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Belt's Beer Garden: think local, drink local

What's better than good beer? Good beer that's close to home.

I can't think of anything good to write here...
I can't think of anything good to write here...

We try to feature beers from across the nation here at Belt's Beer Garden but sometimes the best beers are the ones made in your own backyard. And that's why Norm and I are featuring two Chicago-based beers tonight.

First up, Norm's suburban English IPA.

gatecrasher

As the title says, "Think local, drink local". If you ever need some kind of excuse to justify your mid-week (or mid-day) beer consumption, try "I'm supporting local business". That's my rational for cracking one open at 9:30 pm on a Wednesday work night. Got to support the Illinois small craft beer industry!

I'm helping make sure that the fine fellows over at the Temperance Beer Co., Evanston, IL, keep the production line moving. After all, we know how tough things can be over on the mean streets of Evanston.

In all honesty, I do try to give local breweries a fair chance whenever I find one.  The more demand, the more suppliers. And the more suppliers, the better chance of better beer. Not to mention brewery tours, ale fests and increased variety. So Temperance Beer Co., here's your chance.

Gatecrasher is their English style IPA. It checks in at 6.6% ABV and runs $9.99 for a six pack of cans.

I was a little concerned going the English IPA route as I enjoy my hops much more than I do my malts. But after I took a whiff after popping the top, I was much more hopeful.

This beer was golden orange, semi clear and highly carbonated when it filled my glass.  It produced a massive head with plenty of lacing. The aroma on it was definitely grapefruit with a bit of caramel malt as well.

The taste on this was just as much of a pleasant surprise as the aroma. It's really somewhere between an American IPA and an English IPA. The citrus and pine notes really offset the breadiness you'd expect from an English ale. The carbonation dissipates very quickly and it's not too heavy on hops. This helps make it a very smooth, and very easy to drink beer.

Maybe I'm just in a good mood because spring is here. Maybe it's because the NIU Huskies look to be even better team this season than last, but I really liked this beer.

They may not get their football right in Evanston, but their beer can be Chicagoland's big time beer. 8.5/10

8.5

Dave: I went for a brewery in the heart of Chicago, rather than a suburb, with a new Pipeworks beer.

citrus saison

Pipeworks Brewing comes to us from Chicago, Illinois and has been making big beers since 2009. They still only have a small distribution range (Chicago and its suburbs) but are looking to spread later this year.

They have made big splash in the area so far and are known for their many Belgian style ales, hoppy DIPAs, and many flavored beers - like their Cinnamon Beer-d O's, which tastes like a certain crunchy, cinnamon toasted cereal, and Pastrami and Rye (because I know I've always wanted a beer that tasted like that!).

Due to their smaller facility and lower production rate, their prices are a bit steeper than most, however, the top-notch quality usually warrants the higher prices.

Citrus Saison pours a light cloudy copper color and, unlike most saisons, doesn't have much head topping the beer. You can tell that there is some carbonation though, since many tiny bubbles fight their way up the glass.

This saison has the typical yeasty smell that most saisons do but also gives off a nice aroma of spices, orange, and other citrus. The smell also has slight tartness to it that is more than inviting.

Upon my first sip, there were a lot of citrus and earthy notes in the beer but one flavor profile stood out the most - banana. The banana profile masks the heavy citrus smell but doesn't really overpower the rest of the beer. It's a smooth, crisp saison that starts with that banana and slowly fades into yeasty citrus finish.

There is an earthy aftertaste that lingers on the tongue between sips. As the beer sits, and the more you drink, the citrus begins to emerge further and the banana seems to recede. It becomes a sweeter and tastier beer the warmer it gets - which was fine by me.

Citrus Saison is odd, in that the bottle prominently features lemons and yet, the lemon flavor remained completely hidden to me. Many other citrus notes were there, and even some non-citrus ones (I'm looking at you banana), but the lemon was evasive. However, it does clock in a 7.5% ABV, which is a decent amount for any beer, and hides the alcohol quite nicely. The biggest problem with Citrus Saison is the cost - $9.99 for a 22 ounce bomber. It's not cheap. It's not the most expensive beer out there, but it begs the question of whether it's worth the price. The answer is not really.

There is no denying this is a tasty beer and I would recommend it to most people...provided they found it on draft somewhere or could find it cheaper. It's a smooth, refreshing saison but just costs a bit too much. 7.5/10

7.5