Thursday, February 20, 2014

Celebrating International Women's (Brew) Day

In celebration of International Women's Day on March 8th, Hail To The Ale and Brew Camp will be taking over the classroom for a day full of demos and fun with ladies from the Chicago brewing industry!

Join us for:
*Live Beer Making Demos throughout the day, 11am-4pm
*Special Pro Brewer Guests from the brewing industry will be joining us to talk about their experiences and share beer
*BYOB bottle share, snacks will be provided
*Donations from ticket proceeds will go toward women in need through the Chicago Chapter of Dress for Success
*This event is open to everyone - men, women, kids - the more the merrier!

Our Featured Women Homebrewers who will be LIVE BREWING:
* Nancy Rockwell from CHAOS Brew Club and the blog "Nancy Brew"

*Mary Clare Crabtree, winner of the 5 Rabbit Iron Homebrew Challenge and designer extraordinaire

*Laura Lanford, homebrewing rockstar and procurer of Movies On The Roof

Tickets are available through

This event is curated in collaboration with Brew Camp, Hail To The Ale, the Chicago Beer Gals Collective and the fine ladies of the Chicago brewing industry!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Designs That Shine: February

In a new blog series "Designs That Shine" we'll be highlighting new label designs to hit the market that we've identify as some best in class examples of strong branding and expressive story telling. One cannot argue that design is a subjective matter and these are merely our opinions, however we hope that it will engage discussions around the importance of brand presence and inspire out of the box thinking. One thing we can say with confidence is that consumers both appreciate and respond to the time it takes to be creative in a fast moving and competitive market. 

Indeed Brewing Company (MN), Let It Ride IPA. This Minneapolis based brewery collaborates with a local artist Chuck U, who's highly illustrative, story book-like style immediately draws you in. Canning their beers allow them to utilize the full 360 canvas for story telling. The whimsy and optimistic label designs are an extension of their mantra - "to tout the positive side of things, and embrace mindfulness and adventure—a feeling we’ve found plenty of here in Minnesota." Even their logo has a hint of a smile, speaking to the happiness and fun they want to share with their customers.
Goose Island Brewing Company (IL), The Illinois, Imperial IPA. The first beer in the 2014 Imperial Beer series is named after a skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1950's. If it had been built "The Mile High Illinois" would still be Chicago's tallest building. The label design of The Illinois is inspired by the linear yet organic nature of Wright's design aesthetic.
Two Roads Brewing Company (CT), Rye 95. New England based Two Roads gives a light hearted nod to the many roads in life and take the "road less traveled" approach to the way they design and craft their beers. Rye 95 is no exception - the label is inspired by the twists and turns this complex, seasonal hybrid ale takes you on. 
Hangar 24 Brewery (CA), California Spring Beer. The California Spring Beer is being re-released as a seasonal offering, with updates to the Hanger 24 branding. Located in the air fields of Southern California, this is a brewery that takes a 360 approach to integrating their vintage industrial aesthetic from the taproom through to their website, festival displays and World's Fair poster style label art. We highly recommend following them on instagram.

Daredevil Brewing Co (IN), J.W.P. American Stout. Daredevil's brand is committed to producing "eclectic, aggressively fun craft beer" as well as design. J.W.P. Stout, recently released as their Anniversary beer, is inspired by the "wild west" with a simple, iconic approach quite different from the woodcut-style illustrated flagship beers Lift Off IPA and Rip Cord IPA. The design strikes the balance of creative confidence but the link to western pioneer, John Wesley Powell is still a bit of a mystery. Check out some of their other artwork.

*Update: we received correspondence from Shane at Daredevil with the meaning behind JWP Stout, which stands for John Wayne Pudding. You can read more here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pairing Desserts With Beer

This past month we collaborated with Katherine Anne Confections in Logan Square for our monthly Chicago Beer Gals meetup. Last February I experimented with making my own beer infused truffles as well as baking chocolate stout cupcakes (recipes here). This year as my palate and curiosity for beer knowledge has increased I was eager to tap into how to pair beer with desserts, like chocolate. Katherine was a fantastic collaborator. A quick visit to her shop opened my eyes to how experimental one could be with confections, much like craft beer. She has developed hundreds of truffle recipes alone, infusing everything from coffee to spices, herbs, liquors and has plenty of experience pairing chocolate with beer and wine. We had a lot of fun talking about flavors and put together some really interesting and unexpected dessert and beer pairings that took us through a variety of different sensations and flavor combinations.

Pairing beer and chocolate, why it works -
For a many years rich chocolatey desserts have been considered a natural pairing for wines and aperitifs. The great thing about both confections and craft beer is that there is a lot of variance in the flavors that you get, so while some of the sweeter wines or ports would be magical with milk or dark chocolate, most wines have very tannic qualities that can coat the tongue and overpower characteristics in desserts. As beer styles have expanded and become more popular there has been a lot of debate by people in the beverage industry, arguing that beer is actually a much more suitable pairing for chocolate for a number of reasons. The first is the overall “mouthfeel” experience. The ingredients in beer make it a complex beverage. Beer is made up of water, malts/grains, hops and yeast. The malts/grains are going to be the body of the beer providing sweetness and a range of flavors from bready, toastiness to caramel, chocolate, roasted coffee. The hops are used to bring in a range of bitterness, but also have characteristics like fruitiness, floral, citrus, pine, woody, earthy. And finally, you have the yeast used to ferment the beer - which also can bring in spices, fruitiness, floral notes. Carbonation is the second big factor, which plays a huge role in the overall “mouthfeel”. You’ll notice when you eat something sweet it will coat your tongue - especially chocolate or anything that has rich butter fats. When you sip the beer, the carbonation works as way to activate your taste buds and create a more rounded flavor experience. 

The pairings:

Tea & Passion Fruit Marshmallow paired with Unibroue La Fin Du Monde Belgian Triple Ale (Beer Advocate 96/100 - World Class rating for it's category).
Unibroue is from Quebec and has won more medals and awards than any other beer brewed in Canada. It’s a Belgian Style Tripel Ale. What I find so fascinating about the Belgian style of beer is that it has a ton of citrus and spice notes that are attributed solely to the yeast that is used to ferment the beer. Sometimes you’ll pick up floral or spice notes from hops, but in this case there aren’t any spices or additives as you’d see with other beer styles. This beer also provides a really high carbonation level with tight effervescence bubbles, much like champagne. These two create a "harmonious" pairing, meaning they have shared characteristics that work together. Passion fruit tends to be a more acidic fruit, which is being balanced by the addition of tea as well as the high sugar content in the marshmallow. When you taste the marshmallow and beer together, you'll find the shared spice and fruit characteristics compliment each other. The carbonation is nice here to invigorate the taste buds cut some of the sugariness of the marshmallow.

Honey Vanilla Caramel paired with Half Acre Alpenglow Dark Ale (Beer Advocate rating 85/100). Alpenglow is an American Black Ale, which has lighter body than a stout, a smaller amount of roasted malts, giving it just enough color and higher hop bitterness to balance the sweetness of the malt. This beer starts sweet and caramely and finishes roasty and dry with some notes of dried fruit/raisins. Because of the complexity I would consider this a "contrasting" pairing as the dark malt and hop characteristics of the beer work to balance the sweetness of the caramel. The honey and vanilla in the caramel bring out the malt characteristic in the beer. You get a continuous roundness of the ingredients each time you taste them together.

Java Truffle paired with Deschutes Obsidian Stout (Beer Advocate rating 94/100)
Obsidian has won medals both in the US and Internationally in the dry stout category.
It’s a robust stout with pronounced notes of dark chocolate and espresso. Dry Stouts use Pale/Munich malts in the base of the beer, found in lager and pilsner beers, which are very clean and crisp. This malt bill allows the specialty roasted malt and black barley to really shine through and give a nice, dry finish. This would be another "harmonious" pairing as the truffle and beer have very similar dark, roasty characteristics, with the beer having slightly more bitterness in the finish that is going to work well with any dessert that has the buttery, creamy characteristics of chocolate. Again the carbonation is such a complimentary aspect of the pairing, swirling the rich chocolate around for a really satisfying flavor experience.

Some additional beer pairings we recommend, which can be found at Bottles & Cans:
- Fruit or lambic beers, such as Lindemans with chocolate mousse
- Spiced Stout such as Clown Shoes Chocolate Sombrero, with a ginger dessert
- Wheat Ale, such as Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ with lemon or honey desserts
- Barleywine such as Anchor Old Foghorn with creme bruleƩ or fruit tart
- Barrel-Aged Stout, such as Goose Island Bourbon County Brand and a Chocolove Dark Chocolate with Raspberry chocolate bar (trust me)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fountainhead's How Ya Like Them Apples Event

The folks at Fountainhead are so crazy about cider that they've put together one heck of an event celebrating Cider Con week along side of the cider makers themselves. Come share a few pints with E. Dupont, Tieton Cider Works, Virtue Cider, Vander Mill, Uncle John's, Original Sin, Ace, Farnum Hill and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks. The event starts at 7pm on Wednesday, February 5th.

The tap line up includes:
Farnum Hill Dooryard: New on draft!
Aspall Still Cider: 2nd bar in the United States to tap this!
Original Sin Cherry Tree
Uncle John's Melded
Uncle John's Apple
Virtue Percheron
Vander Mill Puff the Magic Cyser
Vande Mill Chapman's Blend
Tieton Cider Works Dry Hopped
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks Pear
They'll be offering a great selection of bottles and cans as well as some cider based cocktails.

Chef Cleetus and team will be preparing a special menu of cider pairing selections.

Hope to see you there!