Craft beer tends to be an inviting, positive community. The kind of place where new friendships are made in an instant, and help in a sticky situation (or stuck sparge) is never far away. Sure, litigation has been on the rise, but it hasn’t quite managed to tarnish craft beer’s reputation as a haven for genial, oft-bearded, pleasant folk. Outright hostility is still rare. Which is why it still elicits a bit of a surprised chuckle when a beer suggests you “go fuck yourself.” But that’s Spiteful Brewing’s well-documented attitude.
Spiteful is one of Chicago’s smallest boutique brewers, perhaps the tiniest in the entire city to commercially package and bottle its wares. How small? Their “upgrades” brought them up to a 2.5 barrel brewhouse, which is about only 10 times the amount I make during an average homebrewing batch on my stovetop. Most brewpubs selling their beer exclusively in-house use bigger systems, but Spiteful distributes it all and has no public space for visitation. Instead they just make high-quality beer that tends to fly under the radar, even in their city of origin.
The regular “G.F.Y. Stout” is one of those beers, a strong American stout that straddles the boundary between single and double at 8% ABV. For what it’s worth, the brewers don’t really think of it as an “imperial,” simply a strong, tasty riff on the classic American stout. And it’s damn good stuff.
Rarer still, though, is G.F.Y’s coffee variant, a brand new beer that currently has only six total reviews on BeerAdvocate. It proves to be as well-constructed as the original base beer, with added layers of caffeinated complexity.
On the nose, one immediately gets the Mexican coffee Spiteful uses from Chicago’s Gaslight Coffee Roasters. It’s classic coffee stout aromatics, very chocolaty and rich with a vanilla undertone and an impression like coffee ice cream. It begs, begs for a sip, and you’ll no doubt be all too happy to oblige.
It’s very round and creamy on the palate, really coating the mouth. At 8% ABV this is no slouch, but it actually feels even larger than some 10% ABV beers or more in terms of mouthfeel. Flavors grow increasingly more complex—coffee of course, but also a touch of smoke, dark fruitiness and cocoa. Coffee is there, but it doesn’t dominate this beer quite as one would expect, which is a good thing because it highlights just an excellent, roasty stout under it all. It also manages to be rich without being overly sweet, which is by no means an easy task.
This is a superlative take on a style that most of us have sampled many times before. The balance and interplay of flavors is, dare I say, sophisticated, which makes all the difference in making a stand-out beer in a crowded field.
Brewery: Spiteful Brewing
City: Chicago, Ill.
Style: Coffee Stout
Availability: Limited, 22 oz bottles