The undisputed crown jewel of conservative suburb, Naperville, SOLEMN OATH BREWERY began crafting interesting Belgo-American-styled ales in 2012, developing a distinct flare for remarkably adventurous and original fare along the way. Located in a light industrial park warehouse, this daring no-frills brewhouse has built quite a sturdy reputation among local beer geeks and fanatical brewpub travelers. Brewing an endless assortment of stylishly diverse ales from large stainless steel vessels and massive fermentation tanks, Solemn Oath has expanded exponentially since opening. As of my July 2014 jaunt, the dedicated staff now bottles, kegs and taps its highly respected product for Chicagoland consumption.
Upon entering the left side door of this off-white cement-floored edifice, an L-shaped serving station accommodates a packed late afternoon crowd. Nirvana’s raucous anthem, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” blares in the background as my friend, Scott, and I sample eight endlessly rewarding and stylishly hybridized libations. Many of these selections, plus a few others bought in bottle, are reviewed more fully in the Beer Index.
Light-bodied farmhouse ale, Hexafoos, began our session. Its fruity saison yeast ‘zang’ retained a white-peppered lemon pit sourness and mild herbal bittering, allowing mandarin orange, blood orange and tangerine illusions to flutter past whimsical chamomile snips.
Bettering most casual pale ales, the santiam-hopped version of Skinny Jeans Are Ridiculous possessed an herbal fruited pleasantry layered above dry pale malts. Its sweet citric zest and lemon-dropped grapefruit tartness contrasted hop-oiled hemp notions, picking up a broadened juniper bittering by the bold finish.
Boasting large amounts of grapefruit, pineapple and mango, tropical-fruited pale ale, Snaggletooth Bandana, brought buttery malt creaming to floral-hopped phenolic astringency.
A neat collaboration with Stone, ‘red’ farmhouse ale, Pyrros, seemed reminiscent of a Flanders Red with its tannic red cherry tartness, vinous green grape esters and light Sherry illusions downplaying unanticipated pepper-spiced herbage.
Effervescent Belgian IPA, Butterfly Flashmob, offered dry tropical fruiting to floral-bound herbage and salty hop-oiled spicing. White-peppered yellow grapefruit rind, sweet orange peel, sweet banana and pineapple coast alongside crystal malts.
Approachable saison moderation, Whisper Kisses, softened its white-wined Chardonnay buttering with light grapefruit-orange tartness, lilting lemongrass liming and floral-hopped pleasantries (layered above a biscuity malt base).
Black kolsch-styled Eigengrau stayed subtle as light-roasted black patent malts skewered its coffee-burnt hop char and smoked chocolate subtleties. Powdered cocoa and Baker’s chocolate whims skim the surface.
Perhaps the best offering, Foux Du Fafa, a floral-fruited Imperial farmhouse IPA (with well-hidden 10% ABV), balanced crystal malt sweetness with delicate citric-hopped bittering. Lemon zest, orange blossom, vinous grape and yellow grapefruit illusions abound over earthen minerality.