Casking out in Chicago

David | Blog | March, 05 2012 | No Comment

Chicago celebrated its 175th birthday this Sunday with a blobby series of cultural events, but on Saturday, a smaller slice of Chicago celebrated a very specific aspect of beer—real ale.  The Chicago Beer Society presented its annual Day & Night of the Living Ales, serving  46 casks in two sessions to more than 600 beer geeks.

Bitter Cold takes both the Farty Firkin and the Golden Tut awards.

Cheese and Cheers was in attendance helping with the edible offerings that included three super cheeses from Marion Street Cheese Market, and a spread of cured and smoked sausages and sliced deli meats from Gene’s Sausage Shop on Belmont.

Cheese and Cheers also selected an honoree for the unofficial Farty Firkin Award.  This award recognizes one traditional, British-inspired, low gravity beer. This year’s Farty Firkin went to Goose Island Brewpub’s Bitter Cold.  This is a very traditional bitter of around 4% ABV.  Brewer Jared Rouben says it is made with Marris Otter malt, and Fuggles and First Gold Hops, and fermented with a British yeast strain.  “I certainly didn’t invent that.” Rouben notes. But oh how well he executed it!  The Bitter Cold tapped Saturday was bright and brassy in appearance with a clean toasty aroma, toasty flavor notes, and a prominent bitter finish. The same beer also took the Chicago Beer Society cellaring staff’s Golden Tut Award which is a nod to the beer that best expresses what cask ale should be. In 2011 the Farty Firkin went to Bell End Bitter from Piece.

I tasted some other ales that deserved honorable mention for the Farty Firkin. These included the Old Trafford Mild from Mickey Finn’s and Worryin’ Ale from Piece.  In the popular vote, Half Acre’s chocolate rye stout Baum was the favorite of attendees who cast a ballot and Goose Island Fulton’s Brewery’s Tonic the Hedgehog (a wild Belgian-style) and Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout were the runners up.

A wide variety of beer styles are now served in casks at DOTLA and similar American events. There were lots of nice big American hop bombs in the lineup along with fantastic wild Belgian-style beers. The wild beers included two from Goose Fulton, one from Lakefront in Milwaukee along with New Belgium’s popular potion called Love.  There was also a lot of buzz on the floor for Three Floyds’ Zombie Dust, Lagunitas’ What the Firkin, and Finch’s Mahatma IPA. The latter having been dry-hopped with whole cones and curry powder.

I was intrigued by Revolution’s TV party, figuring I now have another beer-cheese-punk rock trivia question for future presentations: What Chicago-brewed Rye IPA shares a name with a Black Flag song? I was even willing to forgive the slight hint of diacetyl. Then again, I am always willing to forgive a little diacetyl in an otherwise tasty beer.

Anyhow, a great time was had by all. Can’t wait for next year!

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