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Event Tue Mar 24 2009
This past Sunday I joined 200 other beer geeks (including GB-er Mandy Burrell Booth) at Goose Island Clybourn for their Stout Fest, where we got to sample over 30 stouts and porters from 16 breweries.
I'll admit that I'm not the biggest fan of the stout and porter styles. So why bother going to a beer fest that's solely featuring styles I don't normally drink? Simple--I got the opportunity to try a lot of different beers in these styles, which allowed me to quickly learn about them and gain an appreciation for them. And frankly, some of them blew me away.
I'm a sucker for a good fruit beer, and America's Brewing (Walter Payton's Roundhouse) from Aurora totally won me over with their Double Bourbon Cherry Stout. Apprentice Brewer Ross Cain explained that this stout is aged in bourbon barrels for 110 days, then it's taken out of the barrels, blended with cherries, and put back in the barrels for 30-40 more days. The resulting beer is big on flavor, with a good wallop of cherry that enhances the beer without overpowering it.
Although I didn't get through the entire Goose Island lineup, I thoroughly enjoyed both their Honest Stout and the Dublin Stout. Brewer Wil Turner explained that the Dublin Stout at 4% ABV was a good session beer, and as it gets warmer, the stouts they produce tend to become lighter. In winter he tends to brew bigger, more complex stouts, including the 13% ABV Bourbon County Stout.
Flossmoor Station's new brewer Bryan Shimkos was on hand to show off their award-winning Killer Kapowski Baltic Porter, which was somewhat floral tasting as a result of the hops, and an overall impressive beer. Shimkos said that although he's new to Flossmoor, they definitely would not be changing any of the house recipes. He also said to look out for a new IPA made with Simcoe hops that's due to come out on April 14.
Another new brewer on hand was Andrew Mason, who joined Three Floyds a couple of weeks ago after stints at Flossmoor Station and Mickey Finn's. If you were lucky, you got to sample some of last year's Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout, which pours like used motor oil but has a smooth, complex taste.
Half Acre represented with their Baume Stout, which was kegged at 4:30 that morning. Like the Killer Kapowski, had a big floral, hoppy taste, thanks to its 60 IBUs (International Bittering Units). Even though I'm not a huge hophead, I learned that adding a lot of hops to a stout or porter doesn't necessarily mean you'll get a super bitter beer, like an IPA; rather, the floral qualities of the hops can really come out in the taste. Matt Gallagher, engineer at Half Acre, said they're still working on the build-out of the brewery, but they do have five beers going right now. They're hoping to open up a tasting room at their Lincoln Square location in June.
Right before I hit my limit, I tried Mickey Finn's Imperial Porter. This was an experiment where they took an oak spiral, soaked it in Jack Daniel's, and dropped it in the barrel for two months. The oakiness with the whiskey flavor really came through like no other barrel-aged beer I'd tasted and if there ever was a "one last beer" to have at a beer fest, this was it. This beer alone (and they've got a lot of award winners at Mickey Finn's) might be worth the trek to Libertyville.
The packed house was a far cry from the 32 attendees at the first Stout Fest six years ago, and it might be a sign that Goose Island needs to find a bigger space. Although the event was supposed to be hold solely in the Siebel Tasting Room, they did expand into the front dining room with two tables. This did help alleviate some of the claustrophobic atmosphere, but the main room was still difficult to maneuver around. The crowds also added to a scramble for tasting sheets and water, but tweaking these issues should help the fest continue to be popular for years to come.