Thursday, August 19, 2010

Magic Hat Beer Pairing Dinner

Once per month, the Tap House Grill holds a beer pairing dinner at each of its four Chicagoland locations. For each beer pairing dinner, Chef Todd Davies chooses a brewery and creates a five course meal to go with five of that brewery's beers. Last night, I attended the Tap House Grill's Magic Hat beer pairing. Now, instead of reviewing each of the beers or the food, I will simply say that the meal was incredible and I can't wait for next month's pairing with Guinness brewery. Here are some pictures and descriptions of each course.

Pre-meal Reception - #9
We were started off with a pint of #9 and a bunch of cool Magic Hat swag.

1st Course - Wacko
Wacko, a very light summer ale, was paired with organic chicken and a horseradish cucumber raita.

2nd Course - Odd Notion Summer '10 (Wild Ginger Ale)
Odd Notion was paired with a crispy scallop and shitake wonton over twice-cooked duck in a banana sauce. This was my favorite course of the meal.

3rd Course - #9
#9, the not quite pale ale, was paired with #9 braised P.E.I. mussels over corn and Spanish chorizo. This course was awesome and a very close second favorite.

P.S. The restaurant got progressively darker, so I had to bust out the flash.

4th Course - Blind Faith
Blind Faith IPA was paired with seared all-natural beef striploin atop a rosemary cauliflower gorgonzola croquette.

5th Course - Circus Boy
Circus Boy hefeweizen was paired with a frozen banana and cashew mousse, drizzled with hazelnut chocolate sauce. This was a delicious dessert.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rogue Chipotle Ale

I'm a sucker for spice, so Rogue's Chipotle Ale jumped right out at me. Preparing myself for a barrage of heat, I was shocked to find that the essence of this beer lies in its subtleties. Chipotle Ale is surprisingly smooth and coats the mouth with a slightly smoky and full bodied flavor that leaves the palate with an incredibly mild spice. I found the chipotle flavor to be so subtle, in fact, that I didn't even notice it until my third or fourth sip. However, it's smokiness became more apparent with each subsequent sip. Chipotle Ale is not the novelty beer I was expecting, but rather what I would think to be a fantastic addition to fajita night. It pours with a fluffy head and a beautiful deep golden color. Plus, Rogue suggests mixing it with their Chocolate Stout to create a Mole Black & Tan; definitely something I will strive to make in the future.

Taste: 4.0
Head: 4.0
Refreshment: 2.5

Total Score: 3.75

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kataja Olut

I had tried this Finnish beer at a tasting prior to purchasing. It's obvious now that I had sampled a bit too many beers before trying this one because it is not what I remember. The first thing I noticed upon pouring was its total lack of head. The second thing I noticed was all the shit floating around in it. Observe the image below. The bottle says that it is flavored with juniper branches, and I can't help but think that the branches were never removed. I also do not know what juniper tastes like, but I have to imagine that it is the fruity flavor in this beer that I just cannot place. As I sip, I can feel the beer barrage the top of my mouth and as that fades, a rubbery aftertaste lingers (though not unpleasant). This beer was definitely something different, but I don't think I will be buying it again.

Taste: 2.0
Head: 0
Total Score: 1.5

Hop Juice Double India Pale Ale

During my beer run, Hop Juice was the last beer I put into my basket. I was skeptical because, although Two Brothers is incredibly local for me, I haven't liked anything from them. Domaine DuPage couldn't be more blah. However, I was immediately surprised by its strong fruity aroma and thick head. This beer rocks 100.1 IBU and 9.9% ABV, but I never felt overwhelmed by bitterness or tasted the alcohol. The hoppy/fruity flavor lasted well after each sip was over. I've started salivating just thinking about it. This beer had a very similar flavor to Lagunitas IPA, which happens to be my favorite IPA. Unfortunately, this one is only available in bombers, so it ends up being a little pricey per ounce, but since it is a limited release it's worth picking up a bottle before it disappears.

Head: 3.0
Total Score: 4.0

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Comebacks, Selections, & Gimmicks

Here I am, two years later, and all it took was for everybody I know to leave town (and a few urges from lmop). I wish I could say that I've become a beer expert over these past years, but I still struggle with the indiscernible palate I had when I was in college. Know that I am reaching if I ever describe the notes in a beer's flavor. However, I have tasted a significant number of beers since my last post and, although I neglected to write about them, I have developed a point of reference. So, over the next week or two I will be reviewing a selection of beers that I picked up earlier today. In the meantime...(Please, read on)

Picking a 6-pack for the night can be a daunting task when immersed in the sprawling beer section of a liquor store. Imported, microbrew, limited release, lager, ale, stout, cider, etc. If you have ever read The Alco-log, there's a good chance that we're friends and either get random recommendations from me, or are and avid beer drinker anyway. However, if you randomly stumble upon this blog and are of low confidence when while in the beer section, I hope The Alco-log helps make finding the right beer a much more manageable task.

Unfortunately, until I get enough readers that breweries send me beers to review, I must also select from the masses. So what do I do? I go with my gut. I start with domestics and almost always with the new/limited releases. There are some beers that I have all the time, but I mostly like to try new ones. If I find a brewery I like, I will always try their new/limited releases. It's the staples of these breweries that I check out next, picking out a variety of theirs that I haven't had yet. I tend to go for the IPAs, Stouts, and most Ales (especially Brown, Pale, and White). I'll stay away from the beers that say Amber. Fuck PILSNERS. Next, I will look for the types of beer I like from breweries that I haven't had. This is where I become a sucker for marketing. I'm highly influenced by names and packaging when it comes to this part of my search. If I'm stuck between two beers, the more badass name/image will always win. Dragon's Milk, Skullcrusher, and Hobgoblin will beat Hoppin' to Heaven every time. Lastly, I will check out the imports. I'm hesitant to pick a random import because I haven't liked most of the ones I've tried and I don't want to be stuck with the Bud Light of Lithuania. So, if I've already found one I like from a beer tasting, I might throw it into my cart. Done.

My method is time consuming, but it allows me to regularly try new beers based on ones that I already like. It also keeps me away from the American Pilsner: the antithesis of The Alco-log and the subject of my next section.

I like marketing but I must shake my head at gimmicks. Gimmicks are the only things that separate one watery American Pilsner from another. A case of Coors Light has the following: Frost-Brew Liner, Wide Mouth Can, Vent (for God knows what), Cold Activated Can, and a Cold Activation Window (which is really just a big hole in the box so that you can see the Cold Activated Can). These things don't make Coors Light a good beer; they distract the buyer so long that by the time he's drinking it, it's too big of a hassle to get something else. Although Coors seems to be the worst perpetrator of this, Budweiser and Miller contribute their fair share. Miller's Vortex bottle is a mystery to me. Does it make the beer pour faster? taste better? Maybe the Miller Brewery just had some extra glass that they needed to use, so they jammed it into the necks of all their bottles. I'm waiting for one of these companies to release the Shotgun Can: a can with two pop-tops that makes pregaming just a little easier. At least that gimmick would have some purpose. If you get anything out of reading The Alco-log, I hope that it is a desire to try something new and not get sucked in by the lame gimmicks the American Pilsners use to differentiate themselves. It's a sad time when the Champagne of Beers tastes like pee.

P.S. American Pilsners are GREAT for beer pong.