Barb and I hadn’t done any traveling in a while so this past August when friends Pat and Marcie MacAuley asked if we’d like to accompany them on a fall trip to Chicago we promptly answered yes. The question was whether we could find the time.
September and October were going to be busy. There was the annual week long Customer Appreciation Sale followed by Saturday wine making demonstrations followed by a series of wine making seminars at various branches of the Kent District Library. After checking our calendar we found we had no free time until the first week in November and the prospect of visiting the Windy City with wintry blasts blowing off the Big Lake didn’t particularly appeal to any of us. We decided to make plans for a mid-week three day sojourn anyway.
We packed a lot of other activities into those three days—standing on the extended glass ledge of the Willis Tower (quite disconcerting for someone who is uncomfortable climbing a ladder), listening to the blues at the Kingston Mines (seedy but well worth the price of admission), watching improv comedy at the IO Theater (nice venue and quite affordable) and enjoying an excellent Italian dinner at Trattoria Giani (great food, excellent wine and impeccable service).
Of course we also made time to hit up a couple breweries—a first visit to Half Acre and a return visit to Goose Island. All in all it was a nice trip. The unseasonably sunny and warm November weather made it even nicer.
New and Returning Beer
- Clown Shoes Flight of the Angry Beast, $15.39/22oz - "For the fourth installment in our "Beast" series, Sir Walter Scott has tamed the irate monster. Sort of. Here you see the creature redirected as he attempts to incinerate a herd of innocent unicorns. To celebrate, we blended 1/3 Undead Party Crasher aged in bourbon barrels, 1/3 Blaecorn Unidragon aged in scotch barrels and 1/3 Billionaire aged in scotch barrels" (source).
- He'brew Jewbelation 19, $13.79/22oz - "Over the last decade, Shmaltz Brewing has boldly elevated each year’s Jewbelation® with increased amounts of malts, hops, and ABV — in 2004, they debuted Miraculous Jewbelation® with 8 malts, 8 hops, 8% ABV and continued through 2013’s Jewbelation Reborn® (17 malts, 17 hops, 17% ABV). Similar to 2014’s Jewbelation 18®, this year’s Jewbelation 19® features the brand spankin’ new craft beer category, Black Session Barleywine. Brewed with 10 Malts and 9 Hops, and coming in at 10.9% ABV, Jewbelation 19® will begin to warm craft beer aficionados’ bellies (and will be available in alllll 37 states Shmaltz beers are distributed) starting just before Thanksgiving 2015" (source).
- He'brew Kentucky Chanukah, $6.19/22oz - Dark ale aged in Jim Beam and Heaven Hill barrels (source).
- Alaskan Smoked Porter, $8.49/22oz - "Known as “rauchbier” in Germany, smoke-flavored beers were virtually unknown in the U.S. until Alaskan Smoked Porter was developed in 1988" (source).
- Founders Dirty Bastard, $18.89/12pk cans - "So good it’s almost wrong. Dark ruby in color and brewed with seven varieties of imported malts. Complex in finish, with hints of smoke and peat, paired with a malty richness and a right hook of hop power to give it the bad attitude that a beer named Dirty Bastard has to live up to. Ain’t for the wee lads" (source).
- Green Flash Segal Ranch, $2.09/12oz - "Segal Ranch Session IPA features Tomahawk, Centennial and Cascade hops that were hand-selected by our Brewmaster exclusively from our friends at Segal Ranch in Yakima, Washington. The verdant pungency and citrus aromatics from Tomahawk hops serve as the perfect base layer to allow the flavors of bright floral and pine sap from Centennial hops to emerge on the palate. Notes of resinous citrus from Segal Ranch’s high-oil Cascade hops shine through the finish" (source).
- Griffin Claw Three Scrooges, $2.19/16oz - "Brewed with honey, orange peel and spices, this winter ale is perfect for the season" (source).
- New Holland Cabin Fever, $1.79/12oz - "Cabin Fever is a roasty brown ale and a hearty, comforting companion for long, mind-bending winters" (source).
- Traveler Jolly Traveler, $1.69/12oz - "Jolly Traveler is a cheerful winter beer inspired by the senses of the season. A wheat beer made with real orange, pomegranate and holiday spices, this Traveler is a refreshing libation for the season of festivity" (source).
- Right Brain Naughty Girl Stout, $7.19/22oz - "Thin mint cookie, meet John Niedermaier A stout made with organic locally-grown whole leaf mint. She’s just back from a stint in the cooler for being too naughty. She might have mellowed out but this stout is still naughty at heart" (source).
- Petoskey Horny Monk, $2.39/16oz - "A deep reddish, malty, and complex Belgian style ale. Six different types of malted barley, Belgian candied syrup and Belgian yeast are combined to produce a very smooth, complex and slightly sweet ale" (source).
- Petoskey Sparkle Lager, $2.39/16oz - "Our homage to the original “Petoskey Sparkle” brewed by Petoskey Brewing from 1898 until 1915. Wheat and four special malts combine with three different types of hops to create a super clean, easy drinking lager" (source).
- Petoskey Minds Eye PA, $2.39/16oz - "Burnt copper color and giant hop aroma come to the forefront in this traditional American IPA. Rich caramel malt and red wheat balance the dry bitter finish of this full-flavor craft brew" (source).
- Atwater Cherry Stout, $2.9/12oz - "Cherry Stout is a blend of 6 malts combined with Montmorency Cherry concentrate from our home state of Michigan. A stout to be cherished" (source).
- Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, $1.99/12oz - "Winter Solstice® is our take on the classic style of “winter warmer.” Boasting a deep amber hue and rich mouthfeel, its creamy finish will lift your spirits. Hints of toffee, spice, and caramel tease the senses making this the perfect ale to share with friends and family during the cold days and long nights of winter" (source).
- Destihl Dubbel, $8.69/500ml - "Our Belgian-style Dubbel Ale captivates with its dark brown color and dense, mousse-like head, then enraptures you with aromas of caramel malt & rich chocolate malt alongside ripe, banana-like fruity esters, and finally seizes your palate with its malt sweetness, chocolate-like flavors and a dry finish" (source).
- Destihl Quad, $10.89/500ml - "Our classic, Belgian-style Quadrupel Abbey Ale greets you with a stunning chestnut-garnet color and rich aroma of figs followed by dark fruit-like flavors of currants, dates and black cherries which give way to toffee, molasses and hints of lightly roasted fruity coffee and then leaves you with its capstone, spicy dry finish" (source).
- Destihl Tripel, $10.09/500ml - "Our Belgian-style Abbey Tripel Ale approaches you with a pastoral, pale-colored serenity before unveiling its veracious labyrinth of mildly spicy, fruit-like and clove-like aromas & flavors, light-medium body and pleasantly sweet but well-attenuated finish" (source).
- Destihl Bela Imperial Pilsner, $11.29/500ml - "Bela may sound like a sweet name, but she's actually quite bitter. We use generous amounts of Czech Saaz hops in this imperial Pilsner, showcasing the beautiful, spicy and earthy Noble hop aroma & flavor, with a hop bitterness that is balanced by a gentle warming, medium-body, oak tannins & residual malty sweetness that still finishes dry but is just enough to remind you that Bela might have a sweet side to cozy up to after all" (source).
- Jolly Pumpkin Vintage Noel, $15.39/750ml - "Deep mahogany and malty, layered hops, flavors of figs, raisins, sugar plums, cashews betwixt rum laden truffles" (source).
- Jolly Pumpkin Vintage Parcela, $15.39/750ml - "Packed with real pumpkins, hints of spice and gentle kiss of cacao to lighten the soul. An everyday easy way to fill your squashy quotient. Only available for a few short months. Not to be missed" (source).
- Jolly Pumpkin Vintage Fuego, $15.39/750ml - "To catch a bit of soft radiance in each bottle, we wait for fall colors to begin their bright and fleeting glow before brewing this wonderful ale under their autumn fire. Gentle amber malt blends smooth caramel notes, gently lapping against a distant shore of forgotten spice. A beer to sip, contemplate " (source).
- Left Hand Bittersweet, $10.09/22oz - "The coffee’s dark cherry flavors and spicy undertones weave into the rich milky sweet stout like a chocolate-covered espresso bean melting on your tongue. Bitter then sweet. Sweet then bitter. It’s bittersweet" (source).
- Shorts Cup of Joe, $2.39/12oz - "Cup A Joe Coffee Creme Stout uses Higher Grounds roasted fair trade espresso beans in every facet of the brewing process. Prominent aromatics of malt, espresso, and cocoa are abundant, and there are robust flavors of cream and coffee. This is the perfect morning night capper" (source).
- North Coast Steller IPA, $6.49/22oz - "Like muscat, spruce tips, and pennyroyal, North Coast Steller IPA is redolent of resinous terpenes: myrcene, linalool, pinene, and geraniol. An unparalleled hop happening" (source).
- Odd Side Java Mint, $2.29/12oz - "Craving ice cream? This stout will ease your taste buds. It the perfect marriage of mint-chocolate-chip-ice cream and roasted coffee" (source).
- Finch's Fascist Pig, $2.69/16oz - "Fascist Pig is a deep red, malt-forward ale brewed with plenty of caramel malts and a touch of rye for a hint of spice. The beer won a bronze medal in the strong beer category at the 2014 International Beer Festival. This big American red ale is brewed and dry-hopped with palisade, an earthy and somewhat floral, mentholated American variety, and Zythos, an American blend" (source).
- Finch's Hardcore Chimera, $2.69/16oz - "Hardcore Chimera is an American style imperial IPA brewed with Citra, Simcoe, Columbus, Cascade and Mosaic hops. The beer won a silver medal at the 2014 International Beer Festival in Rhode Island. Ringing in with over 80 IBUs Hardcore's intense aroma and flavor of passionfruit and citrus is balanced out against a hearty grain bill that lends to Hardcore's deceptively drinkable 9% ABV" (source).
- Finch's Sobek and Set, $2.69/16oz - "Sobek & Set is named after the Egyptian gods representing a boar and a crocodile. The beer is dark with mahogany and burgundy highlights. This is achieved by using generous amounts of Briess Midnight Wheat for a dark color and smooth finish without the astringent, roasted qualities. Caramel malt is also present. This beer is balanced with earthy and citrus hops" (source).
- Victory Winter Cheer, $1.79/12oz - "Winter weather may drive us indoors but cannot dampen our spirits when hearth, home and hops meet in jubilation. Hoisted high in its golden glory, Winter Cheers lives up to its name, fueling festive times and chasing winter’s chill. Glowing and glimmering, frothy and shimmering, our celebratory wheat ale features luscious fruity and spicy notes, making it a perfect brew to brighten spirits even on the deepest of nights" (source).
- Big Sky Powder Hound, $1.69/12oz - "Two words describe Montana winters...cold, dark and snowy. And we wouldn't have it any other way, because it's the only time of year for Powder Hound, our northern Rockies strong ale. Rick malt and taste and an avalanche of hops will make you want to say these three words — 'I'll have another Powder Hound!'" (source).
- Anchor Christmas, $1.79/12oz - "This is the forty-first annual Christmas Ale from the brewers at Anchor. It is sold only from early November to mid–January. The Ale's recipe is different every year—as is the tree on the label—but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew" (source).
Video of the Week | Anchor Christmas Ale
A closer look at one of best Christmas beers around.