Widow Maker Black Ale

Widow Maker Black Ale

Widow Maker Black Ale

Named after a pneumatic drill that was notoriously dangerous for the UP miners that used it, this black ale from Keweenah Brewing Company, South Range, MI, sports a fine-beaded head that doesn’t take much drilling to get through.  The lace slides gently down the glass, and a clean bouquet wafts upward.  Slight coffee, subtle hop and deep black color makes for interesting contrasts in Widow Maker.  It is much lighter-bodied than you think, being smooth and creamy with a mellow roasted caramel foundation.  There’s even a hint of hardwood smoke.  Widow Maker is an easy drinker, light and flavorful with virtually no hops presence to note.  Definitely not an APA or IPA, and that’s a really pleasant change of pace.  My only complaint is the terrible label art, and since the can is pour and pitch, it didn’t bother me for very long

82/100 Black Ale

Here Gose Nothing

Image courtesy of Gordon O'Keefe

Image courtesy of Gordon O’Keefe

Sour beers are becoming more popular these days as brewers try to one up each other with obscure ingredients, new and or/historic beer styles and with “I’m hip, are you?” attitudes, and you truly either love sour beers or hate them.  I’ve tried them on a number of occasions, and I can appreciate that everyone has different taste buds and different perspectives on what a good taste or a bad taste is. I’m a dope from the south suburbs and grew up thinking Pixie Stix and Bubs Daddy was haut cuisine.  Without trying to influence you one way or the other I will give you my summary of Here Goes Nothing from Destihl Brewing, Bloomington, IL.  Vinegar, body odor, tart lime, sauerkraut, sour apples and salt.  Spontaneous fermentation, like hot summer garbage can.  Tastes like the love child of an Eryops fossil and a steaming landfill.  But please, judge for yourself!  If you hurry, my friend Al might not have poured the fifth can of his six pack down the slop sink yet.  That’s where I got mine.

Have a great day!

Good Ryes Wear Black

Image courtesy of Wm. Goodwyn the Sign Guy

Image courtesy of Wm. Goodwyn the Sign Guy

Good Ryes Wear Black.  Black Rye India Pale Ale.  Brewed and Canned by Hop Butcher For The World (formerly South Loop Brewing Company), Chicago, IL.  Pours like motor oil, thick and black.  Notes of dark roasted grains and coffee abound.  Smooth texture, a bit dry, a touch peppery, lots of coffee, earthy, dark semi-sweet chocolate, rich, probably a million calories.  6.5% ABV.  Great can artwork.  I absolutely love this stuff!

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


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