March 19, 2018

Off Color Brewing Eeek! 2018

Brewed By: Off Color Brewing in Chicago, IL
Purchased: 750ml bottle bought at Off Color Brewing Taproom (The Mousetrap) in Chicago, IL; 2018
Style/ABV: American Wild Ale, 5.5% 
Reported IBUs: 10

Taking Miller High Life and turning it into a Wild Ale is basically the most genius thing ever. About Off Color Brewing:

Off Color Brewing is a brewery founded in 2008 according to their Facebook, or 2014 according to their website, or 2013 if you follow their release party and the logical timeline. It really doesn't matter, I suppose. What you need to know is that this brewery is the brainchild of former Goose Island barrel guru, John Laffler, and former Two Brothers brewer, Dave Bleitner. The duo are both graduates of Siebel, and share a passion for brewing exotic, off-color beer. For more info, check out the brewery's ABOUT page.
Miller High Life is my go-to adjunct lager. And evidently, it holds up pretty well in a blind tasting. The guys at Off Color are a fan too:
Off Color Brewing Eeek! 2018

"For years whenever people asked what our favorite beer was we'd say High Life. (And not only because they'd send over cases of High Life when we said it.) A couple years ago we approached Lisa Zimmer at Miller about brewing a collaboration together. Big meets small. Technical acumen and resource meets magic and wishful thinking. Because at the end of the day, we're all brewers. Beer is beer and it's high time the trope of us vs them is replaced with an understanding of how big and varied the world is. There are more things in the heavens and earth, Horatio, than dreamt of in your philosophy.

Turning such a big ship takes time but Lisa was relentless and John was stubborn and cases of High Life kept showing up at the brewery. Then in June of 2016 we went up to Miller in Milwaukee to learn the secrets of the Lady in the Moon, brewed a ludicrously small ten barrel batch of High Life on their pilot system and drank a bunch of High Life. Needless to say, we were giddy. Shortly thereafter, Miller's R&D brewers came down and we brewed Eeek here in Chicago...and drank a bunch of High Life before drinking even more High Life at Sportsman's Club. Our first batch was released in October 2016. Imagine our glee in presenting your Batch #2 this March.

As High Life is a pinnacle of technical brewing expertise, we went rustic AF for Eeek, blending all of our wild acidic and funky mixed cultures together with house lactobacillus and set them loose on base High Life wort. After a month of unregulated primary fermentation, we turned on the jackets and lagered Eeek for an additional three weeks before bottling conditioning with Champagne yeast. Because, obviously.

This one punches in at 5.5% ABV, 10 IBUs; packs Pils and Pale malts; and features "light-stable hop extract." The yeast is a blend of "wild indigenous yeast and acidifying bacteria." 
dat logo tho

The pour is exactly what you'd expect...a pale yellow, hazy, beer with a short-lived white head. There is some gushing courtesy of the champagne yeast, and this is spritzy and lively in the bottle.

The aroma is an awesome explosion of sour flavors against classic High Life. That is to say, you get that super sweet adjunct lager note, pils malts for days, and then tons of blueberry, yuzu, wet rain, lemon, lactic acid, melon, hay. Off Color suggests pineapple and tangerine, which are present as well. Hay is definitely kicking around. It is super funky and smells "rustic as fuck."  

The taste mirrors the nose in the best way, and adds in tons of spritzy carb and JUST the right amount of acid. The flavor is exploding with yuzu and wet rain and barnyard/hay. There's melon and guava and some light citrus salad. Apple slaw notes are evident and you still taste the base beer's pils malts. 

Everything that ruins High Life is resolved with the acidity and sour yeast. Namely, this isn't cloyingly sweet and doesn't become punishingly sickly once you get past 12oz. It's light-bodied with good depth, duration, and complexity. Up front is carbonation, wet rain, yuzu; the mids get a bit more creamy and fruity; the back end retains spritz and finishes with lingering High Life.

Rating: Strong Divine Brew (5.0/5.0 Untappd)

The price tag leads me to believe this is an expensive and difficult beer to brew (or inoculate). On the other hand, this breaks Off Color's other beers and High Life. I just want more of this. If this came in a 4-pack of cans I would have my fantasy summer beer. I could drink this 24/7. While mowing my lawn, while driving my kids to soccer practice....etc.

Random Thought: Chicago might be Pale Lager mecca. Between Old Style, PBR, Schlitz, etc...but High Life is still my king.

March 12, 2018

2017 Goose Island Proprietor's Bourbon County Brand Stout

Brewed By: Goose Island Beer Company (owned by AB InBev) in Chicago, IL 
Purchased: 16.9oz bottle bought at Binny's in Chicago, IL; 2017 (bottled 01SEP17)
Style/ABV: Russian Imperial Stout, 14.0%
Reported IBUs: 60

I guess the preferred nomenclature is "cassia." Oh hey, kind reader, is that a banana in your pocket or your beer. I'm not even mad that InBev did a Budweiser ad making fun of adjunct beers. Obviously. Otherwise I wouldn't have stood in line for 20 hours for this one. Tonight's beer is a pastry boi in all the ways imaginable. Prop is -- of course -- the "Chicago exclusive" deviant of Bourbon County. Every year Goose Island brews something different (exclusively for Chicago; because Goose Island are the abusive husband and Chicago beer drinkers are the helpless spouse), and it looks something like this:

"May Contain Wheat"
The 2017 features banana puree, cassia bark, and almonds. This beer of course maintains the typical BCBS appearance...dark body, little light penetration, thick, brown head. There's some sediment and maybe a touch of residual oil stuff on the top of the beer.
2017 Goose Island Proprietor's Bourbon County Brand Stout

Most impressive is the beer's aroma, which absolutely nails you with banana puree, bananas, and banana bread. In fact there's QUITE A BIT of banana on the nose. It really distracts you from the base beer, which is distant in the aroma. A secondary aroma is the cassia which provides a woody/earthy birch-wood-like cinnamon flavor. The banana cinnamon notes inspire all sorts of desserts, from banana fosters to spiced banana bread to banana pudding. It's a lovely aroma and something totally unexpected and unique.

The big surprise about Prop 2017 is just (A) how complex and rich the beer is and (B) how different it is from the regular. Where regular BCBS 2017 is an exercise in chocolate and sweetness, Prop 2017 is more about complex layers of interesting flavors. There's the banana element, the cinnamon element, the banana-cinnamon-bread thing, the chocolate-banana, the chocolate-cinnamon kiss of Mexican chocolate, bourbon, macaroons, coconut, and some nice booze (with warming alcohol to boot). This is flavorful stuff and it is not one-note. It's not just banana puree. It's not overly sweet.

And that is what differentiates Prop 2017 from other beers. Even other BCBS variants. BCBS is always intriguing but some of the variants are more or less dialed in. This IS dialed in with tons of complexity, depth, duration, and novelty. It's a novelty beer so we should clarify that up front. It is also in pretty limited there's that too. Up front you get a lot of banana, cinnamon, cassia, banana bread, banana fosters, and banana wafer; the mids roll into macaroon, vanilla, bourbon, Mexican chocolate, chocolate; the back end even features some pulpy banana and green banana, along with the spirit. It's sweet but sweet like a dessert, which there are layers of in the beer. 

Rating: Strong Divine Brew (5.0/5.0 Untappd)
obligatory potato box pic

So is this worth trading for? I think this is a worthy novelty, and I'm pretty happy I got to try it. If you don't like bananas then you're in luck. If you do like bananas, you probably should make an effort to grab one bottle of this. I wonder how this is going to age, especially since I still see people flipping bottles of the 2013 and 2014 props. 2015 was obviously infected, and 2016 is weird niche fetish shit. Which I kind of like. 

Random Thought: And yeah, it turns out people do actually drink this beer. If you're wondering what the inspiration is...a very strange few weeks, I think. I recently parted with my car of 14 years which was surprisingly personal and hard to do. Cars are in many ways an extension of ourselves, and I put a lot of miles and memories in mine. So as an ode to my '04 Taurus, I'll see you on the other side...

March 9, 2018

Revolution Café Deth 2017

Brewed By: Revolution Brewing Company in Chicago, IL
Purcased: 12oz CAN from a 4-pack bought at Revolution Brewing Tap Room in Chicago, IL; 2017
Style/ABV: American Barrel-Aged Oatmeal Stout, 14.8%
Reported IBUs: 27

In keeping with my plan to review Revolution's 2017/2018 lineup of barrel-aged beers, I'm looking at the 2017 vintage of Revolution's Café Deth. Café Deth is "Deth’s Tar Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout with assertive coffee aromatics." The can reads: "A weaponized quantity of freshly roasted whole bean coffee from independent Chicago roasters imbues our Deth's Tar Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout with assertive coffee aromatics without overshadowing the base beer on the palate. Pair with rich food or enjoy on its own. Keep cold. Enjoy now. We mean it."

inb4 this pours like every other stout. There is some residual oils on the surface of the beer, perhaps from the coffee. The aroma here is magical. It's like mounds bars on Twix on a frappuccino. The coffee profile is so smooth, and rich. There's no weird fruitiness, green pepper, or acrid coffee. The bourbon and barrel pops on the edges, but this is about the coffee and chocolate front and center.
Revolution Café Deth 2017

At near 15-percent this is almost liqueur-esque. The mouthfeel and thickness are in the realm of KBS or CBS. That is to say, not quite as thick as some of the extreme stouts available in 2018, but still pretty darn thick. The taste drops tons of mounds bar, malt balls, frappuccino and mocha, hazelnut, toffee, and caramel. The bourbon takes a back seat to the coffee, chocolate, and base. There's a growing bitterness as you sip this, which is reminiscent of the base.

I oscillate how I feel about this beer, but here's the deal. This is full-bodied (not the fullest body), with good depth and average complexity. I don't think this aims to be some sort of renaissance beer, it is just trying to do the mocha-frappuccino thing well. And it does. Up front is chocolate, frappuccino, mocha; the mids roll into those nutty notes with hazelnut, some macaroon, malt balls, and the mounds bar; the back end is where some complexity emerges with bitterness, barrel, dryness, the spirit showing up, and the base beer. 

Rating: LIGHT Above-Average (4.75/5.0 Untappd)

I love coffee beers, so I stocked up on this stuff. Having said that, I kind of prefer V.S.O.D. and D.B.V.S.O.D. to this. I know those are entirely different beasts, though. Is Deth by Cherries better than the Café Deth? That's the million dollar question, I think. Anyway, this is certainly on par or better than a beer like KBS. But now that KBS is a shelf turd does it really matter? I'm just happy that the availability of this BA coffee stouts is expanding.

Random Thought: I need to do a proper send-off for my car...