I Don’t Need no Stinkin’ Beer Year in Review

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December 28, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Tom Keith

It’s that time of year, when everyone and his overeducated yet slothful brother-in-law* is writing about the year in review. (Or even worse, printing it out and sticking inside holiday cards to inflict it on unsuspecting loved ones.) But me, I flatter myself to think I’m an iconoclast, marching to be beat of my own tympani, with a semi-functional mind of my own. I don’t want to have to write up the year in review. I don’t have to follow the pack. I refuse to do what everybody expects. I’m my own man. I don’t need your stinkin’ rules.

 So here’s my year in review column.

 It was a good year for beer in Chicago.

 It used to be Goose Island was the only craft brewer within the city limits (not counting Pete Crowley’s fantastic output at the corner of State and Grand). The Goose is still going strong, especially with their Belgian-style ales – Matilda, Sophie, Juilet, and Pere Jacques. Try each and swoon appropriately multiple times. If Goose Island is the spokesbrewery for craft brewing in Chicago, then Chicago’s long been well served.

 But in 2009, Metropolitan came into its own, initially with its Dynamo Copper Lager and Flywheel Bright Lager. Then Doug and Tracy (craft beer’s obsequious minions) rolled out two amazing beers — Krankshaft Kölsch and Generator Dopplebock — both of which have already been reviewed as among the country’s best beers for their styles. Everyone should taste each of these at least once (because then they’ll want to taste it again, and again, and again, and again, and … well, you get the idea.)

 Half Acregftr opened its Lincoln Square brewery, and Daisy Cutter came out – a most excellent brew, which received 94/100 points from Ratebeer.com. Hopheads rejoice. The retail store at 4257 N. Lincoln Ave. is a great, creative addition to the neighborhood, and now features proper growlers (thanks, Gabriel).

 And Josh is getting close to getting Revolution Brewing, in Logan Square, off the ground. I’ll be watching his excellent blog closely.

LocalBeetBeer2

 A few of us partook of Local Beet beer  – yeah, in retrospect it might have been a bit of a stunt to get the Local Beet name out there. In reality, while it was an interesting brewing experiment, it really wasn’t a very pleasant drinking beer. At a recent LTHForum event, Editor at Large Rob Gardner said he was considering donating a bottle or two for the raffle, as a way to promote The Local Beet. It would have worked, but I’m guessing it was just his way of saying he didn’t want to drink this swill. For the record, it was submitted to a local, prestigious homebrew competition, and was rated “fair” (although it was undoubtedly the best beet beer entered). Comments included “A shock to the senses on first taste,” and “Some kind of Kool-Aid gone wrong,” (the latter from a certain National Beer Judge). But they liked the color and clarity.

 Rob also asked me to name a “best beer of the year.” That’s silly – you can’t compare a subtle, finessed Krankshaft Kölsch from Metropolitan, with a hit-you-over-the-head-until-your-brain-resembles-mashed-potatoes-beer, like Three Floyd’s Dark Lord. That would be as dumb as trying to pick out a best movie of the year from each year’s comedies, dramas, Sci-Fi’s, thrillers, horror pix – each exists within its own realm — certainly there are no common standards that can apply equally to each style.

 (Huh? What’s that? Someone actually does pick a “best movie?” I don’t care, it’s still dumb.)

 But surely, in addition to the beers mentioned above, Ale Asylum’s Diablo Belgian Dubbel should be included among the best beers your faithful Local Beet taster quaffed in 2009. It was tremendously rich, deep  … redolent of caramel, chocolate and coffee flavors. So much so, in fact, that my FDC (Frequent Drinking Companion) thought it would make a great ice cream. Short answer – it did.  Look for more about Ale Asylum’s spectacular beers in a future Southern Wisconsin column, whenever I decide to get around to writing it.

 On the national scene, in 2009, InBev took over Budweiser, and immediately tried to upgrade some of its offerings. They added an average-tasting (at best) American Ale, and a witbier (Bud Light Golden Wheat). The Bud Light Golden Wheat was a knee-jerk reaction to Coors, which has made a good chunk of change with their own lousy version of a witbier, Blue Moon. Budweiser’s thoughtful innovation was simply to identify their beer simply as having “citrus and a hint of coriander, brewed with Golden Wheat” — not using the words “Belgium” or “witbier.” Those guys are soooo clever – foreign countries or real beer words might frighten away the late teens with fake IDs.

 But in terms of formulation, they didn’t learn much from Coors; Bud Light Golden Wheat came in last in a Local Beet blind tasting.

 As an experiment, over the holidays that blind tasting was repeated with several 20-something nephews and a niece (21 – 25 years old). (Their beer of choice is typically Miller Light. Based on that, I’m not positive that their claims to be related to me are true. Or maybe it has something to do with defective genes from my brothers-in-law.**) For the 20-somethings, the Blue Moon came out on top. So, apparently, Coors has a good understanding of what it takes to capture the taste buds of unsophisticated beer drinkers. Bud Light Golden Wheat doesn’t suggest that same level of understanding. It still didn’t do well.

 But it’s only the future that’s ahead of us (unless you’re into wormholes).

 Personally, I’m looking forward to 2010, when Revolution Brewery will officially open, Doug and Tracy will develop even more great Metropolitan Beers, and maybe, just maybe, a few BudMilCoors drinkers will realize there’s a great, fascinating world of craft beers out there.

 Aaah, what am I thinking? There’ll probably be millions more turning legal drinking age who will, like the niece and nephews, prefer Blue Moon to a real Belgian Ale.

 But, at The Local Beet, we’ll try to keep you on top of the good stuff going on locally. And, to a lesser extent, the stuff to reconsider.

 We’ll see you again after the turn of the decade.

 * a fictional construct for purposes of this piece. Neither of my brothers-in-law is slothful. No comment on overeducated.

 ** not a fictional construct

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