Saturday, March 16, 2013

An Evening with Ale Syndicate

This week, the team at Ale Syndicate sent out invites to a handful of beer bloggers in the Chicago area to dine on some Mediterranean food and preview a couple of their concoctions. The new self-proclaimed collaborative brewery is currently being built out on the Green Exchange campus, but brewery owners (and brothers) Sam and Jesse Evans, are eager to get the first of their beers into the hands and mouths of Chicagoans as soon as possible.

Municipal IPA and Richie Imperial Porter.
It's obvious which is which, right?
And soon it shall be. Their first beer, Richie, an Imperial porter, goes to market this Monday, March 18th, hitting taps at several locations around the city. A second offering, Municipal IPA, will soon follow. Bottles are due to hit selves sometime in May. First,though, Ale Syndicate wanted to get the word out about these brews and how they actually taste.

Enter: Beer Bloggers

I arrived at Troy Mediterranean Grill right at the 6:30pm start time on Thursday and immediately knew I was at the right place. A long table of fellow writerly types sat dead-center in the small, but cozy restaurant. I found a spot that suited me as a lefty next to a couple of familiar faces. It seemed like a few of us had been following each other around from event to event this week. We all chatted and sipped water patiently until our hosts arrived.

Right on queue, the Ale Syndicate team started trickling in, with Sam carrying a large cooler that caught our eye immediately. Just as the appetizers arrived, we started passing bottles of Richie and Municipal down the table as our hosts handed out tasting glasses. 

I started with Richie, which (and yes, I almost typed 'who') poured a deep, dark brown with a light, frothy head. The aroma immediately caught my attention with dark, roasted coffee highlights. All of the coffee aroma and flavor came straight from the malt, though, with no coffee added to the batch. Flavor-wise, Richie lives up to its name, with strong coffee and cocoa overtones, but very little bitterness and a smooth finish. 

Next, Sam poured me a sample of their Municipal IPA. Golden and very clear, it paired really well with the Turkish food on our plates. As the first of what is planned to be a single-hop series, the beer's Cascade hops sang to my tongue, crisp and full of citrus, with just a hint of pine. 

Both beers are excellent examples of their general styles, but are also complex enough to stand out as more than just another porter or IPA. Turns out, it's deliberate. When I asked Jesse what the brewery's overall philosophy is in terms of their beer, he used only one word to describe it: complexity. 

Jesse and Sam Evans of Ale Syndicate
The rest of the evening was spent with Jesse and Sam taking turns visiting opposite ends of the table so that everyone had a chance to visit with each of them. They explained how they decided on their location at the Green Exchange and their reasoning behind choosing the name Ale Syndicate.

"We wanted this brewery to be something bigger than just the two of us. And it will be," Sam explained. While their own beers will mostly be brewed in their larger, 30 bbl system, they'll also have a small 5 bbl system for their partners, including Arcade Brewery, to use. Sometime down the line, they would like to bring in homebrew clubs for some special collaborations and events. There's even space outside the brewery on a dead-end street for future outdoor events and possibly even street festivals. 

Above all else, the pride the Evans brothers showed in their brewery, the beer itself, and the city of Chicago was highlighted all evening. Sam and Jesse want Ale Syndicate to be more than just another Chicago brewery, but also a symbol of everything they love about the city and its beer community. From the simple, utilitarian designs of their logo and labels to the bold flavors of their beers, everything about Ale Syndicate indicates they have an opportunity to put their own stamp on Chicago craft beer, just as the city itself has influenced the philosophies behind the brewery.

Full Disclosure: beer and food at this event were complimentary to the guest bloggers.

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