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!