A Craft Beer Oasis In A Small Town Desert, Or At Least Trying To Be

For a lot of years, I’ve called Fairfield the land that is an hour from anything. “Anything” has most certainly included craft beer.

I’ve also more recently started referring to Jovalou as our little escape from Fairfield, right in the heart of downtown Fairfield. Some of the escapism comes from the staff, some from the higher quality of the food, and some from the people I usually congregate with there. But also, Nikki and crew try to offer something beyond the ordinary in regards to drink options. They do a ton of quality hand made cocktails, often using fresh produce. And also, they do their best to rotate in new craft beer.

Ah…escape.

The thing with craft beer drinkers is, we are a fickle bunch. A good chunk of us are constantly searching for new. We’ll take new and unfamiliar over tried and true, often. Which leads to the following:

Disclaimer

This post is for selfish reasons. I fully admit that. A little inside craft beer industry here, but vendors favor volume and sales history when deciding who can get what beer. It is hard on the new, small business to get their requested allotments. So, the more craft beer one can sell, the more they can get in the future. So, for selfish reasons, I am going to highlight some of the current offerings. And I will encourage you to explore and expand your palates. Remember, this is about me. I am appointing myself their drink ambassador. With great power…or something. I’m just asking for some help. Any benefit you get is merely a bonus. Clear? Okay, now drink.

The Nerdy Stuff

Each beer will include the average user rating of Untappd users. Untappd is the gold-standard for mobile beer tracking, with millions of users rating beers they “check in” to. Think Yelp for alcoholic hobbyist. It will also include the Beer Advocate rating, which is more of a beer snob crowd using similar ratings to wine enthusiasts. And my rating. This uses the Untappd five-point system, broken down in quarter-point increments. Again, this is all about me. Don’t act surprised. I’m the guy who literally started a blog called I Am Weez. Ego was implied from the get-go. I will also include the alcohol strength (ABV) and bitterness (IBU) when available. Shorthand bitterness primer: more hops equals bitter, more malt equals sweeter. And I will include shorthand tasting notes. These will be brief. I’m a beer nerd, but I try not to be “that guy”.

Spiteful Brewing—Burning Bridges

Untappd: 3.66. Beer Advocate: 89. Weez: 3.75

Vanilla Brown Ale from Chicago. Toasty & Roasty. Chocolate/caramel with vanilla. Cascade hops. 7.5% ABV. This is more of a fall beer for me, as it is malt forward. The can even describes is at the perfect “book and a fireplace” beer. That seems about right. Would pair well with a steak or brisket. This and the Spiteful Dark Lager are the maltiest beers Jovalou offers right now.

Epic Brewing Tart ‘N Juicy Sour IPA.

Untappd: 3.74. BeerAdvocate: 86. Weez: 4.00

From Salt Lake City, Utah. Combines a kettle sour with citrus-forward hops to give it a juicy feel without going full New England-style IPA. Think more grapefruit than orange juice. 4.5% ABV. 60 IBU. This is a cross-style that is not a typical IPA or a typical sour, but if you want a sour that doesn’t make you pucker or an IPA with mellow bitterness, it is a good entry point.

Haymarket Aleister

Untappd: 3.67. Beer Advocate: 86. Weez 3.75

Traditional IPA from Bridgeman, MI. Dry-hopped with 2.5 pounds of Amarillo. 6.5 ABV. Dry-hopping puts more of the bitterness on the nose than the tongue. While juicy IPAs have become the new rage, this one stays true to the traditional hop profile that reminds of what first popped up in the scene a decade ago. Very similar to the one below this, due to the Amarillo focus, which gives it that Northwest spicy citrus bouquet.

Spiteful IPA

Untappd: 3.73. BeerAdvocate: 87. Weez 4.0.

Switched from El Dorado to Amarillo hops, paired with Citra. 6.2% ABV. 60 IBU. Of the traditional IPAs at Jovalou, I prefer this one slightly over Haymarket, most likely due to the added Citra hop, which gives it a little more orange to it. Citra is still my favorite hop profile. It is also my wife’s favorite, even though she probably wouldn’t know it before reading this. She doesn’t like IPAs due to the bitterness, but Citra hop is one of the least bitter, imparting mostly a juice profile. This one has just a tinge of Citra. There is one below for fans of that. Pair with a burger or spicy food.

Collective Art Jam Up The Mash

Untappd: 3.8. BeerAdvocate: 92. Weez 4.25.

Another sour-IPA mash up, but I like this one better than the Epic Tart ‘N Juicy above. This one uses three hops: Vic Secret, Citra and Mosaic, which gives it a subtle bitterness and subtle juiciness. Again, this one falls in that not too sour, not to bitter range that Goldilocks would drink if she was a craft beer lush. I may have just gotten an idea for a short story. But anyway…these Canadians make good beer and great artwork cans. Similar to the Epic above, I prefer this one of the two. 5.2% ABV. 35 IBU.

Toppling Goliath Pseudo Sue

Untappd: 4.16. BeerAdvocate: 100. Weez: 4.5.

This is not a new one at Jovalou, but is the “flagship” beer Nikki tries to keep at all times, and for good reasons. This one is about as good as it gets for readily available beers. It is one of just a handful of the 100s on BeerAdvocate, and easily the highest rated of the ones available at Jovalou. 5.8% ABV. 45 IBU.

From Decorah, Iowa, and named after the dinosaur at the Chicago Museum, Pseudo Sue has appeared on several “Must Try Pale Ale” lists. Little brother to King Sue, which was at one time a Whale beer before Toppling was able to crank up production. The juiciness comes from single-hop Citra, which, well, see above. It’s my go-to hop. It was also the first pale ale my wife liked. New England IPAs pour and smell like orange juice. This isn’t quite that, but it leans that way on the spectrum. This is the Jovalou Go-To.

So, go have a beer. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for me.

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