Thursday, January 6, 2011

Beer. Beer. Beer.

So much beer. So little time. So let’s get right to it.

We’ll begin over at Fratellos Fox River Brewing where every now and then Brewmaster Kevin Bowen sets out something that deviates wildly from the Fox River pattern. He’s just de-bunged Old Man Winter and much like last Spring’s Fox River Reserve, this is a connoisseur’s brew aimed at the tonsils of the local geeks. Old Man Winter is an Old Ale blended from beers one-to-three years old, aged on oak and then dosed with a brace of fresh hops. It all adds up to an excellent brew that’ll have you picking up new flavors with every draw. The beer features prominent esters wrapped around a sticky malt backbone kept in check by the bite of fresh hops and the dry, tannic aspect of the oak. Let it warm just a bit before you start in and this beer will open up in all kinds of ways. It’s one to seek out and at just under 7% it’ll give you a gentle kick in the pants. For more on Old Man Winter take a look at Kevin’s notes on the beer.

Now let’s head over to Dublin’s where they’ve got a few new things going, including Dogfish Head’s strapping Belgian Strong Ale, Raison D'Etre and Tyranena’s Sheep Shagger Scotch Ale. These are both malty, warming brews and they make a nice fit when you follow one with the other. The boozy, toffee and caramel aspects of the D'Etre dovetails well with the smokey notes of the Shagger. It’s kind of like following dessert with a cigar.

Time to stumble over to Festival foods where there are a number of relatively new bottles of interest. They’ve had both beers from Big Bay Brewing on hand for a few weeks now and I finally broke down and bought some. Big Bay is based out of Shorewood and brew their beer at the facilities of the Milwaukee Brewing Company. I read an article about the company in the Journal-Sentinel shortly after their start-up that left me with the impression that maybe these folks are more about marketing than beer. Slugging down their Wavehopper Kolsch and Boatilla Amber Ale didn’t do much to alleviate my suspicions. The Kolsch is the better of the two with a bready nose followed by a touch of DMS and a twang of Cascade hops in the finish. The Amber is utterly indistinct. There’s nothing here to offend, but nothing that’s going to keep you coming back, either. I can’t imagine reaching over anything by O’so, Central Waters or New Glarus to get to this.

Just down the isle at Festival there’s something a little more interesting. The Magic Hat Spring seasonal Vinyl Lager is in and like all the Magic Hat brews they’ve cloaked it with a pointless obscurity that promotes little more than confusion. Well, they got me. I took a quick look at the label and thought it was Vaginal Lager. So I bought it. Imagine my disappointment when I got it home. All that aside, I kind of like Vinyl Lager. It pours like a Bock and smells like a loaf of rye bread. It has a very pleasing and mellow malt character that goes well with its trailing bitterness. A good, steady drinking beer.

Another beer at Festival worth throwing your money at is Hinterland’s Maple Bock. This is what a Bock might be if it were re-imagined by the Belgians. It pours to a rich mahogany with a stunning aroma that leads with the maple and then gets around to all sorts of other stuff like cookie dough and caramel. I was expecting it to have a heavy body, but the mouth feel is more like a Belgian Dubbel. It drinks fairly light, though not without a complexity of flavor. The maple is there, but they don’t beat you over the tongue with it and creates a nice grouping with the vanilla and coffee flavors that keep popping up in the background. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I’ve been warming up to Hinterland in a big way, lately, and this beer cinches the deal for me. I won’t pass on anything they put out.

Just one more... I got hooked on Sprecher’s Winter Brew about a month ago when it come on at Oblio’s (at last check it was still pouring there). Now they’ve got a good-sized batch of it at the Northside Pick 'n Save that looks like it’s going nowhere fast. This is an excellent Munich style Dunkel Bock that’ll warm the innards of any lover of lagers. It’s a rich and full-bodied brew that’s perfect for a cold winter night. We’ve got no shortage of those in store, either. Stock up on this and watch that temperature dip. After a few nips it’ll be warm as July. Happy tippling!

No comments:

Post a Comment