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[Photographs: Sarah Postma]

Twisted Spoke is a Chicago beer bar that means business. Complete with full-sized motorcycles planted like flowers in front of the building and subtitled kung-fu on the TV screen, the vibe is a tough-guy bar that you could still bring your mother to. The beer selection is extensive, and the food—mostly fancied-up sandwiches and burgers—is much better than it needs to be.

In celebration of Twisted Spoke's 15th anniversary, the bar teamed up with New Belgium Brewing Company to create a custom blended American Sour Ale. The beer, simply known as Twisted Spoke 15th Anniversary Ale, sounds like a mad scientist's concoction: "65% ale aged in a wood barrel, 14% ale with cherries added, 21% ale brewed with coriander, all aged in apple flavored whiskey barrels".

I asked one of the owners of the Twisted Spoke, Mitch Einhorn, how they came up with this blend, and his response made the experience sound like a beer lover's playground: "I went to Colorado, walked into the brewery, and Lauren and Eric [from New Belgium] had a long table set up with 25 samples of the base beers that were available. They said to taste the beers and have fun. I mixed up a couple of samples, and then they scaled it up to make the batch."

Color me jealous. But how's the finished product?

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Even with such a disparate set of ingredients, the flavors meld together to create a balanced product. The beer pours a hazy reddish brown, with a dissipating white fluffy head. A quick whiff gives the smell of dark sour cherries, oak, vanilla, and coriander. The flavor follows with the cherry and oak, and finishes with pear and green apple. Tartness is present throughout, but it's never overwhelming. Over all, this beer is an excellent example of the creativity and quality of American Sour Ales. Unfortunately, you can only find it at the Twisted Spoke ($35/750ml bottle) and Lush Wine and Spirits ($25/750ml bottle) in Chicago.

In addition to the Anniversary ale, the rest of the beer list at Twisted Spoke is pretty impressive. On a recent visit, they were pouring BrewDog Tokyo* and Half Acre Thunder and Sons, and a couple dozen other standards and specialties. If you can't find anything on draft that suits you, their bottle list is even longer. The prices for beer range from average to slightly above, but nothing jumped out to me as being over the top.

On a Thursday evening, we were able to get a seat right away. Service was quick and courteous, and the food was good. We'll be coming back, even after they run out of Anniversary Ale.

Twisted Spoke

501 North Ogden Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642 (map) 312-666-1500; twistedspoke.com/

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