For evidence of how far Chicago’s craft beer scene has come, look no further than the existence of Omega Yeast Labs. After all, one of the primary concerns of all brewers is access to fresh ingredients, and yet access to fresh yeast rarely seems to top the list of priorities. And why not? As one of the four main ingredients in any beer, it’s just as important as malt, hops and water, if not more-so. Ideally, a brewery would like to get its yeast as close to the source as it possibly can, to keep things fresh. Enter Omega, a company now supplying various yeast strains to both homebrewers and professional breweries throughout the Chicago area.
Armed with this knowledge, the providence of the “Omega Midnight” name becomes clear. It’s the first beer that relatively new Chicago brewers Ale Syndicate have made with Omega yeast, and it’s dark—real dark. Specifically, it’s in the ill-defined “foreign export stout” style, a burlier version of the classic Irish dry stout that is often typified by the yellow-labeled Guinness Special Export. This beer is even stronger, though—9.5% ABV to the Guinness Special Export’s 8%.
In terms of aroma, there are definitely some hallmark stout characteristics on display, with light coffee and cocoa powder notes reminiscent of Nestle’s classic “Quik.” There’s also a hint of a sweeter, fruitier presence, perhaps a little cherry cola.
In terms of flavor, though, this export stout expands and becomes significantly more complex. It’s quite bold, with strong fruit flavors of cherry and strawberry, kissed with bittersweet dark chocolate. It has an oddly funky, almost musty quality with some herbaceous hops on the back end, the sweetness increasing slightly as it warms but overall staying fairly dry. Bitterness still seems fairly strong despite the stated 37 IBU figure, limiting drinkability and making this a slow-sipping experience likely enjoyed over a longer period of time.
Overall, Omega Midnight can become slightly abrasive in its flavors, which don’t quite come together cohesively. There are individual elements here that work well, but as a whole it feels a little muddled, lacking some kind of uniting thread. It will likely appeal most strongly to those who enjoy dry, fruity stouts that are strong without being overly rich.
Brewery: Ale Syndicate
City: Chicago, Ill.
Style: Foreign export stout
IBU: 37 IBU
Availability: Year-round, 750 ml bottles