The story of Smylie Brothers Brewing Co. is one that I feel many of us can relate to. While we tend to slog through our days, truly living only once a month at our MEATings, Mike Smylie successfully transitioned from a career as a commodities broker to one in the the culinary arts, brewing beer and smoking meat at his taproom. In other words, he’s doing what we wish we had the courage to do. Though raised on the North Shore, Texan blood flows through Mr. Smylie’s veins (our first exchange was about the best techniques for smoking meat), and his goal is to bring authentic Texas barbecue to Evanston.
But what about the beer? I had the opportunity to speak with Mike, and it’s clear that each of the beers currently on tap tries to take advantage of under-utilized hop varieties and ingredients to create a true-to-style yet innovative beer that is greater than the sum of its parts. In a somewhat-rare practice, he opts to demonstrate this by calling his beers by their style’s name, an honest approach to ensure that individuals are captivated by the quality of the brew rather than by a flashy name. Smylie Bros. classic styles-based approach is aimed at letting the flavors and aromas do the talking.
Mike also emphasizes flexibility and constructive feedback, and constant improvement on his recipes. As a small producer with roughly a 3-week turnover per batch, the beer is always fresh and will demonstrate the recipe’s evolution as he tweaks them to pursue continuous improvement.
I personally agree with his philosophy, but let’s take an look at what was on tap on July 22:
This beer leads with a clean, lemon-pepper aroma, with notes of pineapple becoming more discernible as it warms. The flavor is bitter, lemony, and peppery once more, fading to a yeasty, bitter finish. Overall a pleasant, easy-drinking beer to start with.
Mildly funky, barnyard aroma, with faint orange as well. The flavor is crisp and clean, with lots of sweet, wheaty notes and even more orange. It finishes cleanly. While not a dry as my favorite farmhouse ales, the sweet barnyard flavors pair incredibly well with smoked meats (not a coincidence).
Robust malts dominate this aroma. The flavor is dank and botanical, very bitter. Maltiness is present throughout the body, but the beer finishes surprisingly clean. Certainly not a flashy IPA, this one still gets the job done by remaining true-to-style and all-around solid (Mike Smylie’s favorite style is the IPA, so look forward to many great batches in the future).
Baker’s chocolate, coffee, and a distinct caramel maltiness are readily detectable on the nose. Despite a noticeable hoppy bite across the palate right away, chocolate and coffee flavors dominate the majority of the flavor, fading to a pleasant, lingering roastiness.
A deep roasted aroma, accompanied by orange and wheat. Chocolate-infused oranges are present throughout the flavor. Hints of wheat hit the tongue before a clean finish. The winner tonight, this beer is absolutely phenomenal! If you had no other reason, this beer would still be worth the trip to Evanston!
Though we come from many backgrounds, many creeds, and many walks of life, there is one things all of us at ManBQue have in common – a passion for meat and beer. Between the great beer, smoked meats, and phenomenal hospitality, a trip to Smylie Bros. should definitely be on your horizon.