We’ve been attending Beer Under Glass for so long that we’ve realized there are only two stories you write afterwards: One where the weather was great, and one where the weather was not so wonderful. This one is the former.
Otherwise, the Garfield Park Observatory remains a wonderful place to wander once a year with a beer in your hand. The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild ran another seamless event, with a wonderful layout (super glad to be mostly outdoors, with very few breweries in the Horticulture Hall / Jensen Room on the north side of the facility). Water was plentiful, as were the dump buckets which got plenty of use throughout the night.
As we told email subscribers earlier today, the ratio of good:average:just plain bad beer continues to skew in the direction towards “bad.” I’ve been thinking about it a bit more and I think a number of breweries rightly consider Beer Under Glass a tentpole event of the year. As such, they pull out the big guns — the stuff that maybe has a couple too many ingredients in it, maybe rested too long in a barrel, maybe needs a few more batches and tweaks until it’s really ready. I appreciate a beer that swings for the fences, but more often than not, there were a lot of whiffs.
Or maybe I’m being too kind, and with more breweries in Chicagoland there are more bad breweries in Chicagoland. (My wife, who suffers neither fools nor bad beer, would agree with this.) Regardless, we come here to praise Chicago area beer, not to bury it. So on with the Beer Under Glass 2019 beers we actually liked and would come back to a second time. (And did, in a few instances.)
I’m wondering how many people know that More Brewing recently lost the brewer responsible for the beers that got them their hype, but even if they did I’m sure the many people in line didn’t care because there were a LOT. And thankfully the beer still demands the hype. Their peanut butter fudge Henna was one of the only things we made a repeat trip for. And just a few feet away the lines were equally choked for Hop Butcher’s Blazed Orange IPA … also for good reason.
Another one that got us to sample again (and again) is Afterthought Ales. Their three wine-barrel fermented saisons were all entertaining in different ways, complex and thoughtful and easy-drinking enough to keep us going back for more. They were also blessedly tart, vinuous and sour in a sea of sweet and candylike beers.
Lil’ Beaver has been worth checking out at all the fests we’ve seen them at. This year’s dose of Lil Bit of Wonderful (the homebrew that Chad Bevers submitted to the Sam Adams homebrew competition before opening in Bloomington last year; more on them here and here) tasted like the liquid Mounds bar we wanted it to be, big and rich with toasted coconut and chocolate.
I have yet to make it to the BiXi brewpub but if most of their beers are along the lines of their Dawnblade pale ale with dried mango and black tea, I’ll make a point to get there sooner than later. I’m not big on tea beers but this one balanced luscious soft melon notes up against the woodsy, almost tobacco-y aromatics on top of a base beer that didn’t get in the way but also supported the mix of flavors.
The banana coconut cream IPA from Mikerphone was … shall we say, divisive amongst people I talked to about it, but I actually found it to be surprisingly successful (if maybe a little too cloying and sticky). Taking the opposite approach, Penrose‘s Samoa Stout avoided the mistakes of most other pastry stouts in that it showed some actual restraint and balance with the coconut and vanilla flavors so clearly no one liked it other than me.
I haven’t had much from Energy City but I’ve heard good things, and I found their Milkshake Lassi Mango to live up to the praise, pairing fruit and cardamom nicely up against a big creamy body. Half Acre’s Benthic stout was the winner that we wanted/expected it to be and the Pipeworks/Hop Butcher NEIPA collaboration stood head and shoulders above the many (many) other hazebombs on the field on Friday.
Finally, it would be Beer Under Glass 2019 unless I discover a new mead worth sipping a few ounces of. This year it was Misbeehavin Mead‘s Nobody’s Poet, a pina-colada inspired mead that successfully paired the coconut-milk sweetness of the cocktail with the honey-based stickiness of the body. It worked pretty well, but probably would get pretty overwhelming in any serving size over 2-3oz.
Until next year, Beer Under Glass — now the countdown to FoBAB begins.