• Julia Thiel
  • Furthermore Beer wasn’t looking to take home any leftovers

On Monday Louis Glunz Beer hosted its annual Global Beer Expo at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. There’s always plenty of variety, but because it’s a trade tasting brewers are unlikely to bring the rare and one-off beers you might expect to see at a typical tasting—beer buyers aren’t there to taste products that aren’t available for purchase. Every year, though, there are new beers to try from new breweries, new-to-Chicago breweries, and established breweries that are expanding their lineup. Last year I was especially impressed by local newcomer Ten Ninety; this year it was Temperance and Urban Legend, both suburban breweries that launched in the second half of 2013.

Temperance claims the distinction of being Evanston’s first craft brewery, and like its neighbor FEW Spirits, has a name inspired by Evanston’s past as a dry community (FEW is named for Frances Elizabeth Willard, one of the founders of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union). I enjoyed their Evenfall imperial red ale on tap last week at the Peckish Pig, and was equally impressed by several of the beers they’d brought to the expo: Restless Years, a spicy, refreshing pale ale with rye; Birdsong, a lemony, not-too-sweet saison brewed with honey, and Might Meets Right, a roasty imperial coffee stout that tasted kind of like a cross between a stout and iced coffee.

Urban Legend, located 25 miles southwest of downtown in Westmont, opened last August, but this was the first time I’ve tried any of their regular lineup (I had a version of their Krispy Karl Russian imperial stout aged in a red wine barrel at last year’s Beer Hoptacular). My favorite was Scylla’s Grasp, a pale ale with a lovely floral aroma and a light but spicy flavor, followed by You Big Dummy, a hoppy imperial red ale which I apparently took zero notes on.

5 Rabbit has built its reputation on Latin-inspired beers brewed with unusual ingredients like mushrooms, dulce de leche, hibiscus, sage, and rosemary. They’re not as challenging as they sound—all the beers I’ve tried are well-balanced—but it’s also not a brewery I’d recommend to people with less adventurous tastes. Now 5 Rabbit has released a “Gringolandia” series aimed at bringing non-craft-beer drinkers into the fold: made up of straightforward, unintimidating styles, so far it includes a slightly hoppy “super pils” and a porter. Both were very drinkable and nonchallenging, and if the brewers were trying to make the quintessential porter they nailed it with this chocolatey, creamy version.

Similarly, Ten Ninety, which launched last spring with four high-alcohol beers—an imperial porter, IPA, and witbier, and a tripel—is now brewing nonimperial versions of its IPA and witbier that, at about five percent alcohol, clock in at half the ABV of the flagship beers. Both were as solid as I’d expect from the brewery, but it was the tart, citrusy Half Wit that I’d go back for; I loved how well the orange, coriander, and banana flavors were balanced.

The biggest surprise of the day, though, came from Malka Brewery, an Israeli import that’s new to the Glunz portfolio. I’ve never had Israeli beer before and wasn’t expecting much (Quilmes, for example, an Argentine beer also available at the tasting, is a lager with approximately the same level of complexity as Bud Light). But the blonde ale was citrusy, slightly tart, and easy-drinking; the smoky, toasty dry stout was even better.

Julia Thiel writes about booze on Thursdays.