Above: 2014 Chicago Beer Festival at Union Station, Chicago
In the summer of 2001, I attended my first beer festival. It was in Atlanta. That was the day I fell in love with microbreweries, although it wasn’t my intention when I handed $20 to the ticket attendant in exchange for a cheap t-shirt and a complimentary pint glass for filling and refilling with beer.
I was there because my friends were there, girls were there, and we wanted to listen to live music, get drunk, and get laid on a hot Saturday afternoon. As I made my rounds to fill up my glass and guzzle the bubbly, skunky, funky, foamy elixirs with odd names of which I had never heard, I started to notice something besides the skin and cleavage: beer can actually be really good! This was gourmet beer! It wasn’t Coors, Budweiser, Miller, Rolling Rock, or even Guinness! What was an IPA? What was a Belgian? A porter? Or a doppelbock? I was such a curious child and wanted answers. And that was when I started getting them.
At the 2014 Chicago Beer Festival I drank my face off, but there was no way to sample even half of the 100+ beers there. So I aimed for as much variety as I could squeeze in during my limited time. And now I present a rapid fire review of 13 of the selections I tasted (6 this week, and 7 next week). Each of these reviews is very short due to my limited ability to smell, savor, and analyze each beer. So my scores are just my overall reaction to these little mug-fulls of my favorite substance. I am rating these in the order in which I consumed them.
Aquanaut “Coffee Porter”
Strong coffee and malt aroma. Decent flavor with the same profiles, and a touch of bitter, dark chocolate. It was a bit watery and not as strong in flavor as I had hoped but it was pretty good. Aquanaut is a very new brewery, and I wish them well but they’re going to have to do better than this if they want to compete against the big boys of Chicago and the Midwest. 7/10
Lagunitas “Couch Trippin’ Fusion” dry hopped brown ale
This was one of my two favorites at the festival. It is served only on tap and was a bit of an experiment for my beloved folks at Lagunitas. Dark brown, refreshing, strong, cool, sharp, piney and hoppy flavor with a slight but noticeable malt profile. There was virtually no up-front bitterness at all, but it gradually and smoothly made its way into the palate during the aftertaste. This beer was awesome. 9/10
Left Hand “Polestar Pilsner” German Pilsner
I didn’t drink this. I tend to overlook pilsners because, like simple lagers and Penelope Cruz, they just don’t do it for me. But since I adore Left Hand so much I waited in line for about 10 minutes to give it a try. I approached the table, smiled, and held out my little mug. The representative informed me they were all out of beer. Seriously? 2 hours before the end of the event? How about an announcement so I didn’t have to wait in line? How about some fucking foresight and proper planning? How about an apology? No, this walking pile of muddy boners just heartlessly told me they were out, and they weren’t getting any more. What a way to market your product and respect your customers, shit-heels. Go jump on a seat-less bicycle and ride it into a volcano for wasting my time. My rating for the beer: none. My rating for Left Hand: 1/10, and 2 big middle fingers from each of my own hands in their foul direction for their treachery.
Finch’s “Fascist Pig” amber ale
Red in color, caramel and malt in flavor, a nicely balanced and tasty ale. Simple and excellent drinking. 8/10
Finch’s “Threadless” IPA
I think the folks at Finch’s misspelled “Flavorless”. This was one of the weakest IPA’s I have ever tried, but that’s not to say it’s an awful beer. It had a nice texture and an “OK” beer flavor but I would never recommend paying for it unless it was very cheap and it was time to mow the lawn or chug something wet from the fishing dock. The hops were so lacking it almost tasted like a mild American pale ale. 6/10
Dark Horse “Fore” smoked stout
This smelled great. I tasted chocolate, malt, mild spices, and a pronounced roasted and smoky finish. It was not quite as smoky as a traditional rauchbier, but it is not intended to be. As a stout I expected it to be a bit more robust, but I will buy this if I see it on a shelf and give it another try since I love this style so much. 7.5/10
Dark Horse “4 Elf” winter warmer
Here is an interesting and “not-for-everyone” brew. It is a spicy ale with cinnamon, clove, and mace (“mace” being the strong spice, not the stuff girls spray directly into my eyeballs when I ask them out by flashing my massive stromboli at them). It achieved what it set out to achieve, I’ll give it that. It had a heavy clove, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon flavor. It tasted like Christmas in a bottle. If you’re into that then I recommend it. It would definitely be a “fun” beer for the holiday season to share with friends and family. I enjoy winter warmers and this one is well crafted but it’s a bit too outrageous for me. 7/10.
This beer review is to be continued next week, my beer mates. What to expect next week: cider infiltration, IPA, vanilla porter, Belgian style ale, wild ale, Belgian witbier, and one of the coolest American pale ales I’ve ever tasted… and some good music and a brat in a pretzel bun.