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I'm not even the first person at the Reader to cover Temperance: a couple weeks ago, Julia Thiel put in a good word as part of her review of the Global Beer Expo organized by Glunz, the venerable distributor whose portfolio now includes Temperance.
The brewery's existence isn't news to anybody who's paying attention, but what you might not know is that this past Friday, Temperance packaged its first beer for retail sale. Any day now, six-packs of Gatecrasher English-style IPA will start showing up on shelves, both at big chain stores (Binny's, Whole Foods) and at small specialty shops (the Beer Temple, In Fine Spirits). A few Evanston wine specialists (Vinic Wine, the Wine Goddess) plan to carry it too.
Gatecrasher is one of Temperance's three year-round offerings, alongside Smittytown ESB and Restless Years rye pale ale. But those beers were all I'd tried till yesterday, when I visited the Temperance tap room to talk to founder Josh Gilbert, 40, and drink a few things that haven't showed up on draft at the Hopleaf. (Full disclosure: Gilbert comped all my beer, including the six-pack of Gatecrasher I took home. But I did tip.)
For the record, Smittytown will go into cans next, as soon as the TTB (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) approves its label artwork. After that Temperance plans to package Greenwood Beach Blonde, a summer seasonal brewed with pineapple; Restless Years will join the six-pack lineup in the fall. If you're subject to chauvinistic feelings about industrial equipment, you might care to know that Temperance bought its canning line from a Chicago firm called Palmer Canning.
Temperance's tap room confronted me with more beers than I could hope to try, given that I was traveling by bike, so I made sure to start with Might Meets Right, an imperial coffee stout I'd heard good things about. Specifically, it'd been recommended to me the night before at CHAOS Brew Club's Cerveza de Mayo party—I'm pretty sure by Kim Leshinski, who runs the beer blog Hail to the Ale and is well worth paying attention to in any case. Made with cold-pressed coffee from Coffee Speedshop in Evanston (and identified as "extremely limited" on Temperance's menu), it wraps its mellow roastiness around flavors of sweet black iced coffee, pan-fried hazelnuts, and dark chocolate—and it's got none of the aggressive astringency that elbows everything else out of the way in less well-adjusted coffee beers.
Gilbert and his head brewer, Claudia Jendron (yet another Goose Island veteran), are aging Might Meets right in a few different spirits barrels in anticipation of FOBAB this fall. I expect it'll take especially well to whiskey—I mean, coffee does, right?
I also drank a half pint of a crisp, dry saison called Birdsong, brewed with Indiana honey; it opens with lemon and pineapple and finishes with clean, grassy hops and a bit of white-grapefruit bitterness. Threeway American-style IPA comes on bright and zingy, then reveals hidden depths—beneath its sunny aromas of tangerine, pine, and strawberry, it's got a layer of dark toffee and something oily and herbaceous like garlic chives and oregano.
What about the main attraction? The beer in the headline, I mean? Gatecrasher has an English-style grain bill—Gilbert specifically mentioned Maris Otter malt—but it's dry-hopped like an American IPA. It's 6.6 percent alcohol, which puts it firmly in the "have more than one" category.
Gatecrasher's aroma is lush and malt forward but remarkably light on its feet—there's something floral dancing out front (jasmine and violet, mostly, which reminds me that I need to learn what more different flowers smell like), plus apricot, cherry, toast with marmalade, and bit of milk chocolate and caramel flan.
On the palate this beer is full-bodied and genteel. Its flavor begins with a subdued sweetness like stewed peaches and honey, scuffed up with more of those toasty malts, then finishes with a careful prickle of herbal bitterness—think of rye whiskey without a lick of heat. It's a tough call, but my favorite thing about Gatecrasher might be its luxurious aftertaste—like creme brulee and iced tea, somehow both silky and pleasantly astringent.
Gilbert says he wants his beers to be "more about the symphony than the soloist," and Gatecrasher is balanced, delicious, and accessible. At $9.99 per six-pack—a price few craft breweries can beat—I could definitely get hooked on this one.
The obvious choice for this week's metal, considering I just used the word "accessible," is At the Gates. This Swedish band helped codify a style of melodic death metal often called "melodeath" or simply "the Gothenburg sound." Their popular 1995 album Slaughter of the Soul is reviled as often as it's venerated—a certain subset of metal fans, let's call them "assholes," think nothing of devoting valuable psychological real estate to disapproving of other people's musical tastes, and many of them blame the influence of Slaughter of the Soul for the supposed poisoning of metal's headwaters by a flood of At the Gates imitators. This is a little like blaming the King James Bible for Cormac McCarthy—needless to say, I'm not on board with the logic. (And anyway, I really liked Blood Meridian and Suttree.)
At the Gates split in 1996, but the lineup from Slaughter of the Soul is in the middle of its second reunion since 2007—and this one looks to have produced a new album. At War With Reality is due late this year.
One more thing! Chicago Craft Beer Week is coming right up. Well, I suppose it's more properly Chicago Craft Beer Eleven Days, given that for its fifth go-round it runs from Thursday, May 15, till Sunday, May 25. This year CCBW Web director Jonathan Surratt (you may know him as @beerinator on Twitter) has invited me to serve as one of several "guides" to the week's overwhelming profusion of events. I've got a profile page at the CCBW site where I'm putting together a list of stuff I'd go to see if I could be in several places at once. You can build one of your own too.
On that subject, I'm definitely not going to the Public Hop Rub, but I wanted to make sure everybody knew there was something called a "Public Hop Rub."