Revolution Brewing is my favorite Chicago brewery—that disaster with the hibiscus ale being excluded—now has new to me—it was available this spring in cans—called Fist City Chicago Pale Ale:
Described as “a supremely drinkable brew for those who love hops” and I would argue that it is the ideal craft beer replacement for schwag macro lagers that populate dive bars. Yes, I am looking at you Old Style. While I respect the adherence to the Old Style cult that has gripped Chicago since the mid-1980s, which is about the same time the rest of America gave up on the brand, it is time to stake your taste buds to something a little better and a little more local. Firing down pint after pint of super hoppy pale ales does not appeal to everyone, but Fist City could easily slot in as the “go to” replacement for forgettable canned lagers that come in thirty packs. Life is too short to drink beer based on its per can price.
The beer is really drinkable at 5.5% ABV and “just” 40 IBU. Yep, it’s about a percentage point higher in alcohol content than a basic macro lager but it is not a beer that is going to put you on your ass after drinking three of them.
Somehow the brewers managed to squeeze in every hop beginning with a C: Centennial, Citra, Chinook, Cascade and Crystal. Too bad there is not a Chicago hop variety. This leads to a somewhat muddied hop profile where none of the characteristics of any variety stands out. It’s not bad, per se, but it leaves the drinker looking for a particular flavor or aroma wanting something different. Call me a hop head or a beer snob. I like to taste and smell individual and unique hop notes. Yeah, I sound like one of those ass clowns in “Sideways” talking about notes of oak and udon.
Back to the matter at hand. If you need a six pack or thirty pack to take to your next event and want something that can please a lot of people without being boring—yes I am looking at the guy who always beings a twelve pack of Blue Moon to a party—give Fist City a shot:
See what others are saying about Revolution Brewing Fist City at Beeradvocate.
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Tagged ABV, ale, beer, Blue Moon, Cascade, Centennial, Chicago, Chinook, Citra, Crystal, Fist City, hops, IBU, Illinois, Old Style, Revolution Brewing
Beer from New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado used to be like a revelation. A twelve pack of Fat Tire Amber Ale was treated like a gift when someone was thoughtful enough to bring some back from the Front Range. Times have changed and I have not been impressed with their recent exploits. Nonetheless, nostalgia will get me from time to time and I picked up a six pack of the recently released Long Table Farmhouse Ale:
This a beer that drinks boozy (6.2% ABV) with little bitterness (20 IBU) or body to balance it out. When I think of “farmhouse ale” or a saison I am generally thinking that it will be a lower alcohol beer that is easy drinking. Think light beer with soul.
Long Table has none of that soul. With a small amount of bitterness and no dry hopping there is little hop aroma or flavor. With nothing hitting your nose or tongue your palate is left to deal with a thin beer hitting you in the face with alcohol and esters. There are a lot of peppery notes in this beer, but it comes across like someone just cracked a peppermill over the bottle before packaging.
Long Table tastes like it is a derivative of other similar New Belgium beers. The plan out of Fort Collins seems to read like Hollywood’s—reboots and sequels. When is the reality of what New Belgium is brewing—thin variations on a theme—going to overcome the perception of the brewery—pioneering spirit of American craft industry, environmentally friendly, socially conscious, employee owned, etc.? With breweries in two states and a near total coverage of the continental United States it feels like New Belgium is brewing and marketing toward the middle ground where it is offering little different from the craft labels owned by the macro brewing giants.
If you are an aficionado of thin, boozy beers with little else to tickle your palate crack open a Long Table:
See what others are saying about New Belgium Long Table Farmhouse Ale at Beeradvocate.
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Tagged ABV, ale, beer, Chinook, Colorado, craft, Fort Collins, hops, IBU, Long Table Farmhouse Ale, malt, Nelson Sauvin, New Belgium Brewery, Target, yeast
The second beer that I ended up with because of HyVee’s evil Fuel Saver program was Deschutes Brewery’s Pinedrops IPA:
This beer pours a lot lighter than Fresh Squeezed IPA. Therefore, I would classify this as a more traditional IPA versus the emerging American Pale Ale style of beer.
However, the light body does not provide a good sounding board for either the alcohol (6.5% ABV) or bitterness (70 IBU). Perhaps it is from the wide variety of hops used— Nugget, Northern Brewer, Chinook, Centennial, and Equinox hops—or the general level of bitterness, but this beer leaves a lingering after taste that is not particularly pleasant.
It reminds me, unfortunately, of a lot of early craft beer IPAs that left you with the feeling of having drank some bong water with your beer. Those brewers were trying to mask deficiencies in skill by piling on flavors and aromas. Having drank well done beers from Deschutes Brewery before I know there is no need for these brewers to be hiding because the talent is present in the brewhouse.
Also, with a name like Pinedrops I was expecting a heavy, resinous profile that almost made you think you were breathing in the air of a temperate coniferous rain forest. Was that too much to ask?
At this stage of the craft brewing industry in America we expect more from our IPAs:
See what others are saying about Deschutes Brewery Pinedrops IPA at Beeradvocate.
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Tagged ABV, beer, brewery, Carapils, Centennial, Chinook, craft, Crystal, Deschutes Brewery, equinox, ferment, hops, IBU, India Pale Ale, IPA, malt, Munich, Northern Brewer, Nugget, Oregon, pale, pilsner, Portland
HyVee’s Fuel Saver program is the devil. You walk into the liquor store thinking you are going to pick up a fifteen pack of All Day IPA and instead you end up with something completely different because you saved $0.25 off per gallon of gas. This is how I ended up with two six-packs of different beers from Deschutes Brewery. In my defense, a total of $0.50 off per gallon of gas ends up saving me $10 when I fill up with the maximum of twenty gallons. Easy to do when road trip summers are here.
When Deschutes Brewery first came into the Iowa market I tried several of their beers and came away liking them in general. It’s been a while and I have not been tempted since for various reasons. The first beer I cracked open was Fresh Squeezed IPA:
I had passed this beer on numerous occasions, read the label, and thought that with a name like Fresh Squeezed it should have been a fresh hopped beer. Damn marketing.
The beer pours a darker amber color than most IPAs, which makes me consider this more of an American Pale Ale. What does that mean? Whatever marketing wants it to mean, but in general I think it means more malt and body than a traditional IPA.
All of this extra body means that the beer drinks a lot easier than its 6.4% ABV and 60 IBU would suggest. Being near the golden ratio—in my opinion—of ABV to IBU the extra body of the beer hides some of the downsides of having more bitterness and bite. It essentially mellows out the more extreme elements of the alcohol and hops. Fresh Squeezed is brewed with a combination of Citra, Mosaic, and Nugget hops. None of these really stand out as the driving element leaving the profile a little muddled or muted. Again, I was kind of bummed that this was not a fresh hopped beer.
In summary, you can do a lot worse in terms of mainstream pale ales and you ought to give Fresh Squeezed a try if you are looking to broaden your pale ale palate:
See what others are saying about Deschutes Brewery Fresh Squeezed IPA at Beeradvocate.
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Tagged ABV, beer, brewery, Citra, craft, Crystal, Deschutes Brewery, ferment, hops, IBU, India Pale Ale, IPA, malt, Mosaic, Munich, Nugget, Oregon, pale, Portland
Wit or white ale are the gateway drug into the craft beer addiction. You wake up one morning from a Natty Light hangover, realize that you graduated from college almost a year ago, and decide that on your next night out you will not be that guy crushing light lagers.
At the bar you are offered a plethora of choices—unless it is one of those bars with two taps reserved for Budweiser and Busch Light, which are always classy establishments where no one ever gets stabbed with an improvised edged weapon—that almost causes paralysis by analysis. Do I want a European pilsner? Or is an IPA a better choice? A Russian imperial stout sounds like a lineup of ex-Soviet hockey players, but is it right for me just a few days removed from wondering which beer came in 30 packs for less than $20?
You look around and notice a lot of people have tall glasses of a hazy, golden beer with an orange. How bad can it be if it has an orange in it? What is that beer that every girl in a sundress and flower crown is drinking on the patio? It’s Blue Moon. What’s a Blue Moon? A Belgian style white ale.
Here is the deal. There is a reason that Coors made Blue Moon its entry into the faux craft movement…people want different that is not too different. You cannot expect people to go from drinking beer measured in twelve pack increments to throwing back IPAs with IBU ratings in the seventies. They are going to run back to the beer cooler for something familiar and never come back. You need a gateway drug. Belgian style white beers are that gateway drug.
Revolution Brewing understands this and brews Bottom Up Wit:
How is Revolution Brewing’s wit different than Blue Moon or Shock Top? Not so much. These are easy drinking beers. How easy? At 5.0% ABV and 14 IBU it compares favorably, statistically speaking, to a Bud Light at an estimated 4.1% ABV and 8-10 IBU. With a little coriander and orange peel there is a lot more going on in terms of flavor, so you feel like you are drinking something that is more artisanal or original than a light lager.
At the end of the day white ales or wits are fairly boring. Maybe it is a style of beer that someone will do something original with and blow people away, but until then I will stand by my assertion that brewers keep this style in their quiver to have something almost anyone can drink when visiting a taproom:
Here is what other people are saying about Revolution Brewing Bottom Up Wit @ Beeradvocate
Posted in Beer
Tagged ABV, ale, beer, Belgian, Blue Moon, Chicago, coriander, hops, IBU, Illinois, orange peel, Revolution Brewing, white ale, wit, yeast
What is an American Pale Ale? Better yet, what is a Belgian American Pale Ale? When will this insanity stop? We should just start calling beers with crazy varietal names by something completely arbitrary so that it no one is any more confused by sign posts like pale ale or porter or stout or pumpkin peach ale.
Revolution Brewing brews a so-called Belgian American Pale Ale called A Little Crazy Ale:
This beer will surprise you at a somewhat boozy 6.8% ABV. Even more surprising is that it drinks a lot more balanced than its middling 35 IBU would lead you to believe. Dry hopped with Citra and Cascade hops there is the presence of hop resins and aromas that do not contribute to the bitterness and help in balancing out the beer’s alcohol.
A Little Crazy is definitely “malt forward,” which accounts for the Belgian in its name. The brewery says that it is golden in color, but I would aim for a little darker hue like copper or amber when describing this particular brew. It is also carbonated a little lighter than more common American Pale Ales, which again I think contributes to its Belgian character. There is definitely some old world influence on this hybrid.
Be careful with this beer because it can sneak up on you. After a few you realize that this is not a session ale and you will find yourself wishing you had ordered a water that last round to clear your head a little bit. Grab a six pack and enjoy on a cool summer evening by the fire:
See what others are saying about Revolution Brewing A Little Crazy at Beeradvocate.
Posted in Beer
Tagged ABV, American pale ale, Beeradvocate, Belgian Pale Ale, Cascade, Chicago, Citra, dry hop, dry hopped, hops, IBU, Illinois, magnum, malt, pale ale, pilsner, Revolution Brewing
Revolution Brewing should be familiar to anyone who saw the movie Drinking Buddies with Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick. The movie was an unfortunate mumblecore mess for a lot of reasons, most notably that it did not really have an overarching story, but how would the beer taste coming from such a brewery.
Chicago is interesting compared to some of the other big cities in the region because it got a somewhat late start in the whole craft beer scene. Goose Island was a long time player, but it was about the only game in town until recently with the opening of Revolution Brewing and some others like Pipeworks Brewing Company. I guess people really did like throwing down cans of Old Style. Why, dear god, why?
On a recent trip to the Field Museum with my daughter I was able to make a side trip and pick up several six-packs of different beers from Revolution Brewing. First up is Anti-Hero IPA:
The beer is pretty balanced coming in at 6.5% ABV and 70 IBU. There is no single noticeable or overpowering hop notes, so this is not a beer that tries to grab you by the scruff of your neck and stick your nose in a bouquet of citrus. Smell the grapefruit, hipsters! I digress.
It’s an enjoyable beer, but it is not a memorable beer. It is my contention that to truly be a memorable IPA anyone you have to do something out of the ordinary. It says something about the evolution of beer in the U.S. when a slightly boozy and bitter IPA is nothing to write home to mom about. Then again, it’s not that you have to do something good to be memorable. Sometimes you just have to be colorful.
On the other hand this would be a beer that would be happy to have as your “go to” local six pack. Maybe this is the future of craft beer where regional brewers produce good beers for a limited geographical range and knock out some seasonal or special brews to coincide with local flavors or events.
In the end, it’s a beer you can be confident ordering in place of a freakin’ Old Style while you wait for the Cubs game to start:
See what others are saying about Revolution Brewing Anti-Hero IPA at Beeradvocate.
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Tagged ABV, ale, Anna Kendrick, Anti-Hero IPA, beer, Chicago, Drinking Buddies, hops, IBU, Illinois, IPA, Olivia Wilde, Revolution Brewing