Bridgeport Introduces Café Negro and Kingpin

Around 6 months ago, Bridgeport Brewing Company debuted in our stores with the introduction of their IPA and Hop Czar double IPA. Oregon’s oldest craft brewery chose Illinois to be the 19th state their beers were distributed in.  After much success with these beers, Bridgeport has decided to unveil two more beers upon us Chicagoans.  Café Negro and Kingpin are now available at the majority of our stores.  

 

Kingpin is a double red ale, clocking in at 7.5% ABV.  Locally and rarely grown Liberty Hops from the Willamette Valley give this brew a unique hop profile.  The addition of rye and caramel malt add complexity to the flavor.  Biscuity and nutty flavors are apparent, with an underlying sweetness.  Malts and hops create a wonderful balance in this brew.

 

Bridgeport sampled coffee from numerous local Oregon roasters to formulate a blend exclusive to Café Negro.  The huge coffee nose possessed by this brew is a result of the coffee being infused into the brew during cold conditioning rather than during the boil and fermentation. Roasted barley and chocolate malt give this porter bold dark flavors.  At 5.5% ABV, this is a pretty easy drinker when juxtaposed with other coffee infused brews.

 

Bridgeport has fared well in the Windy City, and it looks as if they are here for good.  What would you like to see Bridgeport offer up next?

 

Fried Chicken AND…

   This year, one of my wine goals is to do more food and wine pairing. One of my wine buddies said he tried KFC and Sauternes. I looked at him with a puzzled look and realized that sweet and savory is a good combo. After all, I use bacon to wipe up excess pancake syrup, so I gave it a shot!

   I was lucky enough to dine at the French Laundry when I was in Napa last year. Chef/owner Thomas Keller has three restaurants on the same street in Yountville, CA. His newest restaurant is called Ad Hoc. A cult following has emerged for the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Night. Using the Ad Hoc recipe, I had some friends over to try it out.

   This stuff was good! It is the most succulent, juicy and crispy fried chicken I’ve ever had. I opened a 2007 Argyle Brut and a 2008 Santa Julia Tardio Late Harvest Torrontes. Sparkling wine is very food friendly and the Argyle is light, crisp and toasty. It is a great combination that plays nicely with the chicken. The late harvest wine makes a nice contrast with the savory fried chicken. Its tropical fruit flavors and sweetness make for a great pairing. This is a great dessert wine and it’s cheap!

Goose Island Unveils New Year Round Beer: Pepe Nero

Goose Island has unveiled the newest innovation to their year round lineup.  Pepe Nero recently became the fifth addition to Goose Island’s Vintage Ales line, which now consists of five world class Belgian inspired brews.  A dark farmhouse ale brewed with peppercorns, the obscure styled beer comes packaged in 4-packs and 22oz bomber bottles.  

 

At first glance, it was hard to believe that our glasses were filled with a farmhouse ale, due to the deep and dark brown color of the brew. The funky Belgian influenced nose of Pepe Nero was reminiscent of another of Goose Island’s beers, Matilda.  Most of the funk on the nose did not translate to the sip though.  Initially the beer was earthy and grassy, before a roastiness from the dark malts swiftly engulfed our taste buds.  The hops in this beer were subdued, however there was a noticeable bitterness from the roasted malts.  A hint of the peppercorns and black licorice showed themselves on the finish.

 

We had high expectations for Pepe Nero, stemming from the fact that Goose Island chose this brew to join their year round lineup over the seemingly endless delicious beers that go on tap at both of their brewpubs.  Our anticipation was satisfied as we thoroughly enjoyed this unique, cutting edge beer.

 

Goose Island continues to expand their lineup, and there is no end in sight for the local brewery.  Big John, an 11.5% ABV imperial stout brewed with cacao nibs, will debut in April.  At the end of the year, Goose Island will unveil King Henry, a hybrid English/ American barleywine brewed with American hops and over two tons of malt.

2008 Bordeaux – First Taste

   Last Monday was the annual Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting, this year featured the 2008 vintage in Bordeaux. Why is this one of my favorite tastings of the year? Other than the obvious world-class wine?

   It is because this is how I imagined wine tasting as a child: marble floors, marble columns, twinkling chandeliers, stereotypical overblown elegance. French men with unpronounceable names and French women with sharp, die cast looks, all pouring French wines with unpronounceable names. Tasters in button-up jackets swirling their wine glasses and proclaiming the virtues of the vintage. It’s stuffy but fun, and it’s intimidating being surrounded by people that surely have more insight, more illuminating things to say than I do.

   What about the wine?

   I started with the Left Bank, mostly because it was closest to the in door and not crowded when I arrived. There’s some good stuff here, but the general theme is dry and tannic, weedy and closed. Still, 2008 shows better than the ’07s we tried last year.

   My money is on the Right Bank, or it would be if I had any. These are characterized by more plush, weightier fruit that fills in the space and balances out the still present tannins. Favorites include the serious Angelus and the promising Pavie Macquin.

   What really stands out in my mind, though, are the dry whites and the sweeter wines. Chateau Climens shows the most complexity, but all from Sauternes and Barsac that I tasted are delicious as usual. The dry whites are exciting: Carbonnieux’s refreshing tropical and herbal notes, Smith Haut Lafitte’s funk (in a good way) and grass, Pape Clement with its modern, streamlined, spicy wonder.

   So I was getting worked up about these white Bordeaux when a friend who has been in this industry a long time gave me some advice: “Enjoy it; you won’t see it again.” I guess he’s right, but it is some consolation to know that the reds are pretty good too.

Let Them Mix Margaux and Coke

   It was sometime in December, and things were busy. I hadn’t packed a lunch, I didn’t really have time to run out and grab something. So I headed over to the Gourmet Grocery and Cheese Counter to order a sandwich.

   They have a great variety of exciting cheeses. Admittedly, I don’t know much about gourmet cheese other than the fact that I like it. After a few glassy-eyed minutes scanning over the hundreds of options, I politely asked for a sandwich with a soft-looking cheese with an Italian name I did not recognize.

   The cheese monger seemed miffed. She crossed her arms, she frowned, and she exclaimed to a coworker, He wants the Taleggio (or Fontina, or Delice de Jura, or whatever it was) on a sandwich! He wants it with mustard and onions she counted on her fingers and mayonnaise and tomato and lettuce…

   … All of which just made my mouth water. I could tell that I had committed a grave offense to those closest to gourmet cheese. As I ate my sandwich with all its nutty complexities and faint smell of feet, I wondered if I might have metaphorically mixed Margaux and cola which may or may not really be a thing.

   I worry that it’s too easy to fetishize the product itself the wine or spirit or beer and miss out on its full potential. Why are we so afraid of corrupting these things?

   I’m not saying everyone has to mix everything they drink, but I too often find myself overreacting to the mere suggestion of mixing, either in disapproval (you’re wasting that single malt in soda?) or in disgust (your’re mixing wine and beer … gross!) without a second thought.

   I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about; we’ll return to it. Until then, here’s another story:

   I was out with a large group of people, most of us in the alcohol industry and a few that weren’t. We were at one of the many excellent beer bars this city boasts. The place had a killer tap list offering about thirty great beers. We ordered our choices, exciting stuff we had not yet been able to try, or old favorites.

   Only one person, not a member of the alcohol trade, picked something from the menu’s Beer Cocktails section, a concoction of stout, framboise lambic, and house-infused vanilla vodka. What’s not to like?

   It was delicious. Like … mindblowingly amazing. Full and round; adult liquid candy. And had I (along with several others) not stolen a sip, I would have never known.

Packaging Elevated Into an Art Form

While it is rare that one of these blogs will talk more about packaging than the contents, this is an exception. Some of our stores are carrying two Belgian beers from Brouwerij Sterkens that are available in an unusual package.  Both beers come in an earthenware crock bottle that comes with a swing top, which is far from your everyday glass bottle.  Some breweries like New Holland say that beer is art in fermented form, but in the case of these Sterkens beers, the bottles are literally a piece of artwork.  

 

The first in the Alchemic Ale series is Yeast Hoist, which features an original screen printed design on a white bottle by famed indie cartoonist Ron Rege Jr.  Around the neck of the bottle hangs a cartoon by Ron titled Kept in Balance by Equal Weights that is available exclusively with Yeast Hoist.  The bottle is filled with St. Sebastian Golden Ale, a Belgian Style Abbey Ale from Brouwerij Sterkens.

 

Second up in the Alchemic Ale series is Monster Bokrijks, a brown bottle that is taller and skinner than the short and stubby Yeast Hoist.  The beautiful screen printed art on this bottle is the works of underground comic legend Mat Brinkman.  Mat features two monsters on the front of the bottle, and two different monsters on the back.  The bottle is filled with Bokrijks Belgian Ale from Brouwerij Sterkens.

 

While many products feature artful designs and concepts, these earthenware bottles take beer and art to the next levelthe package is truly elevated into an art form. Which beer do you think best exemplifies art?

 

*Email Kyle@binnys.com to see if either of these beers are available at your local Binny’s. 

 

Extreme Beer Tasting Coming to Binny’s in Algonquin

This event will perhaps be remembered as Binny’s most extreme tasting ever.  It is loaded with over 30 huge beers, including chocolate, fruit, and smoked beers. Ciders and meads will also be sampled.  The event is on Friday, February 11th from 5-8pm at Binny’s in Algonquin with a cost of $10 with a Binny’s card.  The following beverages will be featured in the tasting:

 

Rogue Chocolate Stout
North Coast Old Stock Ale
Grand Teton Black Cauldron Imperial Stout
Uinta Cockeyed Cooper Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine
Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout
Fort Collins Double Chocolate Stout
Avery Samael’s Oak Aged Ale
Avery Mephistopholes
O’Fallon Sticke It To The Man
Sprecher Bourbon Barrel Aged Doppelbock
Lakefront Big Easy Imperial Maibock
Point Whole Hog Barleywine
Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence
Ommegang Three Philosophers
Southern Tier Choklat
St. Somewhere Lecto Divino
St. Somewhere Pays du Soleil
Lindeman’s Framboise
Lindeman’s Kriek
Lindeman’s Cassis
Lindeman’s Pomme
Lindeman’s Faro
La Botternesse Noire
Toria Tripel
De Dochter Courage
Emelisse Rauchbier
Scaldis Peche Mel
Duvel Tripel Hop
Kapittel Abt
Schlenkerla Urbock
Schneider Aventinus
Skull Splitter
Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo
Wells Banana Bread Beer
Ace Berry Cider
Wild Blossom Apple Cin Mead

Don’t Miss These Blends

   I am always surprised at how often I have the conversation described in this blog post. To recap, it goes like this: I recommend a favorite wine that happens to be a blend, and the customer corrects me, saying they’d rather have the name of a grape on the label, just to be safe. Which I am completely fine with. We always find some other great wine. I just don’t want people to miss out on something special because of the misconception that blended wine is somehow less serious, or of lesser quality, or anything but the standard.

   Nobody talks about it much, but wine making involves a lot more science (and a lot less magic) than we like to imagine. A lot of modern wine making is chemistry; it’s just one reason why wine is better than ever right now. And perhaps the most fundamental tool at the winemaker’s disposal is blending, broadening the palette by adding varietals. Excuse me if I, ahem, mix metaphors.

   Blending allows a winemaker to create something original and special, often outside the confines of a single varietal. Beyond wines labeled as blends, blending is used extensively in varietally labeled wines too, adding layers of subtlety and complexity that a single varietal can’t achieve so easily. For example, a wine may be labeled as a varietal in the U.S. if it includes 75% of that grape, leaving plenty of room for other varietals without mention of them on the label.

   So how about some examples of blended wines that also just happen to be notable new releases of old favorites here at Binny’s?

   The new 2009 vintage of Amalaya just hit our shelves. The blend this year includes 75% malbec 5% below the 80% required by Argentine regulations for varietal labeling. The remainder of the blend is cabernet, syrah and tannat, bolstering the malbec at the heart of this wine. Amalaya is always an easy recommendation; it consistently overdelivers for the fifteen dollar price tag.

   The new 2009 Ridge Three Valleys is a blend in more than one sense: the 70% zinfandel mingles with petite sirah, carignane, grenache and mouvedre. As the name suggests, Three Valleys is also a geographic blend, a mix from subregions across Sonoma County, fermented separately and then blended to taste.
   Though Three Valleys is technically a blend, you’ll find it in the zinfandel aisle at most Binny’s stores. It is the most affordable red from Ridge Vineyards, and a great representation of the famous producer’s signature zin style: bright and fresh berry fruit up front with touches of barrel spice and light grip that add complexity.

   Another perennial favorite, the Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville is the prototypical Napa Valley Cabernet and a miniature version of the ubiquitous producer’s increasingly underappreciated Reserve Cabernet. Robert Parker likes the 2007 Oakville for its deep black currant fruit as well as notes of lead pencil shavings, camphor, and spice. That’s cabernet! So why include the Oakville in this list of blends?
   Because the 2007 includes 6% cabernet franc, a traditional Bordeaux varietal and a very common addition to Californian cabernet. In fact, when it comes to cabernet from California, I am hard pressed to come up with examples that don’t include other varietals.
   This is the part where I usually say that the Oakville is a great everyday value at $35.99, but as I grabbed a bottle from the shelf to take a bottle shot, I saw that Binny’s has it on sale for $22.99 all this month. So I think I’m going to buy a couple for myself.

Clown Shoes Trekking to Binny’s

The Clown Shoes line of beers will soon be en route to Chicago, and will be available exclusively at Binnys.  The beers are currently contract brewed by the Mercury Brewing Company, brewers of the Ipswich line of beers that are popular on the east coast but not yet available in the Chicago market.  Expanding to Chicago is a pretty impressive feat for Clown Shoes, seeing that their one year anniversary occurred this past December. While we do not have a specific debut date for Clown Shoes, we believe that a truckload of their beer should hit our shelves in late January or early February.

 

Expect to see the following beers on our shelves in the near future; all four will be available in 22oz bomber bottles:

 

Brown Angel Warning:  this is not your typical brown ale.  Its 7% ABV is a bit higher than the majority of brown ales.  It is also on the hoppy side for the style, incorporating intense American Amarillo and Columbus hops.

 

Clementine This Belgian style white ale is brewed with Clementine, sweet orange peel, and a hint of coriander.  While packed with flavor, it is still delicious and drinkable, clocking in at 5.9% ABV.  It is an excellent alternative to the many customers who have been seeking out Lost Coast Brewerys summer offering, Tangerine Wheat.

 

Eagle Claw Fist Clown Shoes once again pushes a style to the limit with this 8% ABV amber ale.  The hops are upfront and aggressive in this brew, but are promptly balanced out by sweet, toasted, and caramel flavored malts.

 

Hoppy Feet This black IPA gets its pine and citrus flavors from the loads of Amarillo and Columbus hops it is brewed with. Its midnight color and nutty, chocolate, and roasted flavors are a result of using dark malts during the brewing process.

 

Clown Shoes also has a Belgian IPA in their fermenters, called Tramp Stamp, which will soon hit their bottling line.  It will be nice to add another Belgian IPA and Black IPA onto our shelves, as these up and coming styles continue to gain popularity.  Which Clown Shoes brew are you looking forward to most?

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New Years Goals and a Great Napa Cab

What are your wine goals for this new year?  Try a First Growth?  Spend less on wine?  Mine include experimenting more with food and wine pairing and keep fining those underpriced, hidden gems.  

One gem I’ve recently found was while I was visiting Carter Cellars in Napa.  I was fortunate enough to meet the winemaker and was able to taste through a few of his other projects.  We tasted the Carter line-up which is fairly high end, running from $60 to $125.  Most of the wines are single vineyard designated as well.  Next we tasted the 2007 Tamber Bey Cabernet, a single vineyard Cabernet from Yountville.  I figured this costs around $100.  Not even close.  It is very underpriced at $32.99, and it is very high in quality.  This shows a lot of 2007 Napa fruit, but it is well structured and balanced.  It is everything I look for in a Napa Cab and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.  I can’t think of any single vineyard Napa Cabs even close to $33.  Give your favorite Binny’s a call for availability.