Monday, April 29, 2013

Drink the Beer, Darkly: Three Floyds Dark Lord Day - 2013

Three Floyds is run by elegant savages.  They must be.  Otherwise, the contrasts they present, seemingly from the mind of a split personality, would be impossible to achieve.  They're a veritable study in conflict.  Take for example, the trademark skull logo.   But, note how its dark symbolism conflicts with the delicate touches they can put on a beer like Rabid Rabbit.  And how else could you explain their ability to craft a polarizing beer such as their signature offering, the transcendent Dark Lord.  By listening to the Dark Lord Day band lineup you know that FFF's heart is with metal.  But someone there must be a Neil Young fan.

Neil is a singular example of excelling at both ends of a spectrum.  His songs have ranged from ragged electric sludge such as "Cortez The Killer" to the gentle lilting beauty of "Tell Me Why".   Not much middleground lies in his catalog, only extremes.  Exceptionally executed extremes of erratic beauty.  As he famously claimed, when he found himself in the "middle of the road" after the accessible Harvest, he "headed for the ditch" and crafted the splendidly dark Ditch Trilogy albums.  So if Neil isn't Three Floyds' muse, well, he should be.  It's not as if Neil wouldn't love Dark Lord.  For, nothing embodies Three Floyds' divergent personality more than Dark Lord's barbaric beauty.  It's viciously dark yet sumptuous.  An almost insane merger of beauty and beast.  By "beast" I don't mean the overgrown, jolly, animated Wookie from the Disney cartoon; I'm talking about a straight-up red-eyed demon.  Despite its beautiful refinement, Dark Lord is a bold, bad ass, beastly beer.  No wonder the yearly Dark Lord jubilee almost eerily recalls a convening of the occult.

Ballast Point Brewing Comes to Chicago

Those purveyors of San Diego style brews (hell yes!), Ballast Point Brewing, is finally arriving in Chicago.  Within the next week, Chicago-area shelves will start stocking the Ballast Point brew family, including their acclaimed IPA, Sculpin.  I haven't tasted much of their lineup, but Sculpin strongly hints that their roster contains some prime quality stuff.  Sculpin is among the elite American beers, a lithe IPA/DIPA seemingly disguised as a pale ale.  Watch out, Zombie Dust.

Binny's Beverage Depot is having a Ballast Point tasting on May 8th at its South Loop store.  Reservations are required, so call ahead.  Mark and Shaun's Beer Blog should be in attendance.  We hope to see you smiling over your Sculpin or some other tasty San Diego treats.

Port Brewing Hop 15 Double IPA

Some things just make you well up with excitement.  This often happens when you just can't help but recognize that things are headed somewhere good.  Maybe it's meeting someone you instantly click with, and  you can feel the vibes building as you talk to her.  Perhaps it's the top of the 9th in a big game and your ace closer is on the mound with a 2-run lead (sorry, Cubs fans).  For me, this latest charged moment was about 10 seconds before I sipped that Port Hop 15 Ale you see.  Port gets it done.  Not sure how they do it, but their IPA's are uniquely packed - steeped - with hops, but never seem overly dense. You could easily pick out a Port in an IPA lineup.  Hop 15 is even more special.  Right now it gets a 93 at BeerAdvocate.  This is one beer for which you should travel across town when it shows up on Beer Menus.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bourbon Barrel-Aged Beers and Five Examples of the Style

It's Whiskey Week here in Chicago!  In celebration, I have posted a piece at Foodies about bourbon barrel-aged beers.  The piece discusses the benefits of and excitement surrounding bourbon barrel-aging, and presents some of the negative criticism of the method.  Also, I highlight five examples of bourbon-barreled beer. And not all reviews are positive.  Enjoy the reading and wherever you are, sip a bourbon or tipple a bourbon-barreled beer tonight.

As for bourbon itself, I note that last week at Chicago's Bangers and Lace, I had samples of two amazing bourbons, as detailed after the jump.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout 2010: Review

On the heels of trying Goose Island Bourbon County Rare, I was treated to a snifter of the 2010 BCS Vanilla.  There's no overstating the importance of having great friends, and a great friend is any friend willing to spring for a bottle of BCS Vanilla.  At least the $40 price tag for BCS Vanilla was far more manageable than the Rare's ungodly sticker price.  We all knew for sure we wouldn't hate the Vanilla.  The question was whether we could fairly rate it, so closely on the heels of the Rare experience, a beer that leaves almost any other one feeling inferior.  Plus, there had been street chatter about the Vanilla's lack of actual vanilla flavor upon minimal aging.  Rumor was that if you sit on it for a year you could kiss that sweet vanilla taste goodbye.  While this concern seemed exaggerated, it at least had some teeth in our situation since our bottle was pushing on 3 years.  We awaited our pours with great anticipation and some doubt.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Goose Island Bourbon County Rare Stout - Review

It retailed for $40-50 a bottle.  It's fetching black market prices of $350 a bottle.  It's aged in barrels for a whiskey that itself sells for $250 a bottle.  I am and pretty much could only be talking about Goose Island Bourbon County Rare, the discontinued version of the BCS line that was aged for 2 years in barrels of 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle. Pappy is arguably the hottest and scarcest bourbon on the market, so it is of no doubt that a beer aged in it would generate tremendous buzz. Goose released bottlings of BCS Rare in 2010 and 2011.  Lines were long, shouting matches ensued among customers vying for a bottle, fight scenes erupted akin to the Anchorman scene where the news teams gang fight - with tridents.  Okay, it wasn't nearly that violent, but next time they release this, try line jumping in plain view and see what happens.  Naturally, the question is whether all of the hype surrounding this beer is even remotely justified.  I recently found out for myself.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Green Flash Hop Odyssey Black IPA - Review

While on a recent visit to Sheffield's, I had a pint of this served to me in a standard American pint glass. I was in the mood for something different and I had never had this one before. I've also had a lot of success with Green Flash's beers over the years. Their lineup leans toward the brutally bitter side, but they have shown to be capable of elegant restraint. I would not rate this one among my favorites from the San Diego beer practitioner.

DryHop Brewers - Your New Local

Hello there, Mr. and Mrs. Beer Fan, and all the ships at sea.  Recently, I posted at Chicago Foodies about Chicago's soon-to-be-open brewpub, DryHop Brewers, which will be opening soon and producing some mind-blowing brews. The Windy City is excited for their opening and they will be a terrific addition to the exploding craft beer community here.  Give it a read.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bell's Brewery Black Note Stout - Review

Not much to say about this beer that probably has not already been said.  This beer is one of the greats.  It's very obvious why.  Bell's took a great beer, Expedition Stout, and another great beer, Double Cream Stout, combined them, bourbon barreled them, and what you see is what you get.  It's an 11.5% dark-as-night, motor-oil-like stout that everyone wants and no one can find.  It's easily one of the ten best beers I've ever tried.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Goose Island Brewing Bourbon County Brand Baudoinia: Review

For whatever reason, at this site we have only reviewed a Goose Island beer on one occasion, which was Shaun's take on the Christmas ale from several years back.  We have yet to give the proper Mark and Shaun Beer Blog treatment to Chicago's highest profile brewer, remaining mum even on their acclaimed Bourbon County Stout.  Allow me to narrow this long-standing deficit by briefing on Goose's lovely little edition, Baudoinia.  That's using the term "little" quite loosely, as Baudoinia is a funky-barreled version of the BCS wielding an ABV of 15%.  Brewers Brett Porter and John Laffler concocted this brew for Goose Island by taking standard BCS, delectable enough in its native state, and barreling it in wood barrels harboring the namesake bacteria.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Green Flash Brewing Palate Wrecker Review

Green Flash is known by San Diego outsiders as the makers of ass-kicking IPA's and ridiculously hoppy beers in the patented San Diego style.  Bless them.  But in the past I have noted that they are capable of greatness, which always requires at least some restraint and nuance.  Note how their Imperial IPA, one of my all-time favorites, has its massive citrus and herbal hop profile carefully tamed by the malts.  Remarkably, their Palate Wrecker stands as maybe the best and most enjoyable example yet of a triple, or perhaps a quadruple, IPA. This is a monster, a leviathan boasting an impossible 149 IBU's!

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout Review - 2013. Still The One.

You've read all about the release. Now let's talk about the product itself, the fresh batch of 2013 KBS.  There were several complaints at this year's release party that the current edition "was watered down this year." Someone commented that the new bottle's description of KBS as "A Flavored Stout" frighteningly recalls the panned Frangelic Mountain Brown.  More than a few doubts lurked in the corners regarding this year's release.  Well, let me spread the light and inform that I have been to the mountain and it is good.  A buddy of mine secured me a 2013 four pack and when I retrieved it from him we split a precious bottle.  He unquestionably deserved to share in the bounty after his clutch acquisition of my KBS.  The sharp photo above is from his new retina-display iPad.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Deschutes Brewery Inversion IPA - Review

Deschutes has made a huge splash since arriving here in Chicago this year.  I was stunned to find Mirror Pond and Black Butte Porter available in bottles at the United Center (note that I was there to see - get this -the Pistons).  Mirror Pond was highly enjoyable upon my first-ever draught.  And I love the Hop Henge.  So, I was excited to finally try the Inversion IPA since the reviews had been quite positive.

Aleman/Two Brothers/Stone Dayman Coffee IPA - Review

I'm on an IPA run of late and the latest new one I tried was the Dayman Coffee IPA, a collaboration between Aleman/Two Brothers/Stone. Stone, of course, is the heavy hitter of the group, known worldwide for their uber-hoppy beers, bold takes on various other beer styles, and their propagation of San Diego IPA's to a world stage. Two Brothers hails from suburban Chicago in Warrenville, IL and is known for their Heavy Handed IPA, a competent, dense, malty take on a midwest IPA.  Aleman is one of the latest in the onslaught of new Chicago breweries but I know nothing about them yet.  I was told by a friend at a liquor store that the Dayman was a hit, "the beer of the year so far."  It gets a 93 at BeerAdvocate, which is "exceptional".  You can't find a bomber of it anywhere, but I happened upon a draught at Jerry's Sandwiches; I was there for a friend's birthday but when I saw this on tap it was also my birthday.  I love coffee, coffee-flavored beers, and, of course, hoppy beers. This beer needed a lot of mojo to withstand the hype.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA at the Kinderhook Tap - Review

I thought for sure he was joking.  When my friend told me several years ago that he saw a tap list with a Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA, a blend of its 60 and 90 Minute IPA's, I took it as a veritable April Fools, even though it was probably July.  It figured to be a gag, some zealous barkeep playing alchemist with the taps, blending the two beers together. Alas, a year later or so, Dogfish Head indeed made it official in their e-mail blast, informing that the 75 Minute IPA was being offered in large-format bottles.  This was no joke and I knew I had to try it, and soon.  I finally got my shot at the Kinderhook Tap in Oak Park, Illinois the other day.

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout Release - 2013 Edition

It's back.  Once again, I visited the hallowed halls of Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the release party in honor of their "highly acclaimed" Kentucky Breakfast Stout.  If you are a regular reader of our blog, thank you for having no life, and, also, I do not need to tell you about the depths of my love for this beer.  Having first tried it on Dark Lord Day, 2009, it introduced me to Founders, sparked my appreciation for barrel-aged beer, and helped ratchet up my beer appreciation to new levels.  But for you experts, I don't need to elaborate on Founders, KBS, or the like.  After the jump is a quick rundown of the 2013 event and the latest glorious installment of KBS.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Moylans Brewery Hop Craic XXXXIPA Review

Well, you can tell by the name of this beer that it's not a malt-heavy amber affair;  but it somehow succeeds despite a recipe that includes gargantuan amounts of hops and a 10.4% alcohol profile.  The four X's in the name aught to scare you if you are hop averse.  The word "Craic" is actually pronounced "Crack" because the abundance of hops are intended to appease hop addicts in the same way that - yep, you guessed it.