Rare Beers Close to Home (Pt. 2)

This got split up into two parts. You can read part 1 Here.

Rare Goose Island Belgians

The details of the tasting at Sheffield’s are available here. The descriptions of the beers  are a little wordy, so click through if you’re interested in the official descriptions.

Goose Island Sisters Flight
Goose Island Sisters Flight

I got there at about 8:45 when the beers started pouring at 7. My friend and I both ordered the flight, but unfortunately they only had enough Lolita for one of us. Luckily for us, the staff at Sheffield’s is awesome. The Chief Beer Nerd brought out a bottle of Sofie for us and hung out for a while talking about the beers. It’s always fun to have someone knowledgable and passionate talk about something, and he sort of led us through the four main event beers. It was the next best thing to having the brewer there talking to us, and it really added something special to the event.

All five of the beers were very good, so this is really splitting hairs, but here are my official (not that that really means anything) rankings with some brief notes:

  1. Juliet
    • This beer wins out because not only was it delicious, but it was also something I haven’t tasted before. It had a dryness, not from the bitterness of the hops, but rather from tannins like you would find in a red wine. It had a hint of sourness to go along with a complex, fruity flavor. If you have friends who just drink wine, try finding a bottle of this and sharing it with them.
  2. Dominique
    • This one didn’t seem to get the same love as the others with its description being just one sentence. I guess it’s relatively simple: 1) Make a belgian sour 2) Put beer in a Bourbon County Stout barrel.  But what came out of this was anything but simple. It was a mix of the fruity, spicy notes of the belgian yeast and the smoothness, vanilla and very slight bourbon notes from the barrel. This beer was close to being number 1.
  3. Madame Rose
    • There was sort of a drop off at this level. This is still a very, very good beer. The balance of the vinegary flavor, the tartness from the cherry and the notes of the yeast was very well done. I think I mentally downgraded this a bit because I tasted a very similar but more mind blowing version of this beer made by a homebrewer in our local guild.
  4. Lolita
    • This beer might have been third had we gotten a full taste and if it wasn’t a bit too flat. I certainly don’t need my beer to super carbonated, but I feel a bit higher level would have helped brighten and separate the flavors. They got a bit muddled as it was. I was also hoping for a bit more of a funky flavor from the brettanomyces.
  5. Sofie
    • It’s sort of unfair to compare Sofie with the other sisters here. She’s a very well made Belgian Golden Ale. The yeast just imparts a hugely floral and fruity flavor that is backed up by a solid, but not heavy malt body. It’s good, but more standard.

I asked in a post back when I first moved to Chicago, “Am I spoiled?” Well… with both these places within walking distance of either work or home, as well as a Binny’s across the street, I can safely answer that question with: Yes, Yes, A Thousand Times Yes. I totally encourage you to keep your ear to the ground. Follow beer bars on Twitter or Facebook, sign up for their newsletters, visit often and talk to the bartenders. Whatever you need to do, find out about events. There’s no better way to get excited about beer than being surrounded by other folks who are just as excited as you are!

Have any of you had an awesome experience at a beer-centric event? Let me know in the comments.

Guest Post: Hopcat Tasting Event

Special thanks to Geoff of The Hoover Street Rag for this guest post. Geoff took in a tasting event at Hopcat in Grand Rapids, and was kind enough to pass along notes.

Shorts Huma Lupa Licious
IPA – Pint glass.

Love the Huma. Always a favorite of mine.  And $6 for a pint plus the house burger and crack fries is a fantastic bargain.  The first taste is of crashing hops bitterness with citrus.  It mellows briefly  before a second wave hits, then the long finish.

Hopcat Kodial Killer
American Barleywine – Tulip glass

Dark, near-black appearance with an aroma of whisky and dark fruits.  Drink slowly to keep from being overwhelmed by the alcohol and pronounced fruit notes and ruining the flavor, which is refined by aging for four months in spend Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout barrels.

Shorts Bourbon Barrel Huma Lupa Licious
IPA – Globe-shaped sampler glass

I wanted to be able to directly compare the bourbon barrel version to the standard, and it’s almost unnecessary.  The whisky smell is huge off of it, obscuring the grapefruit notes of the original, and the bourbon taste is even bigger, almost obliterating the regular Huma, though it’s there underneath everything.  I’ll defer to the Hopcat description: “Think creamy vanilla-laced hop cones, soaked in bourbon.”

Shorts Bourbon Barrel Sustenance
Schwartzbier – Tulip

Oh, this is delicious.  Full of the toasty schwartzbier maltiness with the bourbon coming in around the edges.  I could drink this all night

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Globe-shaped sampler glass

I had the Bourbon County Stout before, in a 4-pack of 12-ounce bottles, and it was something of a disappointment.  I’d had the Founders KBS before (on tap at the brewery) and hoped that Goose Island would be able to compete with that.  What I tasted was very good, but not in the same class as the KBS.  I’m extremely happy to report that I was totally off base on that.  On tap, Bourbon County Stout is a revelation.  It’s huge, thick; viscous as motor oil and full of chocolate, bourbon, and coffee.  The clear winner on the night.  I still prefer the KBS overall (I think the flavors are a little more complex), but this is ever so close.

Dark Horse Plead the 5th
Russian Imperial Stout – Globe-shaped sampler glass

The lightest RIS I’ve ever encountered.  It pours brown and translucent with no real head by the time it was served.  A whiff of alcohol on the nose, not much more in terms of scent, it has a smooth mouthfeel with tastes of dark chocolate and a strong whisky finish.

Goose Island Imperial Brown Goose
Old Ale – Globe-shaped sampler glass

Pours dark brown with a persistent, thin off-white head.  Goose Island blended their 2004 and 2005 Christmas ales and aged them in 4-year-old Jim Beam and 12-year-old Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, and I can detect cinnamon and nutmeg among other spices alongside a mellow bourbon flavor.

Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout – Globe-shaped sampler glass

It smells like a beer, but tastes STRONGLY of charcoal smoke.  Must be the oak chips it’s been aged with, giving it a burnt flavor that lingers for a long time after the vanilla flavors fade away.

Avery Samael’s Ale
English Barleywine – Globe-shaped sampler glass

It tastes sweet and light, but packs a 14.5% ABV wallop and finishes with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Founders Backwoods Bastard
We Heavy Scotch Ale – Globe-shaped sampler glass

You can taste the Dirty Bastard under it all, but to me it tastes more like Devil Dancer than anything else.  It has that same way about it where it hits like a sledgehammer and lingers.

Founders Black Biscuit
Old Ale – Tulip glass

The pour overflowed the glass on the way over and now my hands smell like beer and chocolate.  Black Biscuit has a thin but persistently full head and pours thick and black.  This is a black old ale aged in bourbon barrels, and the chocolate, bourbon, and roasted malt flavors dominate.  It’s not quite as huge or complex as a bourbon stout, but the tradeoff is that it’s more drinkable.  Definitely give this one a try if you have the chance.

Atwater Barrel Aged Cherry Stout Firkin
Stout – Globe-shaped sampler glass

Tastes like black cherries soaked in bourbon and dropped into a stout, but not overpowering the stout base.  I’m not a big fan of fruit beers, but I can see myself ordering this as a a full pour.

Goose Island: Lincoln Park

Goose Island Clybourne

Goose Island Brewery via Malted Barley and Hops

I live about a block away from a Binny’s, so I thought the John Leinenkugel event would be very convenient. Fortunately, I checked the event details early enough to realize that it was in the Lincoln Park Binny’s. Being new to Chicago, I fired up Google Maps to find the best way there, and to my delight, I saw that it was right across the street from the Goose Island Clybourne Brewery and Taphouse.

So after Binny’s I headed across the street with the smell of malt and wort in the air. I’m not sure living in that smell would be great, but as someone who has been homebrewing-deprived, it was beautiful.

Map to Goose Island

Right between the Red Line stop at North and the Brown Line stop at Armitage

The bar itself seems much older (in a good way) than you would expect from a brewery with a 22 year history. My bartender immediately suggested I try the R.I.P. Ale, a rye pale which, if you have followed the beers I’ve reviewed lately, is obviously up my alley. The service was friendly and fast, and the bartenders were always quick with a taste or to explain a beer. The food smelled amazing, but my budget was for beer only.

I tasted a few of their beers, trying to focus on the ones that I don’t see that often in the stores. I thumbed out some quick reviews as I was drinking them:

  • Partial Eclipse – 5.5%: dark belgian wit brewed with Chicago Brew Society. Spiced with Szechuan peppercorn, coriander, Seville oranges, and star anise.

Notes: spices nice in the nose, not overpowering in the taste. Flavor dominated with malt and wit taste with a bit of the spice lingering through the end

  • Oatmeal Stout – 5.1%: A classic English style stout with an aromatic blend of oats, chocalte and roast malts.

Notes: poured like motor oil out of the cask tap with almost no head. The taste is velvety and sweet with a hint of stone fruit. It finishes with a very strong, but appropriate acrid note from the roast barley.

  • R.I.P. Ale – 5.8%: “Mad Brewer” Jared, balancing caramel and rye malts with Chinook and Nuggett hops, crafted this crisp, dry autumnal ale.

Notes: copper color, citrus hops and a nice spice from the rye.