Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sink a Couple of Summer Beers this Weekend in Oshkosh

Yesterday, while gathering my weekly dose of disappointment in the beer lane at Festival Foods, I noticed that Capital Brewery has its Oktoberfest out… it’s July.

To hell with these impatient brewers. Let’s get down to the here and now with a couple beers that celebrate the season we’re swimming in. The skies are full of noise. It’s summer in Oshkosh!

Milwaukee Brewing Company’s Increase Wheat
It’s about damned time we get a Berliner Weisse from Milwaukee. A Berliner Weisse is a sour, wheat-based ale that’s been a summer staple since at least the 1600s. It originated in Berlin, but as early as the 1840s, they were making it in Milwaukee. In its German homeland, Berliner Weisse is often served with a dollop of raspberry or woodruff syrup to sweeten it. The trend among American craft brewers has been to add fruit as part of the brewing process. That’s the approach Milwaukee Brewing Company has taken. They’ve added gooseberries to their brew.

I’ve never tasted a gooseberry, but there’s a fruity, blueberry/grape aroma that drifts off this beer and I’m guessing gooseberry is the culprit. The beer is straw colored and heaves up a thick frosting of stark-white foam. The fruity aroma follows into the draw where more of that blueberry/grape melange mixes with a pleasing tartness. There’s also a cracker like malt flavor here that left me with the impression of jam on a saltine. Nice! It’s a bubbly, refreshing beer with a quick, dry finish. At just 3.1 % ABV, it begs you to drink the entire six-pack while you sit in a lawn chair roasting your carcass in the sun.

Just one complaint: they could have picked a better name. The “Increase” portion is in honor of Increase Lapham, the 19th century Milwaukee map maker and naturalist. I think Gipfel Wheat would have been more appropriate. David Gipfel was a contemporary of Lapham’s and, better yet, a brewer. In 1843, Gipfel established a brewery on Milwaukee’s East Side where he mostly brewed wheat beer. Now there’s a man we ought to be paying tribute to. Anyway, you can pick up Increase Wheat at Gardina’s in Oshkosh where they sell it in 6-packs for $8.99. Oh, and Gardina's also has this on draught at the moment. I can see that with my Saturday morning breakfast.

Wisconsin Brewing Company’s Zenith
Here we have a Saison,  the prototypical summer beer. Saison is a traditional-style of Belgian and French beer with a lineage that stretches back to the Middle Ages. Saison is French for season and it was typically brewed by farmers in winter for consumption during summer. It’s an earthy, quenching style of beer that’s ideal for warm-weather drinking. This example hits all the right notes.

Zenith pours pale gold with a pillowy foam of tight, white bubbles. As is often the case with Saisons, this beer is spiced with coriander and orange zest. Both rise up in the aroma with the coriander jumping to the fore. The flavor is complex with the spicing coming through and blending into the ale’s peppery yeast character. Underlying that is a bready malt note that’s lightly sweet; almost peach like. The finish is smooth and dry with a mild tweak of tart hop flavor peeking in at the very end. Zenith is 5.5% ABV and an all-around enjoyable beer.

Just one complaint: why the hell did it take so long for this beer to get to Oshkosh? It’s been available in other parts of the state since June, but the distributor here has been holding out. It’s still somewhat hard to find in Oshkosh. I was trolling around yesterday. The only place I saw Zenith was at the North Side Pick and Save where they’re selling sixers of it for $7.99. Seek it out, it’s worth it.


  1. Can't fault the distributor.... its not like there are gaping holes on the 16' shelf at Festival that they could/should fill with seasonal stuff like this..... oh, wait.

  2. Right! And god forbid they move any of that precious Corona Light to the back cooler.