Brew Dude: Jan. 5, 2019

January 6, 2019

This year, I am going to do my year in review a little bit differently. In years past I have written about the best beers I have tried in the past 12 months, but usually the beers that blew my mind.

These beers aren’t available in December and January when I am writing up this list, so I thought I would write about the best beer-related events that happened in the past year that I wrote about or wanted to but wasn’t able to.

This was a crazy year in beer in the Midwest. The thing that stands out to me the most is the monstrous arrival of the haze craze in Chicago. I wrote a lot about these hazy beers this year because they showed up in full force and we are better for it.

Initially there was some resistance to this trend establishing itself in Chicago, maybe there still is some resistance, but I am in for a hazy beer anytime these days. Our local Brickstone Brewery jumped into the deep end of this trend and have been churning out solid entries for this style which has been an utter delight to my palette, as I have dropped into Brickstone much more often in the past six months than the previous two and half years.

There is something new almost all the time for me to make a special trip. Not only Brickstone but plenty of other places around have either established themselves as serious players in this space like Hubbard’s Cave, Hop Butcher, the new and stylish More, Marz, and plenty of others that I have always liked their beer but now I actively seek out what they’re doing with these beers.

Holihaze from Marz just became a Christmas tradition in my household with its white wine juice added to an already incredible hazy IPA base.

Related to all of this is what I think has been a long time coming but the crowning of Chicago as a serious craft beer city. Not only do we have the most breweries in the country per metro area, but we have some of the best beers.

It might be the general sentiment Chicagoans feel about themselves in comparison to the rest of the country, but the pervasive sense that we have the best beer we are just waiting for everyone else to realize it and that happened this year with Alarmist, Eris, and Corridor winning big time in the hazy beer style categories at this year’s Great American Beer Festival.

Alarmist’s Le Jus and Eris’ Foiken Haze all are terrific examples of this style, but they are not all Chicago has to offer for the hip folks looking for the latest and greatest hazed-up beers. Later this month, I’m going to showcase the best hazy beers from places you didn’t know made them.

On a personal note, one of the best beer developments of 2018 was my trip to 21 breweries up and down the state of Michigan. I went to so many places in such a short amount of time, the numbers are staggering.

From Traverse City and Jolly Pumpkin on the lake, to Storm Cloud Brewing in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, to hitting Grand Rapids in a big way, I had such a blast and have a whole new respect for Michigan beer. I missed a bunch of great spots, so I may have to make another trip up there sometime soon.

The next biggest development especially for us locally in Kankakee County has been following along with the progress of Blane and Natalie White as they push forward to open Steam Hollow Brewing in early 2019. I was glad to have been able to try their beer at The Hoppy Pig’s blowout party Bourbon, Bacon, and Beer Festival at Northfield Square mall. Steam Hollow was the toast of the town then as was the great party happening.

I’m writing this a few weeks ahead of running this article to clear my schedule for the holidays, so they could have raced ahead and starting pouring beer by the time this column makes it to print — who knows, but I have been following the story for a few years now and am excited to see what happens next.

Beyond all of these great happenings in 2018, I’m looking forward to what 2019 could bring as well. I hope to be able to string together a deep trip into the wintry northern climes of Wisconsin to try some of those beers I have heard so much about.

My experience of New Glarus beer is a big blind spot for me for highly thought of regional beer. I’ve not explored the Milwaukee-Madison beer scene yet, and look to to do that this summer as well. I also hope to get to St. Louis and write up what’s happening down there as well.

This next year might see a big trip to San Diego, which once was the capital of beer in the U.S. and arguably still might be. There are beer festivals, craft beer weeks, new beers, old beers and a wide variety of beer experiences I’m looking to have. Thank you for reading along so far, and I look forward to see what happens next. Cheers!

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