Saturday afternoon found me staring at beer bottle labels at the Cardinal shop in Joliet. This time the roads were quite manageable unlike last weekend. I noticed that there were a lot more beers being sold in cans. Beer in cans is catching on as being more eco-friendly, easier to carry, resistant to breakage and lighter in weight than bottles.
There was a lot of redesigned packaging and of course, quite the smattering of brett beers and fruity and vegetable beers and others mixed with kitchen spices.
I spotted a giant bottle of DFH’s Saison du Buff, must’ve been 1.5 liters. It was quite a bit larger than a 750. Think the wine guys call it a magnum.
I saw a few Belgian beers that tempted me, but I wanted to get out of that comfort zone and try something I haven’t had in a while. For now, it was either Avery Coconut Porter or close my eyes and choose an unknown sixpack of cans from points unknown.
I finally decided to try a local beer from Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville, IL (that’s where all the Napers live. But don’t call them that. – a little Frank Dad-ism.) I’ve had a few Solemn Oath beers at homebrew club meetings. They were all decent, tasty beers. And Naperville is just a Stone Stroh (pfft!) down I-55. The brewery was added to the visit list.
What I settled on was called Ultra High Frequency and it was called an American Double Red Ale. “… a rich toasted caramel malt profile, medium body and bright citrus, melon hop notes.” Citrus and melon. Fascinating.
Being the old fart that I am, I forgot the last really good red ale I’ve had. I want to say Founders or Lagunitas (before they sold out) had a really good one that really woke me up when I tasted it. I hope this UHF beer is at least memorable.
Let’s start drinking beer, shall we?
The beer poured looking like a cross between a Pepsi and a porter. The head was a solid mass of beige suds just like a porter. Carbonation was quite lively. The aroma was something I’ve smelled before but couldn’t put my finger on. Caramel! Bingo.
The first sip was pleasant and unexpected. The malts were the stars of the show. I couldn’t say exactly which malts were in the forefront but this was a nice malty beer. Some hop flavors show up at the swallow almost like citrus and almost like something else. Perhaps a pine tree branch.
When held up to the light, the beer was a nice red color. On the desktop, the beer looked brown. After the first few sips, the head diminished to a mere film floating on top. The appearances belie the true makeup of this beer, and that’s in the taste.
If you’re a fan of caramel malted beverages, this beer is right up your alley. The malt shows up right away and then the hops finish the job nicely. Hops are more piney than citrusy but are not overbearing.
The more I sipped the beer, the more I believed it would be more “in season” if it was sold in the cooler autumn weather. Those caramel malts, as good as they were, seemed a bit out of place here in the middle of summer. But that means nothing. It’s just my opinion. Hell, if you want to drink an Imperial Stout at your patio party, go right ahead. No one will bad mouth you for it. At least until you start acting stupid.
I like this beer. I think I should step farther out of my Belgian/IPA haunts and visit some forgotten styles again. Forget about sour beers. I believe they aren’t true examples of what beer is or how it should taste, but rather bottled mistakes that some people like for whatever reason.
Today’s advice: drink beer out of your comfort zone once in a while and try more locally made brews. They’ll surprise you.
Style: American Imperial Red Ale
Taste: Odd at first. The caramel malts will carry you away.
Smoothness: Quite smooth. A little bit of pine at the swallow.
Bang for the buck: Worth it for the change of pace.
Amount paid: $8.99 per 22-ounce bottle.
Get it again? Perhaps.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: It’s red, and cloudy. (sniff) A little bit of citrus. (sip) Yes a little citrus. It’s not bittery. (sip) There’s just something… (sip) It’s different. It’s odd. (She actually said the word “bittery” and we actually knew what she meant.)
Solemn Oath Brewery [4:07]