Kairoa brewing recently opened across the street from Small Bar on Park Boulevard. They are a brewery and restaurant with seating both inside downstairs and upstairs on their patio. On warm days, most people flock to their patio to get some sun. On cold days most people huddle inside the downstairs area leaving the patio area less crowded.
I stopped by on an early spring day and enjoyed the sun on the patio. A few of the beers had run out, an indication that they are quite popular. I ordered two different beers while I was there, a Brown ale and a pale ale. Tasters are three dollars each for a 5 ounce pour so I stuck with pints during my visit. Pints are priced at around $6.50 each.
The Brown ale was delicious and initially tasted to me like they added some cold brew coffee. It also had some nice roasting notes of dark chocolate. The beer was strangely hazy which is unusual for the style but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Next I ordered their pale ale, which was deliciously balanced with tons of hop aroma with notes of citrus, cannabis, and resin. Despite all the massive hop additions, the beer was not particularly bitter.
I happened to be visiting during the tail end of their brunch service on a Sunday. I looked through the menu and liked to see that a good number of the items are vegan. I ordered their vegan chilaquilles, which while tasty was more of a nacho dish and than chilaquilles. I am excited to come back and try other options both on brunch and other times.
I was mostly impressed by the space, the beer, and the service during my visit to Kairoa. I will have to try a bit more of the food before I decide if I would return for that. If you are visiting just for the beer, you will find a solid lineup of great beers. I briefly tasted my friends Pilsner and Belgian pale ale. Both were well made and clean beers.
New Realm was the brewery I had read the most about before my trip. This is because it was started by Mitch Steele, who formerly brewed for Stone. You can taste the brewing experience behind their core beers immediately. They are a restaurant space and limit parking to valet, which I have not seen at a brewery before, but may help them crack down on drunk drivers.
I sat at the bar and started with a full pour of the pilsner. I needed something to wash down the bigger beers from the previous place. The pilsner was excellent with a soft body, notes of citrus and floral hops, and a crisp dry finish. It is up there with some of the best pilsners I have ever had and likely to become a good seller for them in the local area if it is not already.
After that I was tempted to order a full pour of the cranberry berliner but I’m glad I decided to get tasters because it was not for me. I ordered tasters of the berliner and two IPAs. I wanted to see how the ex Stone brewer decided to brew IPAs once separated from Stone. The berliner was flavored with cranberry, orange, and cinnamon. From tasting it I would not have guessed it was much more than orange because the orange dominated and cinnamon was not detectable at all. This gave the beer an unpleasant bitter taste likely from the orange peel that didn’t work for me at all.
I tried two IPAs, Hoplandia and Hoptropolis. Hoptropolis was soft and balanced with a nice mix of hops including light notes of floral, citrus, and dank piney hops. It had low bitterness and a nice dry finish. Hoplandia, the newest of the two, had prominent notes of peach at the front and otherwise was very similar to the other IPA, also soft and not too bitter. Both are excellent examples of the modern style of non-hazy IPA. I later picked up a six-pack of the Hoplandia IPA to enjoy a few beers in our airbnb before flying home.
New Realm has a large restaurant space that is quite impressive and a solid lineup of beers. I did not try their stout but they did have a barrel aged stout as well. If you live in Atlanta and haven’t yet made it to New Realm, I suggest you search out their beers.
During my last visit to Chicago I was so impressed by Forbidden Root that I was willing to visit the city even when I wasn’t able to take the time to visit other spots nearby that had truly impressed me. Before trying Forbidden Root’s beer, I used to drive to Transient Artisan Ales an hour and a half to the East in Southwestern Michigan. This trip was my chance to see if the brewery was able to make the same quality of beers consistently. They did.
i still haven’t found any of their beers with fruits or botanicals that grabbed me but I was very impressed during my previous visit with their hazy IPAs, specifically the hazy rye IPA called Radio Swan. During this visit I started with Radio Swan and it was thankfully as good as I remembered. The beer had intense notes of melon and citrus with a nice creamy pilowy body and light bitterness. Most San Diego breweries seem to get this same mouthfeel occasionally but I have not found any that do so consistently. My guess is that they don’t really care because the average consumer doesn’t know the difference. I would have left with a crowler of Radio Swan but the machine was having issues on the day I visited.
Besides the delightful Radio Swan I also tried a beer called Night Moth, a hazy IPA aged in oak barrels. This was one of the beers available in 4 pack cans during my visit. I found the beer to be overly sweet and primarily showcasing strong oak, notes of vanilla, and honey. It would work better with fruit as Untapped showed they have released different versions. But on its own, it lacked the drier finish and was too sweet for me.
I should also note that I was a bit let down by the lack of vegan options at the brewery on their standard menu. I was initially satisfied to order from their small plates because it sounded like one or two of those would be to my liking. But the roasted carrots with hummus dish was half the size I might have expected for $12. My server that day indicated to me that none of the main dishes were able to be made vegan.
Still, given the quality of the Radio Swan IPA, I still hold Forbidden Root as one of the best breweries in Chicago.
These days it is hard for me to get excited about every new brewery. Many small breweries barely launch with average beer. Thankfully, the team behind Gravity Heights, including Skip Virgilio, the original brewer behind Alesmith, knows about quality. It shows in both the lineup of beers and the beers I tasted.
Gravity Heights is a massive brewery restaurant that is close to the size of Ballast Point’s big Miramar location. This immediately suggests that there is some big money behind the project. Though big money doesn’t always translate into understanding the local beer scene and what people want to drink. In this case, I can say that someone involved knows exactly where the market is headed.
Gravity Heights launched out the gate with four lighter style beers, a variety of IPAs, three darker beers, and a few collaboration beers. I was glad to see that they had both a house amber and a German style Alt beer. Beers are priced to push the consumer into ordering a pint with $3 tasters and $4.50 half pints. Thankfully most of the pints are $7 with some of the more expensive beers at $7.50 and a few at $8 a pint.
Alt is a German style Amber known for letting the flavor of the malts shine and occasionally some hop character to balance it out. The Alt served at Gravity Heights had prominent notes of coffee and hints of raisin and plum. This is a satisfying beer that blends the lines between amber and brown ale. I would recommend this personally over the dry stout, which I had at the end of the night. Though flavorful for a dry stout, and sporting notes of coffee and roast, I found the dry stout less to my liking.
I next ordered their hazy IPA to see if it was done properly. A lot of breweries are making beers they call hazy though a lot miss the style mark completely. This hazy IPA was a delight, bursting with tropical fruit and tons of citrus and citrus rind notes. It had enough haze to fit the style and a nice citrus rind finish that helps balance everything out and avoids it tasting like orange juice. If they can keep this beer consistently as good as I had it on my first visit, this will become a popular local favorite in no time.
I enjoyed the beers at Gravity Heights and also quite liked their back patio where they have a variety of seating options and not just the usual picnic tables. With plenty of businesses within walking distance, they should have no problem attracting visitors. I look forward to returning as the weather warms up.
Alt Beer (German style Amber)
Cologne, or in German Koln, is known for their Kolsch style of beer. This beer is called a lagered ale by some in the US, which is to say it is an ale that is made with lager yeast. If you are familiar with German beer generally, you may know the Helles or Pilsner, both generally lagers. This is similar to those though closer to a pilsner because they don’t tend to be as hoppy as a helles.
A note if you are considering visiting these breweries – like Dusseldorf, they are cash only or some have a 100 euro minimum charge on a card. So if you are planning to go out drinking budget 3 euro 80 cents for every 2 pours and plan on having 12-15 total pours per person plus food.
Like Dusseldorf, there are a bunch of different breweries where you can order Kolsch and they serve beers in similarly sized 200ml glasses, though slightly thinner and taller than the ones for Altbier. I visited four different breweries, starting my day in a time between lunch and dinner where hardly anyone was drinking except those finishing their lunch. I was done with my museums and ready for a beer nonetheless.
I started with Paffgen, which confusingly is also spelled Pfaffen. It was gorgeous inside at their location in Old Town area. I enjoyed their beer but not as much as a few others following. The beer was a bit grassy with light herbal hop character and a dry finish that disappears off the tongue. Though my least favorite that doesn’t mean it was bad. The Kolsch style is delicate by nature and meant for drinking over sipping.
I moved on to Sunner at their Walfish bar. The beer there was slightly more hoppy with notes of citrus and floral hops and still incredibly dry. It was difficult to distinguish much from the previous one. I moved on to Peter’s where I enjoyed the softer body and light sweetness on the finish. This was my favorite of the bunch and one I would love to return to again. Because of the larger restaurant feel, there were more people drinking here than the previous two.
I ended with Muhlen alt at Malzmuhle. They were also nice and soft like Peter’s and quite good. They were the only one I visited once it was proper drinking time so they kept the beers coming without much difficulty. I had four pours there, which is slightly under a liter.
Peter’s had a lovely classic feel and a delightful soft body to their kolsch that I loved.
Malzmuhle was similarly soft like Peter’s and also quite good.
Remember to bring cash as most of these breweries are cash only.