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Beer and Metal

Friday, March 20, 2015

Four years of preparation pay off in Alarmist Brewing's Pantsless Pale Ale

Posted By on 03.20.15 at 09:00 AM

Alarmist founder Gary Gulley gets into the Beer and Metal spirit. That hydrometer jar should really be the skull of a fallen enemy, but I dont think he has any enemies.
  • Alarmist founder Gary Gulley gets into the Beer and Metal spirit. That hydrometer jar should really be the skull of a fallen enemy, but I don't think he has any enemies.

Two years ago, when I talked to John Laffler of Off Color and Jess Straka of Revolution Brewing (then of Metropolitan) as part of the Reader's Chicago Craft Beer Week coverage, the conversation turned to emerging brewers who had business plans robust enough to help them survive increasing competition for shelf space and tap handles.

"Gary Gulley of Panic is taking his time," said Straka. (Gulley's Alarmist Brewing was called Panic until Sacramento's Track 7 intervened—they make a Panic IPA.) "He's a home brewer associated with Square Kegs in Lincoln Square. He interned for Metropolitan last winter."

"Good brewer," interjected Laffler.

"Solid. Has a family. Is putting everything on the line for his dream," said Straka.

It was the first time I'd heard Gulley's name, and what I didn't know then was that he'd already been working on Alarmist for nearly two years. He has a troubleshooting mind—he graduated from Purdue in 1990 with a civil engineering degree—and to build his brewery he's put his plans and processes through uncountable rounds of iteration and revision (what laypersons call "trial and error"). Since October 2011 he's shared candid, detailed reports of his slow but steady progress on the Alarmist blog, where in December 2012 he headlined a post "What's Faster, Me or a Glacier?" Helpfully, he added a photo of a glacier. "Once I kick this guy's ass in the 1,000,000 year hurdle," reads the caption, "I'm going to boil him and make beer."

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Should you buy the beer in the green Buddha bottles?

Posted By on 03.06.15 at 12:30 PM

Contains less than 1 percent Buddha juice by volume
  • Contains less than 1 percent Buddha juice by volume

Every so often in Beer and Metal, I review something that's clearly not a craft beer, either because I'm having a snit about an evasive press release from a macrobrewer or because I'm hoping to stumble across a bargain in an unlikely place. (The less said about the Super Brew 15 fiasco, the better.) I've accomplished little in the effort, but it has produced some ridiculous columns.

Lucky Buddha, which immodestly calls itself "Enlightened Beer," has been available in the States since at least 2007, so I'm not writing about it because I think it's novel—rather I figure other people have, like me, walked past it in shops for years and wondered if it's bullshit. And maybe those people want an answer from me, not from some other weirdo on the Internet.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Guess your beer blindfolded Sunday at the Map Room

Posted By on 02.27.15 at 03:30 PM

The Map Rooms tap handles are exactly what you wont be able to see on Sunday.
  • Andrea Bauer
  • The Map Room's tap handles are exactly what you won't be able to see on Sunday.

Earlier this month I got a reminder of just how thoroughly the human brain conditions its sensory input. At an Andersonville restaurant, a friend was served the wrong beer, and it took me three samples at the bar to figure out what was actually in her glass—even though she'd been poured the same thing I'd been drinking not ten minutes before. Because I expected it to be something else, my brain stubbornly insisted that it was.

With that in mind, I figure Sunday's event at the Map Room will provide a serious challenge—even to nerds like me. Called "Beers in the Dark," it asks the bar's patrons to guess what it has on tap.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

5 Rabbit bottles dessert with the 'albino stout' Arroz con Leche

Posted By on 02.20.15 at 09:30 AM

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Sometimes I'm a shitty beer writer. It might sound like I'm being too hard on myself, especially if you're a fan (I must have a couple, right?). But how else can you explain that this is my first column on 5 Rabbit?

OK, there are lots of ways to explain it, to be fair—not the least of which is that I'm also the Reader's music editor. Plus I was a little "meh" about 5 Rabbit's initial lineup, with the exception of the passion-fruit wheat beer 5 Lizard (it smells almost exactly like bruised tomato leaves, and I turn out to dig that).

But a lot has changed since 2011, when this south-side brewery launched. I love 5 Rabbit's Yodo con Leche, a strong porter with dulce de leche and coffee. I've had a lot of fun with the summertime Paletas series, especially the one with pink guava in it. And I have to agree with the menu at the Hopleaf, which describes the spiced barleywine Ponche as "otherworldly."

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Forbidden Root launches its chocolate series with the imperial stout Heavy Petal

Posted By on 02.13.15 at 12:30 PM

Its surprisingly difficult to photograph a bottle with a metallic label in the sun.
  • It's surprisingly difficult to photograph a bottle with a metallic label in the sun.

I wrote about Chicago botanical brewers Forbidden Root in August 2013, when they made what I'm pretty sure was just their second festival appearance at the Oak Park Micro Brew & Food Review. About four months ago the brewery finally hit retail shelves, shipping 12-ounce four-packs of Sublime Ginger and Shady Character, and a little more than a month later Forbidden Root's namesake beer joined them. The Forbidden Root brewpub, which will occupy the former home of a theater at 1746 W. Chicago, plans to open its doors early this summer (if not in late May).

Last weekend Forbidden Root launched their whimsically named series of single-origin chocolate beers, Divine Mud. The first beer in the series, an imperial stout brewed with cacao from West Africa (mostly Ghana and the Ivory Coast), dried magnolia flowers, and six pounds per barrel of toasted Texas pecans, is called Heavy Petal—which might as well have been a hand-delivered invitation to Beer and Metal.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Illuminated Brew Works takes its secret society aboveground

Posted By on 02.09.15 at 02:00 PM

The palatial headquarters of Illuminated Brew Works. I could tell you what those video games are doing there, but then Id have to kill you.
  • The palatial headquarters of Illuminated Brew Works. I could tell you what those video games are doing there, but then I'd have to kill you.

If you were going to start a brewery—and don't tell me you haven't thought about it, you beer-column-reading person—how would you get the money? (For rhetorical purposes, I'm assuming you're not independently wealthy.) Would you hit up family and friends? Run a Kickstarter? Beat the bushes for private investors? Grovel for a bank loan? (Good luck with that!) Lots of great breweries—if not most of them—have chosen one or more of those routes.

But maybe you don't want to be accountable to anybody. Maybe, even though you're trying to start a business, you remain stubbornly averse to capitalist whoring and wary of debt. Maybe you'd rather hang on to your day job for as long as possible and rely only on money that comes out of your own pocket—to the point that you'd put heavy brewing equipment on your credit card.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

DryHop Brewers and art-pop trio Moritat celebrate together at the Empty Bottle

Posted By on 02.06.15 at 01:00 PM

DryHop brewer Brant Dubovick and a glass of the Moritat collaboration High Plus Tight
  • DryHop brewer Brant Dubovick and a glass of the Moritat collaboration High Plus Tight

Since reviewing DryHop during its opening week in June 2013, I've drank many a memorable beer there—among them My Mirrors Are Black, a Cuban-style coffee stout with guava; Elektra, on Oktoberfest; Half Stepper, a rye IPA; the South Loop Brewing collaboration Milkstachio, a milk stout with pistachio and cacao nibs; Moustache & a Supernova, a biere de Noel; the Devil Jumped Up!, a Belgian-style IPA; and I, O'Brien of the Black Horsemen, an oatmeal-cookie brown ale. In other words, I've been looking for an opportunity to write about DryHop again.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Temperance Beer Company goes big with its first bottles

Posted By on 01.30.15 at 10:00 AM

Might Meets Right imperial stout aged in High West manhattan barrels, one of the two beers in Temperances first bottle release
  • Might Meets Right imperial stout aged in High West manhattan barrels, one of the two beers in Temperance's first bottle release

I got to Evanston's Temperance Beer Company a bit late—I didn't manage a column till last May, when their kegs had been turning up in Chicago bars for seven or eight months and they'd just debuted on retail shelves with Gatecrasher English IPA. (I felt a little better, and even a tad prescient, when Gatecrasher won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival that summer—I'd given it an immoderately positive review.)

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Take a 'Walk ov Shame' to the Local Option for the Catalina Wine Mixer

Posted By on 01.23.15 at 04:41 PM

If you look carefully over to the right, you can see the line where I gave up dusting this table.
  • If you look carefully over to the right, you can see the line where I gave up dusting this table.

I haven't written about a Local Option beer in more than a year, but not because they haven't rolled out anything new. The saison Walk ov Shame debuted on draft in November, and a second batch, split between kegs and 500-milliliter bottles, started shipping about a month ago. And a bottled beer is a beer I can review at home. (Another new Option beer, Exorcist!, should be on shelves within the month; in November I said it "might be the hoppiest stout I've ever tasted.")

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Beer and Metal's best of 2014, chosen by you

Posted By on 12.26.14 at 02:00 PM

I didnt review all that many packaged beers this year. These are most of them, in fact.
  • I didn't review all that many packaged beers this year. These are most of them, in fact.

I wrote 32 Beer and Metal posts in 2014, down from 42 last year, but the Chicago craft community was busier than ever. Though I like to think I made up for the drop in quantity with an increase in quality (and I did break a few stories, in my own way), I definitely overlooked some solid breweries. When I finally meet Clint Bautz from Lake Effect, I'm going to feel like apologizing to the guy.

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