The Ales were Alive!

David | Blog | March, 07 2011 | No Comment

The Seventh Annual Day(/Night) of the Living Ales was held Saturday, and around 500 attendees had an opportunity to sample from 44 casks.  Jeff Sparrow, Steve Hamburg, Joe Preiser, and the army of Chicago Beer Society volunteers did a fine job again this year, and from my perspective, the beer was better than ever.

In a preview column last week, I fretted about a possible scarcity pale ales, bitters, and milds, worried that a recent preponderance of non-traditional (for cask) entries might eventually elbow out the kinds of ales that are historically associated with casks. Not to worry, there were at least five or six Firkins filled with traditional ales, as well as sour beers, Imperial IPAs, and even a ginger-infused alt beer.  Of  no less importance, at least 90% of them were very good beers, in good condition. 

Piece takes the Farty Firkin Award!

Yet, to encourage the continued interest in British-leaning, traditional entries, I will go ahead and present the first-ever Farty Firkin Award, for a traditional cask style of beer, that is also exceptionally drinkable, and well-behaved in the cask.  This is an unofficial recognition, sanctioned only by Cheese and Cheers, but I did solicit a few other opinions. I narrowed the field to three finalists, but Bell End Bitter from Piece Brewery and Pizzeria, prevailed as the first Farty Firkin. One of Chicago’s busiest brewpubs, and former Brewers Association Small Brewpub of the Year, Piece does not typically serve cask ale, but no surprise that Jonathan Cutler would make a nice, balanced bitter, with a clean malt foundation. Runners up including Bitter End Pale Ale from Two Brothers Brewing Co.,  and Goose Island Clybourn’s Mild Mannered. 

The official CBS awards include an attendee-ballot competition,  and a special cellerman’s award. The 2011 Champion Real Ale of Chicagoland is Goose Island’s Fulton’s Skully, a  saison aged in oak barrels with fresh strawberries, honey, and Champagne yeast, chosen by the attendees. Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout received second place honors, and Three Floyd’s Zombie Dust (a hoppy American pale) took third place.

 The Golden Tut Award, (from the cellar staff,  for the beer/brewery that best exemplifies the overall cask ale experience) went to Firestone Walker’s Double Jack Double IPA.

Volunteers and brewers had a chance to taste a very nice homebrewed bitter from Steve Hamburg, and, oh yes, for all attendees, there was plenty to nibble, thanks to Goose Island Wrigleyville, Marion Street Cheese Market, Gene’s Sausage Shop and the Cellars at Jasper Hill.  Cheeses included Cabot Clothdound, Pastureland’s Goodhue, Capriole’s Sofia, and Evalon (with cumin) from Saxon Creamery.

Zombies can't focus

Can’t wait for next year! Oh, and we don’t have to.  Next opportunity I get I am off to visit Owen and Engine, one of Chicago’s newest gastropubs, which happens to have four casks on at any given time.

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