Small Bar, 2049 W. Division, (773) 772-2727 (see Note)
Four Moon Tavern, 1847 W. Roscoe, (773) 929-6666
Duke’s Alehouse & Kitchen, 110 N. Main St., Crystal Lake, (815) 356-9980
Tribes Ale House, 11220 W. Lincoln Highway, Mokena, (815) 464-0248
Note: In addition to carrying a wide selection of Oskar Blues beers, Small Bar hosts Oskar Blues Stout Night on Dec. 7 featuring Ten Fidy on draft and the rare Smidy Milk Stout on cask.
Binny’s (multiple locations in Chicago and suburbs)
Whole Foods (multiple locations in Chicago and suburbs)
Foremost Liquors, 2300 N. Milwaukee , (773) 278-9420
Gentile’s Wine Shop, 1160 W. Taylor , (312) 850-9463
Updated: November 15, 2012 8:40PM
Ten years ago, when beer cans were thought of as vessels for cheap swill, a Colorado craft brewery started putting its beer in cans and today just about everyone is following that lead.
We can thank Oskar Blues for kicking off the craft beer in cans movement — and for finally being available in Chicago.
In the late 1990s a fellow called Dale Katechis founded a restaurant in Lyons, Colo., and a year later he made a batch of brew in the restaurant’s basement. Fast forward to 2012 and we are now drinking that beer in Chicago. The Oskar Blues brewery put its signature Dale’s Pale Ale in cans in 2002 and earlier this year rolled it out, along with six other canned brews, in Chicago. They are all available on draft, too, but you will not find any Oskar Blues beers in bottles.
Dale’s Pale Ale has hops out the wazoo, and is a good choice for anyone who loves that bitter and floral bite in every sip. Deviant Dale’s IPA takes that hop content and ramps it up even more for a heavier assault of grapefruit and pine, and the beer comes in a 16-ounce tallboy can. More hops and more beer. This probably is why it is called “Deviant.”
Old Chub is a Scottish style ale that can turn a cold night warm. It is all malty and smoky, and on top of that it registers at 8 percent alcohol. Think of it as a nice controlled fire in a quaint little fireplace, which just happens to look like a green beer can.
The Imperial Red Double IPA that Oskar Blues has named G’Knight is another kind of cool weather brew with a nice hop kick, and if G’Knight and Old Chub are nice warmers then Gubna and Ten Fidy are all-out heaters.
Gubna, an Imperial Red IPA, is amber and malty, but with a huge, clean hop finish and a proceed-with-caution 10 percent alcohol. Sip, sip, sip — no gulping allowed. Ten Fidy tops all Oskar Blues beers in just about everything. An Imperial Stout, this monster hits you with chocolate and coffee and a 10.5 percent alcohol punch. Make sure not to take too many punches in quick succession. You also might think about having some food as you get punched so as not to end up face-down on the canvas.
Mama’s Little Yella Pils is a pilsner — closest in style to the American beers that gave cans a bad name, except that MLYP is a thousand times better than those beers. This is the beer for people who do not dig the more robust styles of the craft beer world. This is for the person who wants a nice, regular, easy-drinking beer. This also is for the craft beer aficionado who likes to drink really good beer in the hot summer sun, and does not want to tote around a cooler full of bottles.
Put MLYP on your “Beer To Buy Next Summer” list but be sure to try it between now and then. A hot dog tastes different outside in July than it does inside in December but it is not like you have to stop eating hot dogs — or drinking pilsner — between Labor Day and Memorial Day. I like to drink and eat with the seasons. It feels right to me. But anyone who wants to pack a cooler full of ice and canned craft beer and watch beach movies in the wintertime is all right by me.
Keep in mind what you already know about cans. They weigh less than bottles. You can cool them faster. They block the light and keep your beer fresher. They are not drinking glasses. Think of a can as a miniature keg. Get the beer out of the can and into a clean glass every time you are able. Drink directly out of the can only as a last resort.
The folks at Oskar Blues would tell you the same thing — that the can is an efficient delivery device, not a serving container. If you are in the middle of nowhere without a glass or even a coffee mug in sight then fine, drink out of the can. Otherwise, pop that can, pour that beer in and watch the glorious foam rise to the top. Take a whiff, take a sip, and say a little thanks to Oskar Blues for putting good beer in a can and encouraging so many other craft brewers to do the same.
Michael Austin is a Chicago free-lance writer. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.