Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Beer at Ski’s

The Oshkosh beer scene got a boost yesterday with the opening of Ski’s Meat Market at 502 N. Main. The new downtown butcher shop/grocery includes a somewhat small, but well chosen assortment of craft and imported beer. The emphasis is on specialty beers and seasonals. You see a lot of 4-packs and a good number of bombers. Wisconsin brewed beers make up roughly a fourth of the stock.

Overall, the selection at Ski’s bridges the gap between the steady, but commonplace craft offerings you find at Festival Foods and the more adventurous options available at Gardina’s.  And the prices are reasonable enough. On items where they overlap with Festival, Ski’s tends to be higher by about 50 cents on average. Worth it when you consider that almost all of Ski's beer is stocked in coolers; they have three of them dedicated to beer and cider.

If you head over to Ski’s, visit their website first. At the moment, they’re giving away a $5 coupon redeemable for anything in the store. You’ll need to set up a an Instagift account to claim the coupon, but that takes less than a minute.

Anyway, I grabbed a few beers at Ski’s yesterday, but the one that captured my imagination is...

O’so Lupulin Maximus
This is an aggressive beer. It pours cloudy and bronze with an off-white head that tacks to everything it touches. The beer gives off a plume of pine and grapefruit aroma with undertones of onion and maybe even some tar. It’s a little weird, but in a good way. There’s a hefty caramel/brown-sugar malt note at the first draw that gives way to a surge of pine and bitter-citrus hop flavor. From that point forward the bitterness just comes slashing at you. The finish... well, I don’t know if this beer has a finish. The bitterness keeps working away. I wouldn’t want to drink two of these in a row, but it’s a great end of the night beer. And at 9% ABV, it might bring the night to a quick end.

Here’s another part of this beer: O’so stuffs a hop cone into each bottle. Gimmick? I don’t see it that way. It reminds me of the preparation of early, 18th century English pale ales (the beer that would become IPA). In those days, they’d add a fresh charge of hops to the cask before shipping the beer to foreign lands. Hops, being a natural preservative, would help the beer survive. The dosing would also create an additional layer of flavor. The O’so website says they age this beer on oak. You don’t taste that, at least I don’t, but it’s another aspect of the beer that harkens back to the earlier methods of pale ale brewing. I have no idea whether or not the folks at O’so are aware of these connections, but I certainly enjoy them. And it makes my drinking experience more thrilling. Yes, I am a geek.

One last thing: the hops in this year’s Lupulin Maximus hail from the Nami Moon Farms in Custer, Wis. Our friend Chris Holman is the grower there. There’s more on that HERE. It all comes full circle. There’s no other way for it to go.

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