For many, Half Acre beer and Chicago are inextricably linked - it can actually be pretty tricky to find their products outside of Chicagoland. This, however, was not always the case: the brewery was founded by Goose Island alumnus Gabriel Magliaro in 2006, and they brewed their first beer, the Half Acre Lager, in 2007, when they were still out in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. Since then, though, they've moved to Chicago, opened two large breweries, and started their own local recycling team. It's probably safe to say that they have successfully worked their way into the Chicago beer community.
So elusive and sought after are their beers that we only got our hands on these because one of our team members brought some back from vacation. We'd had some before - we're all very big fans of their year-round Daisy Cutter Pale Ale - but we wanted to discover some of the deep cuts, so to speak. Here's what we thought of some of their seasonal and limited edition offerings:
What’s unique about the Chocolate Camaro? This bad boy is brewed with lactose, an unfermented sugar that makes this stout extra smooth - like slicked back, greaser smooth. It's got a color like dark chocolate, bordering on motor oil, and a short, tan/khaki head around the rim. It smells like raw cocoa nibs, too, but with a woodsy vibe, like a bar of Hershey’s roasting on an open campfire.
We were happy to find that the brew tasted just as it smelled! With a smooth, wet, thin consistency, the Chocolate Camaro brought a ton of flavor to the front end without overloading us in terms of body. We were left with a roasted, sweet aftertaste that cemented our two thumbs up for this delicious brew.
At first glance, Shrub Tundra reminded us of a red, arctic willow glowing in the moonlight. No, seriously: it sits a rich red-brown, like murky cherry cola straight from a freshly popped glass bottle. It smelled surprisingly sweet, with a cashew and peanut nuttiness, almost like a nut-based bread loaf fresh out of the oven. On the tongue, though, Shrub Tundra was medium-sweet, and not too overwhelming despite the smell. A well-bodied maltiness coated our tongues, with a dry ending that made us thirsty for more.
This handsomely hopped Rye Stout is an annually brewed beer celebrating the 18th century French chemist Antoine Baumé. Among other things, Baumé invented the scale hydrometer, which measures the density of liquids - including beer. True to form, Antoine's Baumé was dense, with a dark and murky appearance. Though it displayed zero lacing, the beer almost stuck to the side of the glass - think a melted dark cherry Jolly Rancher on a hot day. It sported a very small, cargo-shorts-khaki colored head and little visible carbonation.
As we swirled the beer, a thinly sweet coffee scent rose into our nostrils, reminiscent of watered-down cold-brew. This was complicated by the aroma of roasted almonds and mild spice, with the rye grain coming through at the end of each sniff. The flavor built as well, coming in weak at first sip, then building over time. A tingly sensation arose as we drank, similar to a ginger palate cleanse. While there was some coffee bitterness, a rounded tang provided a clear, clean balance to this delightful brew.
What’s light and heavy at the same time? Half Acre’s Lead Feather, of course. With a clear, midnight hue, the brew lived up to its name, with effervescent, tight, tiny bubbles cascading around the rim like root beer foam. Lead Feather smelled like a cocktail of berry fruits with hints of herbal tea. The aroma was strong, yet soothing.
Surprisingly, it tasted completely different. We tasted a thin, brown-sugar flavor and a bubbly mouthfeel as the small bubbles rose up the glass. Traces of chocolate malt and roasted char leveled out in the back of our mouths, grounding the experience. Despite these normally heavy flavors, Lead Feather tasted quite light, making for an easy sip that played right into the contradiction of its name.