Alright gang, time to shine the spotlight on a local craft brewer that seems to be making big strides every time I hear about them. I am, of course, referring to Finch’s Beer Company located in sunny Chicago. Now I like this company already for the following reasons: 1. Umm, hello? They’re out of Chicago. 2. They involve birds in their labels and I’m sort of a bird watching nerd. 3. They have a great festival presence and were at both MWBF & SCBF in 2011. 4. They can their beers. 5. Their latest can design was in collaboration with another local business, Chicago clothier Threadless (@threadless), and is super cool.
Plus, if you head over to http://www.threadless.com/ right now, they’ll give you 50% on purchases $25 or more (through 10am CST, March 30, 2012). No, I am not being compensated in any way to say this. I just simply enjoy both companies and wish them a lot of success.
However, I’ll try to put these biases aside and give this beer a fair review. For those curious, this brewer is widening its distribution area every day. I’ve seen it in WI & all over IL. It’s worth looking for. Let’s pour!
Aroma 11/12 It begins with a strong piney hop, but isn’t afraid to show more. The malt is a hearty version of a typical pale ale cracker/biscuit variety. It’s a toasted, bready malt with a touch of sweetness that shows enough grain aroma to make you think it might be one of the nice, seed-laden breads in the super market. Citrus is there right along with it, provided a interesting citrus that I described once as “lymon” and I stand by that call. It has the bright lemony citrus and is not hard to imagine, but it also has the darker, almost bitter citrus as when one bites into a wedge of lime after a gin & tonic. It is definitely a different citrus bitter than a grapefruit. As the beer warms, grassier hop notes arrive, but do not take anything away from the existing bouquet. They only add to it.
Appearance 3/3 This has the bright, pumpkin-flesh colors that we expect in a pale ale and also a light haze. The haze is well done as it is present enough to provide some color differentiations, but also light enough to provide a clarity that compliments the colors. The head was a light rust pastel, almost two fingers worth, leaves little lacing, and had adequate, but not stellar, retention.
Flavor 19/20 There is a brief, but intense, flash of grain and then the palate is awash in bitter grapefruit citrus, which makes up the vast majority of the beer’s backbone. To be fair, the grain doesn’t go away completely, but it does take a back seat to the hops and transitions to more of a crackery, traditional pale ale malt. The hops are not only of grapefruits, but are also somewhat peppery and lend just a slight sour note. This is a very nice myriad of flavors that all come together wonderfully! The finish is a return to its grain and grapefruit origins, is remarkably clean, and leaves the mouth very dry. Usually, that sort of drying is only achieved through a combination of hops and high ABV, but at 5.6% they appear to have done it through hops alone. I’m hesitant to mention the orange peel notes in this beer (and on its label) because this is not a “orange” beer. The only telltale sign of the orange is a rather generic citrus note and a definite bitter from the peel. A quick slurp brings the citrus and what warmth there is rapidly to the surface.
Mouthfeel 5/5 Nothing wrong here. The mouthfeel is incredibly smooth and substantial, especially for the style. This is definitely one robust pale ale. The carbonation is tiny, ample, and does not prick the tongue, again lending to this brew’s smooth nature. A light swish in the mouth yields some additional creaminess. As mentioned earlier, a quick slurp does bring out some alcohol warmth. Strange in a 5.6% ABV brew.
Overall Impression 10/10 This is a bruiser of a pale ale. In its hop content, its hearty grains, its body, and its aroma. Everything about this makes it a grandiose version of the style. If you’re drinking pale ales for their light, rice cracker malts and hints of citrus, then stay away from this one. It’ll make your eyeballs shoot directly into the bottom of your glass and because you couldn’t see that you’d probably end up drinking your own eyeballs. No one wants that.
Total 48/50 I really tried. I did. I went back and looked hard to see if there was anywhere I could deduct points that perhaps my bias had given them unfairly. Then I realized, I’m biased because I’ve had this beer before and it was damn tasty. Guess what? Still is. It’s a great, big version of the style and if you’re looking for subtlety go elsewhere. If it weren’t for the strong, grainy malts this could probably pass as an full-bodied IPA. As it stands, this instead offers more balance due to its malts and still manages to be very refreshing. It might be a bit much on a summer scorcher, but cookouts/picnics/4th of July/National Panini Month/Duct Tape Days or whatever it’s bound to be a success. As I’ve recommended before: buy this, share this, drink this. It won’t let you down and it’s gonna be GREAT this summer. Cheers Finch’s! This is fine work.
Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!