As we head into another beautiful weekend in the Chicago suburbs, we’re back this week with four absolutely incredible beers with histories and stories that are even bigger than the beers themselves. A barrel aged stout that made the ultimate Saturday dinner pairing, a barrel aged barley wine from two of the best breweries in Chicago, the OG Hazy, and a delicious triple IPA from one of the best up and coming breweries in the burbs. Let’s dive in.
The Alchemist- Heady Topper (8% Imperial/Double IPA)
Last Friday, I got home from my daughter’s soccer practice and my neighbor was standing in my driveway. He politely informed me that he had a very special beer for me. A bit excited, a bit apprehensive (how special could it really be?), I graciously accepted his offer. He proceed to produce a beer that has more than 249,000 check ins and a cumulative rating of 4.55 on Untappd. Heady Topper. Yep. That Heady Topper. The OG hazy double IPA. The beer that started it all.
Brewed since 2003, this was the first beer brewed specifically for maximum hop flavor. The Alchemist uses a proprietary blend of 6 hops, each giving the beer its own unique flavor and aroma. And the best part was that this beer was less than a week old. That’s right. This beer traveled all the way from Stowe, VT to my driveway in less than a week. Oh yeah.
Let’s start with appearance, or the lack there of. I actually couldn’t tell what this beer looked like because the can specifically says not to pour it. So I listened and drank straight from the can. On the nose, I got plenty of zesty floral. It was super fresh, pronounced, and nuanced. It was like walking through a nursery on a cool summer morning.
The body was more malt forward than I was expecting. It is like a ramp that takes you to the hop holy land. The perfect medium to express notes of orange, tropical fruit, grapefruit, pine, and spice.
The finish was more bitter than I’m used to, but this wasn’t surprising. Finishing like fresh grapefruit zest, Heady Topper was the perfect balance between old school and new school IPAs. It certainly was a very special beer.
Maplewood Brewing- Barrel Aged Cuppa Vanilla Rye (13% Barrel Aged Stout w/ Coffee & Vanilla Beans)
So Heady Topper was Friday, and Saturday we kept the good times rolling. I picked up a few prime filets from the local butcher was trying to find the perfect beer to pair with it. Stashed away in one of my three home beer fridges, I found just what I was looking for- BA Cuppa Vanilla Rye.
Maplewood put this out last November and I was fortunate enough to get two cans. I had one on New Years and decided this was as good a time as any to have the second.
Pouring like a low carb’ed liquid chocolate cake, the nose is hugely boozy, with rye spice and vanilla. The palate was a roasty coffee with some caramel that paired exceptionally with my well-seasoned steak. The finish was like vanilla sheet cake and went just as well with desert at the main course. Really well done.
Riverlands Brewing Company- Siren Goddess (10% Triple IPA w/ Mosaic and Sabro)
As we’ve talked about before, Riverlands in St. Charles is one of my favorite “new” breweries in the Chicago Suburbs. They put out an awesome variety of IPAs and barrel aged stouts. So we couldn’t wait to try one of their newer triples- Siren Goddess.
Pouring with a thick head that bubbled like lava, this beer was more amber than a lot of other triples I’ve had. The nose was dripping with tropical coconut and orange marmalade and hits the palate super smooth. It’s not overly sweet (which I hate in triples) and had a subtle bite, with a touch of under ripe berries and grass. This beer finishes in a big way with plenty of alcohol heat that is perfect for the style.
Half Acre & Revolution- On & On: Part 2 (13.7% Barrel Aged Barley Wine)
Two of the biggest breweries in Chicago have teamed up over the last year to bring us two big barrel aged beers- On & On Parts 1 and 2. I missed out on Part 1 (a barrel aged porter), but was able to get Part 2, their barrel aged barley wine and couldn’t wait to try it.
This beer pours a dark velvet burgundy and has a sweet boozy caramel nose. I also get notes of Coca Cola and bread. The palate stays super rich and full with flavors of caramel, toffee, and dark fruit. The finish is sweet with some booze and drippy tannins. It’s the perfect mashup between two great Chicago breweries.
There are four of our favorite beers from the last week. As we head into the weekend, we look forward to Badgers vs. Bielema (U of I), pumpkin farms, playoff baseball, and two or tree great beers. We hope you enjoy your weekend as much as we will.