Half Acre, Lincoln Square
The judges tasted tropical flavors, citrus, and pine in this top-rated wheaty brew. It’s often available on draft, but the judges poured from a can— which should put to rest most questions about whether quality can come from aluminum.
Lake Bluff Brewing Co., Lake Bluff
A “true-to-style” and “well-balanced” pale ale, Domingues and Quinn said. Maloney was indifferent but agreed it was “light and brisk.”
5 Rabbit, Bedford Park
“This is a beer that people should try,” said Quinn. The sharp, thick-headed amber brew earned the highest marks in the flavor category.
Ghost Bike Pale Ale
The trio thought this beer tasted like cake batter. “That butteriness overpowers the hops,” said Domingues.
Iron Fist Pale Ale
Revolution, Logan Square
This clean copper-colored ale earned average scores. Descriptions ranged from “vegetal” and “cut grass” to “sour” and “vinegar.” Concluded Domingues: “It has a lovely malt finish.”
Paddy Pale Ale
Wild Onion, Lake Barrington
Unique—but a touch “medicinal,” the panel agreed. “It’s not like every other pale out there,” Maloney said. “That alone is cool.”
Diversey Pale Ale
Atlas, Lincoln Park
This crisp, slightly sparkling golden ale was a nice “sessionable” (or sipper) beer for Domingues; Quinn concurred, calling it a “good summer drinker.” The brewers showed talent, Maloney said.
Victory Pale Ale
Emmett’s, Downers Grove
Overwhelmingly sweet, the judges said, with cloying notes of caramel, toffee, and butterscotch. “Overpowering,” as Domingues put it. Maloney appreciated the “viscous” body and “great drinkable qualities.”
Cut Throat Pale Ale
Finch's, Albany Park
This light, fizzy brew divided the panel. Quinn noted some “really cool lemon-lime notes” but thought it a bit “muddled.” Domingues found it “well balanced.”
The judges blindly tasted 18 beers and scored them in five categories—appearance, aroma, flavor, body, and the intangibles—with a perfect score being 100 points. (The scores shown are averaged.) The scorecard was crafted by Chicago in consultation with Pat Fahey of the Cicerone Certification Program. Download it and have your own tasting party.
Melani Domingues, 42
Owner of the specialty beer bar Green Lady
Michael Maloney, 35
Craft beer distributor for Stoller Beverage
Chris Quinn, 36
Cicerone and owner of the Beer Temple