The Vas Review – Holiday and Winter Seasonals Volume 1

A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.

It’s Christmas time again – the season of joy and giving! In the mad dash to buy all of our friends and family something special, we often forget about the most important person on our lists: ourselves. This year, don’t forget about the person in the mirror. Treat yourself to some holiday suds this year.



The best type of spice – beer.

Lakefront Brewery – Holiday Spice Lager Beer

Style – Herb / Spiced Beer

ABV – 9.4%

Our friends from just up I-94, Lakefront Brewery, specialize in “lagers” and have been brewing beer for 25 years now! This holiday season they bring us their winter seasonal brew, Holiday Spice Lager Beer. If you ever get a chance, get up to Milwaukee and take a tour of Lakefront’s brewery. It is without a doubt, one of the best tours I have ever been on.

Holiday Spice is a deep brown beer with garnet red highlights. The aroma is absolutely wonderful. The spice additions lead the charge with an enticing nutmeg and cinnamon aroma. A spicy clove plays up to the nutmeg and cinnamon perfectly while a light orange and fruitiness sweetness give the beer depth. (A pinch of fruitcake for good measure.)

If you thought the aroma was good, wait ’til the taste. The first to hit your taste buds is a potent nutmeg taste paired off with some cinnamon, allspice, and fruitcake. A spicy clove taste adds a perfect tingle to the mouthfeel. In the background lingers a Terry’s Chocolate Orange and a little bit of honey sweetness. A gingerbread man joins the party and dances around cheerfully.

The Christmas holiday season, brewed and bottled for your liking. Pour Lakefront’s Holiday Spice Lager Beer into a glass and enjoy as the holiday cheer makes you feel better inside. Wait, that’s probably the alcohol.



Wish I was there

Widmer Brothers – Brrr

Style: Winter Warmer

ABV: 7.2%

A Portland Oregon institution, the Widmer Brothers Brewery has been cranking out beer for almost 30 years! One of its most popular seasonal offerings is Brrr. Released every winter, Brrr stands up to the cold and warms up your fingers and toes.

Brrr pours out a beautiful moderate brown color with copper and ruby highlights. Brilliantly clear, this is one gorgeous looking brew. The aroma begins with a nose of caramel and some holiday chestnuts. Next is a very light chocolate spread on a piece of toast. Doesn’t sound like a bad way to start off your morning, does it? True to the hop head in all of us, a citrus and pine tree note have us wondering if it is summer or winter.

The first sip of Brrr takes care of that argument (Spoiler alert! It’s snowing outside). Big and bold flavors of caramel candies, lightly burnt toast and Fig Newton bars. Imagine showing up to a party with those as the appetizers. Just make sure to bring me with. Brrr continues on and never strays away from its origin. (Oregon is one of the leading producers of hops in the U.S.). The citrus and pine flavors balance off the wonderful malt flavors bring a bit of depth to this beer. The finish is on the dry side, leaving my mouth watering and wanting more.

Brrr. It’s cold in here. Pop off the cap of Widmer Brother’s Winter seasonal and warm up them bones. If you are still cold after one, have another. It does come with five friends, after all.

Other Winter seasonal offerings available at Vas Foremost include:  Breckenridge Christmas Ale, Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale, Great Lakes Christmas Ale, Bell’s Christmas Ale, Sierra Nevada Celebration, Cicso Brewer’s Winter Shredder, Bell’s Winter White Ale, Berghoff Winter Ale, New Belgium Accumulation White IPA, Brooklyn Winter Ale, Deschutes Jubelale, 3Floyds Alpha Klaus and Revolution Brewing’s Fistmas.

Next week in the Vas Review: More winter and holiday fun!

Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on Twitter or Untappd at Gardemybiere. Email him at or

5 Easy Ways to Enhance Your Craft Beer Experience

We all know that guy. He has a beard, a random brewery T-shirt on, and looks over the menu like Santa Claus does his naughty list. When he finally orders a beer, instead of simply drinking the beer, he goes through a “process.”

First, the color must be inspected. He will hold it up to any light that he can get to see what the beer truly looks like. Next, his nose takes a cannonball right into the glass. Leave your table manners at home, folks. This individual doesn’t just take a quick sniff and leave, no. If this were a police line-up where the suspect had to be identified by aroma only, this guy would be the expert.

Finally, after coming up with a nose-full of foam, the bearded wonder takes a drink. Naturally, he doesn’t just take a drink. You would think he was rinsing his mouth out with mouthwash as you watch him take his first sip. The humanity!

Sadly, this guy in the story is me (hence the bearded wonder).

Is there a reason for my madness?!?!

Yes. Yes. Yes. AND YES!

On the surface, we all know it is just beer. It is meant to be enjoyed. It is important to always remember this as it is the thing I stress the most to people I drink with. If you are enjoying what is inside the bottle/glass/can, then who cares?

But if you allow yourself to dig a little bit deeper, you will experience a beverage with the deepest and widest array of flavors on the planet (Sorry wine, but it’s true!).

How do I do this, you ask?

I am glad you asked. People enjoy a good list. Engrave this one in your memory, folks. You’ll thank me on your wedding day…

1) Let your beer warm up for 10 to 15 minutes.

If you are drinking a beer on draft or cask, you can ignore this. Most beers on draft are already being served at the proper temperature (or at least they should be). If you are grabbing a beer out of a cooler or fridge, then let your beer warm up before drinking it.

Cold temperatures lower our perception of flavor, aroma, and body while enhancing bitterness, carbonation, and dryness (the scientific reason why we need to drink macro adjunct lagers ice cold). You will miss out out on a multitude of flavors and aromas if you don’t find the right balance in temperature. Some flavors won’t even make an appearance until the beer is warmer than 40F.

Try this out: take one bottle of beer out of the fridge and leave another in. Pour them out at the same time an hour later and notice the difference. 

2) Pour your beer into a glass

When beer is poured out into a glass, several things happen. The first and most important is that you are able to smell the beer. (Number 3 will explain why that is important.)

The other thing that happens involves the carbonation. When poured out into a glass, some of the carbonation in the beer is released, in turn releasing the aroma of the beer and creating foam (head). Foam is also important because it gives the beer a thicker and smoother texture.

Just remember! Some beer is packaged with yeast. Pour carefully as most prefer the yeast be kept out of their glass.

Try this out: Pour one beer into a glass and leave an identical beer still in the can or bottle. Drink out of the bottle first and note the flavors. Now, drink out of the glass and notice the difference.

3) Smell before you drink

Suggestion number two is closely related to suggestion three.

Ever wonder why food tastes different when you have a cold? It’s because you can’t smell anything and your sense of smell is closely linked to your perception of flavor. Our taste buds on our tongue can only sense five things: sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, sourness, and umami (often referred to as “savoriness”). Meanwhile, our sense of smell can detect about 10,000 different types of aromas.

What we perceive as flavor is a combination of our sense of smell and our sense of taste, with our sense of smell doing most of the heavy lifting.

Try this out: Plug your nose and take a sip of a beer. Note what you taste. Now swallow that beer, release your nose and breathe in. I won’t spoil the ending here but trust me, you’ll be amazed at the difference.

4) Hold it in

If you just guzzle your beer straight down, you are missing out!

Think of beer as a gobstopper with layers and layers of different flavors beyond its surface. If you bite into the gobstopper immediately, you will not only lose a tooth or two, but you will miss out on the other flavors that Mr. Wonka intended for you to have.

When you hold the beer in for just a little bit longer and let it coat the entire inside of your mouth, you’ll notice changes in flavor abound. Different flavors will come out as that liquid hits different parts of your mouth. Additionally, you will be able to discern the beer’s mouthfeel and texture.

Try this out: Take a quick sip of beer and note the flavors. Now, take a drink and hold it in your mouth for five seconds. It’s surprising how much difference just a little time can make.

5) Drink water

We have all heard and said it before, drink water to help stay sober. This is of the upmost importance for alcohol distribution within your body, but in this instance, I am talking about something different.

If you are drinking different beers in a session, cleanse your palate before each beer with some water. This will help settle out your taste buds before your next beer. It is especially important if you are jumping around the spectrum, say an IPA to a belgian beer. If you jump right into that belgian beer after drinking an IPA, those first couple of sips may still have a lingering bitterness from that IPA and give you the wrong impression of the new beer.

Drinking some water in between that will refresh your palate and have you ready for your next adventure in a glass!

Try this out: Drink water in between different beers! Didn’t I just say that?!


This is a little bit more advanced, but trust me when I say it’ll help.

When drinking multiple beers in a session, always go light to strong. Example: Hefeweizen before a dopplebock. Blonde ale before an IPA. Amber ale before a porter or stout.

A stronger beer is packed with intense flavors that can quickly overtake your palate. If you try following up a stronger beer with a lighter beer, the delicate flavors are going to be overwhelmed by what is still lingering from before.

And that is it!

Nothing too hard, right?! Five easy ways to enjoy drinking that craft beer just a little bit more.

Why not give it a try?


Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on Twitter or Untappd at Gardemybiere. Email him at or 

The Vas Review – Spiteful Brewing

A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.

Brad Shaffer and Jason Klein have been friends since childhood. They are such good friends that they A) wear half-heart chain necklaces that connect to each other or B) started a brewery together in 2010. In this case, it’s the latter. In this week’s Vas Review, I drink up two beers from another toddler-aged brewery in Chicago, Spiteful Brewing. Cheers!



I lost 5 pounds by switching to the Fat Badger weight loss system!

Fat Badger

Style: Irish Red Ale

ABV: 7.6%

It may not be March, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy what the Irish have to offer. No, I’m not talking about that Irish Dry Stout that starts with a “G” and ends with a “uinness” and that comes to us from Africa (sad, but true). I am talking about the other, lesser known Irish contribution to the beer world – the Irish Red Ale. It’s history is a mystery for the most part but its wonderful taste is undeniable. Leave your gluttony at the door, folks and indulge in Spiteful Brewing’s Fat Badger.

If you quit looking at the wonderful designed label of the literal fat badger, you’ll see a muddily opaque brown ale. Yes, it’s brown and not red. Some beers in this style category will see a red hue, but some won’t.

Before we drink, we take a nose to the aroma. There is a wide range of influence going on here from the west coast of the U.S. to the British Isles. The British brewing influence shows us caramel, toffee, biscuit, and a malty backbone. Unique to this beer, the aroma has a moderately strong hop presence with some pine notes. Typically, you won’t see that in an Irish Red. For the most part in this style, hop aroma and flavors are restrained. (Damn American influence.)

Spoiler alert! The beer tastes nothing like the pizza and hamburger on the label. You find me a man who can make a beer taste like that, and I’ll start signing my paychecks over to him immediately. Fat Badger is a malt party in my mouth. It’s slightly fruity, showing toasted malt notes, toffee, caramel, biscuit, and some breadiness. The hops crash the party and show off a wet pine tree-like flavor. (Wet pine tree…don’t you just love how beer geeks sell the flavors in a beer?) The beer itself is pretty thick and it dries out a little bit on the backend leaving a breaded fruitiness behind.

I lied a little bit in the past paragraph. As it turns out, I don’t want my beer to taste like pizza and hamburgers. I want my beer to taste like this. So let’s all turn a little bit Irish and kiss the first red-head we see.



Nice nose, Marcus.

Jingle Balls

Style: Winter Warmer

ABV: 7.6%

Jingle Balls…enough said. Spiteful Brewing takes aim to warm up our taste buds and tickle our funny bone with their new winter ale. Think the label for Fat Badger was clever? Wait ‘til you see this one. Let the innuendos fly as the holiday cheer lowers our inhibitions. Marcus, show me what you got.

Jingle Balls

Dashing through this beer
Flavors of ginger and nutmeg are clear
Cinnamon bread on the nose
Fruitiness and caramel impose

Some woodiness from the hops
and a cherry put right on top
what fun is it to laugh and drink
a beer from Spiteful Brewing


Jingle Balls
Jingle Balls
A thick mouthfeel that finishes dry
No need to try
the jokes are implied
and better than I could provide

Jingle Balls
Jingle Balls
raise your glasses with a toast
just take a peak
if you want to see
what’s underneath Marcus’s mistletoe.

See you next week!

Additional offerings from Spiteful Brewing available at Vas Foremost include: Time Stealers Molasses Porter, Corporate Guy Wheat, Pigeon Porter, Alley Time Pale Ale, Negative Nancy Imperial Red, GFY Stout, Debbie Downer Dunkelweizen, and In the Weeds Wheat.


Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on Twitter or Untappd at Gardemybiere. Email him at or 

The Vas Review – Lake Effect

A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.

Dreams can come true. For Clint Bautz and Lynn Ford, Lake Effect Brewing Company is the realization of a dream. In dog years, this brewery is still a puppy. In this week’s Vas Review I sample two beers from the new brewery on the northwest side of Chicago that everybody is talking about.


Lake Effect Snow

Ugh, don't remind me.

Ugh, don’t remind me.

Style: Witbier

ABV: 5.5%

I’ve prepared well for this one. I’ve assembled a couple of extra blankets, some hand warmers, and a 60-pound dog who loves to cuddle. Grab the bottle opener and lift the cap off of Lake Effect Snow. (No, not the dreaded precipitation that causes us to have an impromptu car abandonment party on Lake Shore Drive.) Lake Effect Snow is a Witbier from Chicago’s own Lake Effect Brewery.

Lake Effect Snow (Snow from here on out) pours out the middle of a blizzard, cloudy and temptingly opaque. With my snow pants, gloves and jacket on I push forward into the beer. The aroma makes me forget about the cold with orange citrus, coriander spice, and fresh cut hay from the farm. If that weren’t enough, a slight woodiness from the hops and a touch of lemon and pepper from the yeast have me pulling out my grill thinking my friends are coming over for a summer BBQ.

It’s time to embrace the inevitable and welcome the Snow into my life.

Be prepared for a spicy, peppery and coriander taste upon the first sip. The citrus from the aroma translates into a lemongrass taste with a very gentle bitter orange settling in mid-palette. Into the vocabulary of a beer geek we must go for the next taste – hay. Yes, hay. I’m sure most of us without an older brother have never tasted hay. But we all know what it smells like and could take a guess on to what it tastes like. In this case, the hay flavor is most certainly welcome as it balances the citrus and pepper tastes, lending a drinkable dryness to the beer.

So embrace Lake Effect Snow and have a snowball fight, go sledding or make a snow angel. Just make sure you drink this beer after the festivities, and not during. (After all, spilling beer is one of the seven deadly sins.)


Falcon Dive IPA

Rodents beware!

Rodents beware!

Style: American-Style India Pale Ale

ABV: 7.0%

Ah, the American IPA. The most popular and best-selling style of craft beer in the United States. Known for its more pronounced bitterness and flavors of citrus and pine, this style of beer has burrowed its way into our hearts and set up a nest in there. Lake Effect Brewing Company tries its hand at the style with Falcon Dive IPA.

Falcon Dive pours out a copper tangerine hue, proudly showing its feathers. Darting quickly out of the trees is a fruity aroma highlighted by a fresh squeezed orange citrus aroma. Hidden a little bit more in the forrest are some biscuit, toffee and toasted malt aromas.

Squawk! What about the cracker?!

Crackers? Yes, they’re in there. But…aren’t you a falcon?

Interruptions aside, the first thing that hits you in the taste is a mineral-like tingle. Don’t worry – that’s supposed to be there. I’d get into a water chemistry lesson to explain, but wouldn’t we just rather drink the beer at this point? Caged up inside this brew are several distinct flavors: pine, resin, citrus and that biscuit/cracker-malt taste that Polly likes so much. There is a fairly potent bitterness that comes through, especially on the back end. It mellows out on the after taste, leaving behind some melon and toasted malt flavors.

Don’t be afraid to let this bird out of its cage. It’s friendly, doesn’t bite, and could perform some nice tricks (if you drink enough of it). And if you twaut you taw a puddy tat, put some Falcon Dive IPA in a saucer bowl for it. Cats like beer, right?

Another offering from Lake Effect available at Vas Foremost is Cruisin’ for a Brewsin’ .


Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on Twitter or Untappd at Gardemybiere. Email him at

The Vas Review – Begyle

A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.

Begyle Brewing Co. is relatively new to the Chicago beer scene. Started by a trio of friends, Begyle has been unleashing beer to the masses for just over a year. This week we take a look at two of their offerings, Maybe Next Summer and Flannel Pajamas.

Maybe Next Summer

Maybe Next Summer

Maybe Next Summer – Begyle

Style: American Pale Ale

ABV: 6.5%

Smack dab in the middle of Fall (wait, do I see snow outside?) comes Maybe Next Summer from a newer local brewery, Begyle. It’s billed as an american pale ale, expectations are high.

On sight, MNS is solid copper colored ale with good, thick head. Dig your nose right in and you can feel what could be upfront bitterness ahead. Hold your nose in a little longer, citrus and biscuit will greet you. Not to be forgotten, a fresh loaf of bread and some tropical fruit notes make a random appearance.

MNS touches your lips with a fruity sweetness heavy in citrus and passion fruit. All throughout the balance is superb coupled with a light mineral tingle. Some English character malt dances around in there (mostly biscuit and toasted notes). A surprisingly strong caramel character that becomes the dominant taste, especially in the finish. The backend is on the drier side (something I personally prefer), with lasting notes of caramel, toffee, citrus, and peanut brittle. MNS isn’t too thin but it is certainly not too thick. It falls right in the sweet spot.

If you crave balance in your pale ales, this one is for you – just the right amount of hop character balanced against just the right amount of malt character. Maybe Next Summer  is a solid beer and worth a taste. It makes me wonder if maybe I don’t need the summer. After all, my glass is still half full.


Flannel Pajamas

Flannel Pajamas - Beglye

Flannel Pajamas – Begyle

Style: Stout

ABV: 5.4%

It only seems fitting that the second beer we look at from Begyle is called Flannel Pajamas. Our first offering had us missing the Summer, while our second offering will surely convince me that its time to take out the Winter wear.

Flannel Pajamas pours out black with whipped 3 Musketeers chocolate-like head. As the true beer geeks we are, a couple of sniffs are on order first. (Eat your heart out, wine.) The nose awakens to roasted malts, chocolate, and some sweet coffee aromas. Next in line is an almost caramel popcorn-like aroma. Afraid and alone, the caramel aroma calls upon a toffee and oat aroma to keep it company.

Enough! Beer is meant to be drunk.

FP starts off like most stouts do with a roasted malt taste. Surprisingly it takes a turn and becomes a little sweet, almost fruity in nature. I am reminded of a Charleston Chew candy as I drink this – chocolate and marshmallows. The caramel popcorn is there again to greet you but not for long. Replacing it is a roasted coffee bean taste with our old friend chocolate. FP finishes fairly dry, although it seems to get increasingly dry as we move along. On the palette lingers a raisiny and plum-like fruitiness hand and hand with roasted malts.

After drinking Flannel Pajamas, I feel a lot warmer. It could be the beer or the fact that I’m sitting next to the heater and it just kicked on. If you don’t like to be assaulted with coffee and roasted malts when you drink a stout, then you need to grab Flannel Pajamas on your way to checkout. Variety is the spice of life after all, and sometimes I just need a beer with it.

Other offerings from Begyle available at Vas Foremost include:  Bushel & a Peck, Farmer’s Hand Midwest IPA, Hophazardly IPA, and Neighborly Stout.


Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on Twitter or Untappd at Gardemybiere. Email him at

The Meaning of Craft Beer


  I’ve been writing posts for a while now, and have been referencing plenty of craft brews, but I’ve never actually bothered to explain what a craft brew is, or why this is even a big deal.  While I can probably take it for granted that most of you are into beer enough to know anyway, I don’t want to ignore anyone that doesn’t.  Since the more you understand about beer, the more you’ll want to try it, I consider any opportunity to educate and expose people to beer to be a good thing. 

To begin with some perspective: prior to the 1920’s in theUnited States, there were many small breweries throughout the country.  With the passage of Prohibition, many went out of business because they were unable to sustain themselves.  As a result, the 1930s-1970s were predominated by breweries such as Budweiser and Miller, who’s ubiquitous Pilsner became synonymous with American Beer. 

Fast forward thirty years, and there has been a virtual explosion of breweries throughout the U.S.producing a variety of beers in different styles.  A term that gained a lot of traction starting in the 1990’s was “microbrewery”, and this still gets tossed around a lot in conjunction with craft beers.  This is not entirely accurate.  While a microbrew is a craft beer, a craft beer can be a larger operation than a microbrew.  A microbrewery is defined as producing less than 15,000 barrels a year, while the American Brewers Association, produces and defines a craft brewery as one who has “Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less…Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.”  (

What this is saying is that a craft brewer must be small (relative to Macrobreweries) and fundamentally independent.  This probably counts for most brewers that are out there, producing relatively small quantities.  Craft breweries run the gamut through, with some small breweries producing a handful to large ones like Boston Beer Co. that put out almost 2,000,000 barrels a year.

That’s a brief technical explanation of a craft beer.  On a more personal level, I’d like to define these beers in a way that is not quantitative.  I’ll leave that to people above my pay grade to parse out in terms of volumes, or percentages owned.  To me, a craft beer is an artisinal product.  It is made with respect for the process of brewing, and, undeniably, a passion for beer.  I think that this is a transparent passion, and it is infectious to many of the people who have been won over by these brews.  This is beer that has moved past getting “slammed” or “shotgunned”, in the same way you don’t swallow down a Filet Mignon like you would a Big Mac. 

I’ll leave it at this point.  If you enjoy these beers even a fraction as much as I do, then you know what I am talking about.  If you are just discovering them, you are in store for a great surprise. 

Have a great weekend, everyone.   As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve written, or even general questions about anything else, please feel free to email me at, tweet us: @vasforemost, or give us a call at (773) 278-9420.