When I think of Chicago's Field Museum
, I usually think of the final scene of Damien: Omen II
. That's where Damien is on the museum's stairs looking down at his chauffeur as a ride beckons and his aunt Ann's corpse burns inside. Now, when that scene doesn't come to mind then I envision what everyone else does: Sue the T-Rex
. Back when I was a kid visiting the museum it didn't have a fancy bistro nor a house beer. Things have changed since then.
The story goes that when Off Color
's John Leffler was at Goose Island, he sought advice on honey and befriended melittologist Megan Beckert in the process. Flash forward a few years and you find Leffler getting Off Color, well, off the ground while Beckert was at the Field Museum looking to revamp its food offerings. She approached Off Color about brewing a special beer for the museum and the result was Tooth & Claw
which debuted in 2013.
Tooth & Claw is billed as a dry hopped lager/pils and as per the museum's requirements for a broad audience, there's nothing extreme or out of left field here which is sort of odd considering Off Color's reputation. My experience with their brews is devoid of lagers, as I recall, so I was keen to find out how well they could brew one. From what I've read, the beer began to be bottled and distributed outside of the museum not long after its debut. If so, I find it odd that I never ran into it until recently. I found it at a store in the city so perhaps it's not found so readily out in the suburbs.
Since I was to enjoy some Chicago beer I figured I'd also put on some Chicago music for the occasion - The Polkaholics
! This was keeping with family tradition of drinking beer and dancing the polka.
Tooth & Claw pours a lovely light gold. Like a good pils it is clear and had a brilliant white head. However, I didn't get that much foam and what there was didn't last long. As expected it was plenty fizzy.
The aroma was what I expected – some biscuity malt and hoppy vapors that were grassy in the main but with a touch of spiciness. I can't find anything to indicate exactly what variety of hops was or were used in the dry hopping process (all German varieties were used) but I take it that the Hersbrucker were behind the grassy scent while the Tettnang added that peppery spiciness.
Truth be told, the taste was more or less what I figured it would be as well. The malt had a nice mellow cracker taste to it but also a slight honeyed sweetness which I presume came from the Carapils. This combo gave it a medium-light body. I could taste all that effervescence I saw in the glass and it gave the brew a bracing crispness. Overall the hops were at what I'd describe as a medium level (35 I.B.U.s) although I am sure eyepah drinkers would brush it off as being on the mild side. My notes say the hops tasted "herbal-grassy" and this is a combo I really enjoyed here. I guess the Hersbrucker and Tettnang provided these flavors while the Herkules ramped up the bitterness more generally.
The finish was rather dry with all those bubbles and the hop taste became spicier taking on more of a black pepper thing. That fizz also lent a mild acidity. Schaumhaftvermoegen
was light on the ground with only a handful of spots lining my glass.
I hope that my saying that the beer turned out large to be what I expected isn't taken as a slight because this is a damn good beer. The malt was perfectly restrained yet didn't lead to a watery brew. Just enough there to aid and abet the hops. I also thoroughly enjoyed the resurgent hop spiciness at the end; it added a nice tang. But I must also say that I am really loving grassy/herbal hop flavors these days and Tooth & Claw has them in spades. There's just something about the more vegetal/green flavor that I enjoy. They can give a beer a vibrant, fresh immediacy that is simply wonderful. You almost expect to taste dirt next.
Tooth & Claw is 5% A.B.V. so you shouldn't find your museum going experience impaired at lunch.
Junk food pairing: Grab a bag of The Daily Crave's Smoked Gouda Lentil chips. They're light and crispy so they don't get in the way yet the cheese adds a nice smoothness on the tongue. And smoked foods are simply great and go well in all situations.
Labels: Beer, Field Museum, Off Color Brewing, Polkaholics