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Belt’s Beer Garden: Illuminating the Way

Illuminated Fruit Slave & Alaskan Husky IPA

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This week I start with a beer I bought because the label just was too good to pass up...IBW’s Fruit Slave.

Illuminated Brew Works is a newer Chicago brewery that focuses on farmhouses and IPAs. They do a lot of small batch things and are constantly putting new beers out in the market. Currently they are only available in Chicagoland.

Due to the awesome childhood memories of chewing the gum that’s being mocked on their label, I instantly grabbed their Fruit Slave – a DIPA made with Citra, Mandarina Bavaria, and Motueka hops. It’s one of their newest creations with the 750 mL (25.4 ounce) bottle cost just $10.99 and packing a 7.5% ABV punch.

This double dry-hopped double poured a surprisingly translucent golden amber color with just over two fingers of slightly off white head billowing upwards. The dense foam stuck around for quite some time after it was poured, creating a think barrier between me and liquid below.

Fruit Slave had a pretty juicy aroma flowing from it…not crazy juicy like a NE IPA but still juicy. There were loads of tropical fruits that were matched equally by a hoppy bitter scent as well. Some light malt notes lingered behind the hops but were easy to overlook with all the smells the hops provided.

We’ll see if it tastes anything like the gum…or if the flavors can last longer (actually, that shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish).

My first sip started with some mild carbonation but, instead, I was a little taken aback at first. I was expecting the fruit juice flavors to emerge but, for the first few moments of the sip, the hops burst through the fizz almost immediately, slamming my taste buds with an unexpected sharp bitterness right off the bat.

As the bitter bite fades, those elusive fruit flavors finally began to show up. There were bolts of mango, and pineapple, and grapefruit, and even some light tangerine. They were sweet tropical flavors that couldn’t wash the bitterness away fast enough. Once the pulses of tropical fruit left, all that remained was a bready malt flavor that added some more sweetness to the backend and finished off the beer on a much cleaner note than it began with.

There was no lingering bitterness to this beer…no, instead it all hits you right up front and then becomes more palatable the longer the taste goes. But…at times the 7.5% ABV would launch a huge assault of booze that burned throughout the entire sip. Then other sips would be smooth and easy to drink.

This was a weird one to say the least. Yes, they did accomplish having fruity flavors that lasted longer than its gum equivalent…but there was still a lot more bitterness and a larger alcohol bite than I would expect from a double dry-hopped beer (which are usually smooth, creamy, and insanely juicy).

It’s a solid DIPA with a good price and some intriguing flavors but don’t expect it to taste like most double dry-hopped ones.

Next up, in honor of NIU’s homecoming game this week; a beer from Alaska.

Alaskan Brewing Company was founded in Juneau, Alaska way, way back in 1986…so long ago that it was actually the 67th craft brewery to ever open in the US.

I’ll admit that I have been a huge fan of theirs since I first had their Freeride APA in 2014. However, before this month, I had to travel to find them. They finally starting distributing to Chicagoland on September 8th and I made sure to grab a few bottles ASAP. They currently distribute in 19 states, almost all on the West Coast (but Michigan, Ohio, and Chicago do get them too).

Today though, I try a beer from them I’ve never had. This one started as a spring seasonal this year but it was so good they then decided to keep around. And it has a name I’m quite fond of.

Husky IPA is a SMaSH (single malt and single hop) beer made with Mosaic hops. At $9.99 for a six pack, it’s pretty affordable and each bottle packs a punch with a 7% ABV and 50 IBU.

This IPA poured a bright golden copper color with a finger of pure white head topping the beer. The foam seemed to be rather sticky and dense as it took a while to fizzle away.

On the nose there was a bright citrusy aroma with notes of passion fruit, mango, and some melon. The malts were rather subdued by the hoppy fruit aroma but added some nice sweet undertones to the beer. There was a tiny hop bite to the aroma but it smelled really sessionable and I wanted to dive right in.

My first sip started with a tiny rush of carbonation that lasted about halfway into the sip. From that tingling sensation, the flavors emerged.

The Mosaic hops shown brightly in the flavor. There was an initial juicy burst of passion fruit that was then complimented by some melon and grapefruit. The mango went unnoticed in the taste but was still quite prominent in the aroma.

The sweet malts balanced the beer nicely and complimented the hops rather than try to cut into them. The bitterness was listed at 50 IBU but it tastes lower than that. And the caramel undertones added by the malt really played well with the tropical fruit flavors the Mosaic hops provided.

As I (very quickly) continued to drink Husky IPA down, the few bubbles that remained really didn’t want to leave. They laced my glass really well and created well-defined lines and a nice web-work down the entire glass.

Alaskan continues to make great beers and I’m so happy they’re finally in Illinois!!

Husky IPA continued their legacy and was a very tasty, very easy to drink IPA that was big on booze without compromising taste. Even if you’re not an NIU fan…Husky IPA is a great beer for game days!