31 July 2008

Illiana Beer Trail (Introducing Jess)

Since this is my first post, I feel I need to introduce myself. I'm one of the smoked beer riffraff and I was on the injured reserve list for the Microbrewer's Festival this year, and a word to the wise - stomach flu and drinking doesn't go well together.

Not so long ago, at the last Rock Bottom Brewer's Dinner downtown, Iain Wilson of the Orland Park Rock Bottom told us of a magical journey starting in Northwest Indiana and ending in Chicago. This journey would take us through a brewery adventure that we hadn't anticipated. It would appear that Three Floyds, Flossmoor Station and the Orland Park Rock Bottom are all conveniently about a 15 minute trip apart, and all along a route to Chicago. Now I won't lie to you, it's a very confusing trip that got us lost multiple times thanks to road names being different in person than they are on Google Maps, but ignore that, you'll want to make this pilgrimige again and again.

We started out at Three Floyds early in the afternoon. Unfortunately, we were immediately met with bad news, Fantabulous Resplendence was not currently on tap. We held back tears (mostly until we saw that we could purchase bombers of Fantabulous Resplendence to go) and Rod ordered a sampler of the standard 4 Three Floyds beers; Pride & Joy, Alpha King, Robert the Bruce and Dreadnaught. All of them were pretty typical except for the Robert the Bruce, which was much more malty (and delicious) at the source.

The beautiful bar area at Three Floyds, more bars need chalkboards with their tap listing!

The Osti Helles was described as a smoked helles.
Jess: I immediately picked out a significant smoked nose, reminiscent of hot dogs. The flavor, however, did not carry as dominant of a smoked flavor. A delicate kolsch-like fruitiness emerged that balanced well against the light smoked flavor. This was a very refreshing summer beer!
Rod: I found a layer of pears underneath the mesquite smoke aroma. The pears carried through into the flavor of the beer that was gradually followed by a fatty smoked meat flavor. At the swallow the smoked flavor almost completely disappeared providing a crisp, clean finish. The first taste proved to be the smokiest, as later drinks became more sweet and developed a German lager level of hoppiness.

The Osti Helles, quite delicious, quite light in appearance

Thanks to Indiana Beer Week, Three Floyds still had on the New Albanian Conesmoker and Brugge Tripel de Ripple. Since we've had the Tripel numerous times, we naturally moved to the Conesmoker. Are you noticing a pattern here?
Jess: This beer had a very faint nose containing traces of roasted malts. The flavor was more hopped than smoked and would prove a good starting point for someone unfamiliar with smoked beers.
Rod: I picked out the trademark Schlenkerla smoked nose. The flavor was a balanced combination of ruby red grapefruit, grapes, cherries, citrus hops and smoke. The finish was quite hoppy for a smoked beer.

Conesmoker on the left, Alpha Naught on the Right

Rod picked out the Alpha Naught as our final beer of the visit since neither of us had tried it.
Rod: The nose was full of evergreen and citrus. The flavor of this beer can only be described as hops. Every kind of hop flavor you can imagine. Citrus, evergreen, herbs, honey, butter and bitterness, all brought out by the hops. If a beer can be complex purely on hop flavor, this is it. Quite well balanced, despite the hop insanity going on.
Jess: A very chardonnay-like nose. The flavor is tart, spicy and hoppy with grapefruit pine notes. Very inviting for the Imperial IPA style while still retaining the hop "bite."

We then proceeded to get lost looking for Flossmoor Station, but after driving around a bit (including going past the Infant Jesus of Prague - seriously did someone name the Church after that bit in Talledega Nights?) and a call to the brewery we got ourselves straightened out. That's right, Rod called for directions, someone should take his man card or something. Flossmoor Station is very unique because it's actually connected to the Metra Flossmoor stop. The interior is done up like some kind of railroad station meets a Rock Bottom, it feels a bit like manufactured but still comfortable. We decided to go with a sampler of all the beers to try as many as we could. As a result, these reviews will be much more brief.

An interior shot of the bar area, there's a train going around the ceiling.

Zephyr Golden Ale
Jess: Light nose, lemony American Pilsner style
Rod: Lemon pilsner nose with a slightly hopped flavor. Standard pilsner

Gandy Dancer Honey Ale
Jess: Hoppy, caramel nose, smooth honey flavor with a rye style hoppiness
Rod: Honey, malt and a bit of..... vomit in the nose. Kind of gross. The flavor doesn't have that last item at all but instead is composed of caramel malt, honey sweetness, rye and a slight bitterness. Tastes better than it smells.

Station Master Wheat Ale
Jess: Lemon nose, hoppy taste for a wheat. Overall a good American wheat, reminiscent of 312.
Rod: Typical hefeweizen nose of yeast, banana and citrus. Lemon and light malt with a sweet, watery finish.

Roundhouse Raspberry Ale
Jess: Dried fruit nose, sweet raspberry taste, very standard for the style
Rod: Getting soap, raspberries and a sock smell in the nose. Odd. The flavor is super raspberry, lemon and honey. Like Oaken Barrel Razz-wheat plus sugar but less fizzy.

ReplicALE Belgian Blonde
Jess: Nose of coriander and orange. A creamy texture reveals a warm, almost wheat taste. Similar to a hefeweizen.
Rod: Orange, banana, lemon zest, coriander and cream in the nose. Cream, lemon, lemon zest, banana, honey and malt in the taste.

Pullman Nut Brown Ale
Jess: Great hazelnut meets porter nose. Creamy, robust nutty taste with lots of caramel. A great dessert beer!
Rod: Roasted coffee bean and caramel syrup aroma. The beer was lighter and more bitter than expected from the nose. Flavors of coffee, dark chocolate and walnuts.

Our impressive sampler tray, we enjoyed the design and descriptions on the mat.

Milky Way Stout
Jess: Basic malt / toffee stout nose. Big lactose sweetness with a very smooth slight bourbon taste.
Rod: Dark roasted malts and a slight coffee and chocolate aroma. Similar to an imperial stout but not as alcoholic. The flavor brought out characteristic sweet stout flavors such as lactose, dark malts and coffee. Nutty flavors were mixed in with a light bourbon finish.

Jess: Perfumey nose. Cherry tartness with the same level of tartness as Diamond Kings' persimmons.
Rod: Hilarious name for a Flanders Brown! Yeasty funk to the nose with cherries, malt and a distinct sourness. The flavors were composed of cherries and persimmons with a caramel maltiness and a balanced sour flavor. Very refreshing and clean finish with a light tartness remaining. Definitely a good session beer.

Jess: Belgian style anniversary ale with a big banana nose. The flavor is a banana-plosion! Like 99 bananas beer. This needs to be aged.
Rod: Tons of banana in the nose with an alcohol sweetness. It tasted of banana candy, alcohol and mint.

Panama Limited Red Ale
Jess: Hops! Very hoppy nose with a slight malt finish. Grapefruit and red ale maltiness with pine needles.
Rod: The nose on this one was very malty and sweet. The bitterness was that of an ESB with caramel malt flavors and grapefruit hops. Reminded me of the Raccoon Red at the Rock Bottom Downtown.

Lady Columbian IPA
Jess: Pine nose, not very strong but a great balance between hops and drinkability
Rod: Big wet cascade hops in the nose. Grapefruit hop flavor with high IBUs. Kind of like the Sugar Creek Pale at the Downtown Rock Bottom but sweeter.

We decided to finish out our visit with a full tulip glass of Leftorium. A great choice by us if we do say so, it was the perfect compliment to the free appetizer bar that we stumbled upon at Flossmoor.

The Flanders Brown "Leftorium" - seriously, we laughed about that for a while. We're easily amused apparently.

After Flossmoor we headed towards the Orland Park Rock Bottom. With 14 beers on tap and after reviewing 12 at Flossmoor we decided to say screw this reviewing stuff, we want to just savor the flavor!

As you can see from the picture, this is a fully equipped Rock Bottom!

You may remember Iain from the College Park Rock Bottom. He was the previous brewmaster up there, and moved to the Orland Park location when they opened (placing Liz at the reigns at College Park). The most impressive beer here was the American Dream aged in Bourbon Barrels. It had a huge bourbon flavor which was very surprising for a hoppy APA. More brewers should do this instead of only using the barrels on stouts! We'll definitely make this journey the next time we head up to Chicago!

Thanks Iain for the idea and starting a tradition on our Chicago trips.


  1. that's a whole lotta beer.

  2. I don't think we drank enough that weekend...or had nearly enough nachos.