The Beers of Spring: April Showers Bring Wheat Beers and Saisons

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 11:53pm

There have been two things on the minds of Chicagoan's lately: spring and beer. As the sun begins to peak its head out for one or two hours every five days, you can see the craving for patio drinking in the eyes of strangers. Patio drinking sans jacket, add in some shades.

This feeling correlates with two huge beer events: Alpha Beer X and the Glunz Beer Expo. With Witbiers, Saisons and Radlers amuck, blue birds begin to sing and flowers begin to bloom.

Here are some favorite spring brews tasted at these events. They might not all be available yet, but that’s just one more thing to look forward to.


Loudmouth Soup – Witbier – Greenbush and Cleetus Friedman (6.4% ABV) –This isn’t the first (or last) collaboration from Michigan’s Greenbush Brewing and well-known local chef Cleetus Friedman, but it’s one you’ll never forget. Loudmouth Soup uses the traditional wheat beer combo of citrus and spice, but with a twist. The blood orange, fennel and Tellicherry peppercorn flavors are so fresh, you could swear they were all thrown in only minutes before the beer hit your lips. This is the perfect brew for sitting on a rooftop patio eating deliciously paired food. Say, at Fountainhead, perhaps? Friedman just took over as Executive Chef and produced a new amazing menu.

Try with: This beer pairs perfectly with spicy food, especially anything with an Asian flavor. If fiery isn't your thing, any salad tossed in a light, citrus infused vinagarette goes great as well.

Find in Chi: On Tap at Fountainhead (1970 W Montrose)

Missionario – Wheat Beer Fermented with Muscat Grape Must – 5 Rabbit (6.8% ABV)  When I came upon the 5 Rabbit booth at the Glunz Beer Expo, I had tasted every beer except for Missionario. Fermented with grape must? Tickle me intrigued. This beer has the standard characteristics of its wheat base: light color, slightly hazy body, citrus aroma and hint of coriander essence. The grape fermentation adds a nice twist of flavor that tickles and dances on your tongue, much like champagne. Almonds come in at the end, with an Amaretto like sweetness that lingers. This beer is perfectly refreshing, yet delightfully flavorful.

Try with: If you’re out and about drinking this beer, pair it with an artisan cheese plate. Cheese + grapes…get it?

Find in Chi:  Nowhere, yet. Keep an eye out for this beer (hopefully) appearing more with spring.

Zaison – Imperial Saison – Brewery Vivant (9% ABV)Brewery Vivant’s Zaison is a huge beer. Made with the traditional southern Belgian Saison style in mind, this beer is brewed in winter months to be enjoyed once spring appears. The special yeast strain used gives the beer a hint of funkiness and pepper, intensified with orange peel and black peppercorns. It’s one of the strongest warm weather beers you’ll come by, but as Vivant says on their website: “This is the strength the beer wanted to be, so we left it that way.” Can you think of a better beer to represent the letter Z? Those who attended Alpha Beer X will recognize this beer as holding that title.

Try with: Anything made with any kind of curry – it matches perfectly with the intensity of this beer.

Find in Chi: Vivant will begin distribution to Chicago late this summer, but a trip to the Grand Rapids brewery is definitely worth it.

Underdog – Atlantic Lager – Flying Dog Brewing (4.7%) – Ah, an old standby. What the heck is an Atlantic Lager, you ask? Not important. Why would you drink a beer that’s only 4.7%, you ask? Even less important. What’s absolutely worth noting is what this beer is brewed with: rye, Cara-Pils and wheat. Yes, rye in a beer that doesn’t have an IBU of 85+ or a color similar to that espresso shot you won’t need after drinking five of these. Basically, it tastes like a rye pilsner. The noble hop flavor hits at the front and a hint of that rye spice that is SO hot right now ends the show. The wheat adds a nice boost to the body. If I were to ever go running, I would fill a water bottle with this instead of actual H2O.

Try with: Rye is great with meat, but I’d go light with this beer. Chicken, duck or whitefish would make an excellent pairing for Underdog.

Find in Chi: Warehouse Liquors (634 S Wabash); Grand and Western Armanetti (515 N Western); Sheffield’s Beer and Wine Garden (3258 N Sheffield)



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Sarah O'Neill
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