Good Beer Hunting

Critical Drinking

Meet Your Chicago Home Brewers

First Thursdays at Goose Island this week didn’t bring out the crowds I’m used to, but it still brought the talent.

While this event usually spares little elbow room in the Siebel Institute at Goose Island’s Clybourn location, it was clear from the start that this would be a lightly attended affair. Possible factors discussed were the chilly weather, the recent sale of Goose Island to InBev, or maybe the statement on the Chicago Beer Society’s events page that the group would be returning to the roots of the event: home brew. Whatever the reason, the impact was clear — dramatically less attendance, and a lot less beers to taste.

But that didn’t put a dent in the quality of home brews available. These guys still brought it. 

Up first was a Flanders Red with all the tartness you’d expect from a heavily Bretted brew aged for a couple years then mixed. This one was polarizing for those that don’t like the sours, but overall, it was a successful recipe and a damn fine home brew. Listening to this guy talk about his setup made it sound a bit like a meth lab…in a good way.

Next was Bradford’s Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. Slightly thinner, but still heavily flavored, Bradford lucked out with, hopefully, Chicago’s last chilly evening for a beer like this. We were drawn in by the unique, on-the-cheap hand typography of Bradford’s brother, an architect. Always a sucker for good hand type. 

Then it was on to a Belgian Strong Golden Ale and a German-style Hefe Weizen from Paul of Chi-town on Tap. The Golden Ale lived up to its name, quite like a Duvel with some noticeable but palatable alcohol strength. The Hefe, however, was delightful. With it’s clear banana and clove notes it reminded me of Greg Browne’s Gudenteit Hefe at Mickey Finn’s in Libertyville. Paul really impressed the group with this one. 

Lastly, we got to taste some experimental brews from John Albert. After getting ahold of some Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand, John’s been mixing and matching some hops families looking for the right balance in a summer brew. Of the two I sampled, one really stood out with a black pepper nose and intense grapefruit aftertaste that left my tongue feeling dehydrated, but intrigued. A bit like the dried gooseberries I used to get from Trader Joe’s before they disappeared. It was such a unique experience in a beer. 

It was a pleasure meeting these guys and picking up a few home brewing tips. Thanks to CBS and Goose for hosting. Hope to see a bigger turnout this summer!


Michael Kiser