Now Solemn Oath, a year-old brewery in Naperville, wants to do the same thing to me. From their website: "We hope you’ll fall in love with one of our beers. When you do, we’re going to take it away. Seriously."
Their plan for the first few years, the site goes on to say, is to make dozens of different beers in a wide range of styles, and then occasionally bring back the best of them. The names are great and the descriptions intriguing: Dude, Hold My Purse (cabernet barrel-aged Belgian blonde ale with peaches), Creepy Barista (American brown ale with coffee), Nothing Rhymes With Orange (spiced oatmeal Belgian blonde ale), Ravaged by Vikings (double IPA, which Philip Montoro reviewed a few months ago). Personally, I can't wait to try Oxford Comma, a spiced Belgian blonde ale, mostly because I'm an Oxford comma fan.
Lapinette, whose coming-out party took place last night at Lula Cafe, is a Norman-style cider fermented with saison yeast and aged in French oak wine barrels. Slightly cloudy (in the style of the rough French ciders made hundreds of years ago, it's unfiltered), it's bone-dry, lacking both the tartness and sweetness of RedStreak—which itself is much less sweet than most American ciders. "Fruity" might seem like a glaringly obvious way to describe a cider, but where RedStreak is very fruity (in a lush, juicy kind of way), Lapinette is not. It's woody and tannic, so it dries out your mouth a bit, and while it does have fruit flavors—pear and bitter grapefruit in addition to the apple—they're restrained. And, though I realize this description may not sound particularly positive, the cider is really good, perfect for pairing with food. It may, however, be a shock to palates that are accustomed to Woodchuck. It's on tap at bars around Chicago, but won't be released in bottles for a year or so (RedStreak is also available only on tap).
Lagunitas Sucks was so popular that the brewery now plans to brew it year-round—and more importantly, Brown Shugga is back this year. It's less sweet than you'd expect, smooth and biscuity-tasting with a subtle brown sugar flavor and piney hops that kick in with a bitterness that intensifies for two or three seconds before starting to fade. When the beer is cold the hop bitterness is the dominant flavor, but it mellows out as it warms up, letting the malts come through more.
I tried Omission, a gluten-free beer from Widmer Brothers in Oregon, a couple weeks ago at their release party at Fatpour Tap Works. I'd done a little research (i.e., googling) in advance, and most of what I found praised the brew for actually tasting like beer. Not being gluten intolerant myself, I haven't tried other gluten-free beers, but I can confirm that the two Omission offerings do, in fact, taste like beer. Not particularly exciting ones—the lager is light and inoffensive; the pale ale is a little hoppier but also fairly mild—but definitely beer that I wouldn't object to drinking if it were handed to me at a party. Omission seems to be one of the only gluten-free beers brewed with barley (if not the only one); the gluten is then removed through a supersecret "proprietary process" until it's well under 20 parts per million. It's $10.99 a six-pack at Binny's, which I'd probably pay happily if I were gluten intolerant—since I'm not, though, I want a little more flavor for that price.
This year's release was unleashed last week. Called Silver Lining, it's based on a German krauter liqueur, a disgestif typically made from a blend of herbs and botanicals. They're often bitter, often sweet and syrupy, sometime medicinal. You may be familiar with its Italian cousin, amaro, or with its most infamous expression: Jagermeister.
In August Friend of the Food Chain Rob Lopata wrote a piece on the Mexican fermented pineapple cider for the Trib, but it didn't occur to me how easy it might be to make my own until Maricel E. Presilla's new cookbook Gran Cocina Latina thudded upon the doorstep. I'll have a bit more to say about this sprawling work next week, but this weekend I played around with her recipe for chicha de piña, which calls for nothing more than pineapple rinds, water, and sugar, a thrifty recipe that makes use of something that would otherwise go to waste. Presilla, who is Cuban, writes that her grandfather always had a jar of the stuff fizzing way in his kitchen, but that you can find fermented pineapple drinks in most tropical countries.
Hopefully things have gone better in the Pays d'Auge region in Normandy, where right about now they're picking apples for cider and the Calvados distilled from it. Otherwise, two years from now we might see even less of it than we do now.