Danahey On the Loose at Glunz Beer Expo XXI, looking for summer brews

Here’s a helpful hint, like Heloise would give you if she liked to drink: If you know you are going to an event the next day where you’re supposed to be sampling beer, don’t have spinach dip the night before.

Make that, don’t have spinach dip with two martinis. Experimental martinis made with Chartreuse (an herbal liqueur concocted by scheming monks) and jalapeno vodka (a pepper drink concocted by an evil food scientist working for a big booze company) with blue cheese olives as garnishes. Martinis that I am now calling Khaleesi’s Dragons, as they make you spit fire. Or something like that.

Khaleesi's Dragon martin
Khaleesi’s Dragon Martini

Hey, it was Game of Thrones night, and the above left my belly sufficiently, fittingly flayed.

Still, I visited Glunz Global Beer Expo XXI in Rosemont the following afternoon in search of brews to write about beyond Guinness, but with some connection or other to the Celts or the U.K. Beers to consider having this Memorial Day. Summer’s coming, John Snow.

Thus, I scoured the product book for the event before embarking on a mostly sip-less search to the booths with the beverages.

Page 39 led me to Nessie’s Gnarly Nectar, which was described as an 80 shilling Scottish Ale, a “light bodied, full-flavored cream ale with a crisp twist of Czech and German hops. Great floral nose with a pilsner-like mouth finish and feel.”

It sounded multicultural, and I was curious as to what a great floral nose might look like, since I didn’t feel like tasting anything.

Alas, the folks from Urban Legend Brewing didn’t have any for me to sample anyway, but told me it would be a good summer choice. Urban Legend is a craft brewery and taproom in Westmont that’s marking two years open. Perhaps a road trip will be in order.

Page 44 pointed me to Skull Splitter, a “Scottish robust ale with a distinctive flavor. It is named for Thorfinn Hausakluif, the Seventh Viking Earl of Orkney.”  You had me at Thorfinn, Skull Splitter.

Alas again, there was none to be had, pillaged, no doubt, by Orkney rebels.

However, the booth from St. Killian Importing did hold various flavors of Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beers.

Crabbie's
Crabbie’s

Jon Davidson told me that Crabbie’s, a Scottish brand, only came to market in 2008 and to the United States in 2012. It’s selling upwards of 3 million cases a year in the U.K. already, and expects to his 500,000 cases in the United States this year.

Davidson said the typical way to serve alcoholic ginger beer is over ice with a slice of lime or lemon. Crabbie’s now comes in spiced orange, cloudy lemonade, original and extra crispy. Okay, I made up the last flavor. And I did try a small taste, as ginger is supposed to settle your stomach.

The next page to draw my attention was 48, which offered Scotch Silly Cognac Barrel Aged, imported by the Global Beer Network from Belgium.

Scotch Silly Cognac Barrel Aged
Scotch Silly Cognac Barrel Aged

“This deep dark colored Scotch Ale is a perfect blend of caramelized malt and candied sugar from the mother beer with the dry flavor coming from the Cognac barrel to produce a beer that explodes with flavor,” the brochure claimed.

The description made me want to meet that mother beer, or at least buy her a card.

Next to catch my eye was Page 60, where Noon Whistle Brewing of Lombard had a brew called Cumbersome, a cucumber saison where the “yeast, black peppers and garam are cooled by cucumbers.”

It sounded refreshing, or, but for the black peppers, maybe something I could put on my eyes when they get baggy, or maybe an alternative to cucumber sandwiches should I ever get invited to an English tea party.

Alas yet again, they didn’t have any left to sample. Road trip No. 2?

So it was off to Page 63 and the Samuel Smith line of beverages, imported by Merchant du Vin from Yorkshire, where it’s the town’s oldest brewery but not the wimpy English singer who ripped off Tom Petty and won a Grammy for it.

To mix it up a little, I figured I’d ask about Sam’s organic cider instead of the beers, as chicks dig ciders and me knowing about ciders….Yeah, like that’s gonna work.

Samuel Smith's Cider
Samuel Smith’s Cider

Instead John Staunton talked me into trying Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, which he said is Smith’s top-selling flavor in America.

Staunton said the beverage would taste like a chocolate bar. Sour stomach or not, I tried a small sample. He was right. I may even have to give out some on Valentine’s Day candy next Feb. 14. I wonder if this brew will be half price Feb. 15, just like candy.

Page 66 had another beer imported from Merchant du Vin, Traquair House Ale from Scotland, which uses a recipe from the 18th century and is “a pure-malt ale that can accompany or replace a pure-malt whiskey,” according to my guide book.

Alas squared, none was to be had. The old gods and the new gods were on my side, I guess, helping me soothe my tummy by keeping me out of temptation’s way, to say nothing of out of the way of the Four Tops or the Miracles, with or without Smokey Robinson.

Finally, going off-book, I talked to Jeff Moor from importer EuroBrew about St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, which is brewed by McAuslan Brewery in Quebec. The cans look a bit like the ones for Guinness, so how could I not inquire?

Moor said that the oatmeal stout gets pretty high ratings online. He seemed Canadian, so I didn’t think he was making that up or talking about recommendations from a beer version of the less-than-reliable Yelp.

True to his word, the brew has a 99 overall rating at the aptly named RateBeer.com and a 91 on Beer Advocate.

My Glunz brochure told me “you’ll fall in love with your first sip of this rich brew, punctuated by espresso and chocolate notes, topped with a thick creamy head, with just a hint of mocha.”

I thought, where’s the oatmeal in that description, and I bet Starbucks wants in on this.

Still, who couldn’t use a little summer romance? So maybe I’ll head to the liquor store for some St. Ambroise. It’s supposed to rain Sunday and Monday anyway, so what the hell?

St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout
St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout