Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 027: New Glarus 20th Anniversary Strong Ale

A slanted and endless survey of what’s pouring in Oshkosh, tallied one beer at a time.

What: A beer that dances over the line between a Belgian Dubbel and a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. It was brewed in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of New Glarus Brewing Co.

Where: Limited supplies are available in Oshkosh at Gardina’s and Festival Foods. It’s being sold in single, 500ml bottles. They won’t be around long.

Why: Because a commemorative beer like this always raises expectations that are difficult to meet, but this one does it easily. It’s fantastic right from the start. It pours a deep, dark amber with a frothy head of large tan bubbles. The aroma is full of bubblegum (especially as it warms) and dark, candied fruit. The fruit character dominates the flavor with rich raisin and fig-like esters. It finishes with a peppery hop flavor that compliments everything that came before it. The ABV isn’t listed on the bottle, but I’m guessing it’s in the plus 9% range. It’ll definitely warm you up. This is a classic and one that could stand some cellering. It would be interesting to pull one of these out a year from now and see where she went.

What Else: Since we’re celebrating 20 years of brewing in New Glarus with this beer, how about a brief recap of where this brewery came from and where it’s headed. The New Glarus Brewing Company was launched in 1993 by husband and wife Dan and Deb Carey. Their first brew system came from Appleton’s defunct Fox Classic Brewery. Their first beer, Edel Pils, was released in October of 1993. In its first full year of operation the brewery produced 2,300 bbls of beer. The brewery’s best selling beer, Spotted Cow, was introduced in 1997. Spotted Cow now makes up more than half of the brewery’s total output and is the best selling craft beer in Wisconsin. In Oshkosh, Spotted Cow ranks second in overall draught beer sales. Despite limiting its distribution to Wisconsin since 2002, production at New Glarus has grown considerably over the last decade. In 2001, New Glarus produced 10,500 bbls of beer. By 2005, output had increased to over 40,000 bbls. Along the way, the brewery and its beers have taken numerous awards including Brewery of the Year awards from the Brewer’s Association in both 2002 and 2005. In 2008, New Glarus opened its new Hilltop Brewery and in 2011 its yearly output went over the 100,000 bbls mark for the first time. The brewery’s 2012 production was approximately 127,000 bbls, making it the largest craft brewery in Wisconsin and the 17th largest craft brewery nationally. Deb Carey has said that New Glarus Brewing has thus far turned down two offers of purchase from Anheuser-Busch. The brewery is currently undergoing another expansion that should bring its total capacity to 250,000 bbls annually.

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