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Belt's Beer Garden: Chi-town showdown

This week, I've got two beers from Chicago breweries that you should be talking about.

This week I'll be reviewing a beer from a local giant, Pipeworks, as well as a collaboration beer from two up-and-coming breweries.

I'll begin with the new-comers, Arcade/Maplewood, and their Odyssey Hive.

odyssey hive

While Arcade Brewery is mainly credited with Odyssey Hive, it's important to note that they collaborated with Maplewood Brewery on this; especially because we've reviewed both Arcade and Maplewood (formerly Mercenary) here before. Both are smaller breweries in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood and are located roughly two blocks from each other...so naturally a collaboration was destined to happen.

This American pale ale, which Arcade calls their "most West Coast beer" yet, was brewed with copious amounts of honey and Apollo and Amarillo hops.

When I opened the bomber, it poured a golden straw color with about a finger of head, which bubbled down slowly. The little amount of white foam sticks with the beer for a long time before dispersing.

Odyssey Hive smells wonderful. There is a tart, grapefruit aroma with bits of honey, tangerine, hops, and more citrus.

The tangerine and grapefruit come out first in the flavor, while the honey provides a nice backing to the beer - cutting down the tartness of the citrus. The beer is still rather sweet from all the citrus and honey, but it's not sour or bad by any means. Odyssey Hive is really smooth and hides the moderate 5.7% ABV really well. There is a tiny bit of bitterness but, at only 40 IBU, there really isn't any bite from the hops.

It's on the drier side of things and mildly carbonated, making the flavors loiter on your tongue between each sip. I will say the sweetness of the grapefruit and tangerine does leave your mouth feeling a bit sticky from all the sugar, but that's a small price to pay.

Even though this beer didn't have a ton of head when I originally poured it, the foam that it did create laced my glass really, really well. Marking every sip I took, both big and small, with a clearly defined ring around my glass.

At $7.99 for the bomber, Odyssey Hive isn't overly expensive. It is a great, easy to drink pale ale - especially if you love beers with a citrus and honey flavor. It reminds me of Ballast Point's Grapefruit Sculpin, just with some honey added.

By now, I think it's no secret I love Maplewood - The Charlatan is one of my top-10 beers and their Creepy Ginger and Lemondrop are delicious as well. As for Arcade, I haven't had too many of their beers yet, but this is by far my favorite.

Arcade and Maplewood are two up-and-coming Chicago breweries you need to get behind and this beer is perfect for a fall day right after you finish mowing your lawn or, if you're lazy like me, if you just want to sit on your porch and do nothing. 8.5/10

8.5

Second up, Pipeworks' Yuzu Saison.

yuzu saison

Pipeworks is one of Chicago's best and most sought-after breweries. Since '09 they've been brewing up high-quality, (and mostly) limited released beers that focus on strong hop attacks. Naturally IPAs and DIPAs are their most common styles, but this week I've chosen to go off that path and went with a rare style from Pipeworks: a saison.

Yuzu Saison pours a cloudy hay, almost golden, color with about two fingers of thick white foam that dissipates rather quickly (for a saison). The head that does remain coats the glass nicely as you drink this beer down.

There is really one main smell you get from this saison - pepper. It has a distinct spicy, peppery smell that hides most of the citrus aroma. If you concentrate, you can find orange and lemon in there, but it's the spices come out the overwhelmingly.

When I first went to try Yuzu, I figured I'd get a huge dose pepper or perhaps some of that hidden citrus would emerge. But, the fact is, there was a nice combination of both. There was a bubbly effervescence that hit my tongue first, as this is a highly carbonated beer, then the taste of orange and lemon rode out the bubbly fizz. Following that, as expected, there was a quick onset of pepper and spices.

The aftertaste was almost all pepper, which lingered for a small while. But, overall, it wasn't too dominating...at first.

For the first half of the beer, I really enjoyed how much spice there was. They didn't try to overcomplicate your palate with fruit AND spices; instead they just focused on the zesty flavors and that worked really well.

However, by the time I had hit the half-way point on there beer, the spiciness became harder to deal with and I longed for more of the fruit flavors. The citrus never came...it just continued to be overshadowed by the dominant pepper.

The 7.5 ABV is hidden really well by the pepper taste and the 22-ounce bottle will sneak up on you the more you drink. The biggest problem with the beer, however, is the price. At just under $10 for the 22-ounce bottle, it's not a great bargain...but then again, no Pipeworks' beer is.

You pay for the quality...and Pipeworks is known for their high-quality brews. This one just isn't nearly as good as their others. I like the pepper flavor but, as I said above, after a while it just becomes too much. Not that it's bad by any measure, I just wish the citrus from the Yuzu would have come out more throughout the experience. Maybe I should have stuck with an IPA from them...either way: 7.5/10

7.5