Is there better way to spend a day than sampling beers with family? My dad, my brother, and I had a fantastic bonding experience while sampling beers at two new breweries in the area where I spent my first eighteen years—the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. Here, I will recap our experience at the first venue, Scorched Earth, with the second brewery recap coming soon.
Scorched Earth Brewing Company (@ScorchedEarthBr) is right in my hometown of Algonquin, Illinois. Although they started brewing in June 2014 for festival and restaurant engagements, the taproom itself has only been open for about two months. It was perfect timing for my hop-loving brother, Joe (@J_Ross023), my porter-loving dad (@BigDaddyR), and I to form a well-balanced panel for trying their ten tasty drafts (ABV/IBU).
We started with their American Cream Ale, Hickster (5.5/14), which featured cracked corn direct from Farm and Fleet as its defining, yet subtle, flavor. To me, this filling ale was reminiscent of a witbier, but with a drier finish. To please those with a craving for a little more sweetness in their creamy pale drafts, Scorched Earth also offers Guildmeister (4.8/16), a German-style Kölsch. Despite the usage of German malt and hops, this beer cannot TECHNICALLY be considered a Kölsch, according to the Kölsch-Konvention of 1986, because it was not brewed within the Cologne region of Germany; however, this crisp beer was inspired by founder Michael Dallas’s German heritage. When I saw name Guildmeister, I conjured images of Dungeons and Dragons, but Dallas shared with me the name’s simpler origins. Guildmeister is reflective of those who form communities based on a shared hobby, like homebrewing—those “individuals who put such pride in what they do and share it with others.” Although I greatly enjoyed the smoothness of Hickster and the sweetness of Guildmeister, Dad and Joe were ready for something more aggressive.
We moved onto Public Servant (6/60), a Rye Pale Ale. I was intrigued by the combination of rye malt and hops, but this ale was too aggressive and too bitter for my taste. Dad and Joe seemed to enjoy this complex blend, but they both preferred the traditional IPA, Base Jumper (7.2/80). Despite the higher IBU rating, I actually could tolerate the bitterness of Base Jumper because it didn’t linger and build on the palate, but I would not have ordered a whole pint like Joe did. Scorched Earth also offered another beer with a crisp aftertaste—their sour Berliner Weisse, Der Sommer Besitzer (3.4/4), but we were more excited for their line of porters.
Dad and Joe were fans of Rugged Coalminer (5.9/35), a robust porter reminiscent of Guinness. The menu described a “smooth caramel body softly [balancing] the chocolate coffee,” and I could not help but to expect something much more decadent, like KSBC’s fantastic PB Cup Porter. Although the coffee flavor is good, the caramel and chocolate flavors were masked by the smokiness of this porter. The Imperial Pumpkin Porter, Crypt Keeper (8.3/25) seemed to be more my speed. We were lucky enough to try two different versions of this Pumpkin brew. For the traditional draft, I didn’t taste any pumpkin, just pumpkin spices, to which Dad replied, “Pumpkin flavor is all spice anyway.” Dad and Joe enjoyed this porter, but preferred the Coalminer. The second version of the Crypt Keeper was cask-conditioned in a firkin (which allows secondary fermentation but without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure). For the Crypt Keeper firkin, extra molasses and pumpkin spices were added for the secondary fermentation process, which gave the beer a much more aggressive pumpkin flavor and aroma. I preferred the firkin to the traditional draft because of its bolder flavors.
Finally, I was most excited to try their saison, the French Merchant (5.5/25), and the wide variety of bold spices did not disappoint; however, my favorite Scorched Earth brew had to be their German-style Marzen brew, aptly called Oktoberfest (6/28). This amber lager was as pretty in color as it was delicious in taste. As this was one beer my dad, my brother, and I could all enjoy, one could say that Oktoberfest truly brings families together.