Friday, September 26, 2014

The Best of Belgian Fest 2014

Goose Island's Belgian Fest is always a happy and hearty way to ring in the fall season. Coinciding with Riot Fest, Great Lakes Brew Fest, and many other events that weekend made this perhaps one of the most under-attended Goose Island events we've experienced. But with copious amounts of Belgian-style beer flowing, a manageable crowd, and zero lines, we certainly weren't complaining. 

The Goose Island Clybourn brewers were indeed the shining star as expected, showcasing experimental, small batch recipes aged in various barrels and bursting with complex flavors. With quite a few of the expected players absent (Half Acre, Pipeworks, Solemn Oath, Three Floyds, Une Annee) left opportunity to spend time with newcomers such as 4 Hands, Aquanaut, Middle Brow, Rude Hippo, Scorched Earth, Bucket List and Moody Tongue.

The common theme of the menu – experimentation. Each brewery had their own spin on the traditional concept of Belgian recipes, pushing the boundaries of beer styles. Collaboration with local coffee roasters is as prevalent as ever, with local, farm-fresh fruit additions in a close second place. A number of breweries including 4 Hands and Transient Artisan Ales showcased beers on the wild side, marrying the Belgian spice characteristics with the tropical fruit and citrus esters from Brett and Lacto fermentation.

Below is a wrap-up of our stand out beers for the day.

Vainglorious, Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub
Full-bodied Belgian stout, split batched and aged in red wine and bourbon barrels respectively. Blended back together with Intelligentsia coffee and black raspberries from Mick Klug Farms. Jammy fruit throughout, sweetness balanced with the roast of the coffee.

Robyn Dark Matter Coffee Remix, Middle Brow Beer Co.
Blonde, abbey-inspired farmhouse ale blended with Dark Matter coffee, aged in Goose Island Lolita barrels. Coffee flavor was earthy and well balanced with the ale body. Subtle spice and fruit notes throughout. (6.9%)

Super Flare, 4 Hands/Wicked Weed
100% Brettanomyces fermented IPA with tangerine zest, guava and mango. Dry-hopped with Galaxy and Mosaic. Tropical fruit forward, harmonious, zesty, minimal Brett funkiness. (7%)

Jaggery Tripel, Ten Ninety Brewing 
For the traditionalist, looking to be impressed – a Belgian-style Tripel brewed with jaggery sugar. Complex notes from beginning to end. Residual sweetness lingers with flavors of caramelized sugar, molasses, spice and vanilla. This would be an amazing pairing for rich cheeses or dessert. (11%)

Stella, Aquanaut Brewing
Our first experience with this brewery was a very pleasant one. Full bodied, aromatic Belgian Tripel with notes of creme brulé, clove, cinnamon, floral hops. Smooth caramel, vanilla, malty sweet finish with just a bit of heat that makes it a smooth sipper. (10.8%)

Two Weeks Less, Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub
A cask conditioned wild ale aged 4 months in oak barrels. Citrus fruit aroma, juicy, tart wild peach flavor with a lingering toasted wheat finish. Sweet upfront with a light, tart finish. (5.6%)

(L) The beautiful ruby-colored Vainglorious. (R) Enjoying American-style Belgian beer & football in the Karl Strauss room.