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Belt’s Beer Garden: 300th Review!

It’s late October...that means we’ve once again hit a milestone!!!

neon3

Can you believe I’ve been writing about beer for three straight years now? We’re at 297 beers so far...but I have a special third review for you today just to get us up to that magical number 300.

But, before I begin with the reviews, here’s a few stats from the first 300 beers we’ve featured here.

So far I’ve reviewed beers from 40 different states and seven different countries. Denmark is the foreign land most seen on BBG with nine Danish beers being reviewed. Canada (4) and Sweden (3) round out the top-3.

Illinois and California breweries have dominate by far, with over a third of reviews coming from those two states (56 and 54 reviews respectively). Rounding out the top-5; Michigan has 18, Oregon has 16, and Colorado has 15.

There are still only five beers to receive an A+/9.5; Pliny the Elder, The Charlatan, Son of Juice, Incredible Pedal, and Citra Pale Ale. And just 49 with an A- or better rating.

On the flip side, 11 have received a D+/6.5 or worse, with only one getting an F (Rolling Rock).

Pipeworks from Chicago has been the most featured brewery with eight appearances (spoiler: including today). California’s Green Flash and Sierra Nevada each have six appearances and, rounding out the top-5, Short’s and Arcade have five each.

But enough stats...lets drink!

Beer #298 comes from Pipeworks the Chicago brewery that you already know about. But it’s a collaboration with Tired Hands. Tired Hands, located in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, is a brewery that is quite sought after…especially here in Chicago and by me. So when I saw that the two breweries collaborated on a beer, I knew I needed to find it.

The beer, a double IPA made with lime zest, lime juice and dextrose is aptly named Marilime Law and is only available in Chicagoland and possibly parts of Pennsylvania by Tired Hands.

Marilime Law is an 8% DIPA that was brewed with Amarillo, Columbus, Simcoe, and Sorachi Ace hops as well as a handful of malts. Nicely, the bomber only set me back $7.99, which is super reasonable.

The beer poured a cloudy golden straw color with two fingers of dense white foam. The head had some nice staying power and was incredibly thick…after waiting, and waiting, and waiting…there was still a good inch or so of bubbles protecting the beer below it.

On the nose Marilime Law smelled exactly like you might think. The tart lime juice was prolific in a slightly puckering way. Behind the lime were some wheaty malts and some other light citrus fruits, like lemon and grapefruit.

My first sip began with an immediate burst of sour lime and some mild carbonation that lasted about half way through it all. After that initial tartness, the beer really evened out and didn’t get too much more from the lime.

Following up the near-mouth puckering lime juice was some earthy and spicy hops and yeast. It almost had a wheat beer quality to it (it was brewed with white wheat malt, so it’s not too shocking).

As the flavors began to fade away the hops made one last attack on my taste buds with a bitter citrus punch. Bitter notes of grapefruit, lemon, and lime lingered well past everything had been swallowed and showed that the hops owned this DIPA.

When Marilime Law ends there is a sticky feeling left on my tongue from the lime juice that made me need a swig of water at some points just to clear off.

The 8% ABV is hidden completely throughout the beer and the biggest surprise was how sessionable Marilime Law was; if you can handle tart beers anyway. There’s only that little bitter sting towards the end and, otherwise, it was hidden well by the lime.

Overall, this collab was interesting and finding a Tired Hands beer (even if it is just a collaboration) was worth the $8 alone. Marilime Law was an easy to drink double that was surprisingly tart and sticky.

Beer #299 comes from nearby Indiana.

Hammond is technically in Indiana but it’s really more Chicago than Hoosier. The city of 80,000 people sits right on the boarder of Illinois and Indiana and is now home to a brewery that I’m calling the “New 3 Floyds”…18th Street.

18th Street (which was originally in Gary, IN but moved to Hammond) has come out of nowhere in the past year or so as the biggest and best thing to hit the Midwest beer market in some time. They too, like 3 Floyds, embrace the darker side of things and love making big and bold IPAs.

I grabbed one of their newer cans to hit the Chicagoland shelves, Villain, a double IPA with a huge 9.2% ABV and…well…that’s all I can really tell you about it. And even that might not be right…I’ve also seen the beer listed at 8.7%, so who knows. There is no hop listing, no IBU rating, nothing other than the six 12-ounce cans cost me $13.99 and it’s a DIPA.

Villain poured a hazy, but dark, copper color nearing the amber side of things. There was surprisingly little head topping the beer. No more than a finger of tiny, off-white bubbles ever built up. And very quickly all that was left was a thin dusting across the top.

The aroma drifting upwards from the beer was very enticing. It was filled with tropical fruit juices like pineapple, mango, and passion fruit. Behind all the fruits lies a dash of bready malt and some nice boozy undertones. But this beer certainly looks and smells like a pretty tasty NE IPA, not a double, so I was real excited to try it.

My first taste started with a minute rush of carbonation that somehow lasted a few moments longer than I thought it would. The flavors wasted no time though and rushed over my taste buds.

There was a bold hoppiness that unleashed a blend of those tropical fruit notes. Pineapple and passion fruit were most prevalent but every so often there would be a burst of mango that really made the beer pop.

Like the scent indicated, the malt bill hid behind the hops and fruits. Towards the end of each swig, there were some light, but sweet, caramel and bready notes that did just enough to cut into whatever hop sting there could be (there was some but not much at all).

As the sip winds down there was an earthy, semi-spicy hop flavor that lingers momentarily with some of the lighter fruit notes before it all ends with a moderate dryness sticking to your tongue.

One of the biggest surprises Villain had was how a beer this boozy could completely hid the taste of the alcohol. At 9.2% this is a monster brew…and yet it drinks like a regular 5% IPA…there was no burn at all, not even a hint that this beer had alcohol in it…but, boy does it!

This was a really good DIPA. It drinks like a hazy New England IPA (juicy and with very little bitterness) but hits like a semi-truck with that massive ABV. The perfect beer for when your team is getting blown out…it’s sessionable, surprisingly light, but will make you forget the game after just a couple of these.

18th Street might call it Villain but it’s not evil…it’s good, very good. And you should check it out too.

Finally we’ve reached it....

Beer 300!!!

Blackberry Farm is located right by the Smoky Mountains in Walland, Tennessee. It’s a 9,200-acre estate complete with a luxury hotel, farm, and brewery.

The brewery portion opened up in 2016 and made a splash quickly. Last year they won a gold medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup for their Classic Saison. They just started canning beers this summer and offer a variety of brews but seem to focus on saisons, abbey ales, and Brett beers.

I just recently started seeing them in Chicago but they do have a sizable distribution, including most of the Midwest/MAClands…with 33 states in total getting them. Click the link above to see if you’re in one of those states.

For the 300th beer on Belt’s Beer Garden, I found a 12.7 ounce bottle of their Brett Belgo IPA…complete with a fancy pop-off cork and a $9.99 price tag.

Brett Belgo IPA was made with Motueka and Jarrylo hops and a combination of four malts plus that infamous Brett yeast. It was then aged in red wine barrels. It boasts a 6.3% ABV and a mere 36 IBU.

When poured, boy, was there a mountain of foam that erupted upwards. Four massive fingers of dense, slightly tan head protected the liquid below.

On the nose you get notes of the sweet, red wine and oakiness from the barrels it was stored in. The Brett yeast also provides that typical slightly spiced smell with some citrus fruits – like lemon and orange – coming from the hops.

After around five minutes of letting it warm up some (best served between 45-55°) and letting the foam settle some, down to just one finger of head, I was ready to dive into it.

My first sip begins with a prickly rush of carbonation to my tongue but not as much as I thought there would be based off the amount of head. Then, bright citrus flavors flooded across my taste buds. There was lemon, orange, grapefruit and even some hints of melon and those red wine grapes.

The Brett yeast comes out immediately as well, adding some earthy spice and tartness. There is a grassy funk that hits towards the second half of the sip that comes with some hoppy bitterness and an oaky finish.

That bitterness doesn’t linger on and the beer finishes mostly clean. But there is a small tingle that the Brett leaves on my palate that hangs around for a little while after each sip. It’s not bitter, just a tingling on my tongue…like the carbonation has yet to fade away.

Blackberry Farm did well with this one. I like the bursts of citrus you get straight away and the complex earthy, spicy funk the Brett imparts on the beer. Sure, it costs a pretty penny…but you can really see/taste the quality and effort they put into this beer.

The flavors are an A but the price and that weird sensation that’s left on my tongue bring it down just a little. But if you’re looking for a beer to celebrate a special occasion (like an engagement, new job, or…say a milestone review) look no further than this.