Brewers and Their Beers: Skeleton Key
today at 11:30 pm
One of a series of summaries about Chicago area brewers that I rarely get to add to. But the situation demands it this time.
As we’ve covered earlier, Skeleton Key Brewery in Woodridge suffered extensive damage in the June 19 tornado that ripped through the southwestern suburbs. As of this writing, there are are fundraisers going on to help them recover and keep staff on payroll, with a maze of insurance issues to go through, both as a business and with the owners of the small industrial/office park where they were located.
On July 6, the SKB crew did their first post-tornado brew at Buckledown Brewing in Lyons. Their Facebook post noted that they had five beers scheduled for release around Father’s Day. Whether they meant before or since the tornado is uncertain, but the chance is good that more Skeleton Key beers will turn up soon.
Skeleton Key opened in 2016 as a taproom only brewer. Their plans involved an incubator program, to help new brewers gain knowledge and skills to strike out on their own. SKB had just begun to move into packaging its own beer to make up for business lost during the pandemic. The day after the tornado, the brewery’s employees, management and several volunteers helped shift their surviving kegs and cans to Miskatonic Brewing in Darien, from which many retailers were able to pick up beer to help raise funds.
While I’ve been to Skeleton Key a couple of times, it was usually to try some of their specialty tappings, including the Black is Beautiful collaboration or the Box of Chocolates Imperial stouts. But the beers now pouring or selling at other places would have represented their “flagship” brews, at least had they not been knocked out. So I’m summarizing the beers I’ve been able to pick up in the past few weeks.
7th Evil Ex Schwarzbier
7th Evil Ex was on tap at nearby Goldfinger Brewing, just listed as “Schwarzbier.” I did a One Take Beer Review at that location. Had to sit outside, away from other patrons so they wouldn’t be bothered. And if their background music was audible, I could have gotten a copyright strike on the YouTube. But that also meant picking up wind and traffic noises. Still, this turned out all right for a cell phone video.
Some American brewers tend to think of a Schwarzbier and just a stout with lager yeast. But SKB managed to retrive the German style here. No overly roasty malts. Just a mild malt aroma with a touch of graininess. The color is a deep brown-to-black, with a lot of lace as the head in the .5l glass settles.
The taste is pretty light considering the color. Yes, some there are some dark stout-like malts on the palate, but it’s not very acidic. Hop profile is not too strong, but it does keep this malty boy from coming on too sweet. Kind of the lawnmower version of a schwarzbier, easy drinking with just a note of roastiness, and not likely to show me down even with a mug this size.
Lost in the Ivy Red IPA
A Red Ale, maybe a Red IPA, with “Michigan-grown Strata & Citra hops,” though with a medium 30 IBU.
I had this ale on draft at Orange & Brew. A little mild in the malt department but with a hoppy base. Red-amber color in glass, with a brown eggshell head. Equal notes of toasty malts and good old bitter hops. Taste keeps up the balance. If the alcohol is slightly high octane, it plays no part in the taster glass I had.
Paintball Fight Kettle Sour
The Lost in the Ivy I had at Orange & Brew was enjoyed as I bought the two canned beers the store had. This is a straight kettle-soured ale, no fruit or other additions.
It pours a big head, which proved ultimately frothy and short-lived, over a slightly hazy yellow beer body, with lots of bubbles on the sides. The kind of fizziness that invited Napoleon to compare Berliner Weiss beer to Champagne, allegedly. There’s merely a light tartness in the nose. Not too much else to go by with the aroma for now.
A rather zesty tart taste, perfect for people new to the style. No fruit, and surely not enough hops to make much of a difference against this sour drink. A solid example of a kettle-sour, where lactobacillus is added to the wort in the kettle, after cooling. It’s allowed to sour for a few days, then re-boiled and fermented as normally.
I’ll add more Skeleton Key beers here as I get to them. Stay tuned!