This week I go old school with some milk and honey...at least the beer world’s take on it, with a double milk stout and a honey ginger beer.
First up, the milk...featuring a brew from my favorite Chicago brewery, Maplewood.
The Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago is, in my opinion, home to one of the best breweries in country – Maplewood, who’s appeared on this segment plenty before. But, today, I don’t have one of their delicious IPAs…instead I’m trying a style I typically avoid, a stout.
I have their Morbidly Obese Pug, a double fudge, double milk stout that’s solid in 22-ounce bombers for the price of $12.
Maplewood upped the ante with this one. They took their year-round stout, Fat Pug, and then increased everything about it to create Morbidly Obese Pug – which has three types of chocolate malt, cocoa beans, vanilla, a splash of lactose, and a huge 10% ABV.
When I poured this brew, it was incredibly thick and had virtually no head – just razor thin line of tan bubbles less than a millimeter high. And when I say it poured thick…I mean THICK. It had the consistency, and color, of used motor oil – jet black and incredibly viscous.
Luckily, it smelled much better than oil. There was loads of sweet chocolate and coffee up front with some caramel malt and a grainy scent sitting right behind. There was just the tiniest hint of vanilla peeking out as well but the aroma was strongly dictated by the coffee and chocolate.
I had never chewed a beer before today…but Morbidly Obese Pug was so thick that I almost needed to, just to cut it down. I can’t tell emphases enough just how thick this beer was…and, until you try it yourself, you’ll never understand.
However, despite the thickness, the beer flooded my taste buds with an amazingly sweet flavor. Initially it was chocolate, chocolate, and then (just for good measure) more chocolate.
After the initial bomb of cocoa, some other flavors began to appear underneath the confectionary. The vanilla being more noticeable here than in the initial aroma, as well as the lactose, which created an even more sugary flavor to the beer.
Towards the second half of the sip, the booze appeared briefly. There was sting of alcohol in the back of my throat which I could feel for just s second or so before more of the chocolate washed it away. But, as this stout sat quite heavy, I could also feel it for a few moments in my stomach…kind of like after doing a shot.
There’s apparently 45 IBU in here but they don’t appear at all until the final moments of the beer…when those coffee notes from the aroma finally shows up in the flavor. After everything had ended, and the chocolatey sweetness had begun to subside, a light coffee bitterness washed over my taste buds and lingered for a few minutes after the sip.
Outside of that bitter twinge at the end, the brew ends rather cleanly with just a dash of dryness to go with the coffee bitterness…nothing too bad though.
For as tasty as this beer was, and it was very good (and that’s coming from a guy that dislikes stouts), it was hard to drink the whole thing. The 10% ABV and thickness to it really slowed me down and, towards the end of the bottle, I was struggling to finish. But I’m no quitter.
It’s a perfect beer to bring to a bottle share this winter, or even just to split with a friend, as tackling this behemoth of a Pug by yourself is a challenge. A tasty challenge, but a test none-the-less.
Now for the honey, featuring one of Illinois’ oldest breweries...and one I hadn’t heard of until now - Golden Prairie.
Golden Prairie has a long history that starts way back in 1991 when they were founded by Ted Furman. It’s one of Chicago’s original craft breweries but most people, including myself, have never even heard of them. Today Furman now also works for Argus Brewing where, with their help, he is still able to make his Golden Prairie beers.
Golden Prairie is actually credited with inventing the “breakfast stout” when they debuted their Maple Stout, a stout made with maple syrup, all the way back in 1993. The very next year, the beer I have for you today claimed the title of 1994’s “World Champion Herbed/Spiced Beer.” Furman has also trained and mentored brewers from places like 3 Floyds, Jester King, and Revolution…it’s quite the resume from a brewery that has gotten so little attention in the past 20+ years.
But on to the actual beer itself. Today I have their Honey Ginger Beer, an ale brewed with honey and ginger and containing a very solid 7% ABV. Distribution is limited and varies but you can find it in bombers ($6) and 6-packs ($10) sporadically across the Chicagoland market.
It poured a translucent copper color with a little more than two fingers of dense, off-white head building up. The foam slowly began to fizzle and, after a few moments, was finally no more than a light accumulation.
The nose was that of sweet honey blended nicely with some spicy ginger. But, behind the namesake additives, there was also some soft floral notes and a light bready malt backing. It was certainly an inviting aroma if you enjoy ginger.
My first swig started off with a mild carbonation fizz before the flavors really began. And kicking it all off was a slightly heavy, thicker mouthfeel with sticky sweet honey coating my tongue. The honey wasn’t alone for long though, as a light spice joined in – the ginger – stinging my taste buds with that familiar flavor.
After the initial push of honey and ginger, the beer level off with those softer secondary flavors which provided a nice, balanced flavor the rest of the way. Those grassy and floral notes from the smell begin to peek through the spice here, along with some caramel and bready notes provided by the malts.
The second half of this brew has a very balanced flavor to it; mostly comprised of a mixture of honey and floral sweetness with just a few spikes of ginger spice here and there.
Honey Ginger Beer ends relatively clean, with just a slight dryness and a small lingering aftertaste. Staying behind after everything else had gone was a mixture of ginger spice and bready malt that stuck with me for a few minutes.
Since this beer was first brewed up, some 24 years ago, a lot has changed in craft brewing. And, while it is a pretty tasty beer up front, it doesn’t quite have the same impact that it might have back then. It holds up some but, to me, it was just above average.