Lolita for the Holidays

10784_10100943401383456_776858323305305179_n

Goose Island Lolita is one of my favorite beers to grab at the Half Door down the street from my house here in Hartford. Lolita is one of Goose Island’s Vintage Ales, all of which are unique Belgian Style Ales. Lolita in particular is a Belgian Style Wild Ale. The wild name points to the bacteria or yeast that the beer is exposed to, and largely gives it it’s taste. Lolita is aged in wine barrels on raspberries and her main flavor is sour.

The experience I had drinking Lolita was great. It smells nice and tart – and my first sip gave me a little bitter hoppy flavor to usher in the sour with some contrast. It went down smooth and I ended tasting some caramel malt flavor and was left with a nice, sour berry taste.

All in all I loved it and think people need to bring a bottle of this to their holiday gatherings. I like it because my family drink a lot of wine over the holidays, and could use a class or two on decent beer. This tastes at least a little familiar, but could really open the door to interest in craft beer. If you have family that won’t drink anything too fruity – this has enough body and additional flavor to satisfy, and if you have family that won’t drink anything to heavy or bitter – this has enough fruit to keep them comfortable and safe.

Lolita is a real work of art, along with Goose Islands other vintage ales and is a great choice for the holidays.

Advertisements

Beer on Division Street

IMG_20130522_204228

Those of you who have been reading know that some of my best beer tasting days come unexpected. I was flying back into Chicago after a job interview, and ready to drive back home to Green Bay later in the afternoon (after a terrible, overnight delayed flight I might add) when my boyfriend invited me to join his brother’s birthday party. As part of Chicago’s Beer week, they were going to jump around a couple bars featuring IPA’s, and that’s my kind of party. The night turned out well in part because of the kind of beer I was drinking. I noticed while I was writing this that all of the beer I had was relatively strong, flavorful, and light enough to have a lot. Cheers to that.

Our first stop was Small Bar, where I started with the Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. There’s always one beer during a beer week, whether you visit for the whole week or just a day, that you finish thinking “this is great for beer week;” this was that beer. This beer is nice and light, not too strong, but has a great bitter flavor with a nice sweet malt aftertaste. I say it’s great for beer week, because one or two won’t get you plastered, you can take the time to taste it, and be ready for more. It was a great start to the night.

Most folks who like a good beer have had a Stone IPA, but it was a treat to try it on cask. In true Stone tradition, this IPA is flavorful & bold. It’s much smoother on cask – and if you’re a fan of coarse IPA’s you should be prepared. The flavor is great. It has a nice citrusy smell, light citrus bite when you start sipping it, and a nice minty hop flavor. It’s a great example of a classic, well-made IPA.

I just have to add that a grabbed a side of macaroni and cheese at small bar. It’s really good. It is full of not too sharp creamy white cheddar, is topped with bread crumbs, and is the perfect size for a snack if you’re having trouble holding out until dinner.

Our next stop was Jerry’s, both for dinner & drinks. My next beer was Three Floyd’s Artic Panzer Wolf – I had this once or twice before this visit, but never really took time to write down how it tasted. Honestly it’s fairly standard – but went really well with dinner. This beer is medium weight – and super flavorful. If you’re a hop head who likes some creative malt flavor on the side, this is a good one for you. It also balanced out my dinner really well.

This is another one of those paragraphs in the blog that talks about food. I just have to mention Jerry’s – because you shouldn’t ever go to Chicago without going to Jerry’s and getting a kick ass sandwich. They have a menu of dozen’s creatively crafted and named sandwiches. If for some reason there isn’t something for you – you can even build your own. My personal favorite is the “PB&J&C,” the “C” stands for chutney. Think about your classic PB&J with light cheese, a touch of super flavorful chutney, and some fresh fruit. It’s really a perfect twist on classic.

I should say, I rarely use the phrase “perfect twist on a classic;” if I want a classic, I’ll just have that. Jerry’s has something for everyone – and always a perfect sandwich to go with your beer. I left this experience both refreshed, a little drunk, and ready for our next stop.

Last, we stopped at Bangers & Lace, where I forgot in the presence of an intriguing menu that we were even out for IPA. First I tried the Stone Imperial Russian Stout – I liked this one, but I just had a couple drinks; at this point in the night, I had no business having any more. It was sweet & smooth, but still really strong. It has a balanced flavor involving dark fruit, chocolate, and coffee flavors. The beer is medium weight, so you can drink it pretty quickly if you like the taste, but you’ll probably feel it if you don’t take your time for at least a little while.

The beer I decided to order a full glass of was Stone Mixtape. This had a nice caramel malty taste offset by a few bitter notes that give it a seriously well rounded flavor with a spicy edge that also includes a hint of sharp citrus and bitterness. It’s no surprise that if you look into it a little more, you’ll find out that this beer is a limited release blend of some amazing past Stone creations. It was another light weight, strong beer with a nice kick. Your stomach could handle eating with it – but honestly; it would just spoil the taste.

I wouldn’t recommend either of the Stone beers here for those of you who are new to the beer world; they’re really something to ease into. In a nutshell, you’ll like both of these if you like sweet, creamy, and strong. If you’re looking for something standard to compare to, I think that those of you who like Belgian Abbey style ale should give these a try.

Overall, it was a great night. More information on these places, which were all great, is below. If someone ever invites you out for a good night of quality beer drinking with good people, I recommend going. Socializing with intelligent people is fun, and good for your health. While Wisconsinites tend to have a foul opinion of folks from Chicago – I will say Chicagoans are really starting to appreciate, serve, and make good craft beer. It’s always a good day when we can highlight something we have in common.

More Information on the Places:

Jerry’s: @WithHotSause, http://jerryssandwiches.com/*

Bangers & Lace: @bangersandlace, http://bangersandlacechicago.com/

Small Bar: @SmallBarDst, http://www.thesmallbar.com/

*I want to start lobbying for Jerry’s to have a side of grilled vegetables. Then I could have an absolutely perfect meal there. They either have veggies with interesting dressing, or pickled veggies. Grilled vegetables are pretty serious to me.

The Best Thing You Will Ever Do on a Saturday Morning

Image

Half Acre Brewery is a great place to grab a tour for those who like to wake up for a Saturday morning adventure. I am not a morning person – but I was really proud of myself when I woke up early enough to pick up a very necessary bagel and coffee before making an hour drive into Chicago to get in line for a chance to join the Half Acre Brewery tour. I knew that if I wasn’t in line in time to be included in the lucky 60 people allowed on the tour at 11am – I could still enjoy the tap room (and so can you if you don’t do well with mornings).

When the line starts getting long – a nice young man with nice snug jeans will come out and count the people who will be able to get in, let you know where the cut off is, and tell everyone else that the tap room will be open. My boyfriend and I were behind the cut off, and too tired to be heartbroken. At 11am they opened the doors and started letting people in. Somehow by the wonders of nature we were the last two people let into the tour, even though earlier we might have left. Half Acre Brewery tours prove that miracles can happen to anyone.

First off – you’re going to get three pints of solidly great beer for 10 dollars on this tour, plus the glass you get to bring home. This is by far – the most for your money in dollars per ounce that you’re going to get on a beer tour (that you randomly attend without any pre-arranged membership, etc.) – especially in a big city. I’m going to tell you what I filled my pint glass with.

I started with the Pony Pilsner. This was great. It was a full flavored bitter beer that has a really fresh, crisp ending to it. I wouldn’t recommend it right away to a beginning beer drinker because it might be a bit much, but would recommend it to folks looking for a good alternative to a filling fruity wheat beer over the summer. This is has a fresh enough taste that it works for the summer, while still satisfying the bitter beer lover.

The Akari Shogun English Brown was my second beer & is great because it’s really, really smooth. It’s also right in the middle of the bitter – sweet scale and a solid combination of nutty and juicy. The flavor is a little overwhelming at first, but it’s quick to get used to and I would have a hard time not recommending it to anyone.

Last, I had the Ambrosia, a great wheat beer. A lot of wheat beers that folks start making closer to summer either taste like Lambic or Lemonade and could replace an entire meal at the rate they expand in your stomach. This is brewed with oranges & hibiscus – and has a nice malty finish. This one is pretty medium weight – with a really creative and well balanced flavor that you just have to try.

Also available that day was Half Acre’s staple, Daisy Cutter Pale Ale. It’s great pale ale. The situation is that I didn’t have it… that day, so I didn’t really write down anything about how I think it tastes. Honestly, I have it at least once every time I am in the Chicago area so you should just try it. Per the name, it is obviously a hoppy beer with a tiny floral hint. Just trust me and have some – you basically have to.

You also should take sometime to walk around in this place and look at all of the characters on the tanks, and the stickers on the wall. You’ll heard someone yell when it’s time for you to go – but these folks aren’t just good brewers, they’re fun characters – so take some time to look around, and even pop over to the tap room afterwards if you have enough space left in your stomach.

On a scale from “I hate everything on Saturday mornings,” to “I wake up with the sun and everything before noon is wonderful,” this is totally a 9 on the “worth it” scale in my book. These folks are energetic, happy to have you, and they know their shit. The only thing I would say is that you need to remember to eat beforehand, because otherwise you’ll be drunk during the tour, and you’ll start having conversations when someone is trying to teach you about beer. You really should listen to these guys – they’re smart, and even a little funny.

Things to Google before you go: (some of these are dictated by the characters on the tanks – have fun!)

New season of Arrested Development

Devil’s Half Acre

Why cans are better than bottles

(Project) Narwhal

Follow them on Twitter:

@halfacrebeer

More info on the beer:

http://halfacrebeer.com/beer/