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Straight From The Forbidden Root: A Shady Character

By Ben Kramer in Food on Dec 19, 2014 4:00PM

Via Forbidden Root
There are a lot of shady characters out there in the world. North Korea, Vladimir Putin, Roger Goodell, the list goes on as long as Santa’s naughty list. All these people lack manners, class and taste. One exception, at least when it comes to taste, would be Shady Character, a porter brewed with American black walnut by Forbidden Root, Chicago’s only botanical brewery.

For those wondering, botanical brewing focuses on crafting alcoholic beverages around roots, nuts, herbs, and spices such as ginger, sassafras, sarsaparilla, and dandelion. Forbidden Root picks their botanicals first, style second, as opposed to other breweries, who do the opposite.

With this in mind, Shady Character didn’t start as, "hey, let's do a porter with American black walnut and spices thrown in!" Rather, it was the idea of having American black walnut featured in a beer and supported by spices. “The grain bill,” says FR founder Robert Finkel, “is whatever it needs to be to support the botanicals.” Again, it’s about building the beer around the spices/herbs. If doing an Extra Special Bitter works best for the botanicals, then that’s the beer they’ll brew.

Doing a porter made sense to Finkel and brewer/operations manager, BJ Pichman, because the dark, chocolate character of the beer worked well with the nuttiness and slight earthiness of the black walnuts. Roasted chestnuts are mixed in to amp up the “bw’s” flavors, while botanicals such as licorice root, and star anise supply additional, yet subtle, layers of flavor. To top it off, Pichman says black tellicherry pepper is added in because, “the pepper gives it a little more pop, cranks it up a bit.”

The beer itself is easy to drink, and coming in at 6.7 percent ABV, it’s a real belly warmer. Finkel wanted Shady Character to be, “rich, but not heavy,” and that goal is achieved due to the beers healthy balance in flavors, and lighter body.

Food pairings for this beer range, with FR’s website suggesting hamburgers and barbecued brisket, while Pichman says it works well with fig jam. Cheese matches with it nicely, according to Finkel, along with, “anything with sage (or) thyme.”

Shady Character can be found at Small Bar (2956 N. Albany Ave.) Saturday, Dec. 20 for the event, “A Very Herbal Christmas.” If you’d like to own some Shady Character, you can find it at Bottles and Cans (4109 N. Lincoln Ave.) in 4-pack 12-ounce bottles.