South Side Pride

south side

Image courtesy of Baderbrau Brewing Company

Yep, I’ve got it.  You can’t grow up at 149th and Hamlin and not have it.  South Side Pride.  What am I proud of, specifically?  None of your damn business is what.  But South Side Pride beer-flavored beer from Baderbrau Brewing Company, Chicago, IL is a nice representation of what south siders might consider pride-worthy.  This 4.8% Munich Helles Lager is light gold and decently carbonated. The less-than-luxuriant head lasts a surprisingly long time.  South Side Pride is mildly sweet, but notable for its grainy qualities and it’s generous use of light malts.  The taste is grainy and malty, a touch dry, a touch bitter.  There’s a lot going on here, more than meets the eye.  But the beer, like we south siders, is not vainglorious.  It’s Polish, it’s Irish, it’s German and it’s us.  It knows what it is.  It’s a good, hard-working, fun-loving beer that would love the opportunity to kick Old Style’s ass back north.

Go Sox!

Belt and Suspenders India Pale Ale

Image courtesy of beer syndicate.com

Image courtesy of beer syndicate.com

Good packaging design sells.  It attracts attention and stirs interest.  Buckledown Brewing of Lyons, IL knows that, and when good packaging design and great beer get together, you get Belt and Suspenderts India Pale Ale.  I was attracted by the label, saw that a local brewery was responsible for it and I was sold.  Belt & Suspenders is a beauty;  amber with a generous, frothy head and super-sticky lacing.  This 7% ABV (you can smell it) IPA has low carbonation but that doesn’t stop it from being bright and lively on the tongue.  The bouquet is piney and malty, and the alcohol again makes it presence known.  There’s a little hint of earthiness and maybe rust, too.  In a good way.  Belt and Suspenders is full-bodied but not heavy, with a smooth round mouthfeel.  It’s a substantial beer, but don’t be intimidated.  The sweetness of the malt helps balance the hoppiness, but let’s face it, the hops should and do win here.  The finish is gut-warming and a bit dry, and there’s a vibe, something I can’t quite put my finger on, that reminds me of long-defunct Chicago Brewing Company’s Legacy Lager, the beer that made me fall in love with local craft brew.

Well done Buckledown, I look forward to visiting your taproom  soon.  Who’s in?

Drinking Local, Cleveland Style: Butcher and the Brewer

butcher brewer

Image courtesy of Cleveland.com

On a recent trip to Cleveland I needed to find a place for dinner and beer that catered to a wide array of tastes and that was food allergy friendly.  After having contacted Executive Chef Jim Blevins I knew Butcher and the Brewer was the place for me.  My wife suffers from a variety of food allergies and often eating away from home is a challenge.  Mr. Blevins made himself available to go over the menu with us and pointed out the things that my wife could safely eat, and the variety of different and complimentary flavors available to her was impressive.  Pierogi Flatbread, Aged Beef Sliders, Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Chorizo Tacos and Mac and Cheese make a pretty well-balanced and delicious meal in my book.

And then there’s the beer.  There were eight house-made, hand-built beers on tap when we visited, and each was great.  Probably the best-received by my trio was the Albino Stout.  I found both chocolate and vanilla notes in this smooth, full-bodied oat ale.  The Repeater is a German kolsch-style beer with a spicy but not too assertive hops presence and a good grainy texture.  Hasselhefe is a very drinkable hefeweissen/wheat beer with banana and clove notes and a mild sweetness.  Midnight Oil is a coffee stout, and the coffee is up front and in your face.  That’s a good thing.  Stop Hop Kaboom is an American IPA that is piney and delicious.  A long, dry and bitter finish keeps Kaboom gentle on your mind for a good while.  Hopfen Roggen is a tasty and spicy rye ale, beautiful in all its ruby-hued glory.  The Bravo IPA is another resinous beauty that  makes you want another, and at 4.8% ABV, it is one you could revisit a few times.  The most surprising beer to me was the Dunkelweizen.  It was more complex than most, with the banana/clove notes you’d expect, but also with additional layers of flavor, including toffee, roasted grain and a stunning vanilla cream note that really made it unique.  Generally dark wheat beer is a style that’s not high on my list, but if I had to choose only one of the eight brews I’ve described here, I’d have to flip a coin to decide between the Dunkelweizen and the Albino Stout.  With luck the coin would land on its edge and I could have the tastiest Black and Tan that was ever poured.

I don’t want this to sound like a commercial, but consider this a high recommendation:  if you are ever in Cleveland and are looking for a great dining and drinking experience, please treat yourself to  Butcher and the Brewer.  You will not be disappointed!

Butcher and the Brewer
2043 East Fourth Street
Cleveland, OH 44115
216-331-0805

 

Big Wave Golden Ale

Image courtesy of Kona Brewing Co.

Image courtesy of Kona Brewing Co.

Yikes!  Its effervescence is immediately worth a mention.  Don’t pour Big Wave Golden Ale too briskly without a backup plan.  Big Wave from Kona Brewing Co. (Kona, HI, Portland, OR, Woodinville, WA, Memphis, TN and Portsmouth, NH) is light gold, crystal clear, floats a super fluffy head and leaves luxuriant lacing.  The bouquet is a bit papery with a little grain, grass and lightly floral sweetness.  It’s bright, tangy and fizzy on the tongue.  It has a bit more body than your run of the mill macro lager.  Big Wave tastes a bit sweet with a quick touch of bitterness, then it’s gone.  Overall Big Wave is mild, inoffensive and a tad boring, but it’s not bad and would be a good beer for out on the deck or in the screen house on a summer day.  In fairness, Golden Ales are not my favorite style for trying to impress my tongue with how cool my taste in beer is.  I’m not a beer snob, I prefer beer jag.

One thing I like a lot is the packaging.  The bottle shape is interesting and the label has a nostalgic feel to it without going so far as to be intentionally retro for retro’s sake.  The packaging is what drew me to Big Wave when I was assembling a mixed 6-pack at my local beverage store.

70/100 Golden Ale

America

America.  The word conjures up so many images.  Strength, industry, beauty, hillbillies.  And now, Budweiser beer.  For the next few months, Bud cans will lose the iconic Budweiser logotype and be replaced with the word America.  The Belgian company that owns Amheuser Busch thinks this is a good marketing move.  Rednecks will love this, and will really enjoy how clever they feel as the toast each other with “Murica”.  Foreigners who don’t hate us, the “Kojack bang bang” kind, will undoubtedly savor every headache inducing drop, enjoying the ultimate authentic American beer experience.  The hubris of this move makes me sick.  It says  “America: Home of Garbage Beer” to me.  I know better, and as always, I will not drink AB-InBev products.  That includes Stella Artois and Corona, people.  Just another reason to hate the Evil Empire.

Hudepohl Pure Lager Beer

Image courtesy of www.bizjournals.com

Image courtesy of http://www.bizjournals.com

I was recently in a drinking establishment in Cincinnati and asked the bartender what kind of local beer would his grandfather have enjoyed back in the day.  I’ll have one of those, said I.  I was presented with a Hudepohl Pure Lager Beer forthwith.  Technically, this is a reformulated beer based on their original amber lager, but whatever.  I remember the name Hudepohl from my days as a zit-faced, teenage beer can collector in the late 70s.  Hudepohl seemed so exotic to me, living in the land of Old Style and Miller High Life.  Cincinnati was known for Pete Rose, the American Impressionist School and not much else to me.  Now here I am as a full-fledged adult about to taste my first Hudepohl.  I was not disappointed, but my expectations were very low.  It screamed to be consumed straight from the bottle, but I poured a drop so that I could see that it was slightly more orange than your standard American lager.  Nicely effervescent, a tad sweet and grainy, Hudepohl reminded me very much of the Old Style I remember from c. 1981.  A little sharp, a little rusty, (maybe tomato-y?) but overall not a bad beer, for what it is.  If I could transplant all of the local PBR hipsters to Cinci (I would), Hudepohl would become their beer.

I’m glad to have answers to my teenage Hudepohl questions.  As for my questions about tthe Charlie’s Angels actresses, they will stay locked in the 1970s forever.

All that being said, I will probably never have another Hudepohl based on my proximity to the source, and I won’t miss it.

Ypsi Gypsi

Ypsi Gypsi (Arbor Brewing Company, Ypsilanti, MI) has a huge, fluffy, white head, is hazy but not particulate and wafts great whiffs of pine and orange blossom.  Brussels lace coats the glass in great, sticky globs.  The presentation is really nice, as it could be a photo in an advert due to its perfect beauty.  There’s a noticeably good malt presence right off the bat, and not as much pine in the taste as you have been led to believe.  It’s a little more floral with a mild sweetness and a hint of dryness.  The sweetness lingers long enough to counteract the bitterness, which eventually subsides.  Crisp and clean.  The label is interesting, bordering on creepy, having a gypsy woman with an illustrative body and a photoshopped face (I think).  Almost like the artist has a weird obsession with a girl he can never have, and he has put her face in any number of fantasy settings (Princess Leia the slave girl, Lt. Uhuru, sexy Helen Keller, Oktoberfest waitress minotaur, you name it) to help stave off the hunger that can never be satisfied.  I’ve never done anything like this.  Nope.  Not me.

poster-ypsi-gypsi

Image courtesy of Arbor Brewing Company

Technically this is an American Pale Ale, but the high hop content made the brewers think of it as a session IPA.  I think it’s a bit understated as an IPA, by today’s standards.  At 4.9% ABV you can certainly enjoy a few without feeling too loopy. However, the Gypsy girl will become more attractive with each successive bottle.

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