.

Photos courtesy of DryHop Brewers