Very Special Indeed | Revolution Brewing
Menu Location / Hours Rev Rewards Brewpub Delivery

Brewpub

Hours

Mon-Fri / 11am-1am
Sat / 10am-1am
Sun / 10am-11pm
Brunch (Sat & Sun) / 10am-2pm
Late Night Menu (Mon-Thurs) / 10pm-12am

Humans of all ages are welcome. Four-legged friends (with the exception of service animals) will need to stay at home.

Kitchen open until 1 hour prior to closing.

Large group reservations are accepted on a limited basis, except on Friday & Saturday evenings. Email reservations@revbrew.com to inquire.

Address

2323 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

773-227-2739

Brewery + Taproom

Hours

Wed-Thur / 2pm–10pm
Fri / 2pm–11pm
Sat / Noon–11pm
Sun / Noon–6pm

We serve beer & cider only at our tap room, but we welcome you to bring your own food. Humans of all ages are welcome. Four-legged friends (with the exception of service animals) will need to stay at home.

Tours are for guests 21 and up and can be booked online in advance.

Email us for group reservations.

Address

3340 N. Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60618

773-588-CANS

Very Special Indeed

12.04.19

Waiting for the Magic of Oak
For a style that was literally uncategorizable at its debut less than three decades ago, barrel-aged beers have come to dominate the conversation among American brewing’s biggest enthusiasts.

What many people come to learn, however, is how much deeper the equation to a solid barrel beer is than [beer + barrel = delicious + $$$]. You can’t just add any beer to any barrel and expect a choir of angels on the first sip.

“I’ve had barrels that were filled and turned around quickly in the early days – only aged for three months or so. And they tasted good, but the flavors weren’t integrated. It almost tasted like a boilermaker, not a balanced, designed beer,” Brewmaster Jim Cibak said. “It really takes time for the micro-oxygenation to happen in the barrel, and for the bitterness of the beer to mellow. That’s when a beer really integrates with the barrel and pulls out the spirit, and all the wonderful flavors and aromas you get from the charred American Oak or toasted French Oak.”

This is where drinkers get the prominent toasted coconut, vanilla, crème brûlée, caramel, maple and other flavors that make barrel-aged beers special. And there’s just not a shortcut for that. Which, as it turns out, was the best thing possible for our barrel program.

Making Something Special
One of the big upsides of opening the production brewery in 2012 was the space to begin barrel-aging in earnest. The Pub afforded neither time nor space to do the kind of big, complex oak-aged beers our brewers were thirsty to create. And even back then, there was the idea that a select few of those barrels would go well-beyond a year.

“The dream was always to be able to produce beers with extended barrel-aging time. We knew that it takes time to really extract all the amazing character,” Cibak said. “I feel like the true art of brewing is extracting super intense aromas and flavors from your raw materials without having to add anything extra.”

In late 2016, that dream finally came to life, as our customers had their first pours of Very Special Old Deth. But how did we settle on cognac terminology for our very Midwestern take on Russian Imperial Stout? Barrel Program Lead Marty Scott led the way.

“It started as a practical thing. So I've got what I call a barrel map, which is a bird's eye view of the barrel stacks so I know how many barrels of what description we have in inventory. As we got better at selecting fresh barrels, we really cut back on loss and started having more barrels than we could consume every year. So to note that a batch was from the prior year I put V.O. for ‘very old,’” Scott said. “At this time, for the most part, we were only making one batch of each beer that we were going to release. There'd be one batch of Deth’s Tar, one batch of Straight Jacket, and so on.”

“When it came time to release Very Old Deth as a draft variant, I just went with the Cognac terminology. I needed to call it something! But Very Old Deth didn't really have a ring to it. We changed Very Superior old to Very Special old. The former not only sounds like you're knocking the base beer, it’s also a little bit elitist. Revolution and elitism aren’t really two great tastes that go great together.”

A Very Special Glossary

D.B. - Stands for Double Barrel, where a beer begins to age in one type of barrel and is finished in another. This allows the beer to pick up a second round of spirit infusion and barrel character. All of the beers in our Sanctuary Program are double barreled.

Single Barrel - Sometimes the result of getting our hands on a single rare barrel. Other times the result of an exceptionally expressive barrel we couldn’t bring ourselves to blend. Either way, these single barrel variants are among our rarest draft-only releases.

V.S.O. - Very Special Old beers are the result of a blend of barrels at least two years old. Sweet and dry components are carefully blended (leaning sweeter than the namesake base beer) and aged to create the beer’s profile.

X.O. - Extra Old beers feature barrels aged at least 36 months. The extra time in the barrels imparts additional complexity.

Beyond the Barrel

To forecast how V.S.O. beers will manifest after a Congressional term-plus in American oak, it takes a little procedural insight and a lot of math. Originally, Cibak, Scott and the team realized that sugar and oxygen over that extended period of time were creating flavors that went beyond what they predicted.

“We couldn't have definitely predicted, but we were really, really f***ing happy,” Scott said.

Now, to make them Very Special, the barrels have an elevated sugar concentration target. V.S.O. beers have a higher finishing gravity along with the age. The result is a super-concentrated complexity.

Bringing several years worth of barrels together takes more math and more balancing. The extended-aged beer gets a numerical sweetness value (via degrees Plato), as well as one for balance. Then a complexity value, which is the degrees Plato multiplied by months in barrel. The higher that number, the higher average age of the sugar in the final blend and the better it integrates with the alcohol. And that’s the magic that lets people know that Very Special isn’t just us trying to sell you more beer. Scott is particularly partial to 2018’s V.S.O.J.

“I hauled a can of that beer up a damn mountain just so I could have it when I got to the top. It’s just an absolute monster,” he said. "The production of disparate batches for the purpose of dynamic aging and blending has shown promise as evident by that beer. We're excited to bring that approach to the rest of the Deep Wood Series going forward when inventory allows, and can't wait to see the results of our next step, which we'll discuss if successful."

V.S.O.R. was released just over a year later, to similar acclaim. V.S.O.D. soon to drop, and after that another two-year-aged Barleywine to commemorate Rev’s 10th anniversary. With the time and patience afforded our barrel program, we’re hoping you’ll like them enough to haul a can up a mountain too.