Monday, November 8, 2010


That would be the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild's Festival of Wood & Barrel-aged Beer, held last Saturday in Chicago. This was the 8th year for this event. I remember going to the first one, in 2003, held upstairs at Rockbottom Chicago. It was the first time I tasted Samuel Adam's Utopias, too- there was a keg of it!

Mr Siebel, Keith Lemke
Some (but not all) of the breweries in attendance....
Bluegrass Brewing (KY), Capital (WI), Destihl (IL), Dogfish Head (DE), Firestone Walker (CA), Flossmoor Station (IL), Founders (MI), Goose Island (Chicago), Glacier (AK), Kona (HI), Lagunitas (CA), Lost Abbey (CA), Metropolitan (IL), New Holland (MI), Piece (Chicago), Rockbottom (many!), Schlafly (MO), Shmaltz (NY), Smuttynose (NH), Stone (CA), Three Floyds (IN), & Two Brothers (IL).
Yay! Aaron from Stone Brewing.
Categories of wood & barrel-aged beer included Classic Porter/Stout (9 beers), Strong Porter/Stout (26 beers), Barleywine/Wheatwine (17 beers), Classic styles not higher than 7% ABV (10 beers), Strong/Double/Imperial Pale beer (18 beers), Strong/Double/Imperial Dark beer (22 beers), Fruit (6 beers), Experimental (19 beers), Wild (6 beers), Wild Acidic (25 beers), and Bottled (17 beers). That's, er, you do the math. Lots of beers.
Fraternizing with The Press. Is that the Ape Man of New Orleans?
Not being a HUGE fan of bourbon/whisky aged beer, Mr Cicerone and I sought out the wild, acidic, and simple oak-aged beers, though we did have a good shot at a few bourbon or whisky-aged ones. Our favourite of the day (we both chose this beer) was from  Metropolitan Brewing in Chicago. Their Docks of Riga Baltic Porter, brewed with a small portion of cherrywood smoked malt and aged with toasted oak, was layered with flavours of chocolate, black malt, and wood. It was truly delicious.
It's Rodney, Sam Adams Longshot winner 2010. And New Holland's Fred.
Other faves of mine were Flossmoor's Rosie Pom (wild acidic beer aged 2 years in whire wine barrels with pomegranate), Firestone Walker's Lil Opal (Saison aged for 17 months in medium toasted American oak), Half Acre's Pear Goss (gold ale with pears aged in French Oak wine barrels with Lactobacillus Delbrueckii & Brett Bruxellensis), Lagunitas Bourbon barrel-aged Cappucino Stout (took Bronze in the Experimental category), New Belgium's Eric's Ale, New Belgium's Tart Lychee (sour beer blended with lychee & cinnamon), and Shmaltz's Vertical Jewbelation ( a blend of all 7 Jewbelation beers aged in Sazerac rye whisky). My sample of the Best of Show winner, Port Brewing's Red Poppy Ale, a Flanders red-style ale produced with sour cherries and aged in French oak, was poured into my glass (it was a bottled beer) by an enthusiastic, but untrained volunteer, and it contained an inch of yeast sludge. Still good, but not a perfect sample for tasting nuance.
Sir Cicerone and The Mighty Karen
Beers I missed out on tasting (they were saving beer for the evening session) were Goose Island's Bourbon County Ancho Stout & Madame Rose, Dogfish's Poppa Skull (Collaboration with Three Floyds, brewed with cardamon), Founders Backwoods Bastard, Piece's Jockey Full of Bourbon, & Two Brothers Heavier Handed IPA (aged in French oak).

Dinner at Revolution Brewing followed- bacon-fat popcorn, "spaghetti & meatballs" (venison meatballs atop spaghetti squash), a pizza with toppings of Cider braised pork shoulder, granny smith apple, gorgonzola, onion, fennel & tarragon, and meat loaf with celeriac mashed potato and turnip greens. Fantastic beers, fantastic food.

A great time was had by all.

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