Tag Archives: Harviestoun

Chicago: One Hell of a Town

I have returned alive and well from the Windy City! C2E2 was a blast, seeing friends from both Chicago and all over the country was a thrill and walking all over that city was just perfect.

But you’re reading a beer blog. You don’t want to hear about a comic convention and walking around Lincoln Park with my boyfriend. You want to hear about the beer. And so I’ll talk about that.

What a freakin’ town.

Didn’t quite know what to think about it before I went. I kept hearing things like “the Chicago beer scene is just starting to come alive” but I think that’s a lot of hooey. It might be exploding a bit more, but this struck me as a town that’s been used to having craft beer in their lives for a while. Even in the crappiest of bars there was at least a few Belgian styles and a decent IPA.

But jeez, the fantastic beers. And the breweries in and around Chicago! The heavy metal inspired 3 Floyds Arctic Panzer, Revolution Brewing’s Working Woman Brown Ale (which will be part of my fond memories for a very long time) and of course the many amazing beers from Goose Island, which has been operating in Chicago for nearly 25 years and produced interesting drinks like Pepe Nero, made with Peppercorns and Bramble Rye Bourban County, the fantastic imperial stout with the unmistakeable and amazing taste of raspberries and blackberries (pictured above)? Yum. But my heart will always go to my first Goose Island beer, Matilda, a Belgian-style made with a special yeast strain that allows it to be aged for up to five years (if you can wait that long).

And of course, the places and the people are always going to be a factor. We had the pleasure of joining the company with Corben, our Man in Chicago, along with some friends from New York. We went to a FANTASTIC pub with a diverse beer menu called the Map Room where the owner gave me a free pint of Harviestoun Old Engine Oil (on CASK!) for free as a welcome to Chicago and a thank you for coming here (thanks for the suggestion again, Sam from Sawdust City Brewery!). It was there too that I think I fell in love with a little beer called Dragon’s Milk, by New Holland Brewing Company in Michigan. An incredible imperial stout with hints of oak, caramel and vanilla. This definitely became the favourite for me, and I had a few. Later we went to the Bad Apple, a place with a huge beer list and probably one of the best burgers I’ve eaten (and deep fried…cheese curds. Which were surprisingly delicious). I had an “El Chupacabra” burger, which apparently contained goat bits and a Dogfish Head Noble Rot, which was probably the closest to wine a beer has reached for me. Delicious.

Illustrator and comic creator Sarah Becan met up with us and we went to the AMAZING brewpub put on by Revolution Brewing, where I fell in love with the Working Woman Brown Ale. Seriously, please send me some of that stuff. Just perfectly balanced between the hops and malts making for one rough and yet comforting drink. Plus if you’re a woman you feel like a bit of a badass drinking it (Just sayin’).

And on our final night in Chicago Corben took us to Bangers & Lace and we had an amazing time! The guys working the bar were AMAZING and passionate about beer and we found a lot of beers we had put on a list of “beers we want but will most likely never drink”.

Like Dogfish Head’s Bitches Brew. Seen on the first episode of Brew Masters and made specially for the rerelease of the famous Miles Davis album, I never thought I would have this fusion beer of an imperial stout combined with a beer made with honey and gesho. But boy, I had it and…MAN. Having Bitches Brew on my iPod while having my first few sips really completed my experience.

And Hitachino‘s 3 Days Beer from Japan, with THIS amazing story behind it:

“March 11, 2011 14:46, a huge earthquake struck Japan and with it our brewery. Some parts of the brewery house were damaged and the brewing tanks were left leaning at an angle. Completion of the typical mashing period had to be extended to three days until electricity to the brewery was restored. Natural fermentation had already started in the mash tank during these three days with lactic acid culture in our brewery. This “3 DAYS” beer is limited to only 8,000 bottles.”

8,000 bottles. And I was lucky enough to have one. Delicious. Strong taste of Pears which made it very refreshing.

But CHICAGO. Jeez. I can’t tell you just how much I loved that city. To all the people who led us around and gave good company, Melissa, Dowell, Nick, Amy, Sarah Becan, Mike Rooth and ESPECIALLY the amazing Corben, THANK YOU SO MUCH for showing this weird but enthusiastic Canadian gal a good time on her first visit to Chicago.

And now to figure out when I’m going back.



Filed under Field Trips, Learning, people I know


Where I talk about the beers that I am currently drinking tonight and attempt to review them.  The kind of fun bit is that I’m actually drinking the beer as I’m reviewing it.

BITTER & TWISTED – Harviestoun Brewery (Hillfoots Village, Scotland) – 4.2% ABV

Actually, a reader suggested this beer.  When I was in my local booze store, I noticed that they had recently stocked their shelves with this Blond Beer from Scotland and quickly picked it up.  I’ve only ever tried a few brews from Harviestoun before, their famous Olah Dubh.  Dark ale that has been matured in Highland Park whisky casks.  The 16 and 18 year old brews in particular I call my “sleepy-time” drink.  I have one of those and I get all warm and just drift off to sleep.

But I’ve never had anything else by them before and jeez, was I missing out.  Lets go through it, shall we?

COLOUR – Nice, crisp, dark golden colour.  The type of colour you’d expect to see in your mother’s jewelry (and just as shiny)

AROMA – VERY citrusy smell to it.  Grapefruit, definitely.  Maybe a lemon or two.  It’s actually quite decietful, since the aroma gives off the impression that this won’t be a bitter beer at all.  There’s a SLIGHT hint, but still.  But as we’ll find out…

TASTE – Dear, sweet Jesus that will be resurrected soon, what a freakin’ taste.  The initial taste is very smooth and you can tell that this is the beer showing it’s fun, citrusy side.  This is where the Grapefruit and Lemon flavours REALLY come out to play.  But the bitterness, god DAMN, the bitterness.  According to the beer’s profile, it was hopped with three different types of hops.  The Hallertau Hersbrücke for that subtle aroma, the Challenger hops, which gives this beer a bit of spice to compliment the citrus flavours, and the Styrian Goldings, which actually bring forth the citrusy aroma and flavours.  I get the impression that the good people at Harviestoun put these hops in expecting a brutal, horrible fight and they ended up…er…doing something indecent.  But that’s science for you, isn’t it?

Aftertaste is also very pleasant, leaving just a hint of the hoppiness that rocked your world in the limo after the concert and finally ending it off with the memory of being sweetly serenaded by the citrus overtones.  Peeled grapes and togas might have been involved.  It’s okay, I won’t judge.

VERDICT – You know, since Spring is coming (taking its dear sweet time, but still coming), I’ve been slowly shifting away from the dark heavy ales and have been craving something lighter but with a bit more of a bite to it.  This beer fits the bill and with its citrus overtones, it did a DAMN fine job of welcoming the season for me while still giving me that hoppy bite that I so crave in beers.  This beer also gets top marks for restoring my faith in below 5% ABV beers.  I honestly wouldn’t have suspected that this would have an alcohol content of 4.2%.  Harviestoun, you done good.


And now to have some dinner before I move on to the next beer…

GEMINI IMPERIAL BLENDED ALE – Southern Tier Brewing Company (Lakewood, NY) – 9.0% ABV

This beer was one of those drinks that you can’t help but notice just popping up in the store and you wonder “What are YOU all about, then?”.  The packaging is lovely and the description by the brewers on this limited release Imperial India Pale Ale is quite poetic.  It’s been in my local store for weeks now, but due to the price (around $9.00) I had to hold off on buying a bottle until I was able to justify the money.  And well, I finally justified it.  Let’s ‘ave a butcher’s.

COLOUR – Dark, cloudy, slightly peach-coloured.  The DARK part of the peach, at any rate.  Good start, so far.  Gotta say, that’s a fine lookin’ head on it too.

AROMA – Fruity.  Berries.  As the beer started adjusting to not being in the fridge a SLIGHT hint of honey came up.  Some people have claimed that there’s an earthy smell to it, but I haven’t noticed it.  Maybe it’s because I don’t snort dirt. I don’t know.

TASTE – Well. it definintely lives up to it’s alcohol content of 9%, because that sucker punched me at the initial taste like…uh…some boxer at a grudge match (I don’t follow boxing and saying Mike Tyson seems a bit too “done”).   The syrupy malt texture is hitting me and the hints of berries and honey have gotten stronger.  One thing I will say about this baby is that it is CREAMY.  No acidic feelings at the back of my throat like a few IPAs have given me.  The hops really does have a strong presence, but with the creaminess it’s like I’m being punched with a pillow between me and the fist.  I’m not getting the whole she-bang out of the hops and in this case I think that’s a good thing.

Aftertaste is pretty good.  The berries and honey taste remains and I’m finding myself moving my tongue around because the texture was so smooth and I liked it.  The hops flavour was clearly not around to cuddle and left with the glass.  Something about an early meeting. (EDIT: Turns out there’s an after-after taste.  When the berry and honey hints left the hops came back to get its keys.  Lasted for a few minutes.)

VERDICT – Eh.  While I enjoy the smoothness of the beer and the slight honey aroma and taste, I feel like there’s not much to this beer and, especially after the Bitter & Twisted, this beer doesn’t seem like all that even with its high alcohol content.  So what I’m saying was, you were alright, Gemini.  And I might give you a ring some time if I feel like just getting drunk, but that’s only if my other stand-bys aren’t available.

SIDE NOTE – The experience was SLIGHTLY made better when I just sat back and thought about things, swirling the glass like I would with a snifter of Brandy.  Halfway through, there’s a warm feeling that is nice.  Still not all that, but it has a slight appeal.

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