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Belt's Beer Garden: IPA-free Week!

For those that hate hops, this one's for you! A week with no IPAs!

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This week, in a bold move by myself, I decided to give you guys a break from the barrage of IPAs that I normally focus on here. So instead, we have a couple lighter styles that are perfect for the nice weather that summer has brought.

First up, Motor Row's New Phenix Lager.

When I bring you a beer from Motor Row you might initially think it’s from Detroit. But you would be wrong. Motor Row is a newer brewery in Chicago’s near South side in what was once called Motor/Record Row which housed people like Marshall Field and Al Capone. It started as a car dealer haven at the turn of last century and then became an essential part of the Chicago’s blues scene in the 1950s.

I had heard of Motor Row but never tried any of their brews. So when I found a can of their New Phenix Lager, I snatched it up. I don’t even really like lagers but I wasn’t passing up an opportunity to try Motor Row.

Untappd will tell you that New Phenix is a Helles-style lager…however, it is actually more of a Zwickelbier (don’t worry, I had never heard of that either). Basically it’s an old German lager that is unfiltered and unpasteurized. Regardless, though, it’s a lager none the less.

And this lager pours a cloudy golden color with over two fingers of fluffy white foam that disappears as quickly as it builds up until just a thin ring around the edge of the glass remains.

There is a very subtle aroma with New Phenix. It’s has a very faint bready tone to it and an even fainter hop profile. There are, for lack of a better term, some cereal malt tones to it as well. It’s a balanced aroma with not too much standing out from your typical lager.

On my first sip, I was pleasantly surprised. There was a nice, crisp citrus burst up front (which consisted of almost all lemon) followed by the bready/cereal-like malts I picked up in the aroma. There was also a grassy flavor that lingered in the background and just the faintest hint of hops.

Motor Row added some rye to this lager when brewing, and it’s a very nice compliment to the other flavors…as it added a nice biscuit base and some complexity to New Phenix that most lagers just don’t have in my opinion.

The brew, body wise, is on the lighter side of things and ended slightly dry but with no real lingering aftertaste. There is a mild amount of carbonation that hits about halfway through the sip instead of up front.

Overall, this was a very nice lager. The initial citrus blast and the addition of rye add something to this beer that most don’t have. I’m not the biggest fan of lagers, but I will say this is one I would drink again. It’s a great brew for a baseball game or as a reward for doing that yardwork that needed to be done. Both the 5% ABV and the $9.99 price tag (for four 16-ounce cans) won’t hit you too hard.

This was the first beer I had tried from Motor Row…but I’ll be back for more. This was a really solid first offering. Check them out for yourself. 8/10

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Secondly, a collaboration from two of Chicago's suburban brewers created this flavored Kolsch you need to check out.

350 Brewing is located in Tinley Park, Illinois. Hailstorm Brewing is located in Tinley Park, Illinois. So it’s no surprise that these two breweries got together and created a beer called Howdy Neighbor.

This strawberry lemon kolsch pours a light amber color with a pinkish hue to it. Barely any foam topped the beer as the contents of the can were emptied into my glass…there was just the thinnest of rings around the edge and nothing more.

On the nose, the lemon is the easiest scent to pick up. There is plenty of the citrus juice in this beer. There are some strawberry notes lingering behind the lemon, as well as a doughy bread aroma from the malts. It was a little fruity and smelled a tiny bit sour too…but I was excited to try it.

The first sip did not disappoint. The lemon hits you immediately but right after that initial sour note, the strawberry flavor comes in to knock out the tartness. The combination of fruits creates a taste almost like a yellow Starburst.

There is a light biscuity malt presence that comes in towards the end of the sip to smooth everything out and remind you that you are indeed drinking a beer, not a liquid candy. As soon as the liquid is gone from your mouth, so is the flavor though. There is very little in the way of an aftertaste to this kolsch.

Howdy Neighbor has a lighter body and a slightly watery mouthfeel to it. The little bubbles that remained on the beer stay on the beer and don’t lace the glass at all.

This is a great summer beer. The high fruit/citrus flavors mixed with the light body and just enough alcohol (5.2% ABV) means you can enjoy this beer in high heat outside (or the comfort of your AC) without feeling tired and getting heat exhaustion afterwards.

A six pack of 12-ounce cans will set you back just $9.99, so even the price is right.

Get this beer before summer escapes us and you can’t find it anymore! It’s a great collaboration between two very good breweries! 8/10

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