Atlas – I didn’t shrug

September 19, 2012 at 3:19 am

courtesy Atlas Brewing

Quick quiz question:

What is a Monadnock?

a)     a Native American term for an isolated hill or a lone mountain that has risen above the surrounding area, typically by surviving erosion.

b)    a well-known summit in southwestern New Hampshire

c)     a mountain in Vermont

d)    a twin-screw, wooden-hull, double-turreted, ironclad monitor-class ship that saw action for Union forces in the Civil War

e)     the tallest commercial iron frame building with a load-bearing masonry exterior wall ever constructed, at 53 West Jackson, in Chicago

f)     a damn fine dark rye beer, brewed on Lincoln Avenue, just south of Diversey

Of course, the answer is all of the above, but as this is a column about beer, let’s focus on f – Atlas Brewing’s Monadnock Unfiltered Rye Ale. It’s made with 22% rye, but with all the toastier grains that give it its brown color, the rye spiciness is rather muted. But for anyone who likes Newcastle Brown Ale, this is a similar but far more complex brew worth trying.

Especially when paired with FEW Spirits Rye Whiskey. In an updated nod to the old corner bar ethos of “a shot and a beer,” Atlas is offering a special pairing of a pint of Monadnock Unfiltered Rye Ale with a shot of FEW’s Rye Whiskey.

The rye isn’t the only thing worth getting yourself to Atlas, though.

The 1871 Smoked Porter (a reference to the smoke produced during the Great Chicago Fire) is a dark beer that uses a Wisconsin-sourced cherry wood-smoked malt, resulting in rich, almost chocolaty/caramely 7% ABVbrew that plays to its malt strengths. At the other end of the spectrum, Hyperion Double IPA (10% ABV) showcases all the citrusy, grapefruit aromas and flavors that typify so many American hops.

I found the Demeter Belgian Wheat to be easy drinking, but without the level of esters that might be expected in a Belgian Wheat beer. Speaking with one of the brewmasters, Ben Siller (his brother John is the other brewmaster), he admitted it was an early batch. “Yeah, maybe we were a little low, to be conservative, on that one” referring to its fermentation temperature.

Clearly the recipes and techniques are still being tweaked.

And the relatively small system should be easy to tweak. Unlike some brewpubs, that purchase their equipment used from other failed brewpubs, the Atlas system is brand new, with all the electronic controls consistent with a state of the art system.

Likely, they can afford it. Unlike many of Chicago’s brewpubs, Atlas is supported by a successful local restaurant group – Spare Time, which also owns bowling emporiums Southport Lanes, and two Seven Ten Lanes, as well as Daily Bar & Grill, Firehouse Grill, New Line Tavern, and Popkin Tavern. They even bought the Atlas name – it had been the name of a noted Chicago brewery from 1896 until prohibition.

Atlas Brewing opened in late June 2012, and it’s at 2747 N Lincoln Ave in Chicago.