The last full week of January inevitably brings cold polar air down through Canada and into Chicago air space. While I haven’t heard anyone calling this a “Polar Vortex”, it just cold enough to be an excuse for missing your budget in January. Just kidding. No excuses, play like a champion and maybe sell 3 Votators the last day of the month to hit your number. Here’s to hoping, right? With the Royal Rumble and two conference championships this weekend, as well as the PBA Players Championship, it’s a big weekend in sports, so we’re back with four big beers and a special bonus bourbon to wrap up January.
Side Project Brewing- Beer: Barrel: Time 2021 (15% Blend of Barrel Aged Imperial Stout)
Side Project’s Beer: Barrel: Time or BBT may be the most sought after barrel aged stout in America. Released once a year and sold only through their St. Louis area brewery/taproom space, the opportunity to taste this year’s vintage was too good to pass up. For any Tenacious D fans out there, some might call this the best beer in the world.
When we poured it, at first it didn’t seem like there was anything special about it. But at the same time, everything was special. The beer had a wonderful chocolate and marzipan nose with an oaky wheat palate that was simultaneously sweet and dry. As the beer develops in the mouth you get the notes of dark chocolate, fruit, licorice, and baking spice. The finish just hangs for days. It’s not that the beer is that special. It’s that it’s that well made.
Cruz Blanca Brewery- Rey Gordo 2021 (13.5% Barrel Aged Stout)
A few years back, at the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, shortly after March Madness had been officially cancelled, the Chicago Tribune did a bracket style tournament to determine the best non-adjuncted barrel stout in the city. All the heavy hitters were in- BCBS, Deth’s Tar, Benthic, Dark Lord, Pajama Pants, you name it, it was in. In a bit of an upset, Cruz Blanca’s Rey Gordo came out on top.
Since then, I’ve been building a “strategic stockpile” of Rey. The 2021 vintage pours a velvety dark chocolate with an inviting espresso cream head. The nose is all marzipan and reminds me a lot of BCBS. The mouth feel is all in- thick and decadent with big notes of dark chocolate- but doesn’t hang as long as you’d expect. The finish has some oak and subtle barrel heat. A well brewed beer that I think would only develop further with extended aging.
Hidden Hand- Petty Morals (7.6% Hazy New England IPA)
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that Hidden Hand has been on a heater as of late with their unabashedly hazy IPAs. Petty Morals poured a little more peachy than I expected and didn’t have a huge nose, but the palate accelerates quickly. It’s full of candied lime, sweetness, and a nice sour pop. Almost like a green apple jolly rancher. Very little bittering going on and the finish stays with you for some time. Another well done beer.
Riverlands- Murkier Waters (8.3% Double New England IPA)
Back with another one from one of Chicagoland’s most underrated breweries, Murkier Water’s is the amped up version of Riverland’s original Citra/Mosaic IPA. I get juicy candied fruit notes on the nose and a sweet palate that is balanced nicely with some hop bittering and all the alcohol. A really good beer, but not great.
Bonus Bourbon- Weller Full Proof (Woodman’s Single Barrel Select)
For our final Friday Four Pack of January 2022, we’d figured we’d toss in a bonus bourbon. This past weekend, we were fortunate enough to get our hands on a Woodman’s store pick bottle of Weller Full Proof. I keep a bottle of Weller Special Reserve at all times in my office desk, home office desk, and my desk at our lake home, if that tells you anything about what I think of the fully wheated bourbon. Naturally, I was really excited to try this.
At 114 proof, this is a huge bourbon. I get tons of green apple on the nose with nice hints of cherry and clove. The palate is smooth with a balance of caramel and toasted oak. An incredibly long, hot, punch you in the face so you won’t forget me finish that has notes of crème brulee and chocolate. A real treat and complete palate obliterator.
And just like that, another weekend in the books. We’re headed to Miami next week and will be sure to check out the local fare and report back. Until then, we hope you hit your budget this month, get to enjoy great beer, Conference Championship Football, and some professional wrestling this weekend. Cheers!