The Festival of Barrel Aged Beers medal results are in. I came in third in the fantasy draft the guys from ABV Chicago put on. I didn’t win anything but I did do a lot better than last year. We will get to that in a second. First up, the awards ceremony was a rollicking good time, complete with technical difficulties and long pauses but all in the spirit of good fun for those who tuned in. The people at Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, Danielle D’Alessandro and Katie Long, put on what I only can imagine was a difficult task to organize during these crazy times, and excellent beers were honored.
The biggest news to break here is the best in show threw everyone for a loop. Tin City Cider Company from Paso Robles, Calif., won for its Malus at the Palace. It made Untappd erupt into chaos because many users do not find that cider to their liking. Ciders and meads never have been awarded Best in Show before this year. I am not sure at this point if they were prevented from being awarded this medal or no cider or mead ever rose to the occasion, but history was made in a very unconventional way.
The runner-up was another groundbreaking pick, Whiskey Hill Brewing, of Westmont. The brewery won for its Specialty Strong Porter/Stout Seismic Overlay. I have not been to Whiskey Hill Brewing, nor have I had any of their beer. It’s now issue No. 1 to be resolved as soon as these unusual times pass.
Mikerphone Brewing, of Elk Grove Village, finally took gold for BA Stout with Sir Blends-a-lot. People flock from all over to get their Imperial Smells Like Bean Spirit, and this is the sort of recognition that confirms they are a world-class brewery. Alongside Mikerphone, More Brewing medaled again for Mendhi, which continues to solidify that beer’s home in the barrel-aged beer hall of fame. Another new name to the category is Tangled Roots, of Ottawa, which took bronze for Fancy Feline, and Illinois took the whole field of the most coveted medal category.
Maplewood took a bronze for its ultra-popular Cuppa line with Barrel Aged Cuppa Coconut and Peanut Butter. I have no single interest in drinking that beer, but the Cuppa where they rotate adjuncts line is superb. Look for a flavor profile you are interested in and pounce on those beers.
Spiteful took a bronze for their Barrel Aged Belligerent Bob barleywine. Spiteful is deserving of this treatment, as I think it often can be overlooked in the pantheon of great Chicago breweries. This medal, I think, will help remind people how great of a brewery it is.
The sad fact is many of the winning beers won’t be available for purchase at the time of reading this column. Many of these beers are ultra-limited, one-time-only affairs that are gone like the dew on the grass. All is not lost: You still have the opportunity to get your hands on some of the highest-quality barrel-aged beers this side of I-80, with our very own Brickstone Brewery. Every year, Brickstone releases a few barrel-aged variants of its incredible Dark Secret beer.
It usually has folks lined up outside of the brewpub over on William Latham Drive, serving biscuits and gravy and having a good time with the whole thing. COVID changes all, and it will change this, too. This year, Brickstone released an online presale, which is closed now and sold out. There still is hope, though, that you will be able to taste this beer, as there is a limited amount of Dark Secret beer that will be available the day of at Brewery Lane on Black Friday. More details will be announced on their social media pages — stay tuned for that information.
I was able to try a little bit of this year’s Dark Secret ahead of time, and I was blown away. This year, there are three variants coming out on Black Friday — an original, Irish Cream and Raspberry Tiramisu. I was able to sample the Dark Secret original, aged in Buffalo Trace barrels, with its deep, fudge-like chocolate notes and balanced barrel character. I also sampled the Irish Cream version, which is phenomenal. I don’t normally go for an Irish Cream flavor profile, but this beer works well in this style. Things are crazy now, but make some space in the next few weeks to grab these beers if you are able to.
Dark Secret 2020 from Brickstone Brewery
ABV: 14 percent
Style: Stout – Russian Imperial
Brewery notes: “Aged in Buffalo Trace barrels for almost a year, the end result is a smooth, velvety liquid with deep, fudge-like chocolate notes and plenty of barrel character to warm you up.”
Where to Buy: The production facility on Brewery Lane on Nov. 27 starting early in the morning. Drive up, be patient, and roll the dice. It could be a good time.