The 10 Best Tall Boy IPAs in Chicago

by Kevin Sterne


Young drinkers love novelty: hibiscus brews, off-the-wall coffee collaborations—literally whatever is the newest brand or flavor. In the age of up-to-the-second Facebook feeds, if it seems new it will trend. But nothing is more novel than something that peaked in popularity and convention decades earlier. Think cassette tapes in music. If there’s something millennials are good at, it’s pining for nostalgia they never actually experienced. Now aluminum cans are all the rage in the craft beer world, and many Chicago breweries are rolling out some of their best Pale Ales in 16oz varieties or “Tall Boys”.

In general, canning is as practical as it is trendy. It’s cheaper for breweries compared to bottling. Canned beers are also the preference at concert venues, campgrounds and beaches—places where glass is mostly taboo. Aluminum cans also offer more space for intricate designs and graphics. And that’s one thing to keep in mind, because not only do these juicy Chicagoland ales taste great, they also look good.

This is purely anecdotal, but I feel like I’ve been seeing Tall Boys more than regular 12-oncers. Obviously, covering Chicago beer, I’m zeroing in on the local section when I walk into any liquor store. With no empirical evidence to support, 16oz. cans seem most prevalent in Chicago, and specifically in the New England or East Coast Style IPA. Ostensibly because cult-status beers like Heady Topper come exclusively in tall cans. And thus we have many Chicagoland beers on this list replicating what’s popular on the East Coast. Coincidence? You decide.

Here is the list of Chicago’s—and bordering Chicago suburbs’—top 10 best in big cans:

 

Spiteful

10) Spiteful Working for the Weekend

 A pine-driven, highly resinous IPA, in the Pacific Northwest style. We’ll start out with this one for its thematic value, but also because many of these beers are fruit first and pine second beers. Spiteful gets the nod for this every-man, drippy-ghoul IPA. Cheers!

 

 9) Lagunitas 12th of Never

 I’ve frequented the south side Willy Wonka taproom more than any other, and—admittedly—many of their flight ales have the same “Lagunitas Sheen” to them. Maybe I dig this one most because it’s dolled up in a sleek purple artifice. A the end of the day, this one won’t blow anyone away, but has become an honest, go-to beer for me.

Half Acre

7) Half Acre Deep Space

 An interstellar flavor odyssey for your mouth. Half Acre has stepped up their game of late, releasing a horde of beers that rival the hop heavy brews of another Chicago favorite, Pipeworks.

 

 

Ninja Vs. Unicorn, Pipeworks

7) Pipeworks Ninja V Unicorn

Hard to believe this one is an elder on this list, and possibly the first to appear in 16oz of aluminum. Plenty has been written about this balanced double IPA, but how about that damn battle artwork by Jason Burke?

 

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6) Forbidden Root Snoochie Boochies

 Forbidden Root’s draft stuff has always been pretty mehh for me, this beer especially. But rumor has it FR lines their cans with some magic “plant dust.”

 

 5) Noon Whistle Gummy Series

 A lot of hype about this one on the internet, and frankly, the hype train is real. This is a batshit crazy brew with all the fructose sweetness your mouth could desire, minus the cavities.

 

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 4) Hopbutcher Telehopic

 Everything you need to know about this brew has been written here.

 

Maplewood

 3) Maplewood Son of Juice Pants

 Juice Pants the Younger comes fruity, juicy and unfiltered. Something I love about Maplewood is their listing of grains, hops and pertinents on their labels. It helps me sound cool with my friends who can’t read.

 Hailstorm

 2) Hailstorm Stratus

 Possibly my favorite New England Style IPA in Chicagoland. This is a big, bold arrogant stormy bastard of juicy fruity flavor. This is like a beer mixed with juice, but it’s not Leinenkugel’s, so it’s super cool. Also, Tinley Park is a stone’s throw from my old stomping grounds of New Lenox. So, I practically work there, if anyone asks.

Hams

1) Hamm’s

 Quite frankly, this is the best beer you’ll ever try.


Kevin Sterne is a writer and journalist based in Chicago. He writes about music, craft beer and culture here and for Substream Magazine, ANCHR Magazine and other places. His super weird and highly offensive fiction has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Praxis Magazine, Potluck Mag, Word Eater, Defenestration and many other places you’ve never heard of. Kevin is the creator of a really terrible magazine called LeFawn which you can buy at Shuga Records for pennies on the dollar.

LOCAL BEER REVIEW: MIKERPHONE BREWING’S CAT’S IN THE CRADLE

by Kevin Sterne


My trusted hop-head confidants have been gushing about Mikerphone Brewing, so I decided to pick one up from Beer Temple, my got-to source for beer to revere. Because I have a soft spot for the Harry Chapin song (and because this was a new arrival rec’d by the Beer Temple guy), I decided to go with Cat’s in the CRADLE, a double dry-hopped India pale ale.

 

So, to be real for a sec: this isn’t a beer style I’ve been seeking out this summer. I’ve written about New England Styles—and I love the style, but had grown bored of it because so many Chicago breweries are doing it. Summer 2017 has been an exploration in pilsners, lagers, saisons and sours. My new favorite brewery is Hopewell, and I live about a 10-minute walk from a draft-poured First Lager.

And if you heard about my 4th of July experience, you know I’ve been shifting towards sessions (meaning: less hops, less malt, less barley, less flavor and less fun). Plus, I’m in the thick, loathsome middle of training for the Chicago triathlon, rendering me a wet blanket. I still cannot avoid seeing massive coverage of this brewery on the my social media sphere, and had, admittedly, been experiencing some #fomo.

 

Since hop heads have been gushing over Mikerphone, I thought it appropriate to stick to hophead conventions with this review, judging appearance, smell, taste, and offering an overall opinion. Without further ado, let it begin:

Appearance: well, I took fucking pictures, so that’s what it looks like. #nofilter

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Smell: Peach fuzz, grapefruit, a fresh summer rain

Mouthfeel: smooth, juicy, drinkable. Goes down like water in a mouth dragged through the desert.

Taste: grapefruit, grapefruit rind, grapefruit pulp, grapefruit seed, grape fruit skin, muted pineapple and mango, and some grapefruit as well.

Overall: This is a high-gravity brew for the fructose-forward hop heads. And as a 25-year old, white male who likes beer, I am that…sometimes—see: above reservations. For the style, this beer checks all the boxes and is damn close to Heady Topper and that tier of India pale ale. So, I guess my qualm is with the style; it doesn’t lend itself to casual drinking or food pairing in the way a lager or wheat beer does. It’s a beverage that shitty-beer drinkers can appreciate because it’s more Gatorade than beer. There’s almost no malt or bitterness to be found. Sometimes that’s good.



Kevin Sterne is a writer and journalist based in Chicago. He writes about music, craft beer and culture here and for Substream Magazine, ANCHR Magazine and other places. His super weird and highly offensive fiction has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Praxis Magazine, Potluck Mag, Word Eater, Defenestration and many other places you’ve never heard of. Kevin is the creator of a really terrible magazine called LeFawn which you can buy at Shuga Records for pennies on the dollar.

Take it Slow After the Big Bangin’ Holiday with these Chicago Sessions

by Kevin Sterne


If you we’re anything like me this past holiday, you ate for America, drank for America and possibly barfed in the name of ‘merica. I feasted my through beans, greens, hogs, dogs, chickens and turkeys slathered with sauce. I imbibed sheer gallons of frothy IPAs, double IPAs, lagers and pilsners. All the while cursing the name of the Donald.

I woke up for work the next day in a sticky, sweaty t-shirt…swathed in a blanket of empty beer cans, needing about three more recovery days. And perhaps even a lifestyle change—nothing too drastic though. Because I have a New Year’s resolution to uphold.

Maybe just turning back the dial on the ABVs. This means shagging the malty, ultra bready double IPAs in lieu of bright, effervescent hopdom. Thankfully, Chicago has plenty of crushable session beers to get me through this week and the looming dog days of summer.

Lagunitas_DayTime_IPA_6PK_12OZ_BTL_grande

Daytime IPA by Lagunitas

Unbuckle your slacks, hop on the diving board and jack-knife into this juicy, tropical thirst-pool. It’s a downright chuggable juicy blend made for hop lovers. Chug away, just don’t try shot-gunning these stubby bottles. DO stay hydrated with this crisp, refreshing nectar, just be sure to wait 20 minutes before jumping back in the water.

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Flywheel by Metropolitan Brewing

A Chicago-style pilsner from a brewery bucking the IPA trends—Metro Brewing, like Hopewell Brewing Co, focuses mainly on lagers. But this isn’t your dad’s beer by any means. Flywheel packs spicy hops that are evident in the nose and the taste. Pair this one with some backyard grilling or summer pizza.

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Lil Citra by Pipeworks Brewing

An enormously juicy session that somehow keeps the ABV below 5%. True brewing prowess by the masters at Pdubs. With hordes of citrus flavor, including mango and guava, this is a beer that demands a companion. A Chicago-style hotdog makes a great pair. Hold the ketchup.

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Troublesome by Off Color Brewing

Crisp, tart and refreshing, this beer gives no trouble going down the gullet. So why is it troublesome? Well, it uses Lactobacillus, which I had to look up too. If you’re not clicking on that hyper-informative hyperlink, then you’re missing out on the bacterial properties that lend to the sour flavor of this here Off Color wheat brew. I guess they call it a Gose.

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Mango Guppy by Pipeworks Brewing

Does anyone do scintillatingly citrus beers in Chicago better than Pipeworks? Anyone? Bueller? How about session IPAs brewed with mango puree and honey? Mango Guppy is like your cool step aunt’s fruit salad. You know, the one without the shitty honeydew.



Kevin Sterne is a writer and journalist based in Chicago, the editor of LeFawn Magazine. Apart from Shuga Records, he’s written about beer and music for Mash Tun Journal, The Tangential and Substream Magazine. His creative fiction has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Potluck Mag, Defenestration, Praxis Magazine, Down in the Dirt Magazine, and Word Eater, among many others.

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Twitter: @kevinsterne
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CRAFT CREATIONS: ODDBALL BREWS FOR THE HIPSTER PALATE

Three of the Midwest’s off-kilter beer offerings
By Kevin Sterne


Given that the Chicago craft beer market is so saturated with pale ales, I’ve been on a mission to find beers that don’t carry the typical “hoppy” and “citrus” descriptors. Don’t get me wrong, I love pale ales. Those beers are fun, and plenty of Chicago breweries have rolled out solid, if not spectacular pale ales, including some of my favorite IPAs on the planet. But, to appreciate these delightfully pungent and citrusy brews, it helps to diversify. Last week I drank nothing but adjunct lagers. And got really, really sick. This week I’m trending back to the craft beers, but not just any beers. These are beers that tickle the tastes buds with somewhat off-the-wall flavors.

Lionstone Brewing’s Back 40 Peanut Butter
ABV: 4.7%
Brewed in Geneseo, Illinois

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Sink your teeth into this prideful peanut butter-packed brew that demands to be served in a repurposed Smuckers jar. You’ll have the lion share of high-brow hipster nod when you aptly pointing out that this beer tastes like Ritz Bitz crackers. “Your taste is so refined,” they’ll say, “this Wicker Park brunch is divine, I wish there some musical equivalent to this, perhaps on bandcamp.” But the best part about sipping this scrumptious peanut-butter-infused nectar? It doesn’t get stuck to the roof of your mouth.

OddSide Ales’ Passion Juice
ABV 6%
Harvested in Grand Haven, Michigan

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These aptly-titled OddSide brew keepers have pollinated a flavor fusion in full blossom. Result: botanical brew that lends more than just a floral aroma. The passion fruit is potent yet pleasant, both in the smell and the taste. A full depth of flavor in this one, including a biscuit mash, though it is light on the malt. Still, a heartier and more refreshing beer than some other flowery ales out there. Sprinkle this little flower into a tulip glass for maximum pollination. And remember to save the bees.

Revolution Brewing’s Rosa
ABV: 5.8%
Pollinated in Chicago

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Another pollinated brew, this one features Hibiscus flowers and a touch of orange peel. This one pours a golden amber, is light in body and delightfully drinkable, especially for an ABV north of 5%. I could go on about the sensual flowers, the delicate arrangement of aromas and the silky-smooth flow of this nectar. But I’ll leave that to you. Enjoy.



Kevin Sterne is a writer and journalist based in Chicago, the editor of LeFawn Magazine. Apart from Shuga Records, he’s written about beer and music for Mash Tun Journal, The Tangential and Substream Magazine. His creative fiction has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Potluck Mag, Defenestration, Praxis Magazine, Down in the Dirt Magazine, and Word Eater, among many others.

kevinsterne.com
Twitter: @kevinsterne
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In Defense of Shitty Beers

Sometimes it’s Necessary to Sacrifice Taste for Street Cred…

By Kevin Sterne


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I’ve talked about craft beer ad nauseam on this forum. Here. And here. Also, here. We’ve given a lot of attention to craft brewing, especially Chicago craft brewing, but I feel this publicity has come at the expense of non-craft beers, the un-crafters. Beers that, despite the bad reputation and unfiltered water, can pack just as much flavor—minus the prestige and sticker shock. Take Hamm’s for example, it’s an unassuming beer that has never indulged in the bells and whistles of its high-brow, new age brethren. Hamm’s doesn’t try to be something that it’s not (looking at you, barrel-aged IPA)— and that is admirable in a time when Donald Trump is still trying to be president and Kellyanne Conway is trying to be a human rather than an alien.

So even if you are a reptilian masquerading as a human, a baller on a budget, or a trust-fund hipster kid looking to augment your street cred in Wicker Park or Logan Square, I have the retro aluminum that won’t leave your wallet or palate dry.

  

Busch’s Light

Smells like your gym bag and tastes like your friend’s gym bag. Busch Light has been bringing friends together since 8th grade. The more cans you drink, the more it tastes like your friend drank it and then spit it back in the can. It pours a pale yellow, like drunk-after-sex urine and drinks as smooth as your pec flies. But not as smooth as Hamm’s.

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Natural Ice

In a glass it’s nearly translucent, like you filled an empty yellow Gatorade bottle with water. But, don’t be fooled, this beer packs a lot of flavor. It tastes how your bathroom floor smells after a party. There’s plenty for your palate to sample here: the goopy bottoms of Converse sneakers, stale urine, residual puke stain, condom residue, and more spilled Natty Ice. A cocktail of flavor that will have your taste buds YOLOing for more. This beer is good, even great if you get it fresh, but still a slight notch below Hamm’s.

PBR

I’ve learned that this beer is drinkable at nearly any temperature. Throw it in the snow on the porch until it’s near freezing; this will mitigate any potential taste profile. Or let it simmer in your shed or garage during the dog days of summer. This helps bring out the flavors of dead field grass and skunky gym socks. You can even age a 24-pack in the trunk of your car; just let bang around for a few months until the case is sun beaten and the cardboard smashed. Remember to drink it as fast as you can, the less that touches your tongue the better.

Bud’s Light

This beer pours a faded parking-line yellow and smells like cafeteria creamed corn; both are excellent conversation starters at the next house hop. Bud’s Light is best enjoyed when found in a red cup with no name on it. You can also imbibe sips off a beer pong table. This one pairs excellently with dirty ping pong balls, cigarette ash, and 7-11 Taquitos. Overall, this is a beer worth arm wrestling over, but if you win the drunk push-up contest, you better down a victory Hamm’s.

MGD-64

Beer or cleaning agent? This dual-purpose adult beverage gives whiffs of Pine Sol and sun-dried lawn bags, making it ideal for scrubbing the hard woods or scrubbing your palate. This is my favorite chaser for any combination of the following: Malort, Jim Beam, Jose Cuervo Especial, Bacardi 151, Chivas Regal, and Canadian Mist. If you’re on a diet or if it’s cutting season at the gym (it’s always cutting season for me), then this and Hamm’s is the beer for you, bro.

Guinness

Literally, like the heaviest beer in the world. It smells like grandpa’s cigars and tastes like his garage. It’s sludge. But I drink it because he was Irish and I’m like 1/29th Irish, so it’s family tradition. I’ve had an Irish car bomb once because my older brother made me on my 21st. I like blacked out.

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Bud’s Light Limes-A-Rita

Pitbul is to John Lennon as Bud’s Light Lime-Ritas is to ___________.

  1. A) Holy Water
  2. B) Holly Water
  3. C) Holie Water
  4. D) Not as good as Hamm’s.

Milwaukee’s Beast

Tastes great with my protein. I get mad gains mixing it in my shaker after getting in a pump at the gym in Gold Coast. My Pi Kapp Alpha brothers and I killed off two 30-racks of Milwaukee’s Beast last Friday after I closed a sale with a major client. Who’s the man? Me. Now who wants to take shots of Hamm’s off my stomach.



Kevin Sterne is a writer and journalist based in Chicago, the editor of LeFawn Magazine. Apart from Shuga Records, he’s written about beer and music for Mash Tun Journal, The Tangential and Substream Magazine. His creative fiction has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Potluck Mag, Defenestration, Praxis Magazine, Down in the Dirt Magazine, and Word Eater, among many others.

kevinsterne.com
Twitter: @kevinsterne
Instagram: Kevinsterne
Instagram: LeFawnZine