This content was originally published by The Hop Review, a digital magazine that joined the Hop Culture family in March 2020.
This piece was written by Alaina Kornfeld.
A RECAP OF THE ANNUAL FESTIVAL & THE BEST BEERS WE SAMPLED
BY THR CONTRIBUTOR ALAINA KORNFELD
As many beer-lovers know, the words “great stouts” and “Goose Island” are somewhat synonymous–with the Bourbon County Stout varietals consistently lauded and enjoyed year after year. So, what better way to spend a cold March Sunday afternoon than at the enjoying some of Chicagoland’s best stouts? With over 30 area breweries participating (as well as one St. Louis brewery), the options and varieties were endless. From milk stouts to the barrel-aged, dessert-infused to oyster stouts, there was no shortage of deep and complex flavor. Goose Island Clybourn Brewhouse
As someone who’s fairly easy to please when it comes to stouts, I went into the event with high expectations and mental note to stay detailed with my reviews. Looking for new-to-me breweries and stouts, I tried a wide assortment of different beers to get a little bit of everything Stout Fest had to offer. While some were simple and perhaps less memorable, others packed a punch that impacted my palate and had me going back for seconds. After a few hours of tasting, mingling, and trying not to bump into everyone’s beers, the winners were announced… Corridor Brewery won the “Stoutly Cup,” while Cruz Blanca Cervecería won “Brewers’ Choice.”
And while both Corridor and Cruz Blanca’s stouts were quite wonderful, here are the 10 (in no particular order) that left the best impression…
GOOSE ISLAND BEER CO.
WEST TOWN, CHICAGO – BBA STOUT, 15.2%
Goose Island decided to up the ante by offering their BCBS, infused with desserts. The Tiramisu was a fun flavor, with strong notes of coffee and had a great smell. While the consistency was slightly dense, it was exactly what they were going for–a drinkable dessert.
EVANSTON, IL – OYSTER STOUT, 5.6%
Always intrigued by the brininess of the style, this oyster stout exceeded my expectations. It didn’t have that sea-forward aftertaste that some non-fans of oysters might expect–rather, it had a good mouthfeel and a very balanced flavor with a nice briny finish.
LOGAN SQUARE, CHICAGO – IMPERIAL STOUT, 12%
Made with Metric coffee, this is a classic coffee-forward flavored stout. The coconut was fairly light and mild in comparison to the roasty flavors from the beans, but I found it to be enough, letting the coffee flavors shine and take center stage.
MIDDLE BROW BEER CO.
Milk Eyed Mender
LOGAN SQUARE, CHICAGO – IMPERIAL SPICED MILK STOUT, 10.3%
This milk stout is made with oranges, peppers, cacao nibs, cinnamon, and vanilla–a long adjunct list that worked well together to make an extremely balanced stout. Full of flavor without being overbearing, it nailed the smooth finish. If I had to pick a personal favorite of the day, this might’ve been it.
CORRIDOR BREWERY & PROVISIONS
LAKEVIEW, CHICAGO – IMPERIAL STOUT, 11%
Made with coffee, coconut, and maple, this stout had the perfect blend of soothing flavors. The maple was the most prominent, which was very much appreciated and stood apart from the other stouts–enough so to win the fest’s top prize, the Stoutly Cup!
La Fin de Carnaval
LAKEVIEW, CHICAGO – Mexican hot chocolate stout, 7.1%
Similar to a classic Mexican Hot Chocolate, the strong cocoa flavor initially seemed to be too much, but the spicy notes of pepper helped balance it out, making for a smooth ale perfect for the cold weather.
HOPEWELL BREWING CO.
Big Cold Brew
LOGAN SQUARE, CHICAGO – IMPERIAL COFFEE STOUT, 9%
A classic coffee stout–not too heavy, perfectly smooth and easy to drink. After being bombarded by big and adjunct stouts all day, this simple yet delicious stout was lovely. While on the lighter side (deceivingly so at 9%), this is one that would be nice in a glass larger than the small tasting glass.
HAILSTORM BREWING CO.
2018 BBA VLAD (with Raspberries & Blackberries)
TINLEY PARK, IL – FRUITED BBA STOUT, 10.6%
Surprisingly sweet and tart but not cloying. The berry added a nice depth to the stout that was different from their other varietal (vanilla) and created a rich flavor that leaned towards the indulgent and dessert-like.
HALF ACRE BEER CO.
Vanilla Big Hugs
NORTHCENTER, CHICAGO – IMPERIAL COFFEE STOUT, 10%
Made with Dark Matter coffee, this coffee stout is a favorite annual release from HABC. It provider a sweeter and smoother finish than expected. The vanilla was very present but didn’t distract from the base coffee flavor, the perfect addition to create a unique coffee stout.
NOON WHISTLE BREWING
LOMBARD, IL – IMPERIAL COFFEE STOUT, 12.9%
Despite the “sweet chocolate” description, this coffee stout was well-rounded, leaning into the fruit notes to balance the intensity of the chocolate. As someone who doesn’t like too much chocolate, this could’ve convinced me otherwise.
Authored and photographed by Alaina Kornfeld, a graphic designer and beer enthusiast based in Chicago. This is her fourth collaboration piece with The Hop Review.