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Chicagoist Beer Of The Week: Solemn Oath's La Grippe

By Jason Baldacci in Food on Feb 1, 2013 7:20PM


When we wrote about Butterfly Flashmob from Solemn Oath Brewery a few months back, they were already the darling of many craft beer enthusiasts in Chicago. But after landing on the cover of the January issue of Beer Advocate Magazine, which touted them as one of the best new breweries in America, we can't help but consider them to be downright hometown heroes, even if the brewery itself is out in Naperville.

Solemn Oath's latest release, La Grippe, is a dark, Belgian-Style Farmhouse Ale. Heavily roasted grains are prevalent on the nose and lead to big notes of fig and caramelized blueberry up front. On the mid-palate, there's a dominant essence of black strap molasses that almost takes over the mouthfeel of the beer. At 10 percent alcohol content, La Grippe is full-bodied to the point that it's almost chewy, and we mean that in a good way. It does feel a little boozy on the finish at first, but we found ourselves noticing this less and less after every sip. There's a spicy hop profile that's relatively subdued, but balanced within the beer. This is a malt-forward monster of a farmhouse ale, and one that we enjoyed drinking quite a bit.

"Farmhouse" is a term that we tend to see on a lot of beer labels these days, and it typically refers to the Belgian Style of beer called "Saison." "Saison" is the French word for "season," and the beer style of the same name traces back to the farmhouse breweries of Wallonia, which is the French-Speaking southern region of Belgium. Before mechanical refrigeration, brewers weren't able to make beer in the summer time, as it would spoil in the warmer months. Instead, they had to brew as much beer as possible before the summer, and hope that the stockpile would last until fall. These beers were called "Saisons" in reference to the brewing season, which typically started in October and ended in March. While most saisons are blonde in color, with an alcohol content ranging from 5-8 percent, the style is very broad, vastly represented, and certainly open to interpretation. With La Grippe, the good people of Solemn Oath have interpreted one of the darkest and heaviest versions of the style we've come across yet, but we're not complaining.

Try La Grippe on tap this weekend at Emporium Arcade Bar or Small Bar Division Street, or make the trek out to the Solemn Oath Taproom in Naperville, which is open from 12-9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 11-7 p.m. on Sunday.