The Six-Pack Project


Recently I had the luck to be invited to represent Chicago in a nation-wide round up of beer bloggers’ review of their favorite beer from their home state. Bryan Roth from This Is Why I’m Drunk is our host and had only a few rules:

Here are the rules:

  1. Pick a six-pack of beers that best represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
  2. Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
  3. Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
  4. Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred.

Chicago really has taken a place as a craft brew haven. With a multitude of breweries opening up, or establishing themselves, (six of which are listed below), and even more on the horizon, Chicago is becoming a great beer vacation! For this round of The Six-Pack Project I am representing, you guessed it, Chicago. The breweries listed below are operated inside the city limits, and offer bottles or cans for sale (some offer growlers/howlers!). There are many others that either only offer their wares on draft, or in growlers. While their beer may be fantastic, sadly, they didn’t make the cut here.

Chicago has long been the city of big shoulders, and with big shoulders that means you make your own way in life (especially through doors that are too small), so the beers below are a mix of my absolute go-to’s as well as those that represent the do-it-yourself nature of Chicago.

Half Acre – Over Ale

Continuing in the vein of self starters with a goal, something surely not unique to Chicago, Half Acre distributing it’s first brew with an army of one, comes Over Ale. The “style-less wonder” (officially an American style bitter) presents with a deep amber color, and roasty looking head.

These guys are my favorite brewery in Chicago by far. Their zeal for trying new beers since 2006 and knocking them out of the park brings these guys to the front of any beer conversation I have.

Over Ale has a nice hefty malt backbone balanced well with bitter and hop nose. Balancing the hops on the nose is a syrup nose. It has a nice alcohol hint, great bitter flavor with a light mouth feel and clean finish with just a kick of acidic bitter at the back of your tongue. This is a great session or pairing beer. I like mine with Thai food, or anything else exotic and spicy in need of a palate cutter.

Spiteful brewing – Ghost Bike Pale Ale

Born of two friends united after a “spiteful incident” on the ice when they were kids Brad Shaffer and Jason Klein have started a nano-brewery in the Ravenswood neighborhood on the North Side. They epitomize the D.I.Y. attitude, in a Chicagoist interview they said, “We want to put our time in. We want to learn. I don’t want to hire a head brewer and not understand the process, because it’s our company. We want to bring great beer to a great city one bar at a time.” Their care and devotion shine through in Ghost Bike.

Ghost Bike starts off with a sweet nose comprised of honey and malt, flowery front on the sip. It lingers with a sticky mouth feel and a rounded fresh grapefruit middle. It treats you nice with a great head that stays almost creamy. As with pales it rides a loooooooooong finish and a great aftertaste.

Revolution – Anti-Hero IPA

A real mainstay in Chicago if only having been around since 2010, their clenched left fist tap handles are always ones to look for when you walk into a bar. I love the clenched left fist as a clenched left fist means armed revolution (as your right is typically holding a rifle!) this to me indicates their desire to overturn convention while still producing mass quantities.

A great craft serving in a six-pack of cans. This presents with a great nose, perfectly hop balanced with that tell tale of a nice strong malt backbone. The bitter hits you right away, and rides the sides of your tongue. The bitter hangs on through the end finishes long and silky. The body is still light and this is just one hell of a refreshing beer.

The only thing that I don’t like about this six pack is the can holder. Its a recyclable carrier, and the plastic is hard to get off the cans… I know, I know… first world problems, right?

Metropolitan – Dynamo Copper Lager

As with all the breweries here Metropolitan does it differently and their own way. The only brewery in Chicago that produces only Lagers means that you can count on anything Metropolitan to refresh in the summer or after helping a friend move. All their beers take their names after components of industry, which just ads to the Chicago-ness, and industrial history of our fair town.

Dynamo Copper Lager introduces with a malt heavy nose and not a whole lot of hop. It carries a nice easy bitter finish on a light body. Of course being a lager, it is highly drinkable. I suggest a glass every time for this one as it has a metallic tang which seems to be more noticeable than others. With a great summer looming this is a wonderful companion to sun-drenched patios.

Pipeworks – Majestic

Pipeworks, a gypsy brewery making their “home” in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, is making a run for my top brewery in Chicago. Their beers are big in flavor and peculiar in approach, I couldn’t be more impressed with their offering of Majestic. Majestic is billed as an English Style Summer Ale, an interesting combination for sure.

It starts off with a nice grassy nose along with a golden hue and a hint of amber, and the flavor completely surprises in the best way, mellow and complex. There’s a notes of citrus fruit but with a great clean finish. Majestic plays around on your tongue as if it can’t decide which side to show you first. It’s very drinkable, which might get you in trouble as it clocks in at 7%. It finishes long and bitter, as you would expect from an English bitter.

Paired with some salmon or smokey pulled pork sandwiches (with Carolina style vinegar sauce, not molasses based!) you’d have a recipe for a great evening.

Chi-Town – Windy City Wheat

Chi-Town, what’s more Chicago than a beer named after the transportation and cultural hub of the Mid-West. Effervescent, with a light head. Bright straw yellow and just a touch cloudy. Medium body and mouth feel. You get great white bread toastyness as the carbonation tickles the tongue. The middle and finish is where the complexity comes in. Not overly complex, but a great representation of a Belgian white ale. There is a touch of that Belgian yeast flavor with some light (almost not noticeable) banana. This is a very well balanced and yet another highly drinkable beer. Perfect for warm weather BBQs!


Check out what my fellow beer bloggers had to say:


The Woes of Conversions: McQuaker’s Oatmeal Stout

After the American Pale Ale went as well as it did, I had a busy summer. Unfortunately, I was busy with everything but brewing. I found myself hating my job, and looking for something else, and just generally dreading the winter doldrums. The shining light through all of this is that winter means heavy dark beers, the stouts, porters, and heavy malt and spice beers come out and it’s just delicious! With that in mind, I asked two buddies of mine if they wanted to brew an oatmeal stout with me. We agreed that yes, we would like to get trashed and brew beer together, as you can imagine, it was a tough decision and I had to twist their arms!

Well life seemed to conspire against me to brew this batch. I bought the ingredients in October/November 2012 and didn’t end up brewing until February 9th, 2013! There were plumbing issues in my apartment, scheduling conflicts, and life in general that got in the way. One of my buddies and I decided to just plow ahead and brew.

As brew day approached I got very excited, and started gathering the ingredients together, the yeast and hops from the fridge, and the crushed grain from the paper bags in the pantry. Everything smelled fine, and I began sanitizing. I will caveat this batch and say, that I have never been good at knowing how many ounces there are in anything, let alone in gallons, now I know there are 128 oz. in a US gallon.

The grain was steeped in 5 gal. (actually 2.5 gal) of 158° F water for 40 minutes, and then I added the dry malt extract, and some additional water, I brought the liquid to a boil and added the hops for a full 60 minute boil. After the cool down, I poured the wort into the primary fermenter. Shock ensued as I was at just under 3 gal! That’s when it hit me, I should have just looked up how many ounces are in a gallon, as opposed to trusting myself. Though, I will say you don’t learn unless you step in a pile of shit, and have to scrape it out of your tread. I added as much pre-boiled water as I had on hand then added ::sharp inhale:: tap water, ugh! I was for sure that this batch would turn out off-flavored and just all around terrible.

At this point, the only thing left to do was to pitch the yeast and wait for about 4 weeks to taste the beer. As I was reflecting on the process, I wasn’t really that disappointed. Every time I brew a batch of beer, no matter how good or bad it is, I always learn something new. And to be honest while having good tasting beer is rewarding, I feel like I don’t learn as much as when I have a batch go wrong, either on brew day, or in the bottle (as a latent result of an error along the way!) Thus each batch makes me enjoy brewing all the more. I think the one pursuit in my life that I like coming back to again and again, is learning. There are so many things in this world to learn and so many experiences to have. Why not try to have experiences that not everyone else has. Life should be interesting, life should be challenging, life should be tasty!

Grain Type:

  • 2 lbs US 2-row malt
  • 1 lbs UK flaked oats
  • .75 lbs US Chocolate Malt
  • .75 lbs US Victory Malt
  • .5 lbs TF&S Dark Crystal 185L
  • .5 lbs UK Roasted Barley

Extract Type:

  • 3 lbs Plan light muntons dry malt extract

Bittering Hop Bill:

  • 1.8 oz. US Kent Goldings


  • DCL S-04-SafAle (English Ale)


Tasting Notes:

This beer, as I thought it would, turned out terribly weak and watery. The great thing was that this was done right in time for St. Paddy’s day, so I dubed it a Session Stout. In the depths of the beer there was that great roasty taste, with all the elements that you love from stouts, but it was just way way way watery. Live and learn right?!

Leopold Bros: Pre-Prohibition Never Tasted So Good!

Leopold Bros Pre-Prohibition Style American Whiskey

Leopold Bros Pre-Prohibition Style American Whiskey

Not long ago, I found myself confronted with a bit of an existential issue… do I like all whiskey’s, or just Scotch whiskey? Ok, so maybe not your run of the mill existential issue, but nonetheless, I felt it challenged what I thought of myself as a drinker. Here I was after about 10 years of thinking I only liked Scotch, but here in my hand, rising to my nose were the notes of caramel, vanilla and oak. A soft inviting scent, I salivated with the thought sipping. Yet, what ho!? This was a glass of American Pre-prohibition Style whiskey! Could it be, could I actually be enjoying a glass of American Whiskey? Turns out, yes, yes I could!

Leopold Bros stands up to my palate while at the same time requiring more attention. By no means do I have a developed palate, but I’m working on it. This spirit continues to surprise me, the depth and complexity are wonderous. Each glass I have I grab something new from the experience.

As noted above, there are soft notes in the nose, oak, caramel, vanilla, and they persist to the palate as well. Quickly following is the spice of the alcohol. It is very alcohol forward, but if one sniffs at it, you get past the alcohol, and start peeling back the layers. This is a continuing love affair and as I taste more this will most certainly be updated with more thoughts and revelations.

For now however, suffice to say that I am going to continue on my quest of figuring out if I do in fact appreciate American whiskey as well as Scotch.

Beware The Ides of Bottle Conditioning!

Hop Monster

Type of Beer: IPA/IIPA

Name of Beer: Hop Monster

Grain Type:

  • 6 lbs UK Pale Malt
  • .5 lbs US Carmel 20L

Extract Type:

  • 3.3 lbs liquid malt extract
  • 1.0 lbs light dried malt extract

Bittering Hop Bill:

  • US Cascade 2.0 oz.
  • US Centennial 1.5 oz.
  • Simcoe leaf 1.0 oz.
  • US Ahtanum 0.5 oz.
  • US Citra 0.5 oz.

Finishing Hop Bill:

  • US Citra 0.5 oz.
  • US Ahtanum 0.5 oz.
  • US Centennial 0.5 oz.


  • Two packages of Wyeast 1272 – American Ale (smack pack liquid yeast)

Process Followed:

I started on 3/3/2013 with a recipe from Brew and Grow in Chicago modified from their Hop Lobster stock recipe. I mashed grain at about 150° F for 60 minutes in about 2 gallons; then sparged with about 3 gallons of water at 170°. At the end of the mash and sparge I had about 4 gallons of wort. I added to my brew kettle and had about 3 inches of room left at the top, so just barely made it! Added back to heat and dissolved the dry and liquid malt extract and brought to a boil. The boil was actually hard to achieve as the volume was so large, after about 40 minutes on the heat I just started adding the hops and shortly after it boiled.


I put all hops into hop/muslin bags for a 60 minute boil in the following order

  1. 1.0 oz. Cascade for 60 minutes
  2. 0.5 oz. each of Centennial, Cascade, and Simcoe leaf for 30 minutes
  3. 0.5 oz. each of Centennial and Ahtanum for 15 minutes
  4. 0.5 oz. each of Cascade, Simcoe leaf, Centennial, and Citra at flame off


Wort chilling didn’t go great as I had forgotten to buy ice, so I had to use what ice there was in the freezer and extra cold water. Of course, then it took about 30-40 minutes to get the wort down to the right temperature. I finally got it down to the pitching temperature but tasted it and tested for O.G. prior to pitching. The pre-pitched wort was VERY sweet, but still had a decent amount of bitterness and hop aroma. I was worried about the yeast, as the night before (when I bought the ingredients) I forgot and left the yeast out of the fridge overnight… After smacking the yeast though, both pouches puffed up really nice and big, so I wasn’t too worried that there was damage to the yeast cells. Original Gravity was 1.113 (temperature corrected), which I think is astronomical, at least, I’ve never brewed something with that much sugar pre-fermentation!

Best part of brew day, the reward of sweet sweet pre-beer!

Best part of brew day, the reward of sweet sweet pre-beer!

The wort sat in the primary fermenter for 7 days, and I forgot to get a specific gravity reading at the time of transfer to the carboy. After moving the beer to the secondary fermenter, I added the dry hops. I used 0.5 oz. of each of the following:

  • Citra
  • Ahtanum
  • Centennial

I used a muslin bag with a knot at the top, but dropped the whole thing, including the tail of the muslin bag, into the carboy. This turned out not to be a great idea. The hops were to sit in the secondary for one week, but I let them sit for 10 days. At that time, I am used to bottling, but the recipe called for an additional 2 weeks of aging. So I had the problem of getting the hop bag out of the carboy. I settled on using a coat hanger. I am sure there was a collective gasp there, but I did clean and sterilize the coat hanger. It wasn’t ideal, but I needed to get the hops out of there.


After the additional two weeks of aging, I then bottled on 4/1/2013. The finished gravity was 1.014, which translates to about a 13% ABV which I don’t believe. So somewhere I must have messed up the reading. Maybe I corrected for the wrong temperature pre-pitching.

Tasting Notes:

10 days of bottle conditioning (4/13/2013):
Complete lack of carbonation. VERY alcoholy, I can’t tell if the yeast has autolyzed, or if it just isn’t ready yet. I was quite disappointed and I think that the yeast sitting out may have had an impact after all, or maybe the coat hanger… Not very pleasant to drink, very sweet, and only a bit bitter. With the amount of hops added during the boil, and the dry hopping, I would expect a least a bit of floral nose, but I couldn’t detect one, if it was even present.

15 days of bottle conditioning (4/17/2013):
Still a complete lack of carbonation, despite the hiss when opened (same as at 10 days). The alcohol, while still forefront is mellower. There is more bitterness this time so it’s helping to balance out the sweet maltiness. I was concerned about what to do about this batch, so I looked online and found this forum post. The suggestion is that for high ABV beers it will take upwards of three weeks (could be 6-8) for a “big” beer to be carbonated. This gives me hope as I am sincerely hoping this batch didn’t go up in… bubbles?

22 days of bottle conditioning (4/25/2013):
After vigorous pour, there showed a ton of head generation, which wasn’t present at all previously. The head was retained for about five minutes. I don’t notice any residual carbonation, but there is that telltale acidic bite of carbonation. It still is very alcohol forward, but still mellowing. I’m not picking up much hop aroma/bitterness, but that could just be because this bottle was pulled out of the fridge. As I keep drinking, I can tell that the carbonation wasn’t really retained, so I think I would still call this young, but it is changing. I have to say, this so far has been the MOST interesting beer. I have never alternately loved and hated a beer as much as this one. After letting it sit out for a bit, and it does get more alcoholy.

57 days of bottle conditioning (5/30/2013):
This beer keeps me guessing that’s for sure. Almost 60 days in and still changing. This time I pulled a bottle from the case where they sit when NOT in the fridge. At popping it open there was a loud and noticeable “psssht” which was a good sign. I grabbed a brandy snifter style beer glass, gave it a vigorous pour and was presented with great head. Well as often is the case the great head didn’t last. This time though I wasn’t left with flat beer and a mirror surface, now I have about a dime’s height worth of head remaining at the edges with a skim of bubbles through the middle. The taste, oh, the taste!! I am falling in love with this beer. It still has an alcohol front nose, but not in such a distracting way. It’s still a malt heavy, but it does have some hop balance to it, the bitterness really rides the sides of my tongue with a long finish. When the head was present, the alcohol smell was masked considerably, and there were light notes of toastiness and bread, I almost want to say that there was some warm fruit in it as well, but that was fleeting, and I may be misremembering that now… I feel that this has finally become drinkable by others but me.

A Common Misconception


Joe’s On Broadway, a great hole in the wall bar that has been around for.. well, a long damn time; it also shares the distinction of being very close to my house. While frequenting Joe’s recently I decided to have another go at Anchor Steam, the progenitor of the craft brewing explosion in America. Continue reading

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