Friday, March 25

An Ode To Half Acre

O, Half Acre Brew'ry,
How do I love thee?
Something something Jessica Rabbit was a hot cartoon something something.

There's enough beer in there to get a small city relatively drunk

This is an earnest plea to the entire city of Chicago.  Walk, DO NOT RUN, to your nearest store of beer purchases and pick up anything Half Acre has brewed.  There are no wrong answers.  You will not be graded on the quality of your answers but rather the quantity of your purchase.

One reason Half Acre is awesome: Cans.  At said Beer Shoppe, you will no doubt notice four-packs of Half Acre cans.  Currently, they have canned Over Ale and Daisy Cutter, both exemplary ales.  The Daisy Cutter especially is a thoroughly enjoyable Pale Ale that really highlights the beauty of the American Pale Ale style by not messing with it too hard (the Double Daisy Cutter is a whoooole 'nother story).

Another reason why Half Acre pwns: truly inspired small batch beers.  Just to name some of the amazing beers I've tasted from Half Acre via growler in the past few months: Ambrosia (currently pouring, a fantastic take on a wheat beer, which I typically abhor, but the slight tartness in the citrus notes does wonders for this beer's finish), Chocolate Camaro (Chocolate Stout), Baume (Rye Stout), Callow Knife (Session Pale Ale)...  All of these beers take your assumptions of traditional styles and detonate them amidst several tons of TNT and wet hops.  The Callow Knife especially blew my mind.  Hovering near 5% ABV (if I remember correctly), this Pale Ale substituted the tongue-smacking bitterness of the style for a still-complex-yet-highly-palatable session style.  One growler was not enough, but alas, many other Chicagoans felt the same way I did and this fine beer was gone the next week.

That's not a knife, THIS is a knife

Oh yeah, and their bottle art is completely baller.

Half Acre is located on Lincoln Ave and Cullom Ave in Northcenter.  To be sure, it's worth the trip from wherever you are in the city.  The lads by the front desk are very down to earth and clearly love their beer, which they most certainly should.  Do yourself a favor and bring your growler (or buy one there) to fill up on whatever small batches they are pouring -- these are truly some of the most brilliant beers being brewed in Chicago today (with much due respect to Metropolitan, Goose Island, Revolution, and Piece).

One of these things is not like the other


Thursday, March 24

Beer Review: 2011 Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

I'm starting this party off with a review of a beer that's been sitting in my fridge for a week or two, waiting for the right moment.  A brand new blog obsessed with beer sounds like the right moment to me.  Let's take a look.

Soon I'll figure out how to fix these mirror images

I know essentially nothing about this beer going into this tasting.  I know that I enjoy Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and, come Christmastime, can't get enough of their annual Celebration Winter Ale.  But if you were to ask me two years ago what other beers Sierra Nevada made other than that ever-present pale ale, I would have returned your quizzical gaze with a slap in the face.  "Nothing, dipshit!" I would have elegantly retorted. "Sierra Nevada equals Pale Ale.  That's all they do.  Don't be dumb."

Indeed, I was the dumb one.  Sierra Nevada has a rich library of delicious beers and I'm really looking forward to giving this one a taste.  The bottle advertises Hoptimum as "The Whole Cone Imperial IPA."  Any Imperial IPA is good in my book.  I'm a bonafide IPA whore.  When Half Acre (a Chicago staple and a brilliant, forward-thinking local brewery) releases their Double Daisy Cutter, a Double IPA, I typically go apeshit for a few days until every last drop has magically disappeared -- except whereas wizardry might be blamed in earlier days, now all signs point to my thirsty ass.

Anywho, the beer looks great and I'm eager to dig in.  The bottle is covered in hoppy art and the mere mention of a whole cone experience is making me weak in the knees.

10.4% ABV


Carefully positioned as a beer boner

Hoptimum pours a fairly thick head and a dark amber body.  The suds in the head cling to the glass for dear live, clearly aware of their overbearing deliciousness.  No, I have still not tasted this thing, but it's killing me just to look at it.  It has all the aura of a fantastic and hop-heavy IPA.    The carbonation seems a bit light, but then again, it's been cooling off in my refrigerator for a couple weeks now and has been staring me in the face for over eight minutes.  Let's smell this sucker.

A massively resinous sniff.  The beer smells like a dense pine forest with very mild citrus notes.  There is a touch of malt to the whiff as it coats the nostrils in a thick smog of hoppiness.  The smell tickles the back of the tongue as it dig deep in the nose.  Honestly, the hops smell so fresh I'm amazed this beer wasn't brewed three days ago in my own basement.  Time for a taste.

My first taste bathes my tongue in bitter hop glory.  The hops really are the story here.  They swarm the taste buds and don't stop the harassment until well after the sip has dissipated.  The beer is so rich in hops that it has developed sweeter notes in fermentation, like burnt caramel and toasted marshmallow.  Almost all the action takes place in the back of the mouth.  For an IPA, I'm surprised by the lack of a citrus bite.  There is a touch of tartness on the finish, but it's overwhelmed by the bitterness.  This beer is no joke.  If you don't love hops, don't even bother opening your wallet.

This beer, as I just noted, is a hop beast.  However, at 10.4% ABV and with such an overwhelming hop flavor, I might suggest the cellar for this guy.  Don't get me wrong -- if you're trying to get beaten up by your beer (which I often am), this one will do the trick.  It's delicious, if extreme.  Still, I have to believe that nine months in the cellar will really bring out some crazy flavors in this one that will aid its lack of a lighter side.  Every great hop-heavy beer has some serious complexity that works with its hoppiness.  This beer lacks that, but give it some age, and it surely will break out of those caramel and hoppy flavors to develop some real funkiness to melt your face clean off the bone.

Nonetheless, this bear is a freak of nature in the best of ways.  If drinking now, pair only with the meatiest and most flavorful of meals.  A burger from Kuma's Corner or a rich Hanger Steak.  Sweet merciful crap, stay the hell away from poultry on this one.  Or just drink one on its own, but if I might suggest, start your night with this one instead of finishing it as long as you enjoy waking up without a blistering headache.


Drink up me hearties, yo ho.


Those Who Are About To Drink, We Salute You

For awhile, there, I considered entirely reformatting my previous blog.  There was some good work done on there.  For a couple (and I stress, a couple) of insightful posts on gaming-related issues, by all means, go check out The Next Medium -- a failed attempt at serious game-blogging.

Which begs the question: why did it fail?

Which begs the answer: because I was a lazy shit about it.

NO MORE!  With The Mediated Hophead, I am (digitally) reborn.  Here I account for my other loves, outside of videogaming: beer, cinema, a bit of television, the occasional graphic novel.

I'll endeavor to do my fair share of the obligatory posts, like reviews, previews, wants and do-not-wants.  But I'll also attempt to throw a bit of my own perspective on the whole mess.  My budding education leads me to a lot of positions and opinions that I feel strongly about and am in desperate need of some feedback.  I wouldn't quite say I'm a blowhard.  I certainly do blow with considerable strength, but I also attempt to back it up with some lung endurance.  That's a backwards way of saying every once in awhile I actually know what I'm talking about, but I don't let it lead to arrogance.  As far as I'm concerned, I have nothing to be arrogant about -- the best academic and progressive thought comes out of dialogue.  So please, for the love of all that is holy (I realize not much is outside of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus), leave a comment!  Post it up!  I won't tear into you unless you're a troll.

Oh, which is why I ask that you back your posts up with an email.  Nothing personal, I just prefer a little bit of face-based dialogue over anonymous.

So there you have it.  That's kind of what I'm about.  What this blog is about.  The rest, we'll figure out as I go along.  But to begin, I'd like to start off with my greatest hobby.  No, it's actually not videogames.

It's beer.