Tag Archives: craft beer

Beer Passport — 3 Sheeps Cashmere Sweater and 5 Rabbit Vida y Muerte

Our Beer Passport program is one of the ways that we try to introduce our patrons to specific beers. With our passport selections, we want to introduce

  • hard to find beers, one offs (beers brewed one time only) or new beers from brewers we love
  • seasonal beers that we don’t want you to miss
  • something crazy you might not try otherwise (like last year’s Bare Bear from Off-Color – had you ever even heard of the sahti style?)
  • beers that demonstrate the creativity of craft brewers
  • beers from newer or up and coming brewers.

With 1.5 new breweries opening every day, it’s impossible to try everything and it’s hard to know which beers are worth your time. We try hundreds of beers a year (and our distributors try even more than us!) in order to find excellent beers to serve. From time to time we like to use the passport program to introduce you to a core offering from a newer brewer or a brewer that we love. That’s why last week we had Fractal IPA from Penrose Brewing co. (a core offering from a newer brewer and rising star in the Chicago beer scene), and that’s why this week we are highlighting 3 Sheeps Cashmere Sweater Rye Stout on Nitro.

If you’ve been in The Pub in the last week and a half, you have probably seen this beer on our menu board. You may have even tried to order it. Unfortunately we’ve had some problems with one of our Nitro taps and had to turn a lot of people down. (I know, sad, right?) The problem is fixed, and so now we want as many people as possible to try this great beer. This brewer has only been around since 2012, and you may or not have had anything from them. Now’s your chance.

This beer is brewed specifically with nitrogenation in mind. For the unfamiliar, almost all beer is carbonated (meaning CO2 is added), like soda. Some beers, however, are nitrogenated (meaning NO2 is added). Guinness is the most common example. Nitrogen dioxide in beer provides much smaller bubbles than carbon dioxide, and the effects can be dramatic. First, the head is much creamier, so much so that the telltale wonder of a Nitro beer is the cascading that happens when you pour it. Unlike a carbonated beer, you don’t want to pour the beer gently into the glass. Second, the beer has an overall creamier body or mouthfeel. Third, comparing a nitro version of a beer with a non-nitro version reveals an incredible impact on flavor as well. If you tried Founders Rubaeus when we had it on nitro, then you surely noticed how much brighter and upfront the raspberry flavor was in the nitro version. Nitro can accentuate the subtle flavors of a beer and offset the aggressive, bitter flavors. Fifth, the aroma, or nose, of a nitro beer is subtler, as it’s harder for the aromas to penetrate the nitro head.

Cashmere Hammer was brewed specifically as a Nitro beer. To this end, the brewer started with Rye, which is often used in small quantities in a variety of beers for a spicy, dry effect. Too much rye can leave a beer feeling and tasting harsh, so it’s an ingredient that requires a master’s hand and an artisan’s creativity. This beer starts with the qualities of rye in mind and is designed to play with them in unexpected ways. The rye provides the boldness to punch through the nitro head for aroma, and the subtlety of the rye emerges as the harshness is palliated by the nitrogenation. The result (as with any good nitro beer) is a velvety smooth body, which is complemented by subtle rye flavor that lacks the aggressiveness typical of rye beers. (As an aside, the aggressiveness of rye can make it a great complement for the hoppy bitterness of an IPA, as in Founders Red’s Rye IPA or Great Lakes Rye of the Tiger.) The beer doesn’t disappoint the stout lovers either. This beer pours opaque and has the classic chocolate/coffee notes of a great stout. Rounding it out is a subtle dry finish.

As a bonus, we are also giving passport stamps for 5 Rabbit Vida y Muerte. We tapped this beer for Dia de los Muertos on Monday. Victor and Jody are in love with this beer. This beer is so good and so interesting, that one patron, when sipping a friend’s exclaimed, “I don’t like beer very much. I’d drink this over a cider!” Seriously – this beer is awesome.

The beer begins with a certain familiarity to those who enjoy Oktoberfest beers at The Pub. That’s because it’s loosely based on the traditional Oktoberfest märzen style. If that’s all there were to this beer, it wouldn’t be worth a passport selection. But, like Dia de los Muertos itself, this beer is a fusion of cultural influences typical of 5 Rabbit. Mexican beer is hugely influenced by the German brewing tradition, making the selection of a märzen style a fun beginning.

The next thing you’ll notice is the rich, caramel overtones. Dulce de leche (popular throughout Latin America) brings a delicate carameliness to the beer. This is the second way that the beer is in harmony with Dia de los Muertos, a holiday that combines pre-colonial and Spanish Catholic religious traditions to create something unique to the New World.

Finally, the middle, transitioning to the finish, is accented by two subtle additions. A touch of milk sugar, which is unfermentable, adds a very slight sweetness. This gives way to the specially chosen spices to create a delicate spiciness and imparts a coziness that is surprising in a beer.

Topping off the cultural fusion that is synonymous with 5 Rabbit and Dia de los Muertos, 5 Rabbit calls this style, “müerzen,” a clever bilingual pun that makes a word nerd like very happy.

Finally, from the 5 Rabbit description of the beer:

Vida y Muerte es nuestra cerveza para el Día de los Muertos. Una mezcla de tradicion católica y pre-colonial, que más que un recordatorio sombrío de la muerte, es una celebración de vida.

Enjoy one or both of these beers as tonight’s passport selection and collect up to two stamps.

Penrose Fractal

American Craft Brewing, like so many things American, is about ingenuity. It’s about experimentation. It’s about asking questions like, “What if I put these two things together that everyone says shouldn’t go together?” There’s a long history and tradition surrounding Belgian beers. There’s a long history and tradition surrounding India Pale Ales (IPAs). There’s even a history (albeit shorter) of IPAs in American craft brewing. It’s therefore not surprising that American craft brewers would decide that they should play with Belgian influences when creating IPA recipes.

This brings us to Penrose. Penrose has only been open since early 2014, but they’ve already made a splash in the Chicago beer scene. (Yes, there is a Chicago beer scene, and Chicago is one of the most vibrant and interesting beer markets in the country.) Named the #7 brewery in Chicagoland by thrillist, these guys are doing some really interesting stuff.

The brewery was started by two former employees of Goose Island, the craft brewing legend and godfather of Chicago craft brewing, and they have proclaimed themselves as wanting to highlight yeast and its attributes in their beers. They’ve therefore created a list of core beers that can all be described as Belgian inspired or having Belgian characteristics. This means that when it came time to create an IPA, they created what’s come to be known in the craft beer world as a Belgian IPA or Belgo-American IPA. (For those wondering, the IPA originated in Britain in the 18th century.) The beer is Fractal, and it’s the Beer Passport Selection tonight at The Pub.

Fractal poured in a Penrose glass

Fractal begins with two-row barley malt and carapils malt (a malt produced in Wisconsin, hi neighbors!). Two-row barley is a classic malt favored in European beers (over six-row barley malt that is favored by American macro-brewers for it’s higher enzyme content and concomitant potential for fermenting the most common adjunct in American macrobrews – corn). Nothing fancy, just a solid base. To this is added carapils, a malt that really just helps the beer have more consistent head and impacts the mouthfeel.

For hopping the beer, three hops varieties are used, none of which are particularly unusual, meaning they are well established and therefore provide characteristics familiar to American craft beer drinkers. First, there’s Cascade Hops. Cascade is the granddaddy of American Hops and American craft beer. Familiar from beers like Anchor Liberty Ale and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Cascade was the first hopes to come out of the USDA’s cultivation program in the 1950s and was made available to brewers in 1970. It has a long history in craft brewing and so should be familiar to you if you have tried very many IPAs or American pale ales.

Second in the hop bill is Columbus. This hop variety can be described as flashy insofar as it has a very pronounced aroma that can be described as dank, evoking marijuana or pine resin. It is used for bittering in beers and gives the beer a distinctively herbaceous aroma and taste.

Last but not least is Amarillo. This hop is familiar to many patrons of The Pub because of its prominence in 3Floyds Gumballhead. By industry folks, it is considered as a type of Cascade hop, but ultimately this hop variety is proprietary and grown by a single producer who owns a patent on the plant, Virgil Gamache Farms. This hop is used especially for its aroma, producing a floral-citrusy scent with spice notes throughout. It adds a similar flavor to beers that use it.

The star of Fractal, though, is the Belgian yeast, in this case a strain called Bastogne. History buffs (or fans of HBO’s Band of Brothers) will recall Bastogne as the site of an important WWII battle that was part of the larger Battle of the Bulge. As far as beer is concerned, Bastogne yeast is a strand of Trappist style yeast, most familiar to the casual American drinker in Dubbel and Tripel style beers.

The artistry of Fractal emerges from the way Penrose has brought together some familiar ingredients and made something distinctive out of them. They describe the beer as follows:

With notes of mango and fresh pine on the nose, this damn fine Belgian IPA is loaded with citrusy hop bitterness up front, and finishes with a dank, resinous flavor.

Generally speaking, we think that you’ll love this beer. You have to try it if you love Gumballhead, Sierra Pale Ale, or just generally love IPAs. It’s part of a group of beers that I like to call “Midwest IPAs,” because it is not aggressive, is very drinkable, and is eminently interesting. Let us know what you think in the comments section or talk to Victor to let him know if you like it.

5 Rabbit Gran Missionario 2015

From the brewer’s description:

“Gran Missionario celebrates the intersection of cultures that occurred in the missions set up all along the Pacific Coast of the Americas. Wheat and muscat wine grapes were among the plants brought over from Spain, being tasty as well as essential for church services.

Flaked wheat and oats add a rich creaminess to our base beer, substantial at 6.8% alc/vol. To that we add muscat of Alexandria, an “aromatic” grape grown at the Spanish missions. They have a perfumy, spicy quality that punches through the wheat and malt flavors. . . . [F]igs, which were brought to San Diego in 1760 . . . add a deep caramelly fruitiness to this dry and creamy beer.”

“Craft beer” is an interesting term. Technically, it’s just about production and ownership (more on this in another post). But the term evokes in the laymen something that is inherent in modern American beer brewing – creativity. Those familiar with German beer likely know about Reinheitsgebot – the Bavarian purity law of 1516 restricting the ingredients of beer to barley, hops, and water (with yeast being added to the law once it was understood what it did). Reinheitsgebot led, among other things, to the popularity of Pilsners in Bavaria and Light Lagers. This influence can be seen in the macrobrews dominating American beer, with Pilsners and Light Lagers dominating (though these come nowhere close to adherence to Reinheitsgebot, depending as they do on cheaper adjuncts like corn or rice for fermentable sugars).

All this serves as useful background for understanding what it is that craft brewers are attempting. Craft brewers are like chefs, with different philosophies, different influences, and different goals when it comes to palate manipulation. 5 Rabbit’s Gran Missionario highlights both the goals and influences of this particular brewer, but it also exemplifies the nature and spirit of American Craft Beer (if not the peak of the trends) and its similarities with creative cuisine.

First, note the use of certain traditional methods and ingredients. Despite the restriction on grain types in the Reinheitsgebot, wheat was widely employed in Europe (and especially Northern Germany) in beer making. Oats also had a long tradition in beer making. Moreover, how much more traditional do you want than using Belgian yeasT?

Second, note the creative use of additional ingredients. Grape must made from muscat of Alexandria grapes? If you don’t know wine, you probably don’t even understand the question! Grape must is freshly pressed juice containing seeds, stems, and skin of the fruit, and muscat of Alexandria is a white wine grape of ancient heritage. Wine grapes in beer? And what about figs? Nothing screams beer to me less than figs!

Third, the creativity is not just creative use of ingredients for the sake of being flashy (though that happens too!), but instead is meant to make an impact around a theme. This is where the influence of cuisine comes in. 5 Rabbit tries to celebrate Latin American culture and cuisine. This beer specifically is inspired by the missions that were a critical part of life in colonized Latin America (including California). So the wine and figs are not just there to be crazy and avant-garde. They evoke a heritage with twists and turns and various levels of absorption into this crazy place called America.

As you drink this beer, you’ll notice the grape must is let the beer linger on your tongue. The body is thicker than a lot of beers, and to me this is evocative of both the figs and of certain white wines (though I promise I know nothing of wine in earnest). There’s a sweetness that masks any of the bitterness of the beer (only 25 IBUs anyway), and a haziness that makes me feel like I just poured a nice juice.

So we are pouring 5 Rabbit Gran Missionario 2015, a double wheat with muscat of Alexandria grape must and mission figs as our beer passport this week to highlight the creative drive and the cultural influences that are possible in thoughtful American craft brewing. This beer highlights what is right with American brewing right now. So grab some tacos, a burrito, or an empanada, and enjoy a glass of this fine beer before it’s all gone.