Credit: John Duggan

John Laffler, brewer, Goose Island

The beer I’m working on that I’m most excited about: Eva It’s a saison aged in oak French red-wine barrels with a ridiculous amount of tart Michigan cherries and a wild yeast called Brettanomyces clausenii. Extremely light in body, nice acid, and bursting with notes of luscious cherry skin, cherry juice, and tropical fruit from the yeast. Mild oak and funk add complexity and round out the character.

The beer someone else makes that I’m most excited about: The Publican’s Michael McAvena, who blends his own faro I don’t know anyone else in the States who does so. Faro is basically lambic blended sparingly with sugar, which sounds simple enough, but it takes a surprising amount of skill to get the balance right. I won’t give away all of Michael’s secrets, but I always enjoy stopping by the Publican. In fruit season he’ll add different fruits as a sugar source. He had a strawberry blend a couple weeks ago that blew me away.

The beer I’m least excited about in general: yet another IPA Beer is so varied and rich in tradition, flavors, and possibility that I personally get frustrated when people get hung up on any one aspect of what beer can be or brewers go chasing after the newest hop or meaningless theoretical IBU calculations. At some point it became, “Hey, I made this crazy new beer!” “What, did you just add a bunch of hops to it?” Noooo—we can do better than that. Don’t get me started on black IPAs—they’re the cheese in the crust of craft beer.

What is musician and beer connoisseur Jim Magas drinking?

Jim Magas, musician

Credit: John Duggan

Three beer-tasting milestones that shaped my perception of what beer could be:

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red You can’t officially get it in Chicago, but it’s worth a trip to Wisconsin. New Glarus’s red is so crammed with cherries that it’s like a carbonated juice pie. Sweet and tart cherries charge forth, tipped with a hint of medicinal bitterness tasting like one big Jolly Rancher. This effervescent nectar of the gods will dazzle everybody—this is perhaps the closest beer analogous to MDMA. Raspberry Tart, this beer’s red-fruit sister, is equally whimsical.

Bryggeriet Djaevlebryg Gudelos Imperial Stout It’s hard not to love the “godless” Danish imperial stout that donates a krone to the Danish Atheist Society for every bottle sold. This delicious stuff was my gateway to the boozed-up coffee/chocolate world of imperial stouts, which later led me to legendary stouts like Founders’ Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Goose Island’s Bourbon County variations, and Three Floyd’s Dark Lord.

Hanssens Oude Gueuze A blend of several lambics, this Belgian beer is something of a litmus test, deterring casual drinkers who can’t deal with the astringently sour taste. Those with the fortitude to stick through a glass will be rewarded with cascading flavor episodes that invoke visions of farms, ponds, hay, and champagne. Once the taste is acquired, this is one that will come looking for you again.

What is Jess Straka, general manager, Metropolitan Brewing Company drinking?

Jess Straka, general manager, Metropolitan Brewing Company

Credit: John Duggan

Working for a lager brewery, it’s easy to have those clean, mild brews within arm’s reach. Lately, when I’m not drinking Metro, I find myself going for regional or local beers that offer the same refreshment—but with the twist that ales are so good at achieving.

Here are my three summer picks that aren’t lagers:

Boulevard Brewing Tank 7 Boulevard is fairly new to the Chicago market and having already tried (and enjoyed) some of their other brews, I was happy to see this farmhouse ale available on tap at the Map Room (bottles are available at Binny’s). Low bitterness, not too funky, with a pleasant sweetness as it warms.

New Holland Brewing Farmhouse Hatter Mad Hatter was a beer I drank early (and often) as I explored craft beer in college. These days I find this seasonal variation bold enough while remaining approachable. A hop bomb it is not at only 53 IBUs.

Revolution Brewing’s Coup D’Etat I can’t go to Revolution Brewing without having at least one of these. I find this beer entirely refreshing—it always hits the spot.