This weeks theme centers around a couple of creatures (one imaginary, one that no longer exits) that I would hate to run into any day of the week. These beers, however, I hope to see as often as possible.
I'll start with the one that actually exited at one point; Off Color Brewing's Tooth and Claw.
Off Color Brewing doesn't have a taproom or bar (yet) but they do have a small bottle shop located on the edge of the Hermosa and Logan Square neighborhoods in Chicago. They do a lot of cool and unique brews, as you'll see below.
If the picture of Sue, the famous T-Rex that resides in Chicago, didn't give it away, I'll ruin the surprise and tell you that Off Color specifically brewed and bottled Tooth and Claw as a special release for the Field Museum, where she resides.
To be honest, I'm not sure how many locations outside of the Field Museum even carry this beer but you can get a glass while cruising around the museum (which is pretty neat in-and-of itself). I happened to stumble upon my six-pack somewhere where dinosaurs don't still roam. The six 12-ounce bottles cost me a modest $9.99.
This Czech pilsner poured a clear, golden yellow color with about a finger of head that bubbled down to just a dusting in less than a minute. On the nose there is a nice honey sweetness to it with some buscuity/bready malts that hide in the background. But it's really a subtle aroma all together with nothing really standing out.
My first sip of Tooth and Claw followed the smell pretty closely. Up front there was a rush of carbonation that fizzed on my tongue along with some of that sweet honey flavor. After the carbonation dies down, there's a slightly spiced, slightly bitter aftertaste that lingers for just a moment or two. But just like the aroma, the taste was quite subtle and subdued to say the least. For those anti-hopheads, fear not, there's not too much bitterness (at only 35 IBU).
Tooth and Claw ends on a pretty dry note. The carbonation is pretty strong through out the beer but the tiny bit of head that remained didn't do too much lacing around my glass - only leaving sporadic lines of foam that quickly slid back down into the beer.
This brew isn't bad but it isn't amazing either...it's so subtle and easy to drink I'm really not sure how to rate it. The further down I get on my glass the more the honey comes out but the more the bitterness sticks around. It's a curious beer. Not much to it, yet still pretty good.
I'm going to save the other five I have for those heated summer days because I feel like this beer would be the perfect compliment after I finish mowing the lawn. It's a really nice, lighter beer. I've decided to go with a rating of 8/10.
Next up, from the depths of the Pacific Ocean...the terrifying(ly delicious) MerBear!
This Rye IPA was made from two of California's biggest breweries: NoCal's Bear Republic (Healdsburg) and SoCal's Coronado (San Diego).
It's so unique it even has two recipes: one from Coronado and one from Bear Republic.
Bear Republic's version is made with Azacca, Ella, El Dorado, and Equinox hops and some Buddha's Hand (a weird looking citrus fruit). And that sounds just as good as the one I found.
I got Coronado's edition of MerBear; which is made with Amarillo, Centennial, Equinox, and Hallertau Blanc hops and clocks in at just 45 IBU (instead of the 65 that Bear Republic's has).
You can find Coronado's edition in 16 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin. I couldn't find where all Bear Republic's was available though.
My version of MerBear pours a very dark amber color (almost brown until the light hits it) with just under two fingers of fluffy tan head topping the brew. The foam subsides quickly into a splotchy patchwork of clouds and bubbles.
There is a nice, slightly hoppy, citrus aroma with some toasted caramel and pine notes lingering in the background.
On my first sip, the caramel strikes first. There is an initial burst of the toasted malts, with that caramel taste, which doesn't last too long. Soon after the beer touches your tongue, the piney hops push the malts out and take over the taste. There is a slight bitterness with the pine (it's not too bad though, I promise) and then, to round everything out, just a hint of citrus shows up near the end and calms everything down.
Once all the flavors have sufficiently made their mark, there is a tiny bit of an aftertaste that lingers: the caramel malts. The citrus I picked up on in the aroma was much more prominent there than it was in the actual taste (which I was slightly bummed about).
But the unique flavors and components all worked really well together, creating a really smooth rye IPA. And, to top everything off, the bold 7.5% ABV this beer contains is hidden completely.
The beer ends with just the slightest dry touch and has a medium body to it. As I continued to empty the contents of my glass, the beer didn't lace as well as I thought it was going to. There were a few cloudy spider webs that clung to the side of the glass but, for the most part, the head that remained just fell to the top of the beer.
Overall, I'm not normally a fan of rye beers but this is one I'd make an exception for (along with St. Joseph's Summer Session Rye and Rock Bridge's Rye You Little Punk)! It's super smooth, very easy to drink, and great for summer days. What more do you need? 8/10