September 30, 2014

Pipeworks Cinnamon Beer-D Os

Brewed By: Pipeworks Brewing in Chicago, IL  
Purchased: 22oz bottle (Batch #515/516) bought at Fischman's Liquors and Tavern in Chicago, IL; 2014 (bottled 09.??.2014)
Style/ABV: "Cereal Milk Inspired" Imperial Cream Ale, 10.0%
Reported IBUs: ?

I'm super excited to be jumping on tonight's beer. Pipeworks has apparently decided to start rolling out breakfast cereal inspired beers, and I am totally okay with that. The Cinnamon Beer-D Os is a "cereal milk inspired Imperial Cream Ale." I don't even know. This one is brewed with lactose, cinnamon, vanilla, cereal grains, cinnamon cereal, and brown sugar. Not Pipeworks Thursday. A
bout Pipeworks:
Pipeworks has humble roots. The brewery was founded in Chicago in 2011 by Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis. The duo were both homebrewers that met while while working at West Lakeview Liquors. In 2011, they began to raise money for their brewery using the online Internet site, Kickstarter. Olson and Lewis were both educated at De Struise Brewery in Oostvleteren, Belgium. With that knowledge, and the money from their kickstarter, Olson and Lewis created a unique brewery that is smaller in size, and intended to brew smaller batches of beer. The company's motto is "small batches, big beers." And indeed, since the brewery has been around, they've been releasing a lot of one-offs and small batch releases. The goal is to release a new beer every week. You can read more about the brewery at their website HERE.
The Cinnamon Beer-D Os bottle reads (and as you can guess, has a crossword puzzle): 

"Can you find...aline, beardo, beer, cinnamon, sugar, kitten, ninja, epic battle, unicorn, kwing, pdubz, pipeworks, weirdo."

This pours into a hazy, dark orange/amber body, kicking up several fingers of caramel-tinged head. As the head drops off, you are left with webs of Spider-Man worthy lacing. There's some alcohol legs, and all that jazz. It kind of "looks like cinnamon," said Rorschach. 

The aroma of this insanely stupid beer is reminiscent of another insanely stupid Pipeworks beer: Hey, Careful Man, There's A Beverage Here! Both beers are overpoweringly sweet, with lactose, vanilla, and assertive milk sugars. I'm getting fudge like sweetness on the nose, with white chocolate and cocoa fudge. There are also some assertive cereal grains on the nose, for sure. What is missing from the nose/aroma is the big cinnamon I was expecting. There is some faint, nondescript spice on the nose, but it isn't quite dialing up the cinnamon intensity.

This is malty tastes boozy and big, with big lactose, cereal grains, and tons of vanilla. There's a lot of milk sugar in here, and this has an acrid and burnt sugar note that reminds me of burnt caramel. This is boozy and big. In a lot of ways, this is just a remix of the Hey, Careful Man. However, I felt like that beer was a little bit more nuanced and complex. I'm not getting a ton of breakfast cereal in here. I'm also not getting as much breakfast cereal as I had hoped for...this definitely has suggestions of Golden Grahams or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but it never quite brings the flavor home. I think the overt lactose-vanilla-burnt sugar punch acts as a detractor, and the booze doesn't help.

I rarely say this about anything Pipeworks, but I think this beer is kind of average and/or needs some time to age. Right now the lactose and sugars are really dialing up aggressive sweetness and astringency. Furthermore, this is kind of boozy. I'm feeling the weight of the alcohol, and tasting a little bit of it too. At 10.0% you'd maybe expect that...but then when you add in that this is full-bodied without a ton of complexity, and yeah. Up front: lactose sugars, milk, vanilla, fudge sweetness; the mids roll into more sugars, with some cereal grains, hints of Golden Grahams and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and burnt sugars; the back end fades into a mess of sweetness, sugars, and lingering cereal. 

Rating: Average (3.0/5.0 Untappd)

I'm feeling a Decent 
Average on this. I was expecting a lot more cinnamon and cereal from this. This is mostly a one-note, sugary-sweet, lactose adventure. Yeah, there are hints of cereal, but when you crank a beer up to 10% and throw a bunch of lactose and vanilla into better deliver. Having said that, this one might mellow out and improve with some age. For future batches I hope they add a little more cinnamon and cereal. Food pairings: none you fool. This beer is diabetes in a bottle. 

Random Thought: Beer reviews and homework done concurrently...what could go wrong. 

September 29, 2014

Two Brothers Atom Smasher [REDUX]

Brewed By: Two Brothers Brewing Company in Warrenville, Illinois
Purchased: 12oz bottle from a 4-pack bought at Jewel-Osco in Chicago, IL; 2014 (2014 vintage)
Style/ABV: American-Style Oktoberfest, 7.7%
Reported IBUs: 22.6

Holy shit. I can't believe my review of this beer from 2011. That's right...back in 2011, back when I thought I was hot shit, I reviewed the Atom Smasher. And at that time, I thought this beer was pretty solid. Since then, I have been seeking this beer out every year. I figured it was time to give my updated thoughts on it. About Two Brothers:

Two Brothers are based out of Warrenville, Illinois, a town not far from Chicago. Two brothers was founded in 1996 by brother Jason and Jim Ebel. Their brewery and Tap House Restaurant are both located in Warrenville. Their distribution and production seems to be increasing with each year, and along with their beer you can buy home brewing equipment and supplies at the Tap House Restaurant. If you get the chance, swing by and check out their Roundhouse. It's an awesome joint, and needs all the love it can get. For more information, check out their about page/website.
The Atom Smasher is part of the Two Brothers' "J Series" of beers. This Oktoberfest-style beer has a unique twist: it is aged in Oak Foudres. 

You're probably wondering why I'm doing a redux review of this beer, or why I even care enough to review it twice. After all, the Oktoberfest style is one of the most boring styles of beer. Well, I'm here to tell you...this is probably the best Oktoberfest available in the Midwest. Or at least in Chicago and the state of Illinois.
Two Brothers Atom Smasher [REDUX]

I mean, just look at that dark orange/copper body. Look at that caramel head. This beer is several shades darker than most Oktoberfests, and deposits brilliant alcohol legs which hint at the 7.7% lurking beneath. 

The aroma here is equally intriguing. The oak foudres contribute very subtle notes on the nose with gentle vanilla, oak, and wood coming through in the aroma. You also get huge caramel sugars, toast, and big nuttiness. This beer is exceptionally nutty, and it does veer into weird pork/sausage aromas. The whole aroma is backed by dried berries and suggestive fruity notes. It's a complex aroma, it's sweet, it's nutty, it's fruity, it's smells fucking amazing. And it's just an Oktoberfest!

This also tastes incredibly complex...and not just for the style. As a beer, in general, this is very complex. There are molasses, dark sugar, oak, vanilla, caramel, berries, nuts, and dried berries at work in this beer. The beer lingers for a while, driven by some bitter hops and toasted notes, and then lingers with sweet sugars and lingering barrel. The main characters here are -- of course -- sweet and malty. And there's plenty of that; big caramel, oak, vanilla, and malty sugars. There are also nice bready notes in here. But this is really a big, flavorful beer. And it better be at 7.7%.

I'd call this beer medium-full bodied. It's not quite Stout, but it is thick and it is sweet. You might not guess this is 7.7%, and you might not guess this is barrel-aged. But in terms of the style, this is "off." The barrel-aging compromises the Oktoberfest character just slightly, and for the better. The barrel adds complexity, and this beer is definitely complex. It also has great palate depth. Up front are sugar, caramel, oak, vanilla, and barrel; the mids roll into dried berries, hops, dark fruits, toast, nuttiness; the back end trails with nuttiness, lingering oak/vanilla, and sugary sweetness. If all Oktoberfest beers were this good, the style would be more popular. This is my desert island Oktoberfest.

Rating: Divine Brew (5.0/5.0 Untappd)

I'm feeling a Strong 
Divine Brew on this. This is probably the best Oktoberfest I have had. It is certainly the best Oktoberfest in the Midwest, or at least in Illinois. Maybe you are thinking to yourself: "But wait! This beer is aged in oak foudres! That is cheating." Well, you know what? Fuck you. Seriously. If the Germans want to start aging their Oktoberfest in oak barrels, I support that decision. This is a style that bores me to tears, and here we find Two Brothers injecting some new life into it. This is a blissful, fantastic beer. I literally buy a 6-pack of this every Fall. This beer pairs well with cooler weather, football, and any German meal you can throw at it. I'm talking about sausage, bratwurst, sauerkraut, pretzel bun sandwiches...anything. It's also cheap at around $10 a 6-pack. So good. 

Random Thought: Dear Two Brothers, please continue to make this beer forever. It is one of your best beers, by a long shot. Regards. 

Dogfish Head / Stone / Victory Saison Du BUFF

Brewed By: Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware (in collaboration with Stone and Victory Brewing)
Purchased: 12oz bottle single bought at West Lakeview Liquors in Chicago, IL; 2014 
Style/ABV: American Saison, 6.8% 
Reported IBUs: ?

Who doesn't love a good collaboration? About Dogfish Head:

Dogfish Head is a craft brewery based out of Milton, Delaware. The brewery was founded by Sam Calagione back in 1995.The brewery began as a brewpub (the first in Delaware) called Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, and was originally located in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The initial brewing setup included three kegs and propane burners. They brewed 12-gallon batches of beer three times a day, five days a week. In 1996 the brewery began bottling their beer, and by 1999 they had distribution to around a dozen different states. In 2002 the company outgrew their Rehoboth location, and moved to Milton, Delaware. More info can be found HERE.
The Saison Du BUFFis a collaboration between Dogfish Head, Stone Brewing, and Victory Brewing. The beer was first brewed at Stone Brewing back in 2010, and then replicated at the other breweries respectively. This Saison is brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. 
Dogfish Head / Stone / Victory Saison Du BUFF

This pours into a pale, hazy, orange-gold body, kicking up a finger of white head. Head retention is very good, with lacing and sustaining foam. It's well carbonated and all that. Oh yeah look at that appropriate seasonal glass. Awww yeah.

I'm not really sure what Victory's function or interest is in this Saison, but I am getting lots of hops and spices. This smells very characteristic of Stone and DFH. The first thing on the aroma is fennel, rosemary, thyme, and peppery spice. That gives way to big wheat notes, apples, slaw salad, and bright sage. Finally, once you settle into the aroma, you get big citrus hops, with orange, lemon, and some nice resin. 

Hmmm...this is light, refreshing, and spicy. And by spicy, I don't mean like Stone's Saison spicy. I mean like...balanced and constrained. This actually tastes like a classic Belgian Saison fused with some spice. I'm getting refreshing wheat, apples, grapes, sage, clove, and some nice orange/lemon. There are nice yeast esters in here. This has banana, black pepper, bubblegum, and some farmhouse notes. This is actually really nice. I think the operative word her is "rustic." This beer reminds me of food, the countryside, and Summer. The fennel, rosemary, thyme, and peppery spice are all remarkably balanced by refreshing apples, grape, clove, orange, and lemon. 

This is complex, layered, and frankly....pretty good. It's spicy, but at the same time light and refreshing. I'd call this light to medium-light bodied. It masks the 6.8% beautifully, but it also warrants that high ABV. This is a beer that needs body to deliver the complex spices and fruity notes. The palate depth here is very nice, and this is surprisingly complex. I'd really call this a beer that unfolds in two parts; up front is big spice, fennel, thyme, pepper, rosemary, clove; that gives way to juicy apple, sage, grapes, winey note, bananas and yeast esters, wheat; the back end drops some hops, and the finish is dry and citrusy. Really...really nice.

Rating: Above-Average (4.0/5.0 Untappd)

I'm feeling a Strong Above-Average on this. A lot of reviews are dogging this beer...but why? I don't get it. This is solid stuff. In some ways I think you could call this a foodie beer. Maybe that is true, maybe that is fair. I think this beer would pair well with grilled potatoes, lamb, grilled meats, a rustic stew, or a leafy burger. I'd serve this in the late Summer. Just...yum.

Random Thought: Two out of the three of the breweries in this collaboration are loud, controversial, and fun. I still don't understand how Victory got roped into this one.