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As February draws to a close, we’ve got one last batch of Flagships that we’d like to celebrate. From a sessionable wheat ale to a big Belgian-style Tripel, there’s something for everyone in this eclectic mix of classics. Stop in and pick up some of these world class brews and raise a few with friends.
RELEASED IN 1997
Named after the Two Hearted River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this Midwestern favorite has grown to become one of the most recognized IPAs in America. For years the packaging never really broadcasted that it was an IPA. Bell’s let the liquid speak for itself, and the beer with the brook trout on the label has stood the test of time.
RELEASED IN 2003
The follow up to their massive 90 Minute IPA, 60 Min is an easy and gentler cousin. Lighter kilned malts allow for its hefty hop bill to shine, with 60 minutes of continuous hopping adding plenty of citrusy and piney hop flavor. The finish is refreshingly old school – bitter, but by no means overbearing. A Sam Calagione classic and an iconic IPA.
RELEASED IN 1973
Introduced in 1913 as a seasonal brew, this beloved bock from Spoetzl Brewery has been brewed year-round since 1973. Malty and rich with just a touch of sweetness on the finish, it’s a food friendly brew that pairs well with nearly everything on the table, but pairs especially well with BBQ. A must try with brisket.
RELEASED IN 1995
Imperial stouts are a dime a dozen these days, but for years, Old Rasputin was one of the few that was available all year long. To this day, it serves as an important reminder that a well-crafted imperial stout need not rely on adjuncts for complexity or depth of flavor. This rich and roasty stout is also an affordable way to study how imperial stout develops in the cellar. After more than 25 years on the market, it’s still going strong, the embodiment of its slogan – Never Say Die!
American Wheat Ale
RELEASED IN 2004
Wheat beers are big in the Midwest, and Goose Island made a serious splash with the release of 312. Featuring a soft and creamy mouthfeel and a refreshingly crisp finish - this citrusy Chicago staple is now enjoyed from coast to coast.
RELEASED IN 1997
Golden Monkey pours shimmering gold in color and is intensely aromatic, with spicy Belgian yeast delivering hints of allspice and banana. Initially sweet and fruity, a touch of herbaceous European hops provide just enough balance to keep its 9.5% ABV dangerously well hidden. It’s rare to see such a deliciously complex Belgian-style Tripel in a six pack; making this one of the best deals in craft beer.
A hot slice of pie and a glass of cold beer – it’s a Chicago tradition we revere. Off Color’s latest creation is tailor made to enjoy alongside your favorite pizza. Crispy Beer for Pizza is Off Color’s take on an Italian Style Pilsner. Rarely does a beer style have such a singular origin story, but the style grew out of American brewers’ admiration for the generously dry hopped Tipopils of Birrificio Italiano. First lauded by the likes of Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker, brewers across America have taken to crafting pilsners in style of Tipo. Off Color’s unique take on the style is to hopback with whole cone Chinook hops. This classic West Coast hop adds a fresh lemony lift to this crispy lager.
Pale golden in color and topped with bright white foam, the nose exudes a fresh minerality along with a hint of lemon. Light in body and soft across the palate, a touch of malt sweetness is offset by a citrusy spruce tip hop accent. The finish is spicy and herbaceous, delivering lingering notes of white pepper, lemongrass, and thyme.
Interest is craft lagers continues to grow and while many breweries are just starting to add lagers to their lineup, Floyds has been quietly crafting impressive lagers for years. Floyds debuted Jinx Proof back in 2009, yet sadly it disappeared from the mix for many years. Devotees demanded its return, and Floyds finally obliged in last year’s inaugural variety pack. We’re happy to report that Jinx Proof is back in its rightful place among 3 Floyds year-round lineup of brews.
At 5.7% ABV, Jinx Proof delivers the look, body, and feel of a Dortmunder Export style lager, but with the aggressive hopping of a Northern German Pilsner. Floral, herbaceous, and refreshingly dry – this is one of Floyds’ finest lagerbiers. The lingering herbal hop finish makes it a wonderful partner for Alpine cheeses like Emmentaler and Gruyere.
This week we travel to Western Germany, near the border of Luxembourg, to taste an iconic German pilsner. The Bitburger Brewery opened doors in 1817 and proudly remains family owned, now led by the seventh generation. Bitburger is famous for their hop forward pilsner, and key to this beloved brew is their Sigelhopfen – a certified proprietary blend of hops grown exclusively in Germany. A portion of the hops come from Hallertau in Bavaria, and the remainder from Holsthum in the Südeifel National Park. The varieties are confidential, and when you try a sip of this crisp German lager, you’ll taste why Bitburger insists it remain a closely guarded secret.
4 Pack of 16.9 oz Can
Shimmering golden in the glass and topped with bright white foam, the nose here is fresh and clean with a bright herbal quality. Light in body, pilsner malt character quickly gives way to hops, which are the star of the show here. Bitburger’s famous Sigelhopfen imparts flavors of juniper, thyme, and black pepper. The finish is crisp and dominated by a woodsy bitterness that leaves the palate both refreshed, yet also eager for more.
We’ve made it to the heart of February. This week we celebrate some of our favorite pale ales and IPAs. We also tossed in a stout, just in case if you’re craving something richer. Join us as we take a break from the latest new releases to raise a glass of classic American craft. Long live the flagships.
RELEASED IN 2009
The often-mispronounced IPA that put Cigar City on the map. It’s easy to see how Floridians fell in love with Jai Alai; it’s so citrusy you’d swear brewers squeezed oranges and tangerines right into the brew tanks. A bold, yet balanced, fruit forward IPA – well before juicy was the word of the day. A must try alongside hot wings dipped in blue cheese dressing.
RELEASED IN 2013
Black Butte Porter was, and arguably still is, the flagship brew from Deschutes - but for many, when they hear the name Deschutes, they think of this juicy IPA. Fresh Squeezed features Citra and Mosaic hops, which back in 2013, were two of the hottest new hops on the market. Now they’re one of the most iconic hop combos in craft, and Fresh Squeezed is one of the reasons why. Mosaic hops shine here, piecing together a complex hop profile that is piney, floral, and earthy - with bold tropical fruit flavors and notes of bright bramble berries.
American Pale Ale
RELEASED IN 1980
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this enduring pale ale. A beer that’s inspired countless homebrewers and brewmasters alike, its superb balance marries the sweetness of caramel malt with the citrusy bitterness of the Cascade hop. An iconic APA that helped ignite the flames of a burgeoning craft revolution. It’s also a nearly fool proof partner when it comes to food pairings, especially with dishes fresh off the grill - be it chicken, veggies, burgers, or brats.
American Pale Ale
RELEASED IN 2002
One of the first craft beers in a can! Over two decades have passed since Oskar Blues filled their first can of Dale’s and it’s as resin packed and citrusy as ever. A hearty American classic that blurs the line between APA and IPA.
RELEASED IN 1999
Not long ago, milk stout was an all but forgotten style. Thankfully Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing almost single handedly brought it back to life. Brewed with lactose (milk sugar), notes of dark roast coffee and cocoa slide into a soft, sweet finish. In 2011, Left Hand became the first American craft brewery to offer nitro in a bottle – taking this soft and creamy stout to a whole new level.
RELEASED IN 2010
Mention New Belgium and Fat Tire comes to mind. While that iconic ale was once the flagship that put them on the map, it was an IPA by the name of Ranger that would prove to be a game changer. First released in 2010, the Ranger recipe has been tweaked over the years, with a rebranding in 2017 sparking some real magic. The Voodoo Ranger series has grown into quite the tour de force, and while Voodoo Ranger Juice Force is all the rage as of late, we still love the original.
Dark lagers have been garnering some much-deserved attention as of late, thanks in part to the influx in Czech dark lagers that have been popping up at breweries across Chicagoland. This week we’re excited to share a dark lager inspired by German brewing traditions. Dunkel is the German word for dark, and Dovetail’s Dunkel Lager is a tap room favorite that finally made its way out into cans. Their take on the style is an homage to one of the classic dark lagers of Germany, a dunkel designed centuries ago by Benedictine monks at a small monastery on the Danube River. Dunkel is another refreshing reminder that lager can be dark, without being weighty or sweet.
Pouring a deep dark brown and topped with tan colored foam, the nose here is malt forward and earthy. Medium in body, flavors of chocolate and caramel glide across the tongue, followed by a hint of pecan-esq nuttiness. The finish is well-fermented and dry, accented by hints of allspice and licorice.
In 2001 Stone released their 5th Anniversary Ale, a brew which laid the groundwork for Ruination IPA. Ruination turned some heads. It was one of the first “Imperial” or “Double” IPAs to hit the shelves. While many couldn’t handle it, hop heads rejoiced. After nearly three decades of brewing, Stone’s amassed a long list of remarkable beers, and they often ask fans to vote on which brews they’d like to see rebrewed. Back in all its tongue buckling glory, the OG west coast double IPA.
This classic DIPA showcases a pair of iconic American hops – Centennial & Chinook. Pouring a brilliantly clear orange amber and topped with a crown of ivory foam, it exudes a lovely bouquet of freshly cut grapefruit and pine. Medium in body, it delivers a mixture of caramelized malt and bittersweet citrus – think thick cut marmalade on toast. The finish is massive and resinous, delivering a refreshingly bold hit of juniper, followed by the lingering tingle of tangy pink grapefruit. Much like a bitter Italian aperitivo, this makes for a stimulating pre-meal beverage. A must try with your favorite blue cheese.
This week we travel to the Czech Republic, to taste an iconic Bohemian lager. The Budvar Brewery began brewing lager in 1895. This award-winning brewery is owned by the people of the Czech Republic, and they remain steadfastly committed to preserving the time-honored traditions that make their lager exceptional. Czechvar is made exclusively with locally grown hops and barely. Whole cone Saaz hops are sourced from the centuries old hop fields of Zatec, and Moravian barley from the region of Hana. Water is drawn from an aquifer 300 meters below the brewery - so soft and pure that it need not be treated before brewing. Old school decoction mashing is still employed here, after which the beer undergoes a long maturation in horizontal lagering tanks. The beer that emerges months later is well worth the wait. Czech style lagers are now produced across the world, but too often shortcuts are employed in the name of cost and efficiency. A sip of Czechvar offers a trip back in time, a celebration of the Czech harvest, and a chance to taste lager as it was meant to be enjoyed.
4 Pack of 16.9 oz Can
Pouring copper in color and crowned with a generous head of white foam, it sits sparkling in the glass, offering a captivating hint of grassy aromatics on the nose. Medium in body, Czechvar delivers a touch of malt sweetness and a fuller body than your average pilsner, yet there’s enough hop character to keep things refreshingly balanced. Thanks to extended maturation there’s no hint of the buttery diacetyl that’s often a distinguishing characteristic of Czech lager. The finish is crisp and clean, with Czech grown Saaz hops imparting a spicy herbal note to the finish. A food friendly brew that pairs well with nearly any cuisine; it's wonderful alongside charcuterie, especially sharp aged cheeses, smoked fish and sausages.
It’s with great joy that we welcome back to Illinois one of Firestone Walker’s finest brews. Released in 1996, DBA was the first creation from Adam Firestone and David Walker, the beer that started it all. An homage to British brewing traditions, part of the magic behind Double Barrel Ale is that a portion of the beer is barrel fermented. Twelve hours into fermentation, a portion of DBA is racked off into medium toast American oak barrels. These barrels have not been used to previously age spirits or wine, their sole function is to serve as an oaken home for freshly fermenting ale. The packaged brew is a blend – 15% ale fermented in oak and 85% ale fermented in stainless. Crafted with British ale yeast, hand combed heritage English malt, and Styrian Golding hops, it’s an impeccably balanced pub ale that rivals the best that Britan has to offer.
English-style Pale Ale
RELEASED IN 1996
Poured into a glass, it sparkles a richly colored copper, offering aromas of herbal hops, caramelized malt, and a wisp of dark fruit. Soft and creamy across the palate, it delivers flavors of toasted bread and English toffee atop a blanket of vanilla oak spice. A rush of earthy hops provides enough bittering balance to ensure a refreshing finish. A testament to the beauty of a well fermented pub ale, at 5% ABV this is the kind of beer you can share throughout the evening in the company of good friends. An enduring standout in the pantheon of American craft beer.
The Lindemans lineup of lambics offers an eye-opening taste of spontaneously fermented Belgian artistry. If you’ve only tasted one beer from Lindemans, chances are it was their world famous Framboise. Make sure to pour this lively raspberry lambic into a champagne flute to appreciate its bright aromatics, deep ruby color, and lovely crown of pink foam. It pairs marvelously with chocolate, making it an excellent partner for many desserts. You’ll find Framboise inside the Lindemans Variety Pack alongside their peach, cherry, and apple lambics.
6 Pack of 16.9 oz Can
This week we travel to Saxony, to taste one of Germany’s most beloved lagers. Radeberger Pilsner is brewed in Radeberg, a small German town located near the border of Czechia. In 2021 Radeberger released their Zwickelbier, the unfiltered version of their famous pilsner. Zwickel is the name of the tap that brewers use to taste beer straight from the tank. Zwickelbier lacks the sparkling clarity that pilsners are revered for, yet it preserves all the flavor and aroma that would otherwise be lost to filtration. Softer and more rounded upon the palate, it’s a full-flavored lager that remains refreshingly light in body. A blend of Perle, Herkules, Tarus, and Magnum hops ensures a refreshingly crisp finish. Zwickelbier is a classic style that more people need to experience, and Radeberger is a great place to start.
In the world of craft beer, too often the conversation revolves around what’s new. We look forward to sampling the latest innovations, but we also love the tried-and-true brews we can depend on. Most breweries have a beer they hang their hat on, one that pays the bills and keeps the lights on. Yet sadly, these flagships are often overlooked by those caught in a relentless quest to taste the next new release. Each February we focus the spotlight onto the flagships. Whether it’s been years since you’ve revisited these classics, or you’re tasting them for the first time, join us as we fill our glasses and raise a toast to #FlagshipFebruary.
RELEASED IN 1995
If you’ve only had one beer from Allagash, chances are it was this one. When it comes to Belgian-style witbier, it’s hard to beat this multi medal winner. Creamy, fruity and spicy, it’s a perfectly balanced white ale that’s become the standard bearer for the style.
RELEASED IN 2000
Introduced as a seasonal, A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ was so well received that it eventually became a year round release. This refreshing wheat ale combines the light and creamy mouthfeel of an American wheat with the crispness of an IPA. 50% of the mash bill is malted barley, while the second half combines malted white wheat, Belgian roasted wheat, and English torrified wheat. This mixture produces a luxuriously soft mouthfeel, while a healthy dose of dry hopping imparts an amazingly aromatic bouquet and a bright fruity finish. Lagunitas considers their iconic IPA to be their flagship, but here in Illinois, A Little Sumpin’ is the beer that put them on the map
American Pale Ale
RELEASED IN 2010
For many years, Zombie Dust was an elusive legend that sold out in minutes. It took building a second brewery for Floyds to finally keep up with demand. Why all the fame? Great name, great artwork, and great liquid – also lots of Citra hops. An enduring classic and one of the most influential brews in the history of craft beer.
American Pale Ale
RELEASED IN 2009
The Chicago classic. Daisy Cutter is dank and citrusy on the nose, with notes of grapefruit peel, lemongrass, and pine. Soft and citrusy across the palate, a touch of biscuity malt sweetness is followed by a wave of herbaceous hops, with a lingering papaya and pine. This beer is da bomb.
RELEASED IN 1990
Great Lakes brews this porter as a tribute to 29 sailors who perished aboard the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. Famous the world over, it’s garnered a slew of awards and is regarded as one of the finest examples of the style. It showcases bittersweet chocolate on both the nose and the palate, with hints of coffee, molasses, and dark fruit culminating in a deep and lasting finish. A food friendly brew, it pairs especially well with chili and chocolate desserts.
Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
RELEASED IN 2001
New Holland began brewing this indulgent stout over two decades ago and it quickly became their most recognized beer. Oak aging imparts flavors of vanilla, butterscotch and sweet spice that meld perfectly with its big mocha finish. Unlike most barrel aged stouts, this delicious brew is available all year long, making it a dependable favorite. An iconic stout that’s inspired many delicious variants.
First released in 2012 as the house IPA at Half Acre’s taproom, Space is a tribute to a taproom regular named Terry, and his two huskies, Moon and Luna. If the name and label look familiar, we’ve also seen the imperialized version, Deep Space, in the past. Space is an old school IPA with a big malt backbone - a welcomed change of pace amidst all the haze.
Like many Half Acre IPAs, the malt bill here is complex and carefully constructed, combining 2 row, C20, C77, Abbey, Special Roast, and Carafoam. The resulting brew pours amber in color, exuding aromas of caramel, grapefruit, and apricot. The mixture of Citra and Falconer’s Flight hops produces a myriad of tropical and stone fruit flavors, with pronounced nectarine and papaya. The bittersweet finish makes this a well-balanced and satisfying IPA that’s great on its own, but also hearty enough to pair well with a wide variety of cuisines. Give it a try with Indian favorites like samosas, tandoori chicken, and rogan josh.
In the world of craft beer, barrel aged stouts tend to steal the show. The modern imperial stout is often a pastiche of the pastry case, bourbon-soaked canvases drenched with dessert inspired decadence. Then there is barleywine. It’s been said that barleywine is life. We whole heartedly agree, with the addendum that Revolution’s ryewine delivers a glimpse at paradise. The road to VSOR Select proved a hellaciously long one. This collaborative project began in August of 2021. Ryeway to Heaven was laid down in a mixture of our hand-selected Sazerac Rye, Weller, and Stagg bourbon barrels. Years later, it is finally time to taste a sip of the divine. We raise a glass to the team at Revolution for their patience and care in crafting this masterpiece.
4 Pack of 12 oz Can
Left to warm to cellar temp and poured into a snifter - aromas of pecan pie, fig and apricot jam float from the glass. Soft and creamy upon the palate, a wave of caramel is accented by flavors of candied orange peel and peach preserves. The finish is lasting and layered, reminiscent of bread pudding topped with French vanilla ice cream and drenched with bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. Amidst a long catalog of world class beers, this is one of Revolution’s finest creations.
Interest in Czech lagers continues to grow, and we’ve enjoyed tasting through the many locally produced Czech dark lagers that’ve hit shelves as of late. Hopewell’s is one of our favorites, and this week we’re excited to introduce their take on an even more obscure Czech lager. Lehke or “light” Czech lager is rarely seen here in the US. Lower in alcohol than a traditional Czech Pilsner, it’s perfect for those looking for something that’s bright and sessionable. Brewing a low alcohol lager that’s crisp and clean, yet full of flavor, is no easy task. This is the deep end of lager brewing and Hopewell proved they have some serious chops. Traditional floor malted barley, decoction mashing, and extended lagering are all part of the magic behind Once More.
4 Pack of 16 oz Can
Light golden in color and topped with bright white foam, an inviting minerality floats above the glass. For 3.5% ABV this delivers a surprising amount of body, with crackery malt sweetness tempered by a rush of herbaceous hops. In a beer this lean, the hop character could easily have been overbearing, but there’s remarkable balance here, producing a finish that’s refreshingly satisfying. At only 136 calories a pint, this is lo-cal craft lager at its best.