Fisch-Mas: Christmas at the Fisch

Over the weekend I went to my favorite bar, Fischman’s Liquors and Tavern for their First Annual Holiday Beer Event,
Fisch-Mas: Christmas at the Fisch. For 30 bucks, you got unlimited tastings of  12 Christmas/Winter brews. The original plan had the event under heated tents in the parking lot in the back. However, the ridiculous amount of rain that day forced the main event next store, where they will be expanding in the upcoming months.

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Samichlaus 2011: They called this the world’s strongest lager, and not because it beats the other lagers in world’s strongest lager competitions. Brewed once a year on St. Nick’s day, then aged for 10 months before bottling. It possibly is the rarest beer in the world. It was certainly once of the sweetest beers I have ever had, bordering on cloying. It is not something you could drink all night long. The color was also pretty light for a dopplebock, more like a dopplemaibock.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale: One of 4 Belgian Strong Dark Ale’s in the tasting lineup and without a doubt the best one. Probably because it is a little more reserved than the other three. Strange as that might sound. It has an alcohol bitterness (yes alcohol bitterness) that nicely balances out the sweetness of the beer.

Great Lakes Christmas: This was one of the best. One of two truly American styles of Christmas Ale in the group. A malt forward base beer, mixed with the cinnamon and ginger one associates with Christmas.

Port Brewings Santa’s Little Helper: This is one of the two Imperial Stouts showcased. It is very much what you would expect from a fine Imperial Stout, lots of roasted malts, chocolate, and molasses flavors, with some Christmas Cheer in the form of Christmas spices.

Delirium Noel: Brought to you by the same people who gave you the pink elephant glass. This is the second Belgian Strong Dark, and I was warned that is wasn’t the best of them by the bar tender a few weeks before. A dark amber color with chunks of stuff settled in the bottle. I didn’t get any chunks, but it was on draft, so that was probably the reason. I thought it was tasty anyway.

Anchor Stream Christmas: I wasn’t a big fan of this beer. I’m not sure exactly why. The recipe for this beer changes every year, so you can’t really be sure what you are going to get. Maybe another year would have suited me better.

St. Feuillien Speciale: The 3rd Belgian Strong Dark. This is what I tend to think of when I think traditional Beglian Strong Dark. A dubbel on steroids. Got a little bit of hot fusels, tons of dark fruit character, and a little barnyard. I couldn’t tell much of a difference between this one and the 4th Belgian Strong dark, but of course, by now I was far into this list of high alcohol beers.

Old Jubilation: An old Ale. I always think of Old Ales as smaller more approachable Barleywines. Not as intense, not as rich, not as fruity, not as much warming alcohol, but in that direction and very tasty nontheless. It was a nice break from the 4 Belgian Strong Darks we had.

Three Floyd’s Alpha Klaus: The second truly American Christmas Beer. Starting with a quality porter base beer. It was big, it was hoppy, and the more I think of it the more I want some again.

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Scaldis Noel: The last Belgian Strong Dark, and by the then I was sick of them, See my description of the Special above if you want to know what this was like.

Goose Island Baudoinia: Fed by the fumes given off by the incomparable Bourban County Stout, Baudionia mold can be spotted on the barrels stored on the lowest shelves in the warehouse. The similarity named beer has all the flavors one would expect from its famous cousin but with much more prominent chocolate note and a deeper smoother body. Or so the pamplet says. How did the mold beer taste to me? Like Chocolate Whiskey. This isn’t a beer you gulp. It is a beer you sip in small snifter glasses like the billionaires of old (or of Sunday night cartoons).

Vandermill BA Cider: Fermented with Michigan Honey and aged for 8 months in Founder’s Backwoods Bastard Ale. Coincidentally, I just had Backwoods Bastard the last time I was at the Fisch. It is a Scottish Wee Heavy and is bloody intense. You get a bit of that in the cider. It is one of the best Cider’s that I have ever had.

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With so many beers, I tried to go in some sort of order of color and alcohol levels, so that I wouldn’t blow out my palate right away. The problem is that there were so many big, dark beers, it didn’t make any difference. You just had to sit back, get some good food from the Wagyu Wagon and enjoy some delicious holiday beer. Cheers!

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Solidarity

Celebrating the Hardcore of Craft Beer in Chicago.

This Saturday was the Solidarity American Craft Beer Tasting Event at both the Gurnee and downtown Chicago locations of Timothy O’Toole’s on Saturday. Stone brewery and 7 other breweries were celebrating beer and Stone’s two year anniversary of selling beer in Chicago. The 7 other breweries were Dogfish Head, Victory, New Beglium, and local breweries Three Floyds, Half Acre, Two Brothers and Great Lakes. It was the culmination of 3 days of celebration with Stone’s Greg Koch.

The breweries took over the taps with over 50 beers, the vast majority being from Stone. $15 got you a venue ticket. This included 5 beer samples and a keepsake glass at either of the locations. $50 got you the hardcore package. This included 10 samples, a keepsake glass, a round trip bus ride from whichever location you chose to the other location, and a buffet lunch.

Chicago location list of beers. I marked the beers each of us sampled.

I went with my good friend Ben and my fiance Amy, who despite not being the biggest fan of beer, found out about this event and decided we were going. Can you believe that promises of a keepsake glass were not enough to get more people to go on less than 24 hours notice?

Gurnee location list of beers.

We got there, and the pub was closed to everybody but people there for the event. We got ourselves a table and contemplated which 5 beers we wanted to try. One thing about the table I didn’t like is that it sort of cut us off from others. Maybe next time I would just sit at the bar. I was promised famous beer type people would be mingling, but I think the table effectively barricaded us from them. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all, as Ben and Amy were entertainment a plenty.

The Keepsake Glass (A Very Solid Glass)

Here are the 6 beers I had (the first waitress didn’t take a sample ticket from us for the first beer). My notes on my phone were minimal so I’ll try to remember as much as possible of the many many beers I tried.

Stone 15Th Anniversary Escondian Imperial Black IPA
This is my first black IPA that I’ve ever had. It was kind of deceptive because it smells like a regular pale IPA, but when you taste it, it has a slight chocolate taste. This immediately reminds me of a Shwarzbier. That is a beer that is very dark, but tastes like it is a very pale Helles. Unlike the Shwarzbier, where the taste leans towards the malt, this one has a lot of bitterness from the hops, which makes it hard to tell if you are getting any bitterness from the malt itself. A very good beer.

My first black IPA ever.

Punishment (by Stone Brewery)
Once upon a time I was sitting in front of the TV eating dinner. On the table was a bottle of beer and a large CostCo sized bottle of Tabasco Sauce. Not paying attention I accidentally took a sip from the Tabasco Bottle. It was not a pleasant experience to say the least. Drinking Punishment was like drinking that Tabasco Sauce. It did not set my mouth on fire, but the tastes were very similar. There was virtually nothing of the underlying beer getting through. Ben and I were not fans. Amy, on the other hand, who doesn’t like a lot of different beers, loved it. The worst part is that it seemed like the taste of chili’s stayed with me the rest of the day. This is despite everybody else telling me I am crazy for thinking this. The idea of this beer is that Greg Koch takes his entire bounty of chili’s and puts half of them in an oak barrel of Double Dry Hopped Lucky Bastard and calls it crime. He then takes the other half and puts it in a barrel of Oak Aged Double Bastard Ale and calls it Punishment. It sure was a punishment to me. If I hadn’t of tried the Double Bastard with Chipotle Peppers, I probably would have been turned off to chile beers for a good long time.

Like drinking hot sauce.

2008 Stone Imperial Russian Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels
This one tasted and smelled like Whiskey. Plain and simple. There were some other Stout tastes like Chocolate, but the Whiskey taste was the clear star of this beer. It could be that since this beer was a good 4 years old the oak and whiskey tastes come through more while the beer tastes were muted. I didn’t have a more recent version to try so I can’t be sure.

Tastes like the barrel it was aged in.

2011 Stone Old Guardian Belgo Barley Wine
This is similar to the regular Old Guardian Barley wine, but brewed with Belgian yeasts instead of American yeasts, and if you know anything about Belgian beers, it is the yeast varieties that really make them interesting. This one was pretty bitter as you would suspect from a newer vintage Old Guardian, with Belgian yeast notes shining through. This was especially true with the clove, with only tiny amounts of bananas noticeable.  It seems almost like a pale ale at first sip only with toned down bitterness and a lot sweetness for balance.

A lot lighter than I thought it would be.

Green Flash/ Pizza Port/ Stone Highway 78 Scotch Ale (collaboration brew)
This was big, sweet, fruity, and malty. It had no bitterness whatsoever which is what you would expect from a Wee Heavy like this. This was actually one of my favorite brews of the day. It was kind of a break from the rest of the in your face beers that I had during the rest of the day.

A great Wee Heavy

Great Lakes Black Racer IPA
All day I had been waiting for them to put Three Floyds Ham on Rye on Tap. Even 4 hours after we got there, they still hadn’t. So with my last sample ticket, the waitress swayed me to get the Great Lakes Racer IPA since it is one of the rarest beers they had, and I’m glad she did. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find it ever again unless you or one of your friends have one right now. I personally liked it better than the 15th Anniversary Imperial black IPA from stone that I had as my first beer. It was less bitter and more chocolately than the Stone, which maybe is a minus in an IPA, but worked just fine for me.

My second black IPA ever.

Food

They also had some food, made with some of the beers on Tap. I had the Arrogant Bastard Burger, which was a solid burger, but nothing overly spectacular. Ben had a Dogfish Head Saison De Buff Mac and Cheese, in which he declared that he would rather have Kraft. Amy had a huge thing of Nachos, made from a beer that has slipped our collective minds.

Way too many Nachos

When we arrived, they gave us a cupcake/pastry thing. I can’t remember what it was suppose to be made from, but it was delicious.

The Sample Tickets

In addition to my own beers, I stole some sips from others:

Double Arrogant Bastard Ale with Chipotle Peppers
The punishment almost turned me off to chile beers for all time, but I tasted this and it was great. It starts off with a Double Arrogant Bastard Ale base. I’ve never had the double (except as part of Punishment above), but the original Arrogant Bastard is one of my favorite beers out there. The increased bitterness really balances out the spiciness of the chili, and the amount of chilis were scaled way back in comparison to the Punishment.

Ben's brush with Punishment scared him from any taste of another chile beer.

14th Anniversary Emperial IPA
This one tasted old, plain and simple. It was not a particularly pleasant experience. It reminded me of a stale grapefruit, if such a thing exists. It was a little bit of a surprise since it was only last year’s anniversary beer, but it doesn’t seem like it aged well at all. The sad part was the waitress even recommended it to us as a good last beer to have. Maybe she recommended it simply because it is pretty rare.

Like a stale grapefruit.

Dogfish Head Saison De Buff
This is a Saison brewed with Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme. This is incidentally almost the exact same herbal combination I used for the filling in the Braciole I made yesterday, with the sage being replaced with oregano. It tasted similar anyway. Usually Saison is just about the most versatile style of beer you can find. It does tend to have herbal notes, but with the actual added herbs, the herbal flavor was amplified. This would be great with any herbal pork or poultry preparation you make. Not exactly an everyday type of beer though.

This kind of reminds me of a pork roast (but in a good way).

Jason Fields & Kevin Sheppard/ Troegs/ Stone Cherry Chocolate Stout (collaboration brew)
This was a tasty chocolate stout with a subdued cherry chocolate flavor. This is fine by me, because a lot of bad fruit beers basically taste like fruit juice (I’m looking at you Shock Top).

Amy didn't like her Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean.

You might also notice that there are no faces showing. Amy was in charge of the camera, and I think she just hates faces.

Victory Prima Pils was this breweries only contribution to the Chicago location, but it was a solid one.