Beer Review: Cut Throat Pale Ale [Finch’s Beer Company]

Cut Throat Pale Ale [Finch's Beer Company]

Cut Throat Pale Ale
Brewery: Finch’s Beer Company (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 5.6%

In my quest to accommodate myself with Chicago’s ever-growing craft beer scene, I decided to check out Finch’s Beer Company, another new upstart in the city. Finch’s is a collaboration between owners Benjamin and Paul Finch, and head brewer Richard Grant (formerly of suburb brewery Flossmoor Station). Despite being very new to the scene, the company already has two beers available in cans across the Chicagoland area: Golden Wing Blonde Ale and Cut Throat Pale Ale. I picked up a 4-pack of the latter.

When poured into a glass, Cut Throat has a hazy orange appearance. Its aroma brings out citrus notes, but these are not as apparent when tasting. I noticed a very malty taste, with a lingering bitterness on the tongue. This has a heavier body than other local pale ales (such as Half Acre’s amazing Daisy Cutter). Hints of caramel are also present.

Cut Throat is a worthy entry into Chicago’s pale ale market, but I feel that it still has room for improvement. Finch’s Beer Company is an up-and-coming brewery that is still very new, so I am eager to see what else they have in store. As it stands, Cut Throat is a good, drinkable beer, but could be even better if refined.

7/10

Beer Review: Pegasus IPA [Argus Brewery]

Pegasus IPA

Pegasus IPA
Brewery: Argus Brewery (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.5%

New breweries are popping up like daisies here in Chicago. Argus Brewery, located deep in the South Side, is one of the latest in town to start selling bottles locally. As someone who is always willing to support area craft beer, I picked up a six pack of one of their flagship offerings: Pegasus IPA.

After pouring Pegasus into a pint glass, I was very surprised with its color. This is significantly darker in appearance compared to most American IPAs, as it has a copper-like red look to it. Its aroma is very subdued, with only slight hoppy notes. The taste, however, piles on the hops, and they leave a lingering bitterness reminiscent of grapefruit. Traces of caramel are also present.

Pegasus IPA is a reasonably drinkable beer with a good ABV kick, but it lacks a special “oomph” to make it stand out from the rest of the pack. I still enjoyed my sampling, but this is not something I will go out of my way to get again. I have to admit that I found it somewhat amusing that the brewery puts a mini-review directly on their labels, though, even going so far as to include an “overall impression”.

6.5/10

Beer Review: Mr. Ouroboros [Half Acre Beer Company]

Mr. Ouroboros [Half Acre Beer Company]

Mr. Ouroboros
Brewery: Half Acre Beer Company (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 6.0%

Last month’s release of Half Acre’s Sticky Fat was a huge hit in our household. With the brewery’s leftover wet hops from the Sticky Fat batch, Half Acre opted to brew Mr. Ouroboros, what they call a “German-Americo Wet Hop Pale Ale.” Like its predecessor, Mr. Ouroboros has an amusing little backstory. From Half Acre’s blog:

Mr. Ouroboros is the ghost of Coney Bottoms, the one and only concrete evidence of the StickyFat Bear. Coney Bottoms, a simple minded farmer that happened to be puttering around in the wrong row when the StickyFat bear was gorging on the ooey-gooey, was taken down by the bear. Since then, the ghost of Coney Bottoms, who the hill-people call Mr. Ouroboros, resurfaces each cycle to loom, to lurk, to gurgle.

As one farmer’s 11 year old son recounts:

“Daddy, I saw the Mr. Ouroboros creaking and cacklin’ in the field…….gumming all he’s got left of his hand and makin’ creepy.”

This wet hop brew pays homage to this cycle and Mr. Ouroboros.

Outside of entertaining tales, the two beers have another thing in common: they are both delicious.

Mr. Ouroboros has a hazy orange appearance, and it smells of floral and citrus goodness. This is a juicy beer, one that oozes of those same floral and citrus notes. It reminds me a lot of Daisy Cutter, but hoppier with an even longer-lasting bitterness. Grapefruit is also very noticeable.

At a solid 6% ABV, Mr. Ouroboros is an easily drinkable beer. It smells delicious and tastes just as good. Some people may be turned off by the lingering bitterness, but this is right up my alley. Another wonderful beer from my favorite local brewery.

9/10

Mr. Ouroboros is currently available for growler pours at the brewery. It may not be around long, so make sure to pick it up ASAP.

Beer Review: Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout [North Coast]

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout [North Coast]

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
Brewery: North Coast Brewing Co. (Fort Bragg, CA)
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.0%

I didn’t think it would happen so quick, but the recent decrease in temperatures has already had me craving a strong stout. What better way to satisfy this urge than with the legendary Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout?

This beer from North Coast Brewing Co. has won numerous awards and medals from all sorts of beer festivals, including SEVEN gold medals at the World Beer Championships. It holds an “A” rating on BeerAdvocate and a 100 overall score on RateBeer. The praise is unanimous.

Folks, this beer lives up to the hype. It is as dark as they come, almost motor oil in appearance, and it has plenty of ABV at 9%. Its aroma brings traditional smells of coffee and chocolate. The taste is a terrific blend of the two flavors, and has a creamy mouthfeel. As other complexities start to come through, the stout leaves a lingering myriad of flavors. The hops become noticeable, but are balanced out by an overlying sweetness. If you dig deeper, there are hints of dark fruits and molasses as well. Seriously, this is a never-ending adventure.

Old Rasputin’s alcohol content is noticeable, but never becomes overwhelming. This is a perfect winter beer, best for those days when you wish to remain indoors while watching the snow fall outside. Bold, rich and well-balanced, this Russian imperial stout is more than worthy of its reputation. Bring it on, Old Man Winter!

10/10

Beer Review: Sticky Fat [Half Acre Beer Company]

Sticky Fat [Half Acre Beer Company]

Sticky Fat
Brewery: Half Acre Beer Company (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: American Dark Ale
ABV: 6.5%

A couple weeks ago, Half Acre Beer Company released a returning favorite known as Sticky Fat. The brewery even has a story to go along with this local favorite. Here is how the company’s blog tells the tale:

The lore goes that each year as soon the hop cones are plump the Sticky Fat Bear lumbers down from the hills to have himself a feast. He sits and eats all night long and disappears before anyone wakes. The kids chant his name in school yard folks songs, but not much is said about the Sticky Fat Bear in the rural nooks of american hop country.

When an old hop farmer in the pacific northwest was asked by a reporter:
“Sir, what do you know about the Sticky Fat Bear? Have you seen him? Are you missing hops?”

The farmer snapped this response:
“That Sticky Fat Bear is a ghost. He eats ’em all up. He takes what he wants and leaves us with nothin’.”

It’s clear that Half Acre has a certain passion for Sticky Fat, and they even release custom t-shirts for the occasion. It’s easy to see why — this is a damn good beer!

When poured into a glass, Sticky Fat is very dark in appearance, almost pitch black. Its aroma is full of piney hops. It tastes like a delicious hybrid of a porter and IPA, with both styles easily apparent. The porter side lends some chocolate and roasted coffee tones, whereas the IPA characteristics make sure the wet hops are noticeable. There is a decent amount of bitterness that lingers on the tongue.

This is a really interesting beer in that its dark looks are misleading. This is actually a VERY drinkable brew that goes down just as easy as a typical pale ale. There is an excellent balance between the roasty malts and fresh hops that makes this one of the more unique beers that I have tried lately. It’s great to see Sticky Fat back for a second round, and I hope this encourages Half Acre to give this a bottle/can release at some point.

9/10

Beer Review: Hoptober Golden Ale [New Belgium Brewing Company]

Hoptober Golden Ale [New Belgium Brewing Company]

Hoptober Golden Ale
Brewery: New Belgium Brewing Company (Fort Collins, Colorado)
Style: American Blonde Ale
ABV: 6.0%

Last weekend was the perfect transition from summer to fall, at least here in Chicago. Friday and Saturday were blistering hot, once again pushing into the mid-nineties, but then there was a miraculous cooldown beginning on Sunday that has since led us to the gorgeous autumn weather. The arrival of the new season also means that it is time for the craft beer fall seasonals to start hitting the shelves. My first selection: New Belgium’s Hoptober Golden Ale.

My beer style of choice for this summer was anything and everything IPA. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to stick with the hoppy ales as I ease back into some of the heavy hitters during the cold months.

Hoptober is a very interesting beer. When poured into a glass, it has a clear golden appearance. Its aroma is equal parts floral and fruity, and the hops really come through after tasting. This is significantly hoppier than most fall seasonals that I have had, and I love it. According to the brewery’s website, five different hops were used: Centennial, Cascade, Sterling, Glacier and Willamette. This results in a very unique array of flavors that bounce around all over the tongue.

I would be remiss not to mention the fruit, which manages to stand out amidst the hops. I noticed hints of all sorts of fruits, everything from mangos to oranges to grapefruits. Seriously, it’s all over the place, and that’s a very good thing.

As far as fall beers go, this one stands out amongst the pack. It was released just a week ago, and it should remain in stores through November. If you are a fan of hoppy beers, do yourself a favor and look Hoptober up. This may be my favorite offering from New Belgium.

8.5/10

Beer Review: The Magician [Short’s Brewing Company]

The Magician [Short's Brewing Company]

The Magician
Brewery: Short’s Brewing Company (Bellaire, Michigan)
Style: Irish Red Ale
ABV: 6.0%

Last weekend I went to a craft beer festival in Western Michigan. The event was a rousing success (900+ people showed up) and I had a great time. The usual suspects were there — Bell’s, Founders and New Holland, to name a few — but I opted to go for smaller names that I can’t easily find in Chicago. Short’s Brewing Company, located way up north in Bellaire, Michigan, stood out to me. I knew them from their collaborations with local favorite Half Acre, and those releases were always a lot of fun (and always Ween inspired).

I tried a couple of their beers at the festival, both of which I enjoyed, and decided to bring some back with me. At a surprisingly great craft beer store in Ludington, I picked up a six pack of a brew not found at the event — The Magician.

The bottle labels this as a Dark Red London Style Ale with the caption “The eloquent, swift and skillful master who makes things happen.” When poured into a glass, the beer is a reddish brown color, and its aroma, while tame, brings hints of caramel and toffee. These traits remain present while tasting, though nothing in particular stands out. There is a slight amount of bitterness afterward.

The Magician goes down smooth and is easily drinkable, but I can’t help but feel that it’s missing a certain something. While the flavors bounce around, it doesn’t really have anything that rises above the rest. Still a quality beer, no doubt, but it could use a little boost.

7/10

Beer Review: Gumballhead [Three Floyds Brewing Co.]

Gumballhead [Three Floyds Brewing Co.]

Gumballhead
Brewery: Three Floyds (Munster, Indiana)
Style: American Pale Wheat Ale
ABV: 5.5%

Three Floyds is quickly becoming one of my favorite breweries. From the crazy off-the-wall packaging to their eclectic selection of beer styles, it’s hard not to find something to like amongst their products. Gumballhead is one of the brewery’s five year-round offerings, and it’s arguably their most popular. This American Wheat Ale was initially a summer seasonal, but the demand grew so large that Three Floyds decided to start brewing it year-round.

When poured into a glass, Gumballhead has a hazy golden appearance, and a combination of hops and fruits lend a pleasant aroma. Its taste brings these smells to life — the hops are present, but they give way to strong notes of grapefruit and peach. These fruity elements make this wheat ale stand out from others, and they work surprisingly well.

Light and refreshing, Gumballhead is perfect for summer drinking. Its initial hoppiness reminds me of Half Acre’s wonderful Daisy Cutter, but the fruity taste gives it its own unique flair. This is definitely worth pursuing, and it would make an excellent beginner beer into the eccentric world of Three Floyds.

9/10

Beer Review: Flywheel Bright Lager [Metropolitan Brewing]

Flywheel Bright Lager [Metropolitan Brewing]

Flywheel Bright Lager
Brewery: Metropolitan Brewing (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 5.2%

In my endless quest to devour all of Chicagoland’s local beers, I am sad to say I have neglected a few of the area’s major upcoming breweries. Metropolitan Brewing, located in the Andersonville neighborhood, is one such brewery that I haven’t given enough time to.

Metropolitan is a relatively new arrival to the city’s craft beer scene. It was opened in January 2009 by Doug and Tracy Hurst, a beer-loving married couple who decided to launch Chicago’s first all-lager brewery. They have three main beers: a kölsch, copper lager and “bright lager”. Tonight I opted for Flywheel, their bright lager.

When poured into a glass, Flywheel is light in appearance. Very light, actually, with a beautiful clear golden color. The bottle’s label declares this is a “German-inspired beer” and that is indeed what it is. It’s easy to tell that this is an American beer due to the added spicy hops, but there is a clear German influence prevalent as well. The hops make this a little more bitter than expected, and the bitterness lingers on the tongue after tasting.

Flywheel doesn’t have a lot of character, but it is very drinkable. This is a good session beer. I wouldn’t classify it among the best pilsners I have had, but it is good quality and I would drink it again. In the coming weeks, I will make an effort to try the rest of Metropolitan’s offerings to see how they compare.

7/10

Beer Review: Domaine DuPage French Style Country Ale [Two Brothers Brewing Company]

Domaine DuPage French Style Country Ale [Two Brothers Brewing Company]

Domaine DuPage French Style Country Ale
Brewery: Two Brothers (Warrenville, Illinois)
Style: Bière de Garde
ABV: 5.9%

Chicago has a thriving beer scene, and it extends all the way through the suburbs. We have a handful of great breweries outside of the city, but perhaps the best of all is Two Brothers Brewing Company located in Warrenville. Founded by the Ebel brothers, Jason and Jim (hence the company name), Two Brothers specializes in rare and seldom-brewed beer styles. The brewery’s Domaine DuPage, a French style country ale, is one of their most popular offerings.

When poured into a glass, Domaine DuPage has a beautiful rich amber look to it. Its smell brings about a pleasant grain aroma, and this comes through in the taste as well. The bottle’s label evokes images of amber waves of grain, and I can’t help but envision this every time I take a drink. I also noticed tastes of caramel and a bit of nutiness. A slight amount of bitterness lingers on the tongue, but it is more subtle than anything.

Domaine DuPage is an interesting beer, one that is very drinkable especially on these hot summer days. It makes for an excellent food pairing option, and it is just good quality all around. I can’t say I have had many, if any, French style country ales, but this beer has me wanting more.

8/10