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Last Week's Beer, Today

Eno Sarris, July 18, 2016 -   

What a great week. The Futures Game had all those bright young stars, the Home Run Derby featured Mark Trumbo hitting trumbombs off the trumbotron, the All-Star game was a snooze but still a little bit of fun at least when I met up with friends afterwards, that great dinner at Bracero in San Diego was with the wife, everyone shined at the meetup in Chicago, a 120Sports appearance on Friday, and then enjoyed myself fully at the Pitchfork festival the rest of the way. 

Maybe the most amazing thing is that we had great beer at every stop. Well, not at 120Sports, they gotta be professional in the morning and all that. It was such a great weekend, it started on Tuesday.

Tuesday
Half Door NEIPA 
Monkey Paw Monkey Gose Bananas

Half Door was a new brewery for me. We hit it up right after the All-Star game and it wasn't even overcrowded. It's classy looking spot right in the heart of the Gaslamp -- it looks like a residential house outside and in, and you get a real homey. We only had one beer there before moving on, but it was the grassy hazy IPA you see pictured below. I thought it was fresh and fruity and very enjoyable. Sometimes the citrus in these gets so intense that it's almost sour, is an idea I had, while still downing the Half Door in front of me. 

The Monkey Paw sour wasn't great. It was super watery and didn't have much bite, although... it was a gose. Goses aren't supposed to be that sour. Still, this barely even had the Gose bite, and ended up tasting a bit like cherry water to me. 

Wednesday
Alpine Hoppy Birthday India Session
Stillwater Gose Gone Wild Phuket Edition
Faction Summer IPA
Abnormal Abbey Normal DIPA
Council Beatitude Black Current Sour

Had the Hoppy Birthday with dinner. Excellent paired with the upscale Mexican available at Bracero. I had a tuna two ways thing -- seared ahi on top of tempura eggplant on top of ahi tartare on top of tempura eggplant with some radish, ponzu, and avocado aioli that was equal parts crunchy, soft, sweet, salty, and spicy -- and heartily recommend that spot in Little Italy.

Since we were there, we took a walk along the water to Bottlecraft, maybe my favorite caps-and-taps store/bar out there. Their list is always phenomenal, so I didn't care at all that I hit two duds while I was there. Especially since the Gose Gone Wild Phuket was amazing. A lemongrass version of the beer we love so much, it inspired a whole conversation about wether it should matter what the beer is called, and in what context is it at its best. It's good when a beer makes you think.

The Faction Summer IPA is not a trendy grassy haze juice bomb. It's a straight forward pale ale with equal parts bitter, fresh, and sweet. Very refreshing. Won't knock your socks off but you'll look down at an empty beer and realize you want another. 

Ended with two duds in the sampler. The Abnormal was just too much. Too big, too sweet, too much alcohol, not enough bitterness to finish bright and make you want more. And the Council was too little. Not enough sourness or effervescene to make it interesting. The black currant wasn't too sweet, but it also didn't come with the body or finish that you want from your dark sours. Really disappointing, and the next Council I have will be barrel-aged or it won't be at all. 

Thursday
Wolf's Ridge Clear Sky Daybreak Coffee Cream Ale
Other Half Finback Koelsch
Jackie O's Mystic Mama IPA 
Three's Chronic Myopia IPA
New England Brewing G-Bot IPA
Fat Head's Headhunter IPA
Against the Grain A Beer Pale Ale
Schlafly Hop Trial - Eureka Golden Ale
Half Acre Daisy Cutter Pale Ale
Pipeworks Ninja vs Unicorn DIPA

What a beer day! Had a tasting before the meetup, so all those first ones were just little four-ounce poors. I treated myself badly but not that badly. The Daybreak was a great coffee cream, though sometimes I wonder when I drink those if I didn't want the body at the end of the coffee taste. When it's not a dark, roasted malt beer, I taste the coffee and then always notice the missing body on the swallow-through. Still, it's something different and different is nice. 

The kaffir lime Finback pale ale -- no way that's a koelsch or a koelsch-style-ale or anything other than a pale ale -- didn't go over that well in the room. I wonder if even a few weeks in the fridge had lessened the impact of the fruity hops, because even I tasted less balance between fruit and citrus zing this time. Totally could have been influenced by the reviews of my friends, but it seemed lesser this time around. 

Everyone really liked the Myopia and the G-Bot, which I've reviewed in this space before. The Mystic Mama, Headhunter, and G-Bot were also return engagements, but all three were excellent. They all have that fruity fresh thing going on in similar ways, with the G-Bot being the biggest and boldest, but perhaps not the fruitiest. All three are really outstanding and you should get with them if you can. 

The Against the Grain was (intentionally?) boring. The Schlafly was really piney, though I'm suprised to see them call what I thought was a normal piney IPA a golden ale. Sure, whatever, I guess. 

I finished the night with what are probably the two best regular Chicago beers. Daisy Cutter is fresh and floral, and the Ninja vs Unicorn is big bold and fruity, but fresh enough to cut through the malt and acohol. These are the must-haves if you're traveling through the city. 

Friday
Shorts / Half Acre Freedom of 78 IPA
Goose Island / Twin Peaks Natural Villian Lager
Goose Island Green Line Pale Ale
Goose Island Forcone Pale Ale
New England Sea Hag IPA
Half Acre / Other Half Rainbow Never Ends IPA
Tahoe Mountin Blood Orange Sour Saison

Early in the day, stopped by to see Shirt at Half Acre one last time. Had the Shorts/Half Acre collaboration, a guava IPA that was really nice. The guava was pretty intense, but they made sure to make the base beer light enough, and the hops bright enough, to keep this from being a thick fruit juice. Really enjoyed that beer, and, as always, the company of Shirt and T-Bone. 

Day one of the festival. Gotta put all those beers down somewhere, so here they are. The artist's collaboration was as good as the Run the Jewels one a while back, but it was a nice crisp lager. Green Line is just really not good. The Forcone, done by their brewpubs in town, was just about the most excellent beer you could expect to have at a music venue. The best thing you can say about it is that it is an easy drinker, but this year I thought there was more stone fruit sweetness to it, so a little more taste. How much taste do you want anyway when you're day drinking. 

Afterwards, we had a little bit of a tasting at a friend's place. I... I didn't write them all down. It was hectic by then. The Sea Hag was fresh and bright, and the Tahoe Mountain was sweet and dank and sour, both of those beers were fine.

But the star of the night, the one that produced the enduring memory, was the Rainbow Never Ends collaboration between Other Half and Half Acre. Pineapple and guava nose, intense citrus bitterness, and floral elements throughout, this beer was big and bright at the same time. It smelled good, it tasted good, and it looked good. A really excellent beer that actually brought the best of both breweries to the fore. Half Acre makes really easy to drink pale ales, and their thoughtfulness about drinkability reined in some of the crazy taste profile that Other Half brings to the table. 

Saturday
Goose Island Halia Sour Ale
Goose Island Lolita Sour Ale 
Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break

Of course, there were more of the fest Goose Islands this day. But, before the fest, we went to the Goose Island facility where they found the infected bottles and toured the rows of lovely-smelling wooden barrels. More on that later, but we were gifted a couple bottles of the sour sisters for the after-party (along with cases upon cases of the other stuff). 

So, with the tinge of sadness that is hanging out with people you don't get to see often enough and knowing it's almost time to go, we drank excellent sours on that roof of the Pitchfork office, and enjoyed Halia's peaches and Lolita's raspberries as we talked about nothing important and shared each other's all-important company for just another few minutes. 

I picked up a Biscotti Break too late in the evening and left a wounded soldier somewhere in the office. It was too much for a last beer, too much for a warm Chicago night, too much before a flight home in the morning. If only there had been more of everything else. 

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