Beer and Metal: Spiteful Brewing's G.F.Y. Stout

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I first encountered Ravenswood's Spiteful Brewing, founded in January 2010 by childhood friends Brad Shaffer and Jason Klein, last month at the Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer, where they made their public debut with a version of their G.F.Y. Stout that they'd aged (by the taste of it rather briefly) in a freshly dumped bourbon barrel from Evanston's Few Spirits. According to a post at Girls Like Beer Too, the Spiteful guys operate in a space that's just 480 square feet—an argument for the use of the term "nanobrewery."

You might already recognize the Spiteful logo, because Shaffer worked as a bike messenger for much of the past two years and plastered the brewery's stickers all over town during his rounds. But the G.F.Y. Stout, their first commercially available beer, didn't arrive on store shelves till December 5—it's now available at a bunch of Binny's locations, Fischman Liquors, and Capones Liquor. I paid nine bucks for mine. Follow Spiteful on Twitter for updates on releases and locations.

Shaffer and Klein also have a Christmas ale in the works, for which they juiced four pounds of ginger by hand. I don't generally care much for holiday beers, unless they're Belgian—I don't get why the Great Lakes Christmas Ale has a cult following, for instance—but that detail about the ginger has piqued my curiosity. Powdered ginger just makes me think of cookies, but the fresh stuff can have a real bite.

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G.F.Y. has a pretty modest head—I have to pour it irresponsibly roughly to get much more than a ring—but it's faintly, finely effervescent, not flat. It's remarkably dark and opaque, especially considering that it's only 8 percent alcohol—somewhat gentle for an imperial stout. It smells of roasted barley, molasses, licorice, baked plum, and unsweetened chocolate, with a little whiff of clean, piney hops. (The label mentions Fuggle and Cascade.)

In my thumbnail review of G.F.Y. from FOBAB, I called the barrel-aged version "surprisingly light for an imperial but satisfyingly silky, with molasses and licorice the dominant flavors." All those things are true of the unaged stout, but now that I'm focusing on it, I can taste dark chocolate too—it reminds me of the excellent Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. There's an intense roastiness too, which I don't remember from the festival; it might have been mellowed by the bourbon barrel. Everything blends together into a single powerful flavor, though as I've mentioned the beer is quite easy drinking for its style, not heavy or syrupy.

Oso Malo might be a bit of a stretch. The Spiteful guys call him Abrasive Bear.
  • "Oso Malo" might be a bit of a stretch. The Spiteful guys call him "Abrasive Bear."

I'm not sure if the acronym G.F.Y. is supposed to stand for "good for you" or "go fuck yourself," but the label art suggests the latter. The copy reads, in part, "If you don't know what GFY means, then . . . GFY!"

The cartoon bear delivering what appears to be an obscene gesture provides me a segue into the "metal" portion of the post. I'm a great fan of Thrones, the solo project of bassist Joe Preston, who's also played in the Melvins, Earth, High on Fire, and Sunn 0))), among many other bands—I wrote a Critic's Choice in 2006, in fact. Thrones have a song called "Oso Malo," which means "evil bear." It sounds quite a bit more menacing and unhinged than the Spiteful mascot looks.

The same album, an untitled 2000 release often referred to as "Sperm Whale" due to its cover art, also includes "The Anguish of Bears."

And just for the hell of it—it's the only other metal song in my iTunes library with "bear" in the title, basically—here's "Black Bear" by goofy Philadelphia sludge duo Hulk Smash.

Philip Montoro writes about beer and metal, singly or in combination, every Monday.

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