We’re lucky to live in a community that has ever-rotating options for beer from our local breweries. With winter fast approaching, I headed out to some local breweries in C-U to taste their seasonal offerings. Winter beers are often dark, malty, and made to keep a person warm on a cold day. I found plenty of tasty brews to try and some to look forward to in the coming months. I've compiled a list of six of the offerings out now and the tasting notes to go with. This winter, be sure to head out to Triptych, Riggs, and The Blind Pig for some tasty seasonal beverages that’ll keep you coming back for more.
AJ’s Stout is Triptych’s bourbon barrel imperial stout that makes an appearance every year. AJ’s Stout is dark chocolate in color with a dark brown head and plenty of bourbon and chocolately aromatic goodness on the nose. The taste is just as much, with more chocolate flavor as the beer warms up. It’s medium-bodied so it’s relatively easy to drink for a barrel-aged stout. This is a beer that will keep you warm on a cold day, as the bourbon really becomes the star on the finish.
This imperial hefeweizen is pretty much everything one could ask for in an autumn beer. The Autumnal Wheat is rich amber in color, so much that even a picture couldn’t do justice. It smells like boozy banana bread might smell, with strong banana and clove aromas. I’m a fa a hefeweizens, and this one is really pleasant. Immediately the flavor is malty and sweet, which is a little bit different than regular hefeweizens due to the higher ABV. This beer is easy to drink and has a nice sweetness that doesn’t linger too long.
Bonus: Triptych has several exciting beers being released soon! Be sure to follow their Facebook page for updates on O Christmas Meme and Because, Stout.
Triptych is located at 1703 Woodfield Drive, Savoy, and open Monday through Wednedsay, 3 to 10 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 3 to 11 p.m.; Saturday noon to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.
Scary Cherry Milk Stout
This milk stout gets an upgrade with Oregon pie cherries. It’s a dark beer that has a light cherry aroma with more roasted barley as it warms. The lactose sugar gives a milky-scent that is fairly prominent (which is to be expected from a milk stout). It’ll make you want a cherry pie: featuring both strong cherry and roasty flavors. Drink it slow to get more cherry as you go, and enjoy the sweet finish!
Olde Smitty’s Winter Warmer
Blind Pig’s winter ale is deep red in color and delivers on the hoppy/sweet balance. It’s made with local ingredients — specifically Chinook hops from Hallowed Hops in Lewiston, IL. The bitterness isn’t overdone; it is balanced by lots of spices like orange peel, Indian coriander, juniper, fresh ginger, and cinnamon. All of those spices make for a complex flavor profile, but I could especially taste the juniper on the finish. Due to the complexity of flavors, this would definitely be a beer I’d want to try again to see if I have a different experience with the flavor profile.
Bonus: If sour beers are your thing, Blind Pig currently has a Sour IPA that I really enjoy. It tastes like grapefruit juice and is just perfectly tart, in my opinion. You can find their Facebook page here.
Blind Pig Brewery is located at 120 North Neil Street, Champaign, and open 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
Riggs' 2016 Barleywine has been aged a year, so if you had it last year, it’s definitely worth a trip out to try it again. Barleywines become smoother as they age, as has the Riggs 2016 Barleywine. If you love caramel, then this beer is for you. With a deep caramel color, and very caramel-forward smell, the taste still manages to include notes of dark fruits and rich grain to start. The mouthfeel has a substantial sweetness with caramel notes on the finish. Overall it was a very complex beer.
If the immediate smoky aroma of Riggs' Schwarzbier doesn’t get you excited to try this beer, then I’m not sure what will. It smells like a campfire in a stein wafting across the table, and that’s not a bad thing at all. There’s a subtle nuttiness to it that makes me think of roasting peanuts. In the taste, you won’t get as much smoky flavor, but there is a very balanced sweet-meets-hoppy bitterness that keeps the beer light, although the beer is very dark in color. The layers of flavor here make this a fun beer to try before it’s gone!
Bonus: Riggs will be releasing a their new Black IPL in December. Updates will be posted on Facebook.
Riggs is located at 1901 South High Cross Road, Urbana, and open Thursday and Friday, 3 to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.
All photos by Katie Simpson.