Flashbacks and Bitter Women

Flashbacks and Bitter Women:  No we are not talking about past college experiences; we are referring to some new must try limited edition beers that we have recently indulged in.  Flashback is Boulder Brewing Companys latest offering, while Bitter Women in the Rye is the latest addition to Tyranena Brewing Companys brewers gone wild series.


Boulder 30th Anniversary Flashback Ale, 6.8% ABV

Brewed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the brewery, this one can be classified as an India Brown Ale, which can quite simply be described as hoppy brown ale. The dark malts coincide surprisingly well with the citrusy hops, resulting in a refreshing and clean beer.  A very unique style in its own right, comparable to Dogfish Heads Indian Brown Ale. 



Tyranena Bitter Woman in the Rye, ABV ??

Tyranenas normal IPA is named Bitter Woman, and when they added a bunch of rye to a batch, they also added in the Rye to the name of the beer.  The rye seems to take away from the hoppiness of the original IPA a bit, but adds a unique twist on the flavor.  If you like rye beers such as Two Brothers Cane and Ebel and Founders Reds Rye, then you will be pleased with Bitter Woman in the Rye.



It is pleasant and a good sign to see respected breweries toying with lesser produced styles.  India brown ales and rye beers can be exceptional, and hopefully other breweries will follow suit and start tinkering with some rarer styles.  What style would you like to see gain some exposure?


2009 Chicago Botanic Garden Wine Festival

 I spent a chunk of my weekend at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Saturday as a taster and Sunday as a guy working the Binny’s booth. The weather held out Sunday especially for a wonderful afternoon in the garden. It was great to meet so many people enjoying the garden and tasting new wines and beers, meeting folks from the wine industry, trying foods from local restaurants, and enjoying live music and seminars.

 Thanks to everybody who showed up it wouldn’t happen without you. If you placed an order, expect a call soon from your favorite Binny’s!

 Also, be sure to keep an eye out for other festivals coming up The Windy City Wine Festival, Naperville Wine Festival, and more, and be sure to keep current on the Binnys.com events page.

Some Great Whites Tasted in an Unlikely Place

I was in Napa last February. My favorite winery visit was a place called Kapcsandy Family Winery. Louis produces some great Bordeaux varietals including the highest rated Merlot in American history. Look it up, it’s a great wine. Louis also imports Bordeaux and Hungarian wines. We carry three of the Hungarian wines he imports by Grof Degenfeld.

The Grof Degenfeld Furmint is a light, crisp and food friendly white. This is going to be my summer white wine of choice. It has a nose of tart pear, apple and citrus zest. In the mouth, it is thirst quenching and well balanced. This runs $15.99, and if you like Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked whites, make sure you try it.
Next, the Grof Degenfeld Muscat has a nose of peaches, ripe melon and tropical fruit. There is some noticeable sweetness to this wine. It is well balanced, with bright acidity and a clean, fruity finish. You can pair this with lighter cuisine and spicy food. It’s similar to a Riesling Spatlese and costs $18.99.
Finally, the Grof Degenfeld Fortissimo is a wine that will please the sweet tooth. It is along the lines of an Icewine that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It has an intense nose of apricot and honey. In the mouth, it is sweet, but not cloyingly sweet. This was an eye-opener. It’s such a good dessert wine. Pair this with bleu cheese or a spice cake. This is on the shelf for $35.99 for a 500ml bottle.
These are new to Binny’s, and really exciting wines from Hungary. They are well made and taste a lot better than they cost.

Barley Island Brewing Company Debuts

Barley Island Brewing Company is the latest brewery to hit our shelves, making its debut earlier this week. Barley Island Brewing Company hails from Noblesville, Indiana, which is about 10 miles north of Indianapolis. Featuring four tasty brews, the Barley Island beers are sure to be a success. Listed in no particular order are the beers from Barley Island that can now be found at Binnys.


Sheet Metal Blonde

“Sheet Metal Blonde is a Belgian Wit beer that is light pale in color, cloudy, contains added spices, and best if served with a slice of orange.”


Barfly IPA, 5.6% ABV

“Our American IPA has an intense hop aroma and flavor. The hop character is citrusy, floral, and fruity (orange/grapefruit) from the use of Summit hops. The complex malt flavor profile supports the strong hop flavor.”


Dirty Helen Brown Ale, 4.3% ABV

“Sweet tasting malty brew, medium hop bitterness, copper penny in color.”


Beastie Barrel Porter

“Our Rust Belt Porter aged for 3.5 months in bourbon whiskey barrels from Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.”


A couple of us had a chance to try Sheet Metal Blonde, Barfly IPA, and the Dirty Helen Brown. All three exceeded our expectations. The Sheet Metal Blonde is a very unique blend of spices and is reminiscent of a spiced Christmas beer while the Barfly IPA and Dirty Helen Brown Ale are more true to their respected styles. The Barfly IPA is very hoppy and tastes like it has more than the 60 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) listed on Barley Islands website. Dirty Helen Brown Ale is a fairly light beer despite its dark brown color, and is very sessionable. Although we didnt get a chance to try the Beastie Barrel Porter, a whiskey barrel aged beer always gets us excited. Are you eager to try any of the Barley Island brews?



A Little About Sake

 The first time I had sake was at one ofthose Mongolian BBQ places. They served it hot, with a salad coveredin Italian dressing and crushed up ramen noodles. All I had to sayabout the sake was, This is hot and tastes like warmed up vodka.I wasn’t impressed, and didn’t have sake again for a long time. I’llbet it’s a pretty common experience. I did finish the sake, though.


A Little About Sake

 Sake is a brewed beverage made fromfour ingredients: water, rice, yeast, and a special kind of moldcalled Koji. And I guess sometimes they add distilled alcohol. Brewing sake is an intricate and often expensive process.


 I’mnot going to attempt a Sake 101 here in this single blog post, there’s just too much information,but I’ll try to answer the top three most common questions aboutsake:


1) Do you drink sake hot?

 Most of the sake on Binny’s shelves arebrewed to be enjoyed lightly chilled. The back labels on sake bottles oftensuggest the best serving method. Personally, I tend to avoid sakethat is meant to be served warm.


2) What’s a ‘Junmai?’

 Junmai is pure rice sake. Junmai Ginjo isrice sake with at least 40% of the rice grain milled away beforebrewing. Junmai Daiginjo is rice sake with at least 50% of the ricegrain milled away before brewing. The more of the rice grain milledaway, the more pure and intense the sake it will make.


3) Why do some of the bottles have thiscloudy stuff?

 That kind of sake is called Nigori the cloudiness is caused by adding a small amount of the lees, mostly rice particles, back into the finished sake. Theresulting sake is less precise, but still interesting and delicious.


A Few Sakes to Try

 The sake category in general is growingrapidly right now, new sakes are being introduced all the time, andprices are all over the place in relation to quality with some companies putting as much emphasis on marketing and packaging as on the actual sake and production (that’s mycynicism kicking in). I know that the world of sake can be intimidating – there are very few sake experts out there in America, and the labels are just so confusing.


 Howdo you know which are good and which are values? Here are a few I’vetried and found to be delicious. This list is by no means exhaustive,just a few ideas to get you going. Also, remember that Binny’s carries a wide variety of bottles in the 300mL size – common for sake – and perfect for a curious taster or two.


Tozai Series – $9.99/300mL and$18.99/720mL

 A great place to start with sake is theTozai line they’re reasonably priced and readily available, andoffer good examples of different styles. A top seller at Binny’s isthe Snow Maiden Nigori people love it for it’s sweet, easyto drink style. Try these to see which styles you might be mostinterested in.


Pride of the Village Junmai Ginjo -$21.99/300mL

 This Junmai Ginjo has A nose of flowersand pollen, melon and powdered perfume. It’s big (for a sake) on thepalate with lots of powdered cocoa, light fruit cocktail and mellowcheese.


Ichishima Silk Deluxe Junmai – ???/500mL

 Available soon at Binny’s, this junmai has a lighter nose of peach, apricot and mushroom. The palate is on the sweet side, showing green apple and grapey weight.


Moon on the Water Junmai Ginjo -$17.99/300mL

 With hints of marshmallow, coconut,banana and other tropical fruits on the nose, this sake shows a lotof cut and vibrancy on the palate, leading to light vanilla andunderstated fruit.


Divine Droplets Junmai Daiginjo -$32.99/300mL

 This sake is simply huge. An awesomeand beautiful nose (both of those words are in my handwritten notes)of cocoa powder and tropical fruits lead to a palate with hints ofcheese, pollen, delicate anise or licorice, citrus. This is a sake that has a very persistent and lingering finish. In 2007, Stephen Tanzer gave this brew a 94 point review.


How About You?

 I’m not an expert on sake by any stretch – I’m just a guy that is lucky enough to work in close proximity to the Binny’s sake buyer and who gets the chance to try a few once in a while. Any sake fans out there in Binny’s land? Any favorites that you’ve tried?


Week 1: “Must Haves”

In anticipation of the first week of Binnys international craft beer sale, which will recognize Germany and Austria, we compiled a list of beers that we consider “must buys.” If you missed the previous blog regarding the details of Binnys international craft beer month, be sure to check it out. Without further ado, here is our list of “must buys” for the first week of international craft beer month.



Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier 6- Pack Pumping out their first beer in 1040, Weihenstephaner is the oldest brewery in the world. Why not experience their most famous beer, the Hefe Weiss, when it is two dollars off?



Monschoff Schwarzbier 5L mini keg The schwarzbier style is an often misunderstood one. Its pitch black color leads to the misconception that it will be a heavy beer, when in reality this beer is light and smooth. The 5L mini keg seems to be a misunderstood package also, when in reality a beer will taste just as good, if not better, out of a mini keg when juxtaposed with any other packaging. At four dollars off the base price, this is a must have.



Einbecker Ur-Bock or Einbecker Maibock 6-pack The first bock beers were brewed in of Einbeck, Germany, and Einbecker has long been given credit as the original bock beer. Could there be a better time to enjoy these rich and malty beers than when they are four dollars off for a six pack?



Gosser Dark 6 pack – $6.99 for a 6- pack of an imported beer is almost unheard of. We cant think of one that is a better bang for the buck than Austrias Gosser Dark.


Obviously there are many other deals worth pondering; these are just a few we as beer lovers recommend taking advantage of. And if Germany and Austria arent your fancy, perhaps the United Kingdom will gratify your taste buds next week. Do you have and “must haves” for this week?

Great Lakes Deserves Recognition

In the previous beer blog post, we posed the question: Are there any other breweries that have impressed you more so than Lagunitas over the last several months? It was mentioned in a comment that Great Lakes Brewery is “amongst the breweries doing great things.” We whole-heartedly agree, and decided that Great Lakes deserves some recognition.


Great Lakes currently has two seasonals on the market, the first of them being the Grassroots Ale. This beer is a saison, a style long esteemed in Belgium and parts of Europe, and steadily gaining popularity with American craft brewers. Grassroots Ale is available in six packs and is a great value buy when compared to some Belgian saisons that can be over double the price for only a four pack. Grassroots Ale clocks in at 5.6% ABV and is relatively light, thus it is a stellar beer for the hastily approaching dog days of summer. From what I have heard and read and judging from personal experience when I tried Grassroots Ale, there are mixed reviews on it. Many highly acclaim the beer, saluting Great Lakes on another solid offering to add to their portfolio. Others claim that Grassroots Ale is an experiment gone wrong, and assert that Great Lakes was wide of the mark when crafting this unique saison. A couple things are for sure though, and that is that Grassroots Ale is a distinctive take on the saison style, every palate is different, and therefore only you can be the judge of this beer.


If you are reading this blog then you probably share the idea of loving when craft breweries try something new; especially top-notch breweries like Great Lakes. We can assure you that Great Lakes didnt disappoint with Glockenspiel, the most recent of Great Lakes seasonal releases. This one is a Weizenbock, which is essentially a bolder Dunkel Weizen, both of which are German styles. American craft brewers even less explore the Weizenbock style than the saison style. Clocking in at 8% ABV and available in a four pack, Glockenspiel, or any Weizenbock for that matter, are not your typical session beers. Made from 60%-70% wheat, this unfiltered brew will pour a cloudy amber color upon entering your glass of choice. Look for a spicy clove flavor from the yeast. This beer is a must try and wont be around past June, as a result we highly recommend picking some up while you have the opportunity


As craft beer lovers, we love to see experimenting by great craft breweries. There is always the notion that they might strike gold with their next trial. Upon inspection of Great Lakes website, there are 40 beers available only at their pub. A few have been bottled before, but most have only been acquirable by traveling to the brewpub. Hopefully Great Lakes will bottle some gems like Lake Erie Monster, a highly acclaimed double IPA. Is there a beer you have enjoyed at Great Lakes brewpub, or any brewpub for that matter, that you feel deserves to be bottled so the masses can take pleasure in it?