Flying Dog Brewery, Underdog Atlantic Lager: This new offering from the Maryland brewery is clean, crisp, and very drinkable. Many of Flying Dog's beers are heavy on the hops, and this is no exception: it's hoppy for a lager, but also balanced.
Revolution Brewing, Coup D'Etat Saison: Light, citrusy, with a nice hop backbone. It's 7.6 percent ABV but doesn't taste particularly alcoholic.
Revolution Brewing, Eugene Porter: Made with Belgian malts, this brew is extremely rich and chocolatey.
5 Rabbit Brewery, 5 Grass Desert Pale Ale: All of 5 Rabbit's flagship beers are remarkably restrained, even the 5 Vulture, which is brewed with ancho chiles. This new beer, though, brewed with sage, pepper berries, and rosemary, is intensely herbal both in aroma and taste—a representative said that they wanted to make a beer that smells like the desert. He also mentioned that it weighs in at around 60 IBUs, which makes it fairly hoppy, but it's balanced enough that it doesn't taste particularly bitter.
5 Rabbit Brewery, Huitzi: A Belgian-style golden ale brewed with hibiscus, ginger, Thai palm sugar, and honey, Huitzi is sweet, floral, and complex. At 9.3 percent ABV, it's fairly intense, and while it's listed as a winter beer (it was released this February) I'd be more inclined to drink it in the spring when the weather's first starting to warm up.
North Coast Brewing Company, Grand Cru: A bourbon-barrel-aged ale brewed with agave nectar, this was very sweet and strong. It weighed in at 12.5 percent alcohol, and tasted like it. "Do I have chest hair now?" my friend asked after her first sip.
Cisco Brewers, the Grey Lady: White ales aren't usually my favorite style, but this one is lemony, crisp, and very faintly spicy, a nice summer beer. The Nantucket-based brewery isn't new, but is new to Chicago—it's only been distributed here for about six months.
Hinterland Brewery, Door County Cherry Wheat: Like Cisco, Hinterland has been around for more than 15 years but has only been available in Chicago for a few months now. Their wheat beer brewed with Door County cherries is light and not particularly sweet, with a nice cherry flavor.
O'Fallon Brewing, Wheach: Another fruit beer that's not overwhelmingly sweet, this peach wheat beer is light and crisp.
Samuel Smith's Brewery, Organic Apricot Ale: I was surprised by the number of fruit beers that impressed me at this tasting, since I find most of them too sweet for my tastes. Samuel Smith's does a good job of the style, though, and I remember liking both their strawberry and raspberry beers at a tasting a few years ago. The apricot ale is new, and its aroma and flavor are both intensely fruity. While it's a bit sweeter than O'Fallon's Wheach, it works: the beer was one of my favorite of all the ones I tried.
Founders Brewing Company, Kentucky Breakfast Stout: This bourbon barrel-aged stout brewed with coffee and vanilla isn't new, but this was the first time I've had a chance to try it. Chocolatey, coffee-y, but above all beautifully balanced, it lives up to its hype. Now I want to try Canadian Breakfast Stout.
Founders Brewing, Curmudgeon's Better Half: I missed tasting the Curmudgeon (Founders staggered the tappings of its more popular beers) but got in line just in time for Curmudgeon's Better Half, the latest in the Founders Backstage Series, which ran out in less than 15 minutes. It's Curmudgeon (an old ale) aged for 254 days in bourbon barrels that have recently been used to age maple syrup, and both the bourbon and maple syrup flavors are immediately obvious. It's quite sweet, and while it's very good I can't imagine drinking more than a couple ounces at a time.