Here I am again with a blind taste test. I texted Nik White, co-host of Chicago Beer Pass, about what beer I should pick for the next test, and his exact quote was, “Blinds are fun — that’s where the hype beers go to die.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
That isn’t exactly why I am doing these blind taste tests. The last time I did this with Professor Ken West, I had six beers present and — because he is not familiar with the names and stories of these beers — the labels weren’t hidden. This is because, as I noted in the 5,000 check-ins article, we taste with our eyes as well as our noses or our tongues.
We use proper glassware for these beers and we drink them at the proper temperature, so all of that is the same. We have at least eight ounces of these beers, so we are getting a full appreciation of them. We drink them over conversation, so the whole experience isn’t masked in this scientific process but simply is beers among friends, which is what I think beer should be.
So, for this next installment, I had six beers again, all of equal freshness as much as I can control, and they are all of a similar hop profile — again, as much as I can make available. This the least scientific experiment I can put together, but I think there is something valuable here.
The last taste testing grouping was: Hop Butcher Double Blazed Orange (which I sort of throw out because it was so different from the rest), More Brewing Main Course, Noon Whistle Gummy Banter, Phase Three DDH Full Frame, Penrose Double Galactic Boots and Hubbard’s Cave Fresh IIPA v50. From that grouping, Penrose Double Galactic Boots and Noon Whistle Gummy Banter came out on top.
This session, we tried Half Acre Second Setting, Hop Butcher Choice Stock (this time, I think, an appropriate pick), Transient Simcoe One More Wave, Old Irving Double Beezer, Mikerphone Super Special Sauce and Saint Errant Wander On. All of these beers were fantastic.
Each is special in its own way, or something like that. I have a lot of respect for each of these breweries. That is why I don’t trust my own judgment in these deliberations because I know the people who make this beer. I have emailed with almost all of these people, have shaken their hands and cheersed a beer or two at beer festivals or awards ceremonies during the years.
I don’t think you can separate yourself from just judging the liquid in the glass, and I don’t think you have to. I think all of that stuff is in the mix for what any one of us choose to spend our money and energy on.
Half Acre Second Setting: If I had a beer out of this grouping I would want to win, it is Half Acre Second Setting. I had this beer before this session and really enjoyed it. The fine folks at Half Acre are just some rock-solid decent folk, and I have followed their journey for many years.
Hop Butcher Choice Stock: I chose this Hop Butcher beer because, during the last session, I picked their famous milkshake IPA that I forgot at the time of buying was a milkshake IPA. These beers are fine, and this beer actually probably won that first session, but it was so distinct from the others it probably disqualified itself.
This time I picked Choice Stock because I never have heard of Nectaron hops, and this beer was ultra-fresh and a suitable entry to this session. I knew I needed to have Hop Butcher accurately assessed in a powerhouse grouping.
Transient Simcoe One More Way: I threw Transient into these Chicagoland hazy beer groupings because, even though they are based out of Bridgman, Mich., they got their start here in Chicago and I think they make exceptional beers.
Their original hazy beer, Obligatory, was probably one of the first hazy beers that I really liked. I chose Simcoe One More Wave because the guy helping me out at The Open Bottle in Tinley Park said this beer was the freshest IPA from Transient at the time I was there.
Old Irving Double Beezer: I snagged Double Beezer from Old Irving because Beezer took a big medal for them at the Great American Beer Festival last year. Beezer is a super solid hazy IPA, and I thought the Double Beezer has to be equally good, if not better. Old Irving rocketed to the top of the dog pile of breweries making hazy IPAs in Chicago with that medal win, so I knew I wanted them in the pack.
Mikerphone Double Special Sauce: The first beer in Chicagoland that I knew of that started a sort of cult following was Mikerphone’s Mikerphone Check 1, 2. Tom White, formerly of the Hop Review, opened a 750-ml bottle a few years ago when I shared with him some Cloudwater beers. Mikerphone is, at this point, the OG haze brewery in our area, and Super Special Sauce was very fresh at the time of testing.
Saint Errant Wander On: I love the visuals of Saint Errant beers. I seek out every new release from this wandering brewery that brews out of Begyle Brewing in Chicago. They make some excellent hazy IPAs and Imperial Stouts. I wanted to have Saint Errant in one of these heats, and this one happened to be fresh and available at the time I was gathering materials.
Ken selected Old Irving Double Beezer as the best of these beers followed very closely by Mikerphone’s Super Special Sauce.
This seemed a lot closer to what I thought would happen in this grouping. I agree with these results, though I really liked the Hop Butcher beer this time, and I thought Half Acre beer was the most complex in this group.
A note about the Beer Picks this week: according to Untappd, The Open Bottle does not still have Mikerphone’s Super Special Sauce. That is the nature of these beers — they are meant to be consumed fresh, so they sell out very quickly. I have recommended the other Mikerphone hazy IPA that would be a very solid replacement for such a beer.