Half Acre is more established than the other two breweries I visited for IPAs. Their beers have a bit more of a classic feel than the others. Daisy cutter is one of their core offerings and it is a classic pale ale with prominent citrus and a crisp finish with a light malt base. Space was slightly hazy with a caramel malt base with light notes of coffee and mild bitterness. Though a bit hazy this is fairly traditional English style.
Pony pilsner was excellent with light fruity character, biscuit malt base, and a crisp clean finish. I brought home some cans of this one. Daisy Toronado is a more modern take on daisy cutter with tons of juicy hop character at the front and light onion hop character at the base. Vallejo IPA had an interesting mix of note of grape and plum that I don’t usually get in an IPA. I didn’t really care for the hop profile of this one.
Half Acre is a bit more classic in approach than many other breweries in the area for the hoppy beers. They also have a young sour program that is getting some acclaim. I got a small taste of one of their sours and it was quite complex and delicious. I am excited to open the bottle I brought home with me.
Half Acre is known for their pale ales and IPAs though they also have a young sour program that is worth checking out.
Un Annee is known for its barrel aged and fruited sours as well as their hazy IPAs and imperial stouts that they put under a different brand. They are located in a strip mall so that before you enter you may wonder if this is really a brewery. Once you step inside you get the feel of a standard tasting room. They are also a long drive out of town and best to visit only if you have a strong preference for sours. I started with their sours and then tried a few of their other beers. With so many on tap I asked the server to pick three of his favorites to start, which got me a few of their bigger barrel aged sours.
Le Grand Monde 7 had a nice mild oak base and a great balance of cucumber, mint, and other flavors that I rarely experience in a sour without too much acidity. I paired this with some grilled fish from a Filipino restaurant we got to bring to the brewery and it was delightful. Le Grande Monde 4 had such an intense hibiscus character that it was jammy and a highly acidic base. An enjoyable beer. Le Grande Monde 2, a flanders red style sour had good caramel notes with hints of molasses and tons of acidity.
The elderberry Le Seul VI was jammy and mildly sweet with light acidity. Overall the sours I tasted were quite impressive and I left with a few bottles to take home. Their hazy IPA, Hubbard’s Cave, was soft and creamy with light pine and herbal character with mild bitterness. It had notes of candied mango and peach as it warmed up. Though it could have been softer, it was an impressive hazy IPA and should satisfy any hop heads dragged there by sour fans.
Un Annee focuses on sours but also has stouts and hazy IPAs available. The bottles range from $13-25 for a 750ml bottle, which is within the norm.
On a Sunday in mid-August 2017 I visited four Chicago area breweries. I focused on some that were more highly recommended than others. My first post in the series will focus on Forbidden Root and Corridor while the next post will feature Half Acre and Un Annee. Both Forbidden Root and Corridor serve brunch and Corridor was quite crowded when I visited fairly early on a Sunday.
Forbidden Root was my first visit of the day and one of the most impressive in the IPA front. When you walk in to their brewery restaurant space it is striking how beautiful the decor is. They focus heavily on beers with botanical ingredients added. I didn’t try many of those but their hazy IPAs were fantastic and I immediately see why the releases sell out as fast as they do. I only had four tasters when I visited.
Radio Swan IPA is their hazy rye IPA. It was soft and creamy with a hazy yellow appearance. The beer has notes of peach and mango with a light grassy finish. I was very impressed with this and wish they had cans available. If I was to do the day over again I would have ordered more of this beer before leaving. The Ghost Tropic IIPA was a bit thicker giving it a milkshake quality. It was creamy and thick with notes of melon and peach with mild alcohol notes on the finish and minimal acidity. If I hadn’t had Radio Swan in the same visit I would have been very impressed by Ghost Tropic. Though ghost tropic didn’t have the super soft mouthfeel that makes Monkish so popular.
The King Hell cherry beer had tons of jammy cherry character combined combined with tons of winter spices and light caramel that reminded me of a Christmas beer. It wasn’t for me. The imperial stout had some light coconut and vanilla notes with tons of dark cherry and spices. In this one as well the holiday spices seemed a bit too prominent for my tastes and I would have preferred a bit less cherry malt notes, though it was well done.
Forbidden Root is a restaurant as well and has a solid menu. They do limited can releases that sell out fairly quickly. They also offer growler fills of most of their beers that they fill using a counter pressure system that keeps the growlers fresher longer.
Radio Swan Hazy IPA
Ghost Tropic Hazy IIPA
Corridor is one of the other breweries popular for hazy IPAs in Chicago. They are also a restaurant like Forbidden Root and in their case you can’t order taster size unless you get one of their pre-designed flights. This meant I only tried two beers because I had to order either 10 or 16oz pours. The Pulp Hogan was the only hazy beer I got to try, and at 5% it is a bit lighter than I generally prefer for a hazy beer.
Pulp hogan had notes of pine and candied fruit with a mild bitterness. It was lacking in both the soft mouthfeel and intense hop character I expect from the style. This is also quite common with lower alcohol hazy beers even from the bigger breweries so it may be more my preferences than bad beer. Their year round IPA was an excellent modern west-coast style IPA with fruit notes and pine, tons of hop character, and a mild bitterness.
In my limited tastes I preferred Forbidden Root to Corridor but both are worth visiting for IPAs. Corridor has the benefit of offering crowelrs to go as well.
Solemn Oath showed up on the list of breweries to visit outside Chicago proper when I was looking for a place to go and I always prefer tasting rooms whenever possible. Thankfully one of my hotels during the trip was close to Solemn Oath so it was easy to drop in for a few tasters. This visit was after going to Penrose brewing earlier that day, and the only things that interested me on the menu were the IPAs, the Oktoberfest and barrel aged stout. I got tasters of the Belgian IPA, IPA, Oktoberfest, and bourbon barrel aged stout.
I started with the Oktoberfest and was surprised by the massive amount of hop bitterness. Typically this style is made with zero hops so the existence of hops at all is a huge departure from the style. This would have been fine if the hops balanced with the rest of the beer but they stood out and gave the whole beer a powerfully bitter taste and a strong bitter after-taste.
The IPA had a lot of grapefruit flavor from the hops and overall seemed to be solidly balanced. Though it was also quite bitter, the hop flavors didn’t clash as much with the malts. It seemed like the same hops were used between all 3 (oktoberfest, IPA, and Belgian IPA). The Belgian IPA was also quite bitter and any spice from the Belgian yeast was overpowered by the same grapefruit hops and powerful bitterness. In all 3 of these brews it seemed the focus was on bitterness over aroma and they missed some areas where they could have really shined.
I ended with the bourbon barrel aged stout. This was an instant hit among my friend and my husband who both love dark beers. From what I got to taste of that one it had a nice full body and some solid sweetness along with the bourbon flavor but to me it seemed a little too sweet overall and not dry enough. Still, it was more impressive than the other before it.
Before I left I did get to taste some of the lighter offerings from the brewery thanks to some people near me who let me taste the pale ale. The lighter offerings seemed to be much more balanced than anything I tasted, so perhaps the brewer was experimenting with a certain variety of hops that wasn’t planned to result in so much bitterness. Those same people mentioned that Solemn Oath makes new beers regularly so the specific beers I tasted when I dropped by may not be the same ones you find if you come to visit.
Bourbon barrel aged stout
While in Chicago I visited Revolution Brewing based on a recommendation from a friend. I wanted to visit the taproom but it was closed for a wedding. Sadly the brewpub gets very crowded and they don’t have much space for people who are just there for a few beers. It was also very loud and difficult to have a conversation. Thankfully they do allow you to order five ounce tasters, even if the service away from the bar is quite slow.
While at Revolution Brewing I tried their Anti-Hero IPA, Zyclhops, Rise (stout), and Eugene (porter). I thought the Anti-Hero IPA was a solid IPA offering a nice medium body with citrus, tropical fruits, and resin. It was a bit sticky sweet but overall a solid IPA. In comparison the Zyclhops was a double kolsch IPA with a heavy boozy after taste with a lot of noticeable alcohol. The hops came in with a lot of pine but it otherwise didn’t have much resemblance to an IPA. I did not finish the taster.
The Rise stout was quite bitter and smoky and not particularly smooth. This one also had quite a bit of pine flavor. As someone who likes stouts to be more roasty and smooth this one wasn’t hitting the spot for me. My husband wasn’t particularly impressed either. The Eugene porter was better, giving a nice mix of chocolate and dark fruit and a smoother overall flavor. It was closer to what I expect from the style.
Overall two of the four beers were enjoyable although the other two were so off-putting that I didn’t end up ordering extra tasters. The other reason I didn’t order more tasters was the slow service and my plan to visit another brewery later that day. Perhaps the specialty IPAs they had on the menu would have been more my style but I wasn’t feeling like staying longer. If you are planning on visiting Revolution I suggest that you go to their tap room if you can because the brewpub gets very crowded and is better for people going to eat.