Ellie Mejia

All Beer Tastes the Same

Reviews from a somewhat sober South Side Weekly editorial staff

For our Food Issue, the Weekly elected not to simply identify and profile the various independent breweries that dot our side of the city. Instead, we chose to take the fall for our readers by trying brews from a selection of South Side breweries. I, your humble writer, watched and documented (in perfect sobriety) a lengthy tasting session that brought Weekly staff members past and present to booze-induced madness. By the end, I could hardly make out what they were saying, much less make sense of it. I have attempted to transcribe their impressions of a roster of beers hand-picked from across the South Side. What follows are the musings of your dear Weekly staff on a robust (but by no means complete) selection of South Side beers. Fair warning: We know nothing about beer. We hope, though, that our thoughts are a serviceable jumping off point for your own exploration of the South Side’s brews. So hop to it.

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Vice District
A spacious taproom and independent brewery serving the South Loop, but don’t let that discourage you. Started by two neighbors out of little more than a sense of curiosity, Vice now offers almost a dozen beers with funky names like “Metrosexual Chocolate Stout.” Brewery motto: “Share Your VD Responsibly.”

1. HABITUAL IPA
One of the brewery’s year-round offerings, this “Black IPA” intends to hearken back to the (apparently real) beer tradition of the Pacific Northwest. Heavy notes of chocolate and malt. Overall staff impression: divided

Politics Editor 1: This is awful. This tastes like black coffee.

Aspiring Editor: Bitter aftertaste, aggressively so, but it’s smooth going down so I don’t feel bad about it.

Politics Editor 2 (likes Malort): I don’t want to finish mine.

Deputy Editor 1: Ugh, I can’t drink this.

Editor-in-Chief: Really robust, great aftertaste. Overall positive.

Managing Editor: Mm, smells chocolatey. My favorite so far. I would drink this.

Patrick (quit the Weekly in 2013): My favorite so far.

Aspiring: Mine too.

Layout Editor: Pretty aggressive as a whole.

Contributing Editor 1: Ewwwww!

Managing: I really like dark beer. All the things that dark beer is like, I like.

Patrick: Charcoal, burnt leaves. Mmm. Really dark, not too heavy.

2. ARIANNA ARDENNES
Apparently quite popular among South Loopers, this Belgian blonde heads Vice District’s tap list. Okay, I’ll be honest. I don’t know anything about this beer. It was golden-looking. Overall staff impression: half enthusiastic, half dismissive

Arts Editor 1: I like the other one so much better.

Editor-in-chief: Kind of sugar-watery.

Deputy Editor 2: I like it.

Aspiring: This is a lame beer. An unrealistically positive beer.

Managing: It’s just too ripe for me.

Politics 1: It tastes like it should be cheap, but I bet it’s not cheap.

Arts Editor 2: When we were talking about things tasting like candy, this actually does taste like pink bubble gum.

Contributing Editor 2: I like it!

Contributing Editor 3: It’s got a good aftertaste slash finish.

Contributing 1: Can I have more?

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Marz
This small Bridgeport brewery, less than a year old, has already earned recognition in the city’s alt-weeklies for their wide selection of sour beers and for the fact that they (somehow and for some reason) aged a mushroom stout in a soy-sauce barrel. Self-styled as a collective, the brewery takes pride in its Bridgeport roots as well as in its niche flavors. Not pictured in this article are the bottle labels, which are beautiful.

1. BUBBLY CREEK SOUR
A Berliner Weiss named for the famously polluted South Branch of the Chicago River. The inaugural entry in Marz’s South Side Sour line. Straw-colored, very sour, and full of lemon and other citruses. Overall staff impression: alienated

Deputy 1: I don’t like this one.

Deputy 2: Why does it taste like kombucha?

Aspiring: Are we drinking?

Patrick: Wanna swap? This tastes like butt.

Aspiring: Smooth, almost greasy. I like it.

Contributing 2: There’s definitely citrus.

Contributing 1: It tastes like Mike’s Hard!

Managing: Yeah!

Arts 2: Tastes like watered-down yet more effervescent milk.

Patrick: All I want is a Miller High Life.

Politics 1: This is a beer for people who don’t like beer.

Editor-in-chief: Very fruity.

2. JUNGLE BOOGIE
A wheat ale with a full, orange coloring and a “complex malt character,” whatever that means. Another from Marz’s early selection—though John, the Weekly’s only self-styled beer “expert”–doesn’t say so here, he likes it. Enhanced by an infusion of rooibos tea.Overall staff impression: very positive

Editor-in-chief: I didn’t realize how good this was until I tried the other one.

Patrick: It tastes like gummy worms! Gummy worms! It tastes like gummy worms.

Anonymous: No, vodka gummy bears. A little like that…don’t write that down.

Contributing 2: I don’t like flowers, and this beer is too flowery. It tastes like Turkish delight, in that Turkish delight has flowers in it.

Contributing 1: This is the best beer I’ve ever tasted!

Politics 1: It’s sweet.

Politics 2: It tastes like [3 Floyds Brewing Co.’s] Gumballhead.

Arts 2: It’s not bubbly enough, it’s kind of soapy. Jake? It’s kind of soapy.

Layout Editor: The labels, though. You can’t deny.

Politics 1: What is craft beer?

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Horse Thief Hollow
This Beverly brewery offers about ten beers of varying styles and flavors, available on tap and in growlers to-go. Maybe it’s just the light, but everyone’s faces seem to get redder the moment you step inside. Also, they have great sweet potato fries. While we got the beer, most of the restaurant watched ABC’s coverage of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, cheering whenever a shot of Beverly came on.

1. KITCHEN SINK IPA
A pale ale whose owners claim it was “born out of friendship and humor.” Takes its name from the wide variety of hops it contains. A vivid, almost unnatural copper color. Overall staff impression: uncertain

Politics 2: Tastes like Nilla wafers.

Arts 1: It’s okay…it coats your tongue in a weird way. Refreshing, but kind of a little bitter.

Politics 1: Halfway toward being a dark beer.

Arts 1: Yeah, like it can’t commit.

Aspiring: I’m not sure if it’s noncommittal or if it finds a happy medium.

Arts 2: Yeah, like, why does it have to choose?

Managing: I can’t drink it. It tastes like the stuff that gets left in the sink after you do the dishes.

Politics 1: Isn’t that implied by the name?

[Managing Editor denies that this comment was inspired by the name of the beer]

Arts 1: I could see it as dishwater, maybe.

Editor-in-chief: I agree.

Layout: Dishwater, or kitchen sink?

Politics 2: I don’t know.

Deputy 1: It’s okay.

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Slapshot
This brewery is based near a rail yard in South Lawndale, close to the city limits. Their beer, however, is available not only at a number of Chicago locations, but also west of the city as far as Rockford. Much like Vice and other small breweries, much of the appeal here seems to be the fact that every one of these beers (and there are quite a few) has some kind of punny or otherwise obscure name.

1. MCLAUGHLIN’S REDEYE
Supposed to contain hints of both coffee and beer (see below). The other main flavor is chocolate, but somehow none of my fellow staffers noticed this. As I listened with virgin ears to their overwhelmingly simplistic, coffee-focused opinions, I was forced to ask: did my peers have any idea what they were talking about? Overall staff impression: coffee

Politics 1: I don’t want to drink this.

Arts 1: Oh god, this is bitter. This one tastes like actual coffee.

Contributing 3: I love this, it tastes just like coffee.

Politics 1: Coffee. The worst.

Arts 1: I don’t like coffee, so this one…

Contributing 2: Oh, I love coffee.

Contributing 1: Actually, it tastes like espresso!

Arts 2: It’s really coating my tongue.

Editor-in-Chief: I love how sweet it is.

Managing: Yeah, it’s like, sweet coffee.

Editor-in-Chief: Actually, it’s more like Kahlua. Bad aftertaste.

Politics 2: It’s like a mouse decomposing in your apartment.

Deputy 1: Sweet, oily taste. Dark.

Managing: Wait. It’s like an iced coffee taste.

Deputy 1: That’s because the beer is cold.

Arts 2: No, it’s true, iced coffee does taste different.

2. STICK IT TO THE NUTS
A peanut-themed beer with a name that will not be dignified with further commentary. The label claims that this beer, whose muse is “ooey gooey sticky icky peanut butter,” is a cut above the other peanut beers out there (there are apparently many). I can verify that this beer has both the color and scent of peanuts or peanut butter. Overall staff impression: peanuts (?)

Politics 2: This is actually good. It tastes like malt.

Deputy 1: It doesn’t taste like peanut butter.

Arts 1: John, it’s not even supposed to taste like peanut butter.

Contributing 1: Amazing!

Layout: Like an element of peanut. A high element of peanut.

Contributing 1: Wait, it tastes like Reese’s Pieces!

Deputy 1: It doesn’t taste like peanut butter, and I eat peanut butter every day.

Aspiring: I would not have noticed that this is nutty.

Layout: That’s probably true.

Patrick: I hate peanut butter.

Arts 1: IT DOESN’T TASTE LIKE PEANUT BUTTER!

Arts 2 (allergic to peanuts): This was disgusting.

[Politics Editor 2 mimes slitting throat.]

Managing: Even the label looks gimmicky.

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Lagunitas
We chose to save the largest and most widely available of South Side breweries for last. The Weekly profiled Lagunitas’ enormous new Willy Wonka-style factory and taproom last year when the company moved into a huge warehouse on the west end of Pilsen. The brewery pumps out nine year-round beers (including the ubiquitous IPA) and nine seasonal beers.

1. OLDE GNARLYWINE
I’ve never had wine or beer, so I don’t feel qualified to talk about this wine-beer. I’ve been told that “barleywine” is actually just a kind of beer, and that this beer is one of those. This beer is noticeably red and features notes of caramel. Overall staff impression: divided, again.

Patrick: AAAAAHHH!

Politics 2: Oh my god, this is actually toxic.

Layout: Pretentious. Wait, I haven’t tried it yet.

Contributing 1: I like it a lot!

Managing: Why?

Anonymous: Because it tastes really good! Wait, don’t write that down!

Editor-in-Chief: Ew.

Arts 1: Wow, this is good. Peppy!

Patrick: I just want a Miller High Life.

Editor-in-Chief: I really don’t like it.

Deputy 1: It has the good kind of sweet aftertaste.

Aspiring: It lingers, but is that a good thing? Snapchat this.

Politics 1: Not completely terrible.

2. SUCKS
Originally conceived as a substitute for Lagunitas’s popular Brown Shugga beer, this brew has since been given a run of its own. According to the company, it contains a complex taste reminiscent of cereal. Overall staff impression: positive (!)

Patrick: I liked the first three beers, but the rest sucked.

Arts 1: Feels lighter, in a good way. Definitely one of the better ones.

Contributing 3: This is the best out of all the beers.

Politics 1: It tastes like beer.

Editor-in-chief: Flowery, right? Sour and flowery.

Politics 2: It tastes like cough syrup.

Deputy 1: That’s a good start.

Politics 2: No, that’s it. That’s the end.

Deputy 1: It’s not actually that sweet, but it’s…it’s.

Arts 2: It kind of tastes like trash.

Patrick: Except not at all.

Politics 1: All beer tastes the same.

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Notes