Chicago’s craft beer scene is exploding. You could get lost tonight drinking beers from Revolution, Half Acre, and Off Color at any bar throughout the city. The local beer selection in Chicago is remarkably diverse and the beer styles reflect that, ranging from the familiar to the most bizarre. For the most part, these breweries are a network of locals who communicate and stay up to date on new beers, uplifting one another rather than competing. This environment empowers creativity and allows for some fantastic collaborations.
The local beers may not be as universally known as another fruit of the City of Big Shoulders, but there are parallels here. Kanye West is as essential to hip hop as Chicago is to to America's beer, and his journey has followed many of the same footsteps as the suds in his native city.
Raised in Chicago, Kanye West has become one of the leading pioneers of the music industry. West was an influential producer before starting his rap career, yet his aspiration was to take center stage.
His first three albums are where the classic Kanye sound (old soul samples pitched high and sped up) was formed. The middle album was where he started to veer away from his signature sound, and the latter three albums are revolutionary in hip-hop production. Most of the discography takes on a very minimalistic yet powerful approach. You could place an important Chicago beer in the hand of most of these sentences and not miss a beat.
Kanye West has put out seven albums so far. Four won Best Rap Album at the Grammys, two were nominated for the same award, and only one fell short of the nomination.
Elevate your music and beer appreciation by delving into Kanye’s discography while trying these beers.
College Dropout (2004) - Half Acre Daisy Cutter (Pale Ale)
Kanye West’s debut album showed the world that he could rap as well as produce. This early powerhouse album is packed with hits such as "All Falls Down," "Spaceship," and "Jesus Walks." College Dropout has become a staple in Chicago hip-hop. Listen to this album while sipping on another Chicago staple in the local craft beer scene, Daisy Cutter. One of the first beers brewed by Half Acre, Cutter put them on the map, deservingly so. Light (5.2% alcohol by volume) and very easy to drink, this beer can be enjoyed any time, much the same as College Dropout. Daisy Cutter is citrusy and piney in the best way possible.
Late Registration (2005) - Goose Island Matilda (Belgian Style Pale Ale)
Kanye’s sophomore album came in strong; as did Goose Island’s Matilda (7% ABV). Late Registration showcased West as a progressive artist who was meticulous in his craft, carving his own path compared to other hip-hop artists at that time. "Heard Em Say," "Touch the Sky," and "Gold Digger" are just a few of the standout tracks on the record. Matilda, with its hoppy and spicy flavor profile, shows the attention to detail that Goose Island had with one of their most noteworthy beers. This is a perfect brew to savor slowly with this 21 track album. Matilda takes on an amber hue, has a delectably dry finish, and is undoubtedly rich.
Graduation (2007) - Revolution Anti-Hero (IPA)
The final album in the education themed trilogy steers away from the second record. The format is void of all the extra frills (skits and hidden tracks) that were prominent in the first two. The album’s track list stripped down and to the point, comparable to Revolution’s Anti-Hero. This beer is loaded with hops and fitting of this austere record (6.5% ABV). Enjoy this energetic and enticingly bitter IPA while Graduation fills you with confidence ("Champion," "Stronger") and reflection ("Can’t Tell Me Nothing," "Homecoming").
808s & Heartbreak (2008) - Revolution Eugene Porter (Porter)
This record is a complete deviation for West, and an exploration of his distress ("Welcome To Heartbreak"). This record embodies more of a pop feel, with its heavy 808 use and auto-tuned vocals ("Heartless," "Amazing"). A darker album, it was notably the only one that wasn’t nominated for a Best Rap Album Grammy. At first 808s & Heartbreak was somewhat dismissed, but it has continued to gain recognition over time. This dark album calls for a dark beer, and Revolution’s Eugene Porter is the perfect pairing. That super black color is loaded with chocolate, caramel, and toasted grain flavors. At 6.8% ABV, this beer and album coupling will give you all of the feels.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) - Half Acre GoneAway (IPA)
This album will stand the test of time. It is a hip-hop masterpiece created by pure innovation and artistry. In contrast to the rest of West’s discography, the compositions are maximal ("All of the Lights," "POWER"). This album calls for a beer of the same effect, and GoneAway is the perfect choice. A giant IPA at 7% ABV, GoneAway underwent two different name changes and kept coming back. This IPA boasts notes of pine and grapefruit. Drink GoneAway while listening to "Runaway," and be glad the name is finally here to stay. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a culmination of all Kanye’s previous styles, mixed with a forward thinking vision. This is the point where West broke free of any constraints, and reveled in his alienated fame. This was shown in a beautiful rendition of a Bon Iver song "Woods" that became "Lost in The World."
Yeezus (2013) - Off Color Apex Predator (Farmhouse Ale)
Yeezus is Kanye’s most experimental record yet. It is harsh, audacious, and in your face with songs like "Blood On The Leaves," and "Black Skinhead." Kanye’s production of "New Slaves" takes his minimalistic approach to a whole new level. The album starts off with an industrial tone, and floats through various styles from there. West once again enlists Bon Iver for the most experimental genre-bending track off the album "I’m In It." Apex Predator by Off Color is a perfect beer to go along with this mad scientist of a record. This highly floral, saison-esque ale features bright notes of orange and coriander, making for an herbaceous Farmhouse with an extremely dry finish. Transcend both your taste and ear buds with this pairing.
The Life of Pablo (2016) - Forbidden Root Money on My Rind (Botanic Wheat Beer)
Kanye’s most recent release introduces a concept we’ve never seen before: a living album. Each of the songs has already changed from the original release in some way, whether it be the mix or additional verses. This eccentric album sounds almost meticulously flawed at times. Standout tracks include: "Ultralight Beam," "Feedback," "Waves," "Wolves," and "Real Friends." Money on My Rind from Forbidden Root is a tremendous eclectic beer to pair with The Life of Pablo. This easy drinking beer (5% ABV) is a gin and juice inspired wheat ale brewed with juniper berries and pure grapefruit. Hopefully both the album and the beer will be viewed as trendsetters in their respective categories, because they certainly can’t be beat.