Local Option’s Dampf Loc Ale
By: Benjamin Welton
It’s getting to be that time again. There’s something about the Yuletide that just speaks to the blood. A lot of hearth fire memories bubble up when the snow begins to form miniature burial mounds outside. Even though they might not be there, the smells of food, family, and good cheer always seem to parade around in the senses when December moves closer to January.
For me, this season is all about tradition—traditional recipes, traditional presents (yep, Dad’s getting another sweater), and traditional ales. Ales are God-given things, and Orwell probably had a point when he warned against any man who preferred a lager to an ale. And while Chicago’s Local Option aren’t overly interested in time-worn sensibilities (in fact, one could describe them as punk rock propagandists), their Bavarian-style steamed ale Dampf Loc certainly tastes like the ghosts of Christmas past.
First Impression: It’s hard to think of this beer without thinking about its artwork. Drawing inspiration from Ralph Steadman, the British artist most famous for his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson, the Dampf Loc label presents a hell-bound train conducted by the Grim Reaper. Now that’s hardcore, ladies and germs. On top of this, the logo for Local Option, which presents the skyline of the Second City as a mohawk haircut sitting on top of a half-formed skull, smacks of polished anarchism, and more than anything else it lets the imbiber know that this beer isn’t for the timid worshippers at the house of Bud, Coors, or Miller.
Pour: As with any good strong ale, the head on this little beastie is strong but not overwhelming. Similarly, this beer is highly carbonated with a deep orange-meets-blackened copper coloring that allows for compliments between the rich and the thin. If you are so inclined, you can look down at the foam in this beer and treat it like passing clouds. I saw a few shapes, plus I got to watch an army of bubbles migrate between each individual sip.
Taste: Surprisingly, the taste of this beer isn’t terribly memorable. Neither acrid nor sweet, the Dampf Loc is a pleasurably smooth beer that never slips into tasting like cornflake water (a German phrase for American pilsners, by the by). The bitter is hard to pin down here, but it is certainly there. At best, the taste of this beer can be called “medium” or “mild,” with the idea that it can appeal to a broad mass of international swillers. Don’t let the aesthetic profile of this beer fool you—the Dampf Loc is a traditional-style beer with a good taste and an even better smell (which present a fruit bouquet). Pass the turkey, pass the ham, and let the festivities begin.
IBU: Between 37-41