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The Beer Thinker: Barreled Over

Being admitted to a craft beer festival and then being stuck in an elevator at said festival for an hour, unable to taste any of the beers that hundreds of other folks are enjoying just a few dozen feet away at that very moment, is about the worst thing a beer drinker can imagine.

It didn't happen to me, thank God, but it did happen to several other poor souls at last month's Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer (FoBAB), which took place at the Skyline Loft in the charming 19th Century building that houses the Bridgeport Art Center.

I was extremely happy when I scored tickets to this year's FoBAB, something I had failed to do two years running, and happier still when I was able to attend despite having a seven-months-pregnant-with-twins wife at home. In the days leading up to the fest, I was fearing something would come up, like an extremely justifiable demand from my wife that I stay home to watch over her, or even an early labor, but in the end, the uterus held.

So by the time Brother Mike and I walked through the doors at FoBAB, I was eager to get the day started, eager enough that we decided to skip a long line in front of the elevator to hike up the five flights of stairs to the beer hall. It turned out that many of the people we saw in line as we passed by were the ones trapped for an hour in an elevator that stalled a short time later. I'm not sure what perks these folks received for their troubles (I heard secondhand that it was extra tasting tickets for free), but the thing about FoBAB is that there is no replacement for lost time.

With more than 170 entries and four hours to try them, even not getting stuck in an elevator doesn't leave you with enough time to try everything. I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but I had a few drink tickets left over at the end of my stay (that pregnant wife having only so much patience).

Here's a sampling of what I sampled:

Lakefront Brewery Rye Barrel-Aged Fuel Coffee Stout: Probably my favorite of the afternoon and the best beer I've had from this Milwaukee brewer. Like fresh-brewed coffee with chocolate and a creamy finish reminiscent of a latte loaded with extra shots - of alcohol in this case, rather than espresso.

Local Option Barrel-Aged Kentucky Common: From the Local Option tavern, brewed by Against the Grain in Louisville. Very interesting mix of sweet and sour flavors, and you can really taste the barrel. It almost tastes like a blend of beer, bourbon and wine, which is a lot better than it sounds. I haven't tried the non-barrel-aged version of this for comparison, but would like to, and have heard both have been on tap at Local Option.

Hoppin' Frog Barrel-Aged Frosted Frog Christmas: This Akron brewery has been moving up my list since I tried its imperial stout a couple months ago. This one has all the marks of a typical Christmas beer, including ginger spiciness and a nutty warmth, but as expected, the barreled version jacks up the booziness and gives it a strong vanilla flavor a little reminiscent of a shot of bourbon with a sugar cookie chaser.

Flossmoor Station Busman's Holiday: The suburban brewpub's Pullman Brown is a great example of the nut brown style, but this milk stout is now my favorite from Flossmoor. It has a big flavor of blended coffee, chocolate and vanilla, but not the boozy wallop of so many barrel-aged beers. Very balanced.

There were many more than I have time to list here. It was fun trying stuff that in most cases you don't see anywhere else, and attending FoBAB gave me an appreciation of beer aging in general. I have never been much of a homebrewer, but I think that aging beers in the bottle, in the right environment and at the right temperature, is a hobby I can embrace. I'm already starting to buy a few barrel-aged brews stocked at stores, and hoping to "lay them down," as the beer hobbyists say (though I'm not sure why, since most of them also say beer should never be stored on its side). Trying one bottle now, then another after three or six months in storage, then a third a year or two down the road sounds like a good hobby for a new dad, something I can tend to even with my hands full of two baby Beer Thinkers.

Beer Wire
* The Sun-Times reports on John Laffler's departure from Goose Island to start Off Color Brewing. This was the biggest piece of post-FoBAB news, as Laffler led Goose's highly regarded barrel-aging program.

* The Reader's Beer and Metal takes on Founder's Bolt Cutter, the latest in a run of rare and limited-edition or anniversary releases from craft breweries that have been hitting stores recently, if only for minutes at a time before they sell out.

* Guys Drinking Beer highlights the impressive list of holiday beers available at Poag Mahone's in the Loop.

* The Boozy Beggar notes a December 7 Small Bar tapping of Oskar Blues Ten Fidy and Smidy. I just tried Ten Fidy for the first time a few weeks ago and can say this imperial stout is my favorite so far from the Colorado brewery.

* Finally, Fischman Liquors & Tavern, otherwise known as one of the Beer Thinker's local taps, is planning Fisch-mas, a festival of holiday craft beers, on Saturday, December 15.


Previously in The Beer Thinker:
* Tapping Lincoln Square
* Size Matters
* Lagunitas Changes Everything
* Make Beer, Not War
* Collaboration Brewing
* Summer Brew
* Mothership Goose
* The Pumpkin Is A Fruit, An Ale And A Lager


Dan O'Shea is The Beer Thinker. He welcomes your comments.


Posted on December 6, 2012

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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