An introduction to Firestone Walker

The next few posts will review beers from Firestone Walker, my new favorite brewery.  Within the last year Firestone went from unseen to relatively common in Chicago, and can now be found at numerous locations.  So far, everything I’ve had from the brewery has been nothing short of excellent.

What makes Firestone Walker unique is their brewing process. The brewery employs a process popularized in 19th century England called the Burton Union.  The Firestone Union is a take on the original and uses a system of oak barrels during the brewing process to create incredible flavors.  The goal of the brewers is to make beers that have “extraordinary character and complexity,” and succeed with flying colors.  Every beer Firestone makes is crisp and presents a full flavor that is complete and satisfying.  The founders, an American raised in wine country and a Brit, use barrels to the fullest to produce beers that are robust in flavor and always leave you satisfied.

Of the Firestone Walker products I’ve had, I’ve found possibly the best American IPA and double IPA out there, in addition to other wonderful creations.  I’ve wanted to review several Firestone beers for some time, so I felt the need to write an intro.  At this point, I put so much faith in the brewery I can’t imagine them creating anything bad, or even subpar.  Wherever you are, if you see anything from Firestone Walker, I strongly encourage you to try it.  You won’t be disappointed.


Saranac Hiatus

My last post, reviewing Saranac Pale Ale, will be my last Saranac beer for a while. I have now reviewed 20 Saranac offerings, including all six core beers and many summer, fall and winter seasonals.  I’d like to thank you, for two reasons, for sticking with me while I reviewed all of them.  First, Saranac isn’t widely distributed across the country, and because they aren’t readily available, many of you weren’t able to give them a try.  Second, if you were seeking a wider variety of beers from different brewers, you probably got tired of seeing Saranac on the site. I can see how either could be frustrating or annoying, and I apologize because of it.

It was a personal mission to review these beers.  Many of them were some of the first beers I had when developing a conscious and palate for beer.  It meant a lot and was a lot of fun to revisit these beers – some of which I hadn’t tasted in 5 years – to see how they stacked up to everything I’ve had since.  I’m glad to say that most were pretty good, some were exceptional and a few were just as good as they were the first time I had them.  All sentiment aside, I was happy with what the brewery had to offer.

So, once again, thank you for bearing with me.  I have an abundance of ideas for future posts that I look forward to bringing you, so be sure to stay tuned.

Until next time, bottoms up!

A few changes

To my readers,

I just wanted to alert you to a few changes to the site.  First,  I split up the lager/pilsner group into two separate categories.  Now that I have reviewed a number of each, I think it appropriate to give them their own categories.  Second, I have started a new category for double/imperial IPAs.  I will be reviewing several in the future and they deserve their own category.  The change only affects the 471 IPA right now.  I will generally refer to these as double IPAs instead of imperial, but know that the terms are interchangeable.

As always, thank you for your readership and comments.


Goin’ to Colorado…

To my loyal readers,

First off, thank you to all those who take time to read my blog; I truly appreciate your readership.  And for those of you who take time to comment, an extra thank you to you.

I will be in Denver this weekend, and I hope to get plenty of material for this blog. As you all know, Denver is the heart of the state that boasts the most microbreweries in the U.S., which is almost like heaven for a beer nerd like myself. I’m very excited to go west and try some beers that aren’t available in Chicago, and when I return I hope to have a slough of beers to review.  And, despite all the great IPAs that are made out West, maybe I’ll be able to pry myself to everything else.  But no promises.

Once again, thank you for reading, and see you next week.

An introduction to Saranac

The majority, if not all, of my posts in the next couple weeks are going to be from the Saranac line, made by the Matt Brewing Co. in Utica, N.Y.  I have a soft spot for Saranac.  When I was in college at Syracuse, Saranac was the most notable local brewery.  Even though Middle Ages Brewing Co. in Syracuse was closer, Saranac was the regional beer.  It drew my attention quickly.  They offered a large selection of beers, many available in any of the seasonal mixers.  To make it better, each beer had a different illustration on the label meant to capture the style of beer and to commemorate the Adirondack region.  The seasonal mixers, known as the 12 Beers of Summer, 12 Beers A Falling and 12 Beers of Winter, each contained 12 different beers, most of which couldn’t be found any other time of the year (they now contain two beers of six varieties).  Then there was the Adirondack Trail Mix, which had two beers of each of the six core beers, and could be found year-round.  Add two different Halloween and Christmas offerings, growler-sized pale ales and the ability to find these everywhere, and they begged you to try them.  It was natural for my friends and I to be drawn to this brewery, and after a few tries, we were hooked.  It was great to be able to buy one 12 pack and get to try 12 different beers, and even better to get a break from Keystone Light.  We would let each other know when we saw the newest seasonals at the store, and that was reason alone to make a trip to stock up on groceries.

It’s unfortunate I never got to tour the brewery (I get there at some point), but three years underage cut down my time to do that, coupled with a tight budget.  The brewery was started in the late 1800s by the Matt family, who were German immigrants, and quickly became a prominent regional brand. When Prohibition hit they turned to soft drinks to stay afloat, and still offer them today.  Since then they have remained regional, but seem content with it.  They are firmly entrenched in the culture of the Adirondacks, a state park that covers 6 million acres of wilderness in Upstate New York that includes mountains, lakes and streams.  The word Saranac is Iroquois for “Cluster of Stars” and everything they do is done with the surrounding area in mind.

As great as it is to stay locally focused, the downside is that it can’t be found in Chicago and is sparse the further west you go.  Of course this adds to the enchantment of it, but at times it’s just frustrating.  I was ecstatic a week ago to walk into a liquor store in Iowa City and see a collection a Saranac with my name on it.  Not only did they have six packs of a summer seasonal and the 12 Beers of Summer, but they still had the 12 Beers of Winter.  I did what I had to do and bought several cases to last me awhile.  So, following this post there will be reviews of 12 Saranac beers.  They will all be seasonals since it was all I could get my hands on, but in time I will get to the core beers.  I apologize you might not be able to readily buy them and give them a try, but hopefully you’ll eventually get to try them.  I’m actually a little scared to review them.  This is the craft beer that got me started and I remember them positively.  I don’t want to taint those memories, but I’m ready to go into each one with an open mind.  Hopefully you enjoy the following posts as much as I will writing them.

A little about me…

Before we get started on the posts, you should know about me.  I currently live in Chicago, but my beer drinking days started while attending college at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y.  Eventually I got tired of drinking cheap college beer all the time and wanted to see what else was out there.  Curiosity also had something to do with it, because I’d always look at the random six packs I’d pass on the way to the cases of 30 awful-tasting beers.  So, sick of drinking Keystone Light all the time, my roommate and I decided when we went to the grocery store every week or two we’d each get a different six pack and split them.  We expanded our palettes quickly and reverted to the cheap stuff only because of financial restrictions.

My taste buds continued to yearn for different and more obscure beers.  After graduation I came home to Chicago and I was able to find bars that offered wide selections of tap and bottled beers.  The only problem was that many of the beers I’d grown to like out East can’t be found here.  On the other hand, I was able to find things in the Midwest that I couldn’t find at school.  Add vacations, and I was able to find more local brews from around the country, enjoying the experience of discovering more.

I’m happy to be living in the Midwest right now because the region is the latest to be undergoing the “microbrewery revolution,” as so many people refer to it.  We all know the rebirth of quality American beers started out West with home brewing and their growth into full-scale productions (e.g. Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada).  The East followed next with their own crop of small-scale breweries (Dogfish Head, Magic Hat, Brooklyn), the reemergence of older breweries (Yuengling, Saranac) and probably the most influential microbrew ever in this country, the Boston Beer Company’s line of Sam Adams.  Once Sam Adams succeeded on the beer scene, people started trying new varieties and more microbreweries emerged.  And now the Midwest is the breakout region, with Goose Island (Chicago), Three Floyds (Munster, Ind.), Leinenkugel’s (Chippewa Falls, Wis.), Summit (Twin Cities) and Great Lakes Brewing (Cleveland, Ohio) leading the way.

American beer is finally something to be proud of, and I’m taking it upon myself to lead you on the journey.  If you have an opinion on something I review, let me know.  If you have a suggestion for future posts, let me know.  And if you disagree with me, let me know.  I’m open to conversation.

You should also know that I have a love of Pale Ales and India Pale Ales, but more on that later…


…And welcome to StevesBeerBlog.  I love trying new kinds of beers, and it was getting hard to remember and categorize them all in my head.  I needed a way to keep track of them.  I figured if I was going to start making lists and critiques of my own, I might as well publish them for you fine people to read, comment and discuss with me and each other.

My goal is to give insightful reviews and thoughts on the ever-increasing list of American beers.  America has been going through a fantastic brewing transformation over the past 30 years, and it continues to get better.  I’m here to help sort through all that has been produced by the three majors brewers and all the wonderful (and not so wonderful) microbrews popping up all over the country.  Every so often I’ll feature an international beer to mix things up because, well, they’re pretty good too.

So stay tuned, stay thirsty and get your thoughts together for my upcoming entries.

"Good people drink good beer." - Hunter S. Thompson