Thursday, May 08, 2008

Scotsmen on the Moon

Decided to stop by the Lunar Brewing Co. in Villa Park after work today, just to see what was new. I ended finding a mighty Wee Heavy, served in a giant thistle-shaped glass for $6. This chestnut-hued ale was rather straightforward, but tasty with caramel malts balanced by a judicious amount of hops and unusual spicy character. (The beer is pictured to the right.) There were many other treats at Lunar Brewing Co., including a 10 percent alcohol anniversary beer from Surly Brewing Co. in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Very intriguing. What monster could Surly have created? I was tempted, but after 21 ounces of the Wee Heavy (and remembering that I had another Scotch Ale at home) I decided I should probably just head home. However, I will back soon to the Lunar, to sample the house beer along with the fantastic line up of guest beers that included craft brews such as Two Brothers Hop Juice, Founders Dry-Hopped Pale Ale, Victory Golden Monkey and Three Floyds Robert the Bruce. Many other craft brews and imported lagers and ales were to be found in the cooler; some more reasonably priced than others. The other house beers included the popular Moondance IPA, Marzen, raspberry cream ale, oatmeal stout, a Maibock and a nut brown ale. Lunar Brewing has a page on Myspace, which is updated fairly often.

Once I home, I poured a bottle conditioned Arcadia Scotch Ale and decided to make the evening a mini-Scotch Ale tasting. I've had some Arcadia beers before and the brewery is a very interesting traditional English operation. The Arcadia Scotch immediately differed from the Lunar Wee Heavy. The color was a darker chestnut and it had a more powerful aroma of raisins. The carbonation, was good. I've found Arcadia beers to be fairly highly carbonated, so I gave the beer a more vigorous pour to help ensure a smooth mouthfeel. The bone white head didn't last too long and dropped leaving a tight collar of foam. The first sip was smooth and cleanly malty with some toffee character emerging towards the finish, which ends up being a mouth full of raisin character and alcohol laced with a roasted grain and hop bitterness. The heavy caramel malt flavors lingered on my tongue creating a long finish that was just short of cloying.

Arcadia Scotch Ale is definitely one of the good ones. The brewery is inconsistent: I've had good beers, outstanding beers and poor ones from them, but I have to congratulate them on the Scotch Ale.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Dogfish kind of day

I opened this beer thinking it was a Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale kind of evening.

Starting at 9pm I'm going to be waiting for my work pager to go off, so I thought I'd have one beer to sort of calm the nerves. I've had the Indian Brown Ale before and had mixed feelings about it, so I thought I'd try it again. Something about a dark brown ale fits a cool, wind-whipped rainy day. This particluar dark brown ale smells quite good; the aroma of dark dried fruits such as figs and raisins is assertive and has me anticipating a sweet tasting beer. There's a hint of coffee with cream in there, too. The mouthfeel is slippery smooth with just a bit of the tingle of carbon dioxide.

The hops are certainly kept in check until towards the finish and they're more earthy than spicy. A fairly bright tartness comes through initially in the rather balanced finish. After some time, this character turns a touch medicinal, but is not offensive. The bitterness is not as pronounced as the 50 IBUs (according the brewery's website) would suggest; perhaps all the sweet malts and caramelized sugar has tamed the bite of the hops. The finish is actually rather rich with latte and burnt caramel notes. Despite its surprisingly low viscosity, this is certainly not a low-calorie beer, this is verified in the sweetness. Lest I forget, it's a good looking beer, too. A collar of foam persists well after the head falls and some sparse bits of Brussels lace are left behind.

The Dogfish Head Indian Brown is certainly an enjoyable beer with the kind of burnt caramel sweetness that is satisfying this time of year, much like a springtime bock. I'm drinking this solo, but the brewery's website mentions pairing with balsamic vinaigrette salads, smoked meats, duck confit, braised ribs, venison, prosciutto and stews. It also mentions that a 12-ounce serving is 238 calories, which makes the beer a bit of a snack in itself.