Gang of Five

  Andy Warhol once predicted that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. Put another way: fame is fleeting.  That's one of the hard lessons underscored by the latest report from the "Gang of 5"--an impartial tasting panel of five Binny's beer experts who never pull punches. Our challenge is to draft a list of the best of the best beers, based on our selection of over 2,697 bottlings representing every conceivable flavor, style and geographic region in the world. For the following six beers, their 15 minutes of fame is over on the Top Ten list:   Bell's Hopslam; Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye; Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale; Dark Horse Scotty Karate Scotch Ale; Duchesse de Bourgogne; and Alvinne Gaspar. After much swirling and smelling, sipping and spitting, we're proud to unveil the newly updated Top 10 list. As always, if you don't agree, stop crying in your beer and let us hear from you on our beer blog. Or for general questions about selection and availability email our resident Hop Head, Kyle Fornek, at kyle@binnys.com.   #1 Thiriez Blonde Brewed by: Brasserie Thiriez Esquelbecq, France Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale, 6% ABV Price: $8.99/ 750ml btl, $107.88 case of 12 Next time you want to spend $120 on a bottle of Dom Perignon, save yourself $111 and give this beer a try! Thiriez Blonde is a stellar beer if you are searching for something carbonated and easy on the palate like great Champagne. Anthony raved about the beer's nose, calling it one of the best he's ever experienced, with its lemon grass, spicy and grassy hops, and a crisp green pepper quality. The taciturn Ted even gushed and asked for more. Katie correctly noted its above average and very seductive carbonation. The resident hop expert, Dave, claimed that noble hops were giving this beer its herbal tones, while saaz hops were providing the kick. As a food pairing, you can't do better. Ted touted cold cuts and cheese while Katie said it had been a big hit when she served this last Thanksgiving. The conversation turned to the aging of beers as Anthony pondered what impact aging would have on Thiriez Blonde. Anthony advocated aging on the grounds that it would mellow out some of the hops. He didnt find much support from the group though, as we were pretty skeptical about aging a 6% ABV beer of this style. This beer is the best example of the saison style that I have experienced. If you are a fan of pricey French Champagne, you need to uncork a bottle of Thiriez Blonde.   #2 Ola Dubh (16 Year Old) Brewed by: Harviestoun Brewery Ltd. Alva, United Kingdom (Scotland) Style: Old Ale, 8% ABV Price: $7.99/ 11.2Z btl, $191.76/ case of 24 If you are a fan of scotch whiskey, then this beer is for you. It is the first ale to be aged in malt whiskey casks from a named distillery (Highland Park), and you can actually trace the casks from which your particular beer came because each bottle is numbered. Dave poured it up and immediately everyone agreed that it offered a smoky and chocolate bouquet. Anthony loves smoky beers, and Ola Dubh has a distinctive Highland Park smokiness. I detected a delightful slight sweetness from the whiskey. Although this beer is complex, some of the flavors were pretty straightforward. Everyone tasted chocolate, figs, and smokeeven liquorish and caramel. There was something for everyonewith Dave not only picking up light whiskey but also smoked Gouda. Among the five of us, Dave has a sixth sense for exotic and unusual tastes and aromas. (You heard right.) Although Dave thought the beer and smoked Gouda cheese would have been a match made in heaven, for Ted, a cigar aficionado, the moment called for a big cigar. The bottom line: This is one of the best barrel aged beers available in the Midwest.   #3 Red Eye Coffee Porter Brewed by:  Two Brothers Brewing Company Warrenville, Illinois Style:  Baltic Porter, 9.2% ABV Price:  $6.99/ 22oz btl, $79.99/ case of 12 Red Eye is one of the better beers that Two Brothers Brewery has ever done.  Some Binny's are running low or are out of the first batch, but never fear! A second batch will hit the stores soon.  The smell of super fresh coffee is unbelievable.  This is probably the best smelling coffee beer the gang of five has yet to encounter.  Coffee, coffee, coffee on the taste, to the point where it is almost one dimensional, but still delicious.  Red eye is a very dark beer, but surprisingly light and a bit thin in body.  Also tastes of gritty coffee, in a good way.  Some breweries have over killed the coffee beers, but this one is different, and commendable.   If you are the person who appreciates a good breakfast beer, then this is a winner.   We were hugely surprised to find out that this beer is 9.5% alcohol, because the taste of it is non existent.  Two Brothers is a local brewery, which contributes to the value of their 22oz bottles, which are commonly a dollar or two cheaper than the competition.    Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout was also considered for our top ten, but was edged out by Two Brothers Red Eye Coffee Porter.  Red Eye Coffee Porter can't be beat when it comes to Coffee beers   #4 Flywheel Bright Lager Brewed by:  Metropolitan Brewing Chicago, Illinois Style:  German Pilsener, 5% ABV Price:  $9.99/ 6 pack btls, $38.99/ case of 4 Hooray for another local brewery!  And one that makes delectable beers, no less.  A German inspired beer; Flywheel Bright Lager has a perfect head, absolute clarity, and was one of the more attractive beers the gang has seen, with it's striking color and lacing.  The round body, the clean and crisp taste, and the classic German bite on the finish impressed us.   This would be the absolute perfect beer for a steamy summer day.  Drink it on the beach or on the golf course, and you will unquestionably appreciate it's stellar light lager qualities.   #5 Two Hearted Ale Brewed by:  Bell's Brewery Kalamazoo, Michigan Style:  India Pale Ale, 7% ABV Price:  $10.99/ 6 pack btls, $43.96 case of 4 The gang was notably excited when news came around that Two Hearted Ale would be coming back to Illinois, after years of being AWOL from the Chicago market. Two Hearted Ale is what a great IPA should taste like.  Spot on flavor for an IPA, with it's hops, citrus, and a hint of strawberry.  A solid malt back bone makes this a perfectly balanced IPA.  It has surprising drinkability for an IPA, and isn't to fierce on the palate like a lot of IPA's are.  This was the gang's favorite IPA out of several we tried, and it was hard to go back to another IPA after savoring Two Hearted Ale.  Perfect, perfect, perfect is all we could say when we were consuming it.  Be sure to grab a pint of Two Hearted Ale on tap at Binny's South Loop.   #6 Carlous Van de Keizer Rood Brewed by:  Brouwerji Het Anker Mechelen, Belgium Style:  Belgian Strong Pale Ale, 10% ABV Price:  $10.99/ 750ml btl, $127.99/ case of 12 This is a truly unique beer.  It tastes and smells of peaches and coconuts, possessing almost a sun tan lotion essence(in a good way, like the best sun tan lotion ever).  It contains some tropical tastes, is yeasty, and extremely smooth.  The Gang would bet that this beer is brewed with candy sugar, it is pretty evident in the unique flavor.  We haven't smelled anything like Carlous van de Keizer Rood before, and we came to the conclusion that this was a good thing.  The nearly perfect body is the best part about this beer. ....