Sunday, February 5, 2017

Smylie Brothers Brewery

And the unplanned brewery tour continued with Smylie Brothers Brewery in Evanston.  This is the first brewery in Chicago, outside the city of Chicago, that I have gone to.  While there are many other breweries in the suburbs to visit, I am done with breweries for a while.  Located near the northern downtown part of Evanston, it is in a brick building with a large patio area that would be great for sitting in the summer, but not in January.  The inside is gray brick and black wood with a cement floor.  It kind of has a hunting lodge feel to it (although there is no taxidermy there).  There are several large communal tables, but there are also several two tops and four tops closer to the bar which is curved and sits close to the back of the dining room.  There is also a second level dining/drinking area that has a vintage bicycle sitting near the top of the stairway, but as I never went up there, I can't talk about how it looks.  The brewing area is off to one side of the dining area and is viewable through a large window.  The beers that they serve generally lean toward the sessionable with an alcohol content between 5-6% and a lighter flavor.  When I was there, they were making only one IPA and that was sold out.  They do make Belgian Strong Ales and do barrel aging for a stronger and more distinctive flavor.  As this was my first time here and I had not previously had much of their beer, I decided to do a flight.  I decided to drink two base beers and their barrel-aged counterparts, the Farmhouse Saison and its Gin Barrel-Aged counterpart and the Belgian Strong Ale and its Bourbon Barrel Aged counterpart.  All of the beers were good, but I liked the barrel-aged versions more.  The base saison was light in flavor (and the lighter color of the two beers) and wasn't as funky as many saisons tend to be.  The gin barrel-aged version added a nice herbal flavor similar to a good gin.  As there was no smokiness to it, I have to imagine that the barrel was made from a light wood and was uncharred.  The Belgian Strong Ale was richer and definitely had more flavor, considering the fact that it was 10.25% ABV, this is not surprising.  The Bourbon Barrel-Aged version was smoky and boozy and my favorite of the four that I tried.
The menu that Smylie Brothers puts out is similar to a smokehouse crossed with a bar.  There are a lot of sandwiches, burgers and pizzas, but there is also a lot of barbecue.  I was there for lunch and my trip home would take about an hour, so I wasn't really interested in anything heavy, although admittedly, seeing it on other people's plates, I did think that the barbecue looked really good.  I ordered a Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Tomato Soup with Sharp Wisconsin Cheddar, Gruyere, and Fontina Cheese and House Smoked bacon on Challah Bread, and Tomato-Basil Soup.  Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Tomato Soup is a total comfort food thing and this just stepped things up.  There was a lot of cheese with a gooey texture and a sharp and funky flavor and the bacon added a sweet, smoky, and porky flavor and a variation in texture.  The tomato-basil soup was creamy with a sweet tomato flavor and a nice basil finish.  It was good for dipping the sandwich in or on its own.

While I have been told that there are better breweries in Evanston (Temperance and Sketchbook), I liked Smylie Brothers and would be happy to return.  The food is good and I would like to try their barbecue and more of their beer which doesn't seem to rely on a single style.     

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