Beer Review: The Chairman [Half Acre Beer Company]

The Chairman [Half Acre Beer Company]

The Chairman
Brewery: Half Acre Beer Company (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: Imperial Red Ale
ABV: 9.5%

When I bought a growler of Half Acre’s Thanksgiving beer, Avena Sativa, I made sure to pick up a 22 ounce bomber of their previous limited release: The Chairman, an imperial red ale. Released as a celebration of local Chicago zine Lumpen‘s 20th anniversary, the Chairman is a thick brew with an ABV that will creep up on you if you’re not expecting it. It’s a pretty damn good complement to their English Bitter.

When poured into a glass, the Chairman has a hazy burnt orange appearance. The beer smells very ‘malty’ with hints of toffee. The taste brings out a surprising amount of hops that leave a bitter aftertaste. While this lingering taste may not appeal to some, I love it.

For a 9.5% beer, this goes down real smooth. The alcohol content is noticeable, but it is never overwhelming, unlike others at this level. Imperial red ales are not something I see very often, so I am happy that Half Acre has delivered a satisfying brew in this style. If you’re in the Chicago area, stop by the brewery and pick up a bottle before this bad boy runs out.

8/10

Beer Review: Avena Sativa [Half Acre Beer Company]

Avena Sativa [Half Acre Beer Company]

Avena Sativa
Brewery: Half Acre Beer Company (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: English Bitter
ABV: 5.0%

Man, it sure has been a while since I wrote about a new Half Acre release. Fortunately, tonight I was able to pick up a growler of their most recent brew: Avena Sativa, an English Oat Bitter. This was released during Thanksgiving week, and I had given up hope on acquiring any since many of the brewery’s latest offerings sell out in a matter of hours. They must have made more than enough this time around because I was told there are at least two kegs left.

Avena Sativa is bright in appearance, with a light, hazy gold color to it. Its aroma is predominantly of grainy malts, and this carries over to the taste as well. This beer is a little sweet (and bitter), but it is ultimately refreshing and goes down real smooth.

Half Acre doesn’t really brew much in this style, so I am pleased to say that their Avena Sativa is a tasty success. While everyone else is stockpiling on stouts and winter ales, these local Chicago guys have released a light beer that is surprisingly well-balanced. For something a little more drinkable during the winter season, you can’t go wrong with Avena Sativa.

8/10

Beer Review: Lager Town [Half Acre Brewery]

Lager Town [Half Acre Brewery]

Lager Town
Brewery: Half Acre Beer Company (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: Märzen / Oktoberfest
ABV: 6.0%

It’s been a while since I have reviewed a new Half Acre release, so it’s very appropriate that I come back with a look at their return to lagers: Lager Town. According to one of the guys at the brewery, this is their first lager in years, as they have been focusing heavily on ales since their initial days. It’s nice to see them go back to their roots, even if it is temporary.

When poured out of a growler and into a glass, Lager Town has a hazy, dark amber appearance. It has a pleasant aroma of caramel and toffee, and this translates to the taste as well. This is a malty, sweet beer that also brings out hints of rye bread. Hops are modest, with only a slight lingering bittnerness.

As far as Oktoberfest-style brews go, this is one of the better offerings in the Chicago area. Lager Town goes down smooth and is very drinkable — a wonderful fall beer. Hopefully Half Acre continues to experiment with more lagers in the future.

8/10

Lager Town is only available in growler pours at Half Acre Brewery. It won’t be around for long!

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: 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: Captain Fantasy [Half Acre Brewery]

Captain Fantasy [Half Acre Brewery]

Captain Fantasy
Brewery: Half Acre (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 7.0%

Named after a Ween song, Captain Fantasy is the second Saison released by Half Acre in the last few weeks. This is the brewery’s second collaboration with Short’s Brewing Company from Bellaire, Michigan (the first being their Freedom of ’78 Pure Guava IPA from earlier this year).

Captain Fantasy is quite a bit different from the previous Dripping Saison. This one was brewed with Sorachi Ace hops as well as pear puree, which is definitely an interesting combination. Upon first tasting, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with the pears. Quite frankly, I have never tasted a beer like this. The pear puree really stands out and gives this a very sweet taste. There is a little bit of spiciness, and the hops push their way in and take over after the initial fruit blast. The finish is a tad bitter, but not overtly so. It’s definitely a unique brew.

All things considered, Captain Fantasy is a solid, refreshing summer beer. I didn’t like this one quite as much as Dripping Saison, but I will give it bonus points for being something unlike anything else I have ever had. Half Acre’s collaborations with Short’s have led to some fun experiments and I hope they continue to work together.

7/10

– Captain Fantasy is available in growlers as well as 22 oz. bombers at the brewery.

Beer Review: Dripping Saison [Half Acre Brewery]

Dripping Saison [Half Acre Brewery]

Dripping Saison
Brewery: Half Acre (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 5.7%

A rare midweek release, Half Acre‘s newest beer is the first of two back-to-back Saison offerings. Dripping Saison, as this one is titled, could not have come at a better time. Chicago is getting ready for another major heat wave, one that should be upon us starting tomorrow. Dripping Saison is a perfect summer beer, especially for the hot and humid city days.

The guys at Half Acre usually only maintain one house strain of ale yeast, but recently they got their hands on a new Saison yeast. Hence, the forthcoming focus on these farmhouse ales. It’s great to see the brewery continue to work with new styles, as I don’t remember them brewing any Saisons in the past.

Dripping Saison is a smooth, smooth brew. It has a nice hazy yellow color to it with a brief lacing of head. Its taste brings out immediate notes of bananas with hints of citrus fruits pushing their way in. There is also a bit of tartness that lingers on the tongue. It tastes similar to other Saisons, but its fruity notes make it stand out.

I like this Saison quite a bit. It’s sweet but not overly so, and it goes down real easy. This is a great first effort for the summer, and I can’t wait to see what their upcoming Saison collaboration with Short’s Brewery brings us. Chicago area residents should not hesitate to stop by — Dripping Saison is only available for growler fills, and there’s no telling how long it will last.

8.5/10

Quick & Dirty #4: Meat Wave, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, L.A. Noire (and others)

It’s time for another edition of Quick & Dirty, the random grab bag of mini-reviews I do every few weeks or so. I have noticed a sharp decrease in my movie watching this month, but I did find some time to tackle the few I haven’t wrote full reviews for. Also, there are reviews for a couple of new and exciting video games, and a new release from my favorite local brewery, Half Acre!

BEER
Meat Wave [Half Acre Brewery]
Meat Wave [Half Acre Brewery]
Friday, May 20, saw the release of Half Acre’s latest brew, an English IPA. I can’t say I have ever had this style of beer, but I liked it a lot. Meat Wave is hoppy and bitter, but not overwhelmingly so in either instance. I was shocked to see that it is 6.5% ABV because this went down real easy and felt lighter than it actually is. Another strong effort from these guys. Vegetarians, don’t worry, this beer is actually meat-free.

MOVIES
Ferris Bueller's Day Off [1986, Hughes]
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off [1986, Hughes]
I just watched this for the first time over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised as to how well it holds up today. Perhaps I am biased because I fell in love with the movie’s gorgeous Chicago scenery, but I thought it was a lot of fun throughout. This is a very funny movie, and it makes me wish I had skipped more high school back in the day. 9/10

The Joneses [2009, Borte]
The Joneses [2009, Borte]
This satirical look at consumerism and suburbia slipped under the radar upon its 2010 theatrical release. It has a good cast, with David Duchovny and Demi Moore leading the way, and I enjoyed the movie’s dark humor. It got a little predictable near the end, but I thought it was decent enough overall. 6.5/10

Watchmen
Watchmen [2009, Snyder]
After reading the graphic novel (which was absolutely awesome), I had to watch the movie immediately. I rented the three hour extended Blu-ray from Netflix to get the most out of it. I watched it with two people who had never read the book or had any idea what the general story was about. They were a bit lost throughout, and I can totally see that. I thought the extended edition was very faithful to the novel, and I think it definitely helps to have read it beforehand. This is a dark and gritty movie that captures the bleak and pessimistic nature of the book, and it’s not really for everyone. While the extended edition started to become exhaustive near the end, I still enjoyed it. 8/10

VIDEO GAMES
L.A. Noire [PS3, 2011]
L.A. Noire [PS3, 2011]
This is one of the rare times I bought a game brand new, on release day no less. I am something like 35% complete so far, and I am still only halfway done with the main cases. I was a little concerned at first since the game holds your hand through the early stages, and the first few cases are quick and easy, but now the cases are considerably longer and require more skill to finish. I am eternally grateful that this is not just another GTA spinoff. Instead, this has all of the makings of a good film noir, and it has made me want to watch more movies (and read some novels) in the genre. Once I finish the game, I will have a full review available. Right now I am loving it, and it definitely seems deserving of all its hype.
You Don't Know Jack [Xbox 360, 2011]
You Don’t Know Jack [Xbox 360, 2011]
I played this with some friends over the weekend and had a great time. I used to have a few of the YDKJ computer games back in the day and they were always a blast to play. This is just like the old games, complete with Cookie as the host. I am glad to see a new YDKJ and hopefully it is a sign of more to come.

Over Ale [Half Acre Brewery]

Half Acre Over Ale

Over Ale
Brewery: Half Acre (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: American Brown Ale
ABV: 6.0%

One of the best feelings in the world is to fall in love with something at its inception and proceed to watch it grow over time. I am proud to say that I have been drinking Half Acre beer since moving to Chicago just a few years ago, right around the time it moved into its brewing headquarters in the Northcenter neighborhood. If my memory serves me correctly, the company’s Over Ale was the first beer I had from them (either that or their Lager). I was still in the early stages of my craft beer fascination, but Over Ale impressed me right away. To this day, I love this beer.

As one of the brewery’s three always-available options (the others being Gossamer & Daisy Cutter), the Over Ale is certainly a good choice. The brewery calls this an “American style bitter.” When poured into a glass, this has a dark brown appearance with a small head. It has a very nutty taste, and hints of caramel are also present. This is very, very drinkable, and it is perfect for a rainy day.

Earlier this year, Half Acre started packaging Over Ale into tall cans, meaning 4-packs of this beer are available throughout the Chicagoland area. I’m not sure if they have extended the reach into other locales yet, but you should definitely keep an eye out in the Midwest. This has been a trusty standby for the brewery, and I am glad to see it get more distribution.

8/10

Ambrosia [Half Acre Brewery]

Ambrosia [Half Acre Brewery]

Ambrosia
Brewery: Half Acre (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: American Pale Wheat Ale
ABV: 6.0%

After two ridiculous extended work weeks in a row, I really needed to kick back with a refreshing brew tonight. Thankfully my favorite local brewery Half Acre just released their latest offering: Ambrosia, a wheat beer brewed with Hibiscus flowers and oranges. Perhaps this spring release was a bit pre-emptive since the weather immediately turned to shit in the following days, but I am not complaining either way. This is a damn good beer.

As you might guess from the design above, Ambrosia is heavily influenced by the 8-bit culture. The guys at the brewery got their hands on an NES system recently and hooked it up in their office. Their retro gaming escapades paved the way for a brand new beer, which just so happens to coincide with the beginning of spring.

Ambrosia’s appearance is on the darker side of wheat beers. When poured into a glass, it has a dark orange color that looks absolutely delicious. The aforementioned Hibiscus and orange notes are prominent, as this has a definite citrus taste to it. The beer does leave a little bit of a lingering bitterness on the tongue, but it is not overwhelming. If I had a lawn to mow, this would be my drink of choice. It is an excellent session beer, easily drinkable, and it packs some surprising punch with its 6% ABV.

The release of Ambrosia reminds me of my days in Michigan when Bell’s Brewery would ship out their Oberon Ale. Fuck robins chirping — that was the true sign of spring’s arrival for me! Ambrosia is an excellent spring beer, and I hope it becomes an annual release. This brew is going quick, so if you are in the Chicagoland area make sure to try it ASAP!

8.5/10