Because we respect your time too much to waste it on 1000+ word reviews of single beers, here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve been drinking and digging lately.
You know what people LOVE reading? 1000+ word reviews about single beers. /snark I mean, I’m tired just thinking about them, and I’m the one who wrote tons of the things a few years ago. Unless you’ve really got something wild to say about a beer, it rarely merits more than a couple paragraphs.
We get it. We also know you’re a very busy person and we want to respect your time.
That’s where these Hot Takes and Quick Tastes come from. We try a lot of beers — some we love, some we like, some we never care to try again. Here’s where we can throw everything up against the wall and see what sticks. Sometimes we veer into random beer tangents. Sometimes we even talk about what it tastes like.
Here we go. Hey, have you tried…
Toppling Goliath’s PseudoSue
In the past we’ve stumbled into a sampling of TG’s Dorothy lager, and certainly our pursuit of their Kentucky Brunch Breakfast Stout is well documented, but until they came to Chicago that was about all we knew of Toppling Goliath — other than the fact that they make some of the most sought after beers in the world.
Now, however, I can go to Binny’s and see the smiling face of a big dinosaur skull looking back at me, and grab a 4-pack of cans without hesitation. It’s lovely to be one of the most-distributed-to cities in the country, if not the entire world. (Remember when we told you that Chicago was the nation’s greatest beer city? That opinion stands.)
So, is PseudoSue worth thinking about driving to Iowa for, even though we here in Chicago don’t have to any more? I mean, it’s unquestionably a very good pale ale. I quite enjoyed my four cans of it, especially paired with the finest of frozen pizzas. But did I enjoy it any more, than say, a 4-pack of Daisy Cutter?
No. It’s a damn good beer but PseudoSue is not going to completely supplant the superior, and almost certainly fresher, local pale ale. And also, it’s jam packed with Citra hops, which isn’t a bad thing, but in 2017 is basically a Game Genie cheat code for a pale ale.
If I were a brewer (and aren’t you lucky I’m not) I’d be making a SMaSH beer with nothing but citra called Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B-A Start. There’s your million dollar free idea right there if you’ve got the hop contracts.
Schlafly Brewing’s Ibex Series #1: Lazy Ballerina
We received a bottle of this gratis (as we always mention) way back in I believe 2015 when this wine-grape-infused biere de garde from Schlafly kicked off their Ibex series. And we put it in the fridge. And it sat. And sat. And sat. Until recently, when I had a #drinkitnow mini-freakout and decided today was the day to stop staring at the damn thing and just crack it open.
And I did! And this was quite interesting. I have zero idea if the year-plus of age enhanced or detracted from the beer, but it was definitely a head-scratcher. I mean…it was damn near wine. Yes, it was made with wine grapes. Yes, it was aged in wine barrels. A lot of the wine-barrel aged beer I’ve had is often times ridiculously tannic and sometimes comes damn close to vinegar, and thankfully this one was nice and fruity, with grape must and concord grape jam and a whiff of farmhouse funk packed in along with it.
I dug it, but in retrospect I’m still wondering why the hell I held onto it for so long. Maybe I was hoping for a bottle share some time where I could break this out and everyone would be in awe of a beer they’d never heard of? Who knows. But it’s gone now. Alas. I really need to quit accidentally cellaring things.
I was thinking about breaking this out into its own pairing post — I love Thai food alongside German pilsner/lager so much. It’s great. The rich, complex, sweet-savory-sour-spicy wrecking ball of a good tom kha or grilled pork neck salad or my favorite, a big serving of super spicy sai ua sausage. Get yourself a nice little sheen of sweat going from the chile heat, and then crush it back with a big pour of crisp, bright, refreshing lager — man, there’s not much better than that.
Here’s my suggestion: find an option other than Warsteiner.
I pulled this one down to give it the first try I’ve had in a while — I always want to try to keep fresh on things, even if they’re non-“craft”-centric. Sadly, this one just couldn’t stand up to the order of pan-fried noodles with spicy beef and that’s barely an aggressive order for me.
I hate to describe something as wimpy, but this fits the bill. It just disappeared from the palate so fast and didn’t leave me wanting anything more, the way each side of a great pairing can elevate both ends and make you keep coming back and crashing back and forth over your palate. This one just made me wish I had a Stiegl or a BBK instead. Bummer. Live and learn.
Railtown Brewing Empty Shells
Sometimes you just stumble into something good. That was the case when I sat down (once again) at Traverse City’s top beer bar 7 Monks. Even though they’ve got a selection from all over, I usually stick with Michigan beers — especially ones I haven’t had before. Especially especially if I’ve never even heard of the brewery before. That was the case with Railtown Brewing Company from Caledonia, MI, a little southeast of Grand Rapids. Apparently they’re so small that they can get away without actually having a website — their URL redirects straight to their Facebook page.
If I see a peanut butter beer, I’m gonna order it…unless my wife beats me to it, as was the case this afternoon. This Empty Shells is listed as an oatmeal brown ale that’s a little lighter in body than I had expected, but is full of dense, rich, oaty malt character with an almost cocoa-chocolate sweetness, topped off with the right amount of dry peanut and marzipan flavor. It’s not quite Reese-cup sweet which is nice as it means you can order a couple and not get overwhelmed…which is just what we did.
Third Street Hop Lift IPA and Lost Trout Brown
We got these two beers sent to us out of the blue by Third Street, a Minnesota brand that just moved into cans and recently revamped their packaging as well. They’re the craft imprint of Cold Spring Brewing Company, which when they’re not making beers like these are mostly focused on beverages through their Monarch Custom Beverage line that’ll make you juice, energy drinks, soft drinks, tea and flavored malt beverages.
We have a hunch they may want to make some inroads into Illinois if they’re sending beer to us, which, great, more beer. The Hop Lift was a fairly piney, pleasantly bitter IPA, and a bit of a throwback to the days of yore when everything wasn’t fruit infused or hop-hazed like most of today’s new IPAs. It’s a good middle of the road IPA — nothing to get call-your-friends excited, but if it’s on draft, it’s a solid option.
The Lost Trout was fairly thin and insipid — watery, minimal malt character, and enough hop bitterness on the back end to know that the beer is out of balance. There’s better brown ales in the world, and you should have those. Good lookin’ cans, though. Points there.
Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
I grabbed a sixer of this as I am working my way through the pale-ale selection available at my grocery store. Ryan loved this when he got his hands on some way back in those 2010 days when we wrote about every damn beer we ever tried. (Ah, memories.) I, on the other hand, am a little less taken with it — or my palate has moved on to brighter, fruitier flavors.
This one was significantly richer with coppery and toffee-forward malt sweetness up front, which dials back to a spruce-y, almost spearmint-y hop bitterness that is a blast from the past in comparison to the Five Alive fruit punch pale ales and IPAs we know and love today. Did I change? Am I going crazy? Is this just an old sixer whose hop character has faded?
I don’t know, but while I find out, pass me a PseudoSue.
This has been Hot Takes, Quick Tastes. As always, if a beer is received gratis, we will disclose at all times. If you’ve got a beer you’d like us to try, chances are we won’t accept it (we ignore most “hey want some free beer” emails because we’re happy to buy our own), but you can try to email us. Bonus points if you can name the brewery flight in the lead photo.