On Saturday, I once again attempted to hit two beer events in one day; I apparently did not learn my lesson from last time, which I described in detail in a previous post. November 5th proved to be a little less debilitating and provided a nice juxtaposition between large and small beer events.
The day began at Beer Hoptacular! I won’t go into too many details of that event as I wrote a review for Chicago Beer Geeks. All you need to know is that this was a huge, sold-out event held at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood that brought out my claustrophobia due to the crowds. I had a great time, though, as I got to hang out with Brad and Jason from Spiteful Brewing who were already thinking about possibly pouring at next year’s festival. I also got to hang out with fellow members of CHAOS Brew Club who were in attendance to hear the results of the Homebrew Challenge.
For the challenge, each participating homebrew club was provided 10 pounds of grain, unknown to the club until they received it approximately seven weeks prior to the festival. The grain bill for this year was eight pounds of 2-row and two pounds of Vienna. There were quite a few rules but the main one was that no other fermentable sugars could be added. After much discussion on our community website, Chuck Mac had the idea of a Rauchbier, a smoked lager. At our CHAOS open house in September, we smoked the two pounds of Vienna over cherry wood for three hours and brewed the beer as a group. We used California Common yeast and fermented at ale temperatures for the first week and then stepped down the temperature to lager the beer. What I love about this beer, besides that fact that it was a delicious, smoked lager with a beautiful reddish hue, was the fact that we came together as a community and brewed it. Everyone played a role and it was truly a community effort. Granted, I am insanely biased, but this was one damn fine beer that Chuck Mac named Punx Rauch. And now we have an award to prove it!
That’s right, CHAOS Brew Club took home 2nd place in the Homebrew Challenge and we were beyond thrilled, as you can see by our smiling faces below.
Still on a high from the win, Brad, Jason, hubby and I headed to the Oh No! Doom! art gallery in Bucktown for the Low Dive fundraiser. As you know, I am a huge supporter of startup breweries and homebrewers so I was beyond excited to be able to help these guys out. Low Dive, a group of four friends who call themselves a “homebrew collective,” were raising money to buy equipment and licensing rights so they can take the next step towards becoming a brewery.
By the time we got there, they were already out of two of their draft beers but they still had the Harvest S.M.A.S.H and the Herbst Scharz. I started with the Harvest which was brewed and dry-hopped with fresh Nugget hops from their garden. The S.M.A.S.H acronym stands for Single Malt Single Hop, with Maris Otter being used as the malt and the fresh Nugget hops providing all bitterness and hop flavor. I really enjoyed this medium-bodied and well-balanced ale. The Herbst Scharz is Low Dive’s take on a Scharzbier, a German black lager. This was a big, malty, roasty beer that is perfect for the upcoming colder months (you know they’re coming…)
Next to the drafts, they had a large brew kettle where patrons could provide donations. It looked like the fundraiser was quite lucrative as the brew pot was full of cash. Other ways Low Dive was raising money was through the sale of t-shirts and a silent auction where they auctioned-off their exclusive bottles. They opened up a few of the bottles for me to try and I was able to sample their Hefeweizen spontaneously fermented with Brettanomyces and their Blueberry Farmhouse, a delightfully sour ale that I had sampled before.
All in all, an eventful, beery day. My own sensibilities, though, preferred the intimacy and underground nature of the Low Dive event. I hope they reached their fundraising goals and I can’t wait until I am able to purchase their super-tasty brews.