I couldn’t snag a ticket to the highly anticipated Festival of Barrel Aged Beer in Chicago two Saturdays ago, but I did manage an excellent day of beer tasting in the Windy City on the following Sunday. The Map Room, one of Draft Magazine’s top 100 beer bars in America, held its 20th anniversary party, and I made sure I was there to taste the headliner...the extremely rare Three Floyds Barrel Aged Vanilla Dark Lord.
In order to obtain some of this rich elixir I stood in line for 20 minutes (a small price to pay) before winding my way into the bar which opened at 11 a.m. and handed out pours of the prized inky black stuff in an orderly fashion. Dark Lord was rich, boozy and delicious. The small sample would have been enough, but the Map Room added different rarities to the tap lines all day long.
Three Floyds Stack N Stabb Belgian Pale Ale was another winner. Founders Bolt Cutter, a 15th anniversary barley wine, was a rich and flavorful rarity, and Pipeworks Citra Ninja (see below) was simply amazing. After a lengthy lunch break, I returned to try the delicious Firestone Walker 16th Anniversary Ale before calling it a night.
For a beer fan, the entire event was Christmas a few weeks early. Not only was the beer selection outstanding, but the good folks behind the bar kept things orderly and made sure that glasses were full. Happy 20th Map Room, I’m resting up for another trip for the 25th anniversary.
Wisconsin Wet Hops
Wet hopped beers, where freshly cut hops are added to the brew (as opposed to dried hops), are an increasingly popular (and tasty) variety. Some Wisconsin breweries hopped on the wet hop train in a cool, local way. Early in November, five Wisconsin breweries (Lakefront, Sprecher, Central Waters, South Shore and Bull Falls) released their takes on wet hopped beers using Wisconsin-grown hops. Look for Central Waters Harvest Ale, Lakefront Local Acre Wet Hop Lager and Sprecher Hopfuzion Fresh Hop Lager, which are all available locally, before the bottles are gone.
Barley Pop of the Week
There are plenty of beers available in Chicago that sadly aren’t sold here in Milwaukee. (Conversely, folks in the Windy City can’t get New Glarus, so it’s a draw.) One of the newer Chicago brewers is Pipeworks, a small outfit that distributes a variety of 22-oz bottles to a few Chicago outlets. I’ve sampled a couple of Pipeworks’ brews before, but the newer Citra Ninja Imperial IPA is easily my favorite. Plenty of Citra hops give the beer a delicious fruity bite and an even bitterness. I’m a big fan of Citra hops, and that might be why this beer is one of the best I’ve tried in 2012. Hop lovers may benefit from making the trip south of the state line and finding some while it’s still available.
Congrats to Lakefront and Central Waters for each taking home bronze medals at the Festival of Barrel Aged Beer. Lakefront was third in the Classic Porter/Stout category with a Rye Barrel Aged Fuel Coffee Stout. Central Waters took home third in the Barleywine/Wheatwine category with the Bourbon Barrel Barleywine.
The Black Friday Imperial IPA Black Ale one-day release at Lakefront was apparently a big hit. I’m already looking forward to next year. How about a release of that tasty sounding Barrel Aged Fuel?
On Black Friday, Uncle Mike’s Pub (6611 120th Ave., Kenosha) tapped the amazing Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout and Kentucky Breakfast Stout. I have to give Uncle Mike’s serious props for that kind of effort. It’s pretty clear that I need to make a trip to that place.
Friday, Nov. 30: Stubby’s Gastrogrub & Beer Bar (2060 N. Humboldt Ave.) has put together quite a beer dinner. The feast features Boulder Beer and highlights include the delicious Nitro Mojo IPA paired with bone marrow bruleed lamb belly, and dessert that features a Cognac Barrel Aged Obovoid Stout and banana bread roulade. The tastiness begins at 7 p.m. and costs just $55 ($50 for Stub Club members). Call 763-6324 to reserve a spot.
Saturday, Dec. 1: Sample Thai beer when Singha comes to Discount Liquor Milwaukee (5031 W. Oklahoma Ave.) from 2-5 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 1: Romans’ Pub (3475 N. Kinnickinnic Ave.) hosts its 34th annual Christmas party starting at 7 p.m. It’s a pretty safe bet that Mike Romans will have some tasty (and likely hard-to-find) stuff on tap.