Here, our favorite craft beers of 2010. PLUS: Tell us in the comments below, what’s your favorite Chicago beer?
AMERICAN PALE ALE PIECE’S FULL FRONTAL The beer landscape is filthy with light brews. We tried nine local pale ales that range from watery nothingness to gag-inducing bitterness, and a balance resides in the citrus nose of Full Frontal. Piece’s award-winning brewer, Jonathan Cutler, says that hint of fruitiness is pure American hops. The Chicago native uses a dry-hopping technique (meaning the hops are not boiled) to remove the notable bitterness common in heftier—and sometimes boozier—pale ales, leaving Piece’s gold-hued beer with a light, clean finish. $5 AT PIECE BREWERY & PIZZERIA (1927 W. NORTH AVE.; 773-772-4422)
SAISON GOOSE ISLAND’S SOFIE It’s telling when a Midwestern brewery makes more Belgian-style beers than wheat ales and pale ales put together: Belgian is on the rise. Not that every offering from Goose Island is a winner—we say, “Non, merci” to the cloying Pere Jacques, for example—but Sofie had us at bonjour. Effervescent and sunny, this saison starts off citrusy with a hint of orange and warms up with notes of vanilla. Zesty and fizzy but not at all sweet, it’s a lot like Chicago with a French accent. $7 FOR A 12-OUNCE POUR AT GOOSE ISLAND’S TWO BREWPUBS; ALSO AVAILABLE AT LIQUOR STORES CITYWIDE
PORTER REVOLUTION BREWING’S EUGENE A question for Chicago brewers: When you noticed, a year or two back, that every beer bar worth its malt was doing brisk business in Edmund Fitzgerald, a standout porter from Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Co., did you think, Hey, maybe we should make a porter year-round? No, you didn’t. Meanwhile, the Fitz has continued to corner the market as locals have, well, missed the boat—save for one young upstart. Kudos to Rev Brew for bringing us Eugene, a velvety porter that, despite its vigor, isn’t too overbearing for a hot summer day. $6 A PINT AT REVOLUTION BREWING, 2323 N. MILWAUKEE AVE.; 773-227-2739
WHEAT BEER THREE FLOYDS’ GUMBALLHEAD If you can find a six-pack of Gumballhead on a summer holiday weekend, count yourself lucky. People hoard this stuff (with good reason). The brew from Munster, Indiana, pours much darker than competing wheats, such as Goose Island’s 312, and contains a gentle bitterness and a citric, hoppy punch that surprises most first-timers. But this is no lip-pursing India pale ale. Gumballhead glides down the gullet—which is why those six-packs disappear so fast. $5 A PINT AT THREE FLOYDS’ BREWING CO. (9570 INDIANA PKWY., MUNSTER, INDIANA; 219-922-4425); ALSO AVAILABLE AT LIQUOR STORES CITYWIDE
Photograph: Anna Knott