Goose Island 312 Urban Block Party

image      I have not posted to the blog in awhile and have some catching up to do.  I was working crazy overtime for a bit and then just got lazy.  As you can tell by the title and picture of this post I was lucky enough to attend the 312 Urban Block Party put on by Goose Island.  This event was free, but one had to win or acquire tickets somehow.  They did not sell tickets to this event.  I was lucky enough to come upon a guest list pass from @MarisaVictoria on twitter.  The ticket was provided to her through @brokehipster and @do312.  I can’t thank her enough for the generosity on this.  For those who don’t know this event featured music, food, and rare Goose beers.  We all know what rare Goose Island beers means.  I shall get into what they poured in a minute.  It was truly epic.

     My friends Mike and Ashley had previously won VIP tickets so I hitched a ride with them to the event.  Us being nerds and especially Bourbon County nerds we were the first people in line.  Initially the whole thing seemed moderately unorganized and under planned for how many people may be showing up.  It was  a bad weather day with some drizzle and chances of storms which aided in keeping the crowd size manageable.  The event was held outside Goose Island’s new barrel warehouse on Fulton.(thanks In-Bev money) The setup led us through the warehouse to get to the event.  This was truly special seeing rows upon rows of Juliet, Lolita, and of course Bourbon County stacked up.  I immediately went on the hunt for the “rare” beers they had promised to be pouring.  Initially I came up empty and snagged a Matilda while figuring out the lay of the land.  Eventually I noticed a young chap standing in front of a few barrels with taps coming out of them.  I knew this was the spot I was looking for.  They had a few selections from their Fulton and Wood line and yes of course a huge Bourbon County barrel!  This wasn’t just regular Bourbon County either, it was a special barrel just for the event, Raspberry Bourbon County!  After some issues with the initial pours because of raspberry seeds clogging the tapper I was finally standing with a solid 10oz pour of Raspberry Bourbon Count that only cost me $3 U.S. dollars.  I could tell this was going to be a good night.  The Raspberry Bourbon County, aged in a Rye barrel by the way, was delicious.  It was basically the Bramble Rye without the blackberries, which made it much less cloying  as far as sweetness.  I could still taste the base beer which Bramble is almost all fruit and no Bourbon County taste.  

     As I stated before this event also featured music.  The headliner being the incredible St. Vincent.  This being a free event there was a great mix of people there for music, flagship lineup brews, and Bourbon County fans.  You could easily pick out the beer geeks in the crowd because we all huddled around the barrel pours and had our various beer company shirts on to proclaim our allegiance to the sweet nectar of hops, malt and barley.  As far as the beers being poured it kept getting more interesting.  Goose obviously had their staple beers throughout the grounds but the barrel area kept ramping up quality throughout the night.  Perhaps my favorite beer of the night was a wild ale version of 312.  I wish they would bottle this beer, it was incredible the way the Brett interacted with the wheat forwardness of 312.  My least favorite experimental beer was a sour version of their Belgian Style beer Demolition.  This did not work at all for me.  To me it just tasted like rotten pears and stale beer.  Just before St. Vincent went on the event  staff decided to kick it up and pour some fresh Intelligentsia coffee into the Raspberry Bourbon County to create a truly one of a kind brew.  The flavors, while being all over the board and kind overwhelming, were fantastic.  I wouldn’t want a lot of this by any means but being able to try it was a treat.  Next up on the tapping list was another barrel of Bourbon County, this time with Ancho Chile.  Honestly I wish I was a tad more sober at this point, the beer was delicious no doubt but I know I was missing out some of the nuance going on with it.  I love chile beers and would love another shot at this one.  After having a semi overwhelmed palate and sobriety this beer shined just as you would imagine it would though.  I would have hoped for more spice in the finish, I know they make a Ghost Pepper version for special events from time to time and would love to have a go at that.  At this point I wandered over to St. Vincent, had my mind blown by her amazing and then headed home.  There were other beers drank, food eaten, amazing butts on waitresses, and people from the Facebook event page met as well.  I think this was already long enough without going into all that though.  Thank you to Goose Island for putting on a fantastic event for your fans and thanks again to @MarisaVictoria for making it possible for me to attend.  Cheers!

The Alchemist - Heady Topper

image     First off I just want to send a huge thanks to http://thefuj.com for trading me a few of these gems.  He was quick and honest on the trade which is always appreciated!  Follow The Fuj on Tumblr he’s a righteous dude who knows good beer and takes a sexy picture.

     Any true beer geeks reading this are already familiar with Heady Topper.  It has reached almost mythical status among hop heads, even surpassing Pliny the Elder on Beer Advocate’s top beer rankings.  Heady Topper is a American Double IPA brewed by The Alchemist in Vermont.  If you don’t know their story, go here and read about the brewery http://www.alchemistbeer.com/from-disaster-comes-joy/.  I love how The Alchemist focus on just one beer instead of trying to spread themselves too thin and not get enough of what people want out there.  Sadly even with them only brewing Heady Topper it is not easy to get and fetches ridiculous prices on Ebay.  They recently cut their distribution territory down because of certain legal issues, but hope to double production this fall.  I realize I will more than likely never see Heady Topper on the shelf here in Illinois, but more of it on being brewed will I hope mean easier and more frequent trades.  As I’m sure you can tell by the length I’ve gone on about this beer before actually getting into the review, this one is special.  Now onto to the review.

Perfect.

Cheers!

Surly - Furious

image     Fuckin a right.  I am lucky enough to have a whole slew of these gems in my fridge currently.  A few of my friends went to the great white north and picked up several cases on the way home.  For those unaware Surly is a Minnesota brewery that mostly is only available in Minnesota.  Surly has distribution channels setup to other states, they just choose to focus on their home state for now.  They are building a huge renovation that they call a “destination” brewery and recently announced on their website some Chicago tasting events.  I have a strong feeling we will be getting Surly back in the area sooner than later.  Until then it’s a very special rare treat.  The first thing most people notice about Furious is that it’s an IPA in a can.  These days this is actually more accepted but a few years ago it was unheard of.  The can actually is perfect for hoppy beers as it lets in no light, seals incredibly well, and is easy to keep cold. 

     Furious is a 6.2% IPA that checks in at 99 IBU.  So yes it’s pretty bitter but not overly strong.  It’s at the upper level of what I’d consider a session beer.  It pours a darker color than most beers of the style and retains a  light head that laces the glass in the most beautiful way.  The smell isn’t exactly what one might think for such a high rated IPA.  These days it’s usually all fruit notes blasting off this style; however, Furious is all about balance.  You get a nice amount of light malt scents, with a good piney hop on the nose as well. You can pick up on some citrus too, it’s just the main focus.  Taking a sip you are hit at the front of the tongue with a light, sweet malty note.  This quickly fades into a piney bitterness that just builds and builds.  It’s not overwhelming and balances out the malt perfectly.  On the finish you will notice a tad of west coast citrus notes creeping in around the edges.  This is truly a Midwest “No Coast IPA.  Furious is perfectly balanced and infinitely drinkable.  If I had access to this it would be a staple in my fridge ready to be enjoyed at any moment on any occasion.  If you can get your hands on this beer, do all the time and send me some!  Cheers!

Three Floyds - Apocalypse Cow

image   Oh Apocalypse Cow how I love thee.  This tasty DIPA is one of my favorite seasonal Three Floyds releases.  Before you say, “Oh wow 3F doing another IPA or DIPA” know that this one features lactose milk sugar!  Yes, that special ingredient usually reserved for milk stouts rounds out this massive IIPA in a really interesting delicious way.  The nose is a classic DIPA smell- huge grapefruit citrus notes, astringent hops, and maybe a touch of alcohol.  Apocalypse Cow is 11% abv so that’s fair.  I’ve never had this one week out from release before, until now.  This means my review will be extra gushy, if i love this two months old you betta blee dat Ima be all about it fresh.  Upon sipping you initially get hit with a tongue tingling bitter grapefruit bomb of a taste that quickly mellows into a sweet middle. Towards the end the bitter comes back and blends perfectly with the sweet milk sugar that proceeded it.  Seriously this beer doesn’t taste like any other DIPA out there.  It’s fantastic experiencing the blown out citrus hop that is a 3f double india pale ale and having it come crashing down into a sweet tasting perfectly bitter expertly malted easy drinking beer.  One thing I always notice is how sticky it leaves your lips.  If you’re expecting makeouts while drinking this please remember some sort of damp napkin to avoid sticky lipping someone.  There isn’t much else to say about this fine brew, other than make sure to get it via trade, store, or brewpub.  Just get it as soon as you can and pop it open quick to enjoy the experience.  I would recommend getting a few though, you will want more than just one bomber.  I am glad that it’s a seasonal, this allows me to get amped up for it’s return every year.  If i had Apocalypse Cow all the time i would get burnt out on the sweet fun and take it for granted.  Cheers!

Beer tasting mega review madness!

Last night I was lucky enough to partake in a beer tasting among a group of friends.  We ran the gamut of beer styles and vintages.  I’m going to touch on a few highlights and disappointments of the evening.  

image

Cigar City - Marshal Zhukov

     This is a Russian Imperial Stout to the fullest extent possible.  Zhukov is by far the thickets most viscous beer I’ve had.  This probably comes from the backstrap molasses used in the brewing process.  The head alone is darker than some stouts themselves. As far as taste, I was all about this one.  You are immediately hit with some great coffee and dark chocolate notes leading into a sweet almost barrel aged taste in the middle.  This isn’t as pronounced as a Dark Lord by any means.  On the back end the coffee flavor really shines through in the smoothest way possible.  This description is pretty on par with most Russian Imperial Stouts; however, the thickness and epic mouth feel really tie this beer together in an unique way.  Marshal Zhukov is a sipper to say the least.  Grab a bomber and share it with a group of friends or during a ground war in Russia.  

image

Mikkeller -  Koppi Tomahawk x Guji Natural Coffee IPA

     The always batshit crazy Gypsy Brewer extraordinaire Mikkeller decided to brew a IPA with coffee.  This either sounds like a fantastic idea or horrible mess to most folks.  I fall on the fantastic idea side of things.  I’ve had this on tap and out of a bottle a couple times.  I had previously enjoyed it very much.  The bitter hop flavor of a IPA blended and lead right into a faint but delicious coffee bitterness and aftertaste.  This time though, it wasn’t as exciting.  The coffee has almost completely faded out from the brew at this point.  I had a bottle only a few months ago and the full flavor profile was alive and kicking.  This was a disappointment for such a unique beer to be brought down to this level.  I would say wait for a new batch to come out before picking one of these up and if you have one sitting around, drink it as soon as you can.  I hope you will still have some coffee flavor in yours.  

image

Three Floyds - Barrel Aged Alpha Klaus w/cherries

     Obviously this was one that we were all very happy our friend broke out to share.  I’m not a big fan of Christmas ales and the such, but I do like a bomber or two of Alpha Klaus around the holidays.  This being a barrel aged version with cherries I was extra excited to take a few swigs of it.  Sadly this one did not do it for me.  The cherry flavor was present at the front of the tongue like I had hoped.  You can tell they used actual cherries and not an extract which i really enjoyed.  The middle of the beer was mostly a muted brown tasting ale, almost like Alpha Klaus that was passed it’s prime.  Even with that the cherry flavor would have been enough for me to enjoy this and chalk it up as a win.  However, this is not something I can recommend  because of the back end and aftertaste left behind.  I was hit with my nemesis, rubbing alcohol acetone flavors.  I seem to be very sensitive to this taste as others didn’t notice it as much as I.  This flavor destroys a beer for me and makes me not want more.  I’m not sure what would cause this, perhaps not aging long enough in the barrel and mellowing out the increase in ABV that happens from the barreling process?  If someone has one it’s hard to say whether to crack it open now and or wait.  If you wait the acetone flavor may calm down but the cherry will probably fade as well.  

image

Cigar City/The Bruery -  Dos Costas Oeste - Grapefruit Wood     

     Dos Costas Oeste are a series of collaboration Saison brews between Cigar City and The Bruery.  There are four different varieties of wood they used for aging these in.  Cedar, Grapefruit, Lemon, and Orange.  They bottled all but the orange (which of course rates the best).  It was good brew, not as great as I had hoped, but refreshing for sure.  It was a little to carbonated for my liking.  As a warning it was gusher!  Think of those cellar series Stillwater beers, or champagne.  The flavors were all there as far as Saisons go.  On the front you could get the ginger used in the brew, as well as some citrus and coriander flavors.  I got a fair amount of woody barrel taste in the middle.  It finished dry and a tad bitter which was a pleasant surprise.  That was probably from the grapefruit wood.  I hoped for some tart sourness from the grapefruit but didn’t really get that much.  I would say this is worth trying if you can get your hands on one fairly easily.  It would be great on a hot summer day.

image

Goose Island - Pere Jacques Mini Vertical ‘09-‘11

     Pere Jacques is a Belgian Dubbel brewed by the one and only Goose Island in Chicago.  This brew is bottle conditioned and bears the traditional Goose statement of being able to age for five years.  We started off with the ‘09.  I was pleasantly surprised by the taste I was getting off this brew.  The malts are the star of a Dubbel and they aged beautifully in this one.  It had a great sweetness to it but was still crisp and refreshing.  It was like a Dubbel stripped down to its core at this point.  The ‘10 poured next and when compared to the ‘09 it was at least twice as dark!  This really surprised us.  2010 Pere Jacques drank a tad thicker and less refreshing.  The sweetness was ramped up and some spices came through more so than the ‘09.  I didn’t enjoy this one as much.  It was mostly a muddled mess of flavors.  Next came the ‘11 pours.  As far as color, this one was only a touch darker than the ‘10.  It was also more carbonated and had more head that the previous two years.  In comparison it was more like the ‘10 than the ‘09.  The flavors were much more crisp and together though.  It was just as sweet as the ‘10 but balanced out with a slightly stronger bitter presence on the back end.  I would definitely say the 2009 was the winner, followed by the ‘11.  It seems one should age for three or more years or just go fresh.  

image

Tröegs  - Flying Mouflan 

     Most know Troegs brewery because of Nugget Nectar, one of the most sought after brews every year.  Flying Mouflan is their American Barleywine that comes out every spring.  On the bottle you can read this description, “We classify this beer as pushing Nugget Nectar off the side of a cliff. It is bold and intense–think hops dipped in candied sugar and rolled in dark chocolate nibs.” from John Trogner.  After reading this I was very excited to taste this one.  Flying Mouflan drinks fantastically.  There was a little alcohol burn, but this does come in at 9.3% abv so it can be expected drinking it fresh.  I was impressed with the hop presence that shines through a relatively intense malt character.  You get a great bitterness that just ramps up throughout.  The back end is where the sweet malts creep in just enough to leave you wanting more.  It’s like drinking a caramel covered hop that gets you nice and drunk.  I would highly recommend to this any barleywine lovers. This may take Behemoth’s top spot as my favorite American Barleywine.  I need to put down a few more before making that official though.

There were other beers drank, but I feel like this is a long enough post as it is.  I want to thank everyone who shared awesome beers and laughs last night!

image

one more thing.. Turnabout pizza is so damn good

Sierra Nevada - Hoptimum

image  I recently snagged a 4-pack of Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum double IPA.  This released a short while back but I’ve seen about 2 to 3 cases show up at various locations around my area this past week.  That being said it isn’t quit as fresh as it was the first time I had it.  Don’t let that dissuade you though, this beer holds up very well. 

     I want to take this time to stress that you should NEVER cellar a beer like this.  IPAs and especially Double IPAs are meant to be drank fresh and crisp.  Ideally you should keep them refrigerated from bottling to the moment you crack the top off.  Obviously not all liquor stores have a ton of refrigerator space but still when you bring a hoppy bottle of deliciousness home, put it in the fridge and drink that shit sooner than later.  It seems people figure if something is limited they should age it no matter what.  This is very much not the case.  Ok, rant/educational corner over.. now back to the review.

     As stated this a limited once a year release from Sierra Nevada.  You might think this is just going to be a hopped up version of Torpedo.  It’s certainly not.  The hop profile, malt backbone, and hopping schedules are unique to this brew. They use a whole slew of whole cone hops German Magnum, Simcoe, Citra, Chinook as well as proprietary varieties.  Hoptimum comes in at 10.4% abv.  The nose is not overpowering at all.  I can smell this sucker all day.  It has a great hop citrus and piney nose on it.  It’s not going to overwhelm your nose it just smells good.  You don’t pick up much of any malty scents, which is what I want a beer called Hoptimum to be like.  I love the taste of this brew.  It hits you with a delicious very well balanced hop character on the front of the tongue.  This being a little older now I’m getting a bit more bitter taste in the middle than before.  It finishes very crisp and easy.  You get the best of all worlds, a nice West Coast citrus character, some East Coast Pine, and balanced like a great Midwest brew.  The 10.4abv is hidden incredibly well and never creeps into your palate to spoil the fun. Although there are certainly DIPAs out there that provide a bigger hop bomb on the palate this is one of the most balanced (while still living up to the name) and easy to drink DIPAs that I’ve had.  The malt backbone is perfect in that it lets the hops shine and doesn’t take anything away but also keeps those same hops in check just enough to make this so easy to drink.  Some Double IPAs can be a tad to thick and almost creamy for me.  Hoptimum is a fairly light crisp beer and great for outside on the deck drinking.  If you can find a few 4-packs pick em up.  One other good thing is that this being Sierra Nevada it’s reasonably priced.  I paid 7.99 and consider that well wroth the price of admission.  If not just for that sweet label!  Cheers!

3 Floyds & Brew Dog - Bitch Please

image     This is a collaboration brew from 3 Floyds and Brew Dog.  The style on the bottle says it’s a American Barleywine for whatever reason.  This usually would mean that it’s a hoppier version of a traditional English barley wine; however, being it 3 Floyds and Brew Dog they don’t really adhere to these preconceived notions on style.  Bitch Please doesn’t really fit a style in all honesty.  On pouring it into a tulip I was immediately taken aback by the smell.  You get some of the barrel sweetness notes you would expect from a whiskey cask, but it also had some wet sock in there too.  

     Now would be a good time to fill those in whom are unaware why this beer has become a talking point between beer geeks.  First of all it’s around 12 dollars for a 12oz bottle.  Yes I paid that much for it.  I happened on it when I just got paid and am a self admitted 3 Floyds fanboy.  That being said I felt silly after purchasing it having known nothing about it so I went home and looked it up on Beer Advocate.  To my horror Bitch Please’s average rating was about 2.15.  People trashed this beer like no other I had read about, except maybe Bud Light w/Clamato.  I decided “fuck it”, I wasted my money I will stick it in the cellar and forget about it for a while.  A few nights ago my friend made mention that he could get more of these beers and asked if I had tried mine.  I had not but figured lets check back in with Beer Advocate and see how it’s doing with some age on it. (not much age mind you)  The beers overall rating had gone up… to about 78.  Nothing to write home about, but the reviews were all over the board.  There were many 1.5 reviews followed by a 4.5 review.  I figured we should drink this beer and see how it can be so divisive.  

     So after taking in the nose of the beer I was worried the 1.5’ers were right.  I cautiously snuck a small sip from the tulip and was pleasantly surprised.  It all made sense now.  This beer was not a beer at all. It was on par with sipping a fine aged scotch.  Think DFH Immort Ale without the vanilla and the peaty smokiness ratcheted up to extreme levels.  Most people are not used to the taste of a Islay Island scotch and would be very thrown off by the peaty taste of this brew.  Especially considering they market it as a American Barleywine.  I happily sipped the rest of my beer and let it warm to about room temp which was perfect.  I would not recommend this one particularly cold as you would miss much of the peaty goodness and probably taste more acetone alcohol notes than you would care for, or just not much of anything at all.  If you are a fan of scotch like me then seek out this beer.  It’s hard to say this beer is worth the price, but for a scotch lover it is at least once.  Don’t try to tackle this bottle alone either, even though it’s only 12oz you probably wouldn’t want more than half in a sitting.  It’s a sipper for sure.  If you’ve had it let me know what you thought.  Cheers!