Saturday, June 25, 2011

Introducing the Chicago Beer Project

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

June 25, 2011

With review #17 on The List completed, the first project here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights will need to go on a bit of a hiatus.  While there are only three beers to go, they will all require some waiting.  AleSmith’s YuleSmith is due out any day now, Founders Devil Dancer is due out in July and Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA, well, that might not even get released this year just came out

So that is where we stand with Project #1.  In the meantime, the woman and I have finally picked a date in mid-July for the big move out to Colorado and while we are still here I wanted to make sure to get a Chicago-related list under my belt.  So, for Project #2 I am going to make an effort to review 20 Chicago beers before mid-July.  This project will be known from here on out as The Chicago Beer Project (CBP).  The CBP will require some hustle on my part, but I think I can make it happen before the end of July and at the very least I’ll be able to bring a few bottles out to Colorado and finish up the process once I’m out there. 

The big question at hand is what beers will the Chicago Beer Project include?  Of course, I am not simply going to review the first 20 Chicago Area beers I get my hands on.  My goal for the CBP is to create a list of 20 Chicago Area beers that every beer-loving Chicagoan and every Chicago beer-tourist should make a point to try.  Narrowing a list like this down will neither be easy nor without controversy, but in the end I expect to have a well-rounded variety of styles, breweries and beers represented.  Plus, I think the controversy will make it a little more fun.

So what is a “Chicago Area Beer”?  Well, this is a tough question to answer, but given that there are several outstanding breweries in the suburbs that help influence the beer culture within the City itself it would be unreasonable to rule them out. 

In order for a beer to be considered a Chicago Area Beer for the purposes of this list it must be brewed and readily available within what is known as the Chicago Metropolitan Statistical Area (or CMSA).  Additionally, the company which brews the beer must be based in the CMSA and if it is brewed in one of the non-Illinois counties that are a part of the CMSA, it must be distributed in Illinois.  Basically, it has to be brewed by Chicago Area people for Chicago Area people.

This brings us to the awkward question of what to do with Goose Island products.  While Goose was certainly this city’s pioneer in the craft beer world, the company is no longer owned by anyone in Chicago, in Illinois or even in the United States.  In late March of this year, the Chicago-based brewing company announced that it would sell out to Anheuser-Busch InBev.  For that reason alone, I will not be including any Goose Island beers on the Chicago Beer Project’s list.  I have already had dozens of people arguing me on this point (although, dozens have agreed with me as well) telling me that leaving them out makes this list incomplete.  I understand and respect that opinion, but here is my reasoning behind my choice:

What it boils down to is that the purpose of this project is to do a small amount of promotion for Chicago’s craft beer culture.  Goose Island’s new parent company has spent decades working to wipe out any and all competition by any means necessary, legal or illegal, moral or immoral.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a link to “Beer Wars”, it’s an excellent place to begin learning about what Anheuser-Busch is really all about. 

My firm belief is that A-B will not discontinue these practices anytime soon simply because they own a craft brewery.  They will continue to make every effort to make life miserable for the little guys and the little guys are exactly who I am attempting to promote with this project.  Therefore, promoting Goose Island is completely counter to my goal here and it will not be done.

Anyhow, the more important matter at hand is not which beers I will be excluding, but which beers I will be including on the list.  So far, I have ten of my own, and I am still looking for nominations for the other ten.  Keep in mind that I want to try to avoid seasonals and limited releases in order to make sure people who wish to attempt to try them all have a chance to do so.
My list so far in no particular order:

1.      Panama Limited Red – Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery
2.      Anti-Hero IPA – Revolution Brewing Company
3.      Mathias Imperial IPA – Haymarket Pub & Brewery
4.      Gumballhead – Three Floyds Brewing Company
5.      Resistance IPA – Two Brothers Brewing Company
6.      Daisy Cutter Pale Ale – Half Acre Beer Company
7.      Pullman Brown Ale – Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery
8.      Eugene American Porter – Revolution Brewing
9.      Iron Works Alt – Metropolitan Brewing
10.  Dysfunctionale – Piece Brewery & Pizzaria

Let me know what you would like to see on the list.  I already have a spreadsheet going with a tally of all the beers that the good folks over at r/beer and Beer Advocate have nominated, but please go ahead, add yours to the list.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review #17 - Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

June 5, 2011

Again, nothing notable about the acquisition of this beer so I’ll skip a long-winded intro on this one.  On a separate note, while we wait for the final three beers from The List to come in, be on the lookout for the announcement of our next project here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights.

ABV: 11.5%
IBUs: 85
Brewery Location: Frederick, Maryland
Style: American Double/Imperial India Pale Ale
Average Beer Advocate Rating: B+/4
My Beer Advocate Rating: B/3.55
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 849/17th
Brewery Description: Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale
Bottled On: Vintage 11FF (June 2011)

APPEARANCE:  (3.5 out of 5) The Double Dog Double Pale Ale pours a deep, reddish copper.  A thin, but tenacious and barely off-white head tops the glass and then just sits…and sits…and sits and stays.  Not what you would expect from the beer with a wild-eyed dog on the label.  But really, the head retention was quite nice.  I would have rated the Flying Dog higher if it were not for the near-complete lack of lacing. 

SMELL:  (4 out of 5) This was an unusual beer for me in the smell department.  I can generally tell the strength of the aroma before my nose reaches the glass, but with this offering from Flying Dog my nose was well into the glass before it hit me, and oddly enough, it hit me hard.  When I got nothing on the way in I expected the smell to be weak, but it most certainly was not.  Just well contained in the pint glass I guess.  Probably more of a product of the environment than anything else, but I digress.  The aroma is sweet and malty with a very familiar, but faint smell of wet wood.  It gives creates a very comforting feel.  Again, odd for the rebellious attitude Flying Dog seeks to portray.

TASTE:  (3.5 out of 5) Yep.  That’s certainly 11.5%.  Clocking in as the beer with the highest ABV reviewed on The List so far, the alcohol is very noticeable right off the bat.  It is accompanied, however, by a sweet, strong malty presence before it eventually gives way to a straight-up bitter finish.  The aftertaste is exceptionally dry and the hop character seems quite grassy.  What may be most noticeable, however, is its complete lack of citrus flavors.  Most of the other Double IPAs on the list are loaded with grapefruit and orange, this is most certainly not.  What may be tougher to notice, but is certainly there however, is a subtle note of peat, generally found in scotch, but not something I have ever noticed in a beer before. 

MOUTHFEEL:  (3 out of 5) The Double Dog is fairly oily, but again, just as was the case with the previous review of Victory’s Hop Wallop, this Flying Dog has a rare, dry mouthcoating feel.  That said the high alcohol and hop content make this dry coating less harsh than its Keystone State counterpart. 

OVERALL:  (3.5 out of 5) The Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale is just as complex as its name is.  There is a lot going on in this beer and while it does all balance out in the end, it takes your palate on a wild ride beforehand.  Four words could be used to describe this beer: All over the place.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, but not necessarily a good one either.

DRAWBACKS:  The lack of focus here was my biggest issue.  I do appreciate Flying Dog’s willingness to experiment and take some risks, but one of the risks in a beer like this is that it can confuse the palate and turn people off.  With all of that said, this is still a good beer and an even better one if you are a DIPA fanatic wanting to break the mold a bit.

SOUND:  I’ve already used some crazy Miles Davis stuff to describe a beer in the past, and I think this one may fall into that category as well.  However, the notes of peat really did make me think of a scotch and it may be more appropriate to be sipping this from a snifter and listening to some Sinatra, even if that would drive the Flying Dog guys nuts.

As a final note, the story of Flying Dog is one of the more unique out there in the craft beer world.  It is worth a visit to their site