Last semester I taught a cooking class for low-income children through the non-profit organization Common Threads. It was a lot of work, but turned out to be a great experience. The kids were so excited about cooking and nutrition, and they soaked up the information they learned in class. The class was held at the Whole Foods in the South Loop, and I spent a lot of time in that store researching ingredients and shopping before each class.
I stumbled across the Chicago Whole Foods newsletter early on in the semester, and I couldn't help but notice a beer class being offered once a month at the Lakeview store. We had already taken note of the solid beer selection at the South Loop store, so we were intrigued by this opportunity. Conveniently, the Lakeview location is a lot closer to where we live, so Joe and I decided to check in out. We've now attended beer school for 4 of the last 5 months, so I guess you could say we liked it! The classes are $10 each, and they're run by a couple Whole Foods employees who are really passionate about good beer. The people who attend the classes are really nice, and they try to keep it more like a club than a class, where everyone is welcome to contribute. I've gotten a chance to taste a lot of beers that I would never choose to order on my own, and I've been pleasantly surprised by many of them.
This month I finally remembered to take an info sheet home with me, and I figured if I write about the beers right here then I'll have a resource to look back at. The January class was a chance for the new beer buyer to share some brews that he'd recently brought in, so it was a bit of a random mix. Here's what we tasted this time around:
First up was Mc Chouffe Brown Ale, from Brasserie d'Achouffe in Belgium. This was a pretty mild beer, without too much of a "brown" caramelized taste. It was sweet, with only a hint of hoppy flavor. It was mild and balanced. Not as good as La Chouffe, which is one of my all time favorites, but pretty decent. Joe and I rated it 7.5/10
(picture from http://www.duvel.be/pages/Main.aspx?culture=en&pageid=merken/achouffe/merken)
Next we tried the Double Dog Double IPA from Flying Dog Brewery in Denver/Maryland. I've had a few other brews from Flying Dog, but this one was new to me. It was STRONG! 11%, which is pretty crazy. It reminded us of Sierra Nevada Torpedo, which is intensely hoppy. This is a slow sipping beer, both from the alcohol content and the strong hoppy flavor. Our vote was 8/10
(Image from http://www.philliesnation.com/archives/2009/09/gameday-mets-63-80-at-phillies-81-60/)
After that we tried two brews from Hoppin' Frog brewery in Akron, Ohio. The first, Bodacious Black and Tan, was our least favorite of the night. It tasted like a pretty mild stout, with a nice roasted coffee flavor. When we compared it to the second brew, the BORIS Barrel-Aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout, it seemed crazy to wreck the stout by making it into a black and tan. The stout was aged in whiskey barrels, but didn't taste too strongly of whiskey. It was full bodied and smooth, and I was really surprised at how much I liked it! I have always said I'm not a big fan of stouts and other dark beers, but this drink made me reconsider my stance. We gave the Black & Tan 6.5 out of 10, and the Imperial Oatmeal Stout was 9/10.
This edition of beer school concluded with a local stout from Half Acre, which is only about a mile away from our condo. The Big Hugs Imperial Stout was surprising and bursting with coffee flavor. It almost tasted more like coffee than beer! The coffee is roasted by a local guy here in Chicago, which is a nice touch. Tasting Table wrote all about it a few weeks ago. We still haven't been by their brewery, but it will happen SOON!
Anything we're missing out on? We always love recommendations!