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Chicagoist's "Beer(s) of the Week:" Arsenalnoye Et. Al @ Gene's

By Karl Klockars in Food on Apr 23, 2010 10:00PM

HugeRussianBeer 001.jpg At the end of this Monday's podcast, you might have heard Chuck and I discussing Beers of the Week based around some of the astounding selections around town during the week of the Craft Beer Conference, as well as some other ones that weren't highlighted during the fest. This is that BotW. The beers at Gene's Sausage Shop might not have gotten the press that the invading brewers received, but they might be even a little more rare - and potent.

Gene's has a tremendous selection of Russian and Baltic beers that you've probably never seen before, and when you check the price tags you might be inclined to believe you're still behind the Iron Curtain. Suffice to say if you've been assuming that Russia's rampant drunkenness is due to too much vodka, you might want to think again about that. If they can brew this beer, package it, ship it to America and sell it in plastic bottles that hold 2 quarts, 1 pint and a few more ounces of beer for about $3 a pop, how much less must it be in the Slavic states? If nothing else, it makes vodka look a little less culpable for all the alcohol abuse.

Selections like Balitka 9, Arsenalnoye and the pictured Big Mug Amber (which I otherwise wouldn't have been able to translate without a helpful label slapped on the back) all are available in gargantuan portions for nearly nothing in price. How does it taste? Well, about as good as you'd imagine - the notes I took while drinking the 4% ABV Big Mug include "tastes like prison wine mixed with sharp cheese" and "smells like despair" but thankfully, only that one is that rough. The 7% ABV Arsenalnoye is an unremarkable lager with a sour note up front that fades almost immediately, and the 8% ABV Baltika 9 is your basic alcohol transportation device. If you're buying this much beer for pocket change, perhaps taste isn't your first priority.

For being hard-to-find and interesting yet inexpensive, the Baltic beers of Gene's Sausage Shop (4750 N. Lincoln Ave.) are Chicagoist's Beer(s) of the Week.