Chicagoist's Beer Of The Week: Marz Community Brewing's What The Pho

By Jason Baldacci in Food on Jan 9, 2015 10:35PM

2015_1_9_whatthepho.jpgIf there's one thing we want when the temperatures drop into the single digits, it's soup. And if we had to choose one category of soup to get us through the winter, we would probably choose Pho. You can imagine how delighted we were to find out that one of our local breweries recently released a beer that is inspired by the Vietnamese noodle soup.

What the Pho is a porter from the good people of Marz Brewing Co. that was brewed in collaboration with Chef Bill Kim of Urban Belly, Belly Shack and Belly Q fame. The brewers infused white oak and sassafras staves with a pho soup base to age the beer on, and they also spiced it with coriander, cinnamon, star anise, clove and peppercorn. It pours a dark brown color in the glass and the aroma is filled with those culinary spices. On the palate, this one is downright savory. The heavily roasted malts hit up front and give way to the oak tones that were infused into the beer on the mid-palate. Those spices lay in thick on the finish and linger, but they don't smack you upside the head. They're balanced pleasantly against the richness and bitterness of the malt profile, with just a hint of earthy hops under the surface to keep things level. At 6.5 percent alcohol content, What the Pho would be wonderful to drink on its own or with a hearty meal.

We're normally really picky about beers that use alternative ingredients, and we'll admit that we were skeptical about the long list of them that Marz added to this recipe, but we're happy to say that we're quite pleased with the outcome. Things like cinnamon and clove can be incredibly overpowering and are very easy to overdo if you're going to brew with them, but Marz balanced the spices very well in this beer. This is a pretty lofty brew for anyone, but especially for a new operation. We have to say though, what they've accomplished here only makes us eager to hunt down more of their beers. They're brewing on a very small system at the moment, so you might have to go out of your way to find beer from Marz for a while. From what we've tasted so far though, it seems like it would be worth the effort.

What the Pho is mostly available in 500ml bottles, you can find it at Maria's Packaged Goods and Community Bar or a few other places on beermenus.com.