Friday, February 20, 2015

New Left Hand at Old Chicago

Sometimes you find gems in unexpected places. And that's exactly what happened last night during a visit to Old Chicago.

The longtime beer-themed restaurant chain is about a year into its Explorer Series, in which it partners with craft breweries to feature a temporary lineup of beers including one typically made specifically for the promotion. It's now two weeks into the installment featuring Left Hand Brewing.

Left Hand has expanded its portfolio significantly in recent years, ramping up its seasonal and limited releases and increasing the number of offerings it's putting on nitro. But in that growth, it hasn't broken out anything quite like De'Nile Coffee Ale, its new Explorer Series creation.

De'Nile is reminiscent of Beer Week Sauce, Left Hand's draft-only coffee porter that you typically find for special occasions like Great American Beer Festival week. But by putting this Allegro Coffee blend into a lighter-bodied base, it lets the coffee flavor shine a little more, unobscured by the extra bitterness often found in the roasted malts of most breweries' favorite base for the style, the porter.

In doing so, Left Hand has created what could be called an easy-drinking coffee beer, one that is accessible both to the coffee-adventurous who prefer their java in barrel-aged imperial stouts and to drinkers who like the flavor of coffee without the harshness that often accompanies it. And it's done so not in a wide-ranging release but in a limited edition found at just one restaurant.

I've written before about Old Chicago stepping up its game in recent years, and this Explorer Series is a good example of how that is happening. But it was interesting to see last night that its menu, at least at its Lakewood location, is stacked with smaller local craft breweries like Bonfire and Station 26 as well, and to learn that its St. Patrick's Day Mini Tour will feature Comrade Brewing's Defcon Red in Denver-area stores, right next to the Guinness and Smithwick's offerings you would expect.

The next suggestion for Left Hand: Don't let this be a purely limited-time offering. De'Nile would be a nice addition to the permanent collection.

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