The inspiration for this column came like a blue bolt out of nowhere. I realize most of my columns lately have come out of our current circumstances. This seems obvious and important, but I am not sure that any of us really got into the craft beer game to deal with the present concerns of the world.
One of the reasons I was drawn to craft beer as opposed to other forms of drinks such as bourbon or wine is because I think beer is a democratic drink. Anyone can make it, though there are some obvious experts who make it very well. Also, you don’t need to know a ton about beer to find something you like and enjoy it.
During time, with very little guidance I think, you will find your way mostly by mistake really. Then, there is the small business aspect to it. If you think about an operation such as Steam Hollow Brewing in Manteno, there are three people who keep that ship afloat. That is probably as small of a business as you can possibly muster really. I appreciate this, so rather than give my money to giant corporations, I give it to people I know and trust.
The mission of operations such as Steam Hollow or Brickstone is not to take over the world but simply to make high-quality beverages by high-quality people. Then, the last reason to get into the craft beer game is simply to have something to think about other than the news, something to engage with, a thing to partake in, a place to go, people to know or things to learn.
So, this week is one of those columns — beer named after flowers. Sam and I put in a big garden this year. We had a big garden at a previous house we lived in, and since moving to where we live now, we always had wanted to put in a garden, but we have a toddler and we never seemed to find the time.
This year, we thought now is as good of a time as any to do such a thing, so we mustered the energy to do so — it’s about 600 square feet and has 10 different vegetables planted. We will see how it goes.
One thing is for certain — the weather hasn’t really cooperated for us. The Farmer’s Almanac said the last frost would be April 20, and that was flat wrong. We scrambled out there to put plastic sheeting on the garden to help protect from the frost a couple of days ago, but we will see if it worked. We are not experts, but we want to be able to grow enough for ourselves to eat cantaloupe or tomatoes or cucumbers all summer. We also want to see if we can grow enough to donate to a local food pantry if we have more than we need. We also planted a ton of flowers around the house and the garden. That is Sam’s specialty. She loves a good flower garden, so we made room for that as well.
Chicago is known for its flower beers. I had a few beers in mind when I sat down to write this column, then I Googled this concept to see if there was something I might be missing and realized there were a few other Chicago stand-bys I had forgotten, namely Daisy Cutter. I have recommended this beer a handful of times in this column, so I wont do so again here, but I did a face-palm when I read this in an online list of this same concept.
The first beer that jumps out at me that usually comes out this time of year is Revolution’s Rosa Hibiscus Ale. This beer to me is the taste of this time of year. Revolution has been making this beer for a long time. I probably have mentioned it several times during the five years I have been doing this thing. Rosa is a solid summer beer that pours as pink as you might think it would. I buy a six pack of this beer every year and enjoy it for myself. It is delightful. It is refreshing. It exudes a level of eccentricity in a brewery I have loved for a long time that no other brewery has such an off-the-beaten-path beer in its flagship portfolio.
The second beer I wanted to talk about is Half Acre’s Crocus beer. I don’t believe this beer has anything in it that would make it a flower beer other than the name and the absolute vibe this beer brings. The humble crocus, those little purple flowers that pop up at the start of spring, always suggest to me a feeling of just being on the cusp of summer. The label art for this beer is a horned, mystical fairy woman among a field of crocus on the side of 16-ounce can containing an excellent hazy IPA.
If you want to know my secret vibe, it is everything this can, this name, this beer alludes to. If I hadn’t written my thesis for my master’s degree on artificial intelligence, I would have written it about George MacDonald and Victorian fairy tales because I am a deeply strange person. Half Acre, I’m all in on this beer; just thought I’d let you know.
The last beer I wanted to mention is a local one, one of my absolute favorite beers this brewery makes, Steam Hollow’s Juniper Rising. This beer shouldn’t work for me because I do not like juniper in beer. If you go back in the history of beer, before humanity started to cultivate the strange plant that is hops, the thing people put in this concoction before hops was juniper. So, really juniper is the original hop, and I, therefore, should love this plant. I don’t. I have had this type of beer a few times in the past, thought I would like it for historical reasons and did not. Steam Hollow gets this beer right. Then, they combine this berry I am not a fan of with white sage, a truly strange choice, and out comes this fantastic beer. They have this in four packs of 16-ounce cans, and it is just the right beer for the start of summer.
Phase Three Picking Wildflowers (just came out this week; I don’t know if you will see it in the wild): I saw Crafted Tap Room and Bottle Shop in Mokena had it in four packs of 16-ounce cans Wednesday. Good luck.
Off Color Brewing: Basically anything they sell but Beer for Golf has two types of teas involved with meyer lemons, similar to an Arnold Palmer, so that counts as flower beer, right? I am not sure you are going to see this beer in the wild either, but it’s worth a try.
Marz Brewing: Jungle Boogie, which has Rooibos tea in it, which comes from a flower or so I have heard. This is one of Marz’s flagship beers, so I am sure you can find it somewhere.
Juniper Rising from Steam Hollow Brewing
ABV: 7 percent
Style: IPA — American
Brewery’s notes: “Brewed with Juniper berries and white sage. This was brewed with our head brewer’s home state in mind — the high deserts of Oregon.”
Where to Buy: Curbside pick-up from the brewery taproom in Manteno in four packs of 16-ounce cans. Order online or call ahead.
Rosa Hibiscus Ale from Revolution Brewing
ABV: 5.8 percent
Style: Spiced/Herbed Beer
Brewery’s notes: “A highly drinkable golden ale steeped with hibiscus, resulting in a natural tartness and slightly pink hue.”
Where to Buy: Pretty much anywhere Revolution beer usually is sold — Liquor World or Jewel — in in six packs of 12-ounce cans for about $10.
Crocus from Half Acre Beer Company
ABV: 8.5 percent
Style: IPA – New England
Brewery’s notes: “Crocus Double Dry Hopped Double IPA. Ripe, citrusy mango fruit juice and mild sweetness by way of pale malt and flaked oats, London III yeast and an abundant hop offering of Citra, Amarillo Cryo, Enigma, Vic Secret and a tropical, PNW experimental variety.”
Where to Buy: You might not be able to get a hold of this very easily. I got mine at The Open Bottle in Tinley a few weeks ago so it might not still be out. Also try Binny’s.