GDB’s 2013 Chicago Craft Beer Awards

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, age-gated children born in 1991 and beyond, to the third (now annual, we suppose) edition of the Chicago Craft Beer Awards.

You will recall that all of this started in 2011 with this Chitown On Tap piece, and the baton was passed to us last year where we came up with this.

This year, we’ve added some categories, removed some others, had a little fun with a few, and basically just thought “who deserves to be given an attaboy this year” until we came up with this. Much like we said last year, allow us to present you these Chicago Craft Beer “Awards” as our way to continue the appreciation and acknowledgement of the craftsmen and women who have made 2013 the best year in Chicago beer ever.

As always, for what we get right, thank them, for what we get wrong, blame us – and tell us who you think deserves respect and appreciation in ways we may have forgotten. It’s been a busy, busy year — the busiest damn year in Chicago beer ever, we merit. And it’s been a lot of fun keeping up with it.
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The City Beverage & River North Buyouts: What’s Next?

The planned buyout of wholesalers City Beverage and River North Beer still have a hurdle or two to clear before the two can become one: including approval from the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. On October 31st — one year after the Commission rendered the controversial decision allowing Anheuser-Busch to retain a minority interest in City Beverage — the Hand Family in Tennessee and BDT Capital Investments, based in Chicago, announced plans to buy City Beverage and River North. Anheuser-Busch gave the deal its blessing a few days later.

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Yes, We Did: Bud Light Straw-Ber-Rita, Investigated

So, it’s come to this. Oh, the things we do for “science.”

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We’re not proud of it.

We’ve threatened to do this for some time now (okay, it was really just me because I have some sort of beer-guy masochism streak running through me a mile wide) and finally, during this week of celebrating freedom, I dove in headfirst. I purchased, opened, consumed a Bud Light Straw-Ber-Rita.

Oh, the shame. Continue reading

The Legal Battle Over IL Distributor City Beverage Finally Comes To A Close

With a few flicks of a pen today, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed HB 2606 into law effectively ending Anheuser-Busch’s minority ownership — and majority control — over distributor City Beverage.

The legislation, approved overwhelmingly by the Illinois House and Senate during the spring legislative session, would prohibit a brewer from owning a distributor.

Introduced in February, the bill specifically targeted Anheuser-Busch’s 30-percent stake in wholesaler City Beverage, which has four locations in Illinois; Arlington Heights, Bloomington, Chicago and Markham. The distributorship was seen as a pivotal piece in A-B’s attempt to chip away at MillerCoors’ stronghold on the Chicago market. Continue reading

Bill Prohibiting A Brewer From Owning A Distributor Passes IL Senate, Headed To Gov’s Desk

Legislation that would make it illegal for a brewer to hold an ownership interest in an Illinois distributor cleared the state Senate Tuesday on a unanimous, 52-0 vote. The bill previously passed the House and now goes to the governor for his signature.ilcapitol

Once signed into law, the bill will effectively end Anheuser-Busch’s minority ownership interest in, but majority control of, Illinois distributor City Beverage. Continue reading

Shock Top Cuts Brewers Loose To Create “Campfire Wheat”

IMG_1036When the email promoting and offering samples of a new, “small batch,” beer from Shock Top landed in our inbox we were skeptical – to say the least. This is Shock Top, after all, whose idea of branching out is adding raspberry or pumpkin to their wheat beer.

Not being ones to judge (too much), or turn down free beer, we accepted and a few days later a box the size of a Labrador’s dog crate arrived at my office.

Yes, I got all the stuff this guy did, and I too have no idea what I am going to do with most of it. However, I was far less offended than he was. I get where they were going with it; Campfire Wheat, camping, s’mores, a beer that is supposed to taste like s’mores.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that part, according to the info tucked away in my backpack Campfire Wheat was brewed, “with graham wheat, chocolate malts and a hint of marshmallow flavor, then aged over cocoa nibs.” Shock Top Raspberry Wheat this is not.

It seems Anheuser-Busch allowed the brewers to have a little creative freedom with this one and the end result is a pretty decent beer.

For starters, let’s note the obvious: pouring an opaque black with a billowing tan head, this looks unlike any other Shock Top beer on the market.

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So far so good.

Take a whiff and you get just about everything promised in the commercial description; cocoa powder, marshmallow fluff, and the slightest hint of graham cracker. There was a certain chalkiness to the cocoa aroma which oddly brought back memories of my breakfast through much of high school – Carnation Instant Breakfast.

Following through on the nose, Campfire Wheat tastes of chocolate malt and rich milk chocolate, highlighted by touches of marshmallow and graham cracker mid-sip, followed by bitter dark chocolate in the finish. The body is a little thin for my liking given how sweet this beer is, but that’s about the only real knock against it.

If you told me this beer was brewed by anyone else I would say it is solid but uninspiring. However, because it is brewed by Shock Top and Anheuser-Busch, who is notorious for not stretching its legs much when given the opportunity to get creative I have to give credit where credit is due.

This is the least Shock Top of a beer brewed by Shock Top I’ve ever had, which should be considered a compliment.

(Shock Top Campfire Wheat is one of three small batch beers the brewery is rolling out at select festivals this summer. You can find it Saturday, May 11th, at the American Beer Classic at Soldier Field in Chicago.)

Tallgrass Brewing Is Coming To Illinois

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Tallgrass Brewing’s four packs of tallboys (16 ounce cans) will soon be found on store shelves across Illinois.

The Manhattan, Kansas based brewery, which opened in 2007 and began canning in 2010, has announced its foray into Illinois with a downstate launch happening now and plans to arrive in Chicago next month. In fact, Tallgrass Founder Jeff Gill tells GuysDrinkingBeer his beers should be hitting retail outlets in downstate Illinois this week. “We are SUPER pumped about Illinois, and have just shipped beer to the downstate wholesalers,” said Gill, in an email exchange.

The beers heading to the Land of Lincoln include an imperial ESB, a Belgian Tripel and a pale ale chosen by Esquire Magazine as one of the best new beers of 2012.

Tallgrass is being distributed by a series of Anheuser-Busch affiliated wholesalers downstate, known as the Illinois Distribution Alliance, and River North in Chicago.

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Here are the beers headed for Illinois:

Ethos, described by Gill as a brightly hopped IPA, is a new release for Tallgrass and is due out this month.