Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Couple of Beers From Our Old Friends at Lakefront Brewery

Jim Klisch, the co-founder of Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery, has been romping around up here in Oshkosh recently. He was in town for the Beckets beer dinner last week and was here again on Tuesday for the firkin at Gardina’s.

It’s kind of like old times. Lakefront was among the first microbreweries to bring their beer regularly to Oshkosh. Soon after the brewery opened in 1987, Lakefront beers were going on tap at Oblio’s. At that time, Lakefront was doing their own distribution. Sometimes one of the Klisch brothers would haul the beer up to Oshkosh; other times Todd Cummings or Mark Schultz from Oblio’s would run down to Milwaukee for the beer. We were lucky to get it. In its first full year of operation Lakefront brewed just 89 barrels of beer.

That, of course, has changed dramatically. Last year, Lakefront produced over 33,000 barrels and now distributes its beer in 35 states as well as Canada and Israel. With all that growth, it’s good to see we’re still getting the personal touch in Oshkosh. Here’s a couple of Lakefront brews that’ll go along nicely with our early winter...

Holiday Spice Lager Beer
First brewed in either 1991 or 1992 (I’ve been given conflicting dates from the brewery) the pet name for this beer at Lakefront used to be Holiday Rocket Fuel. The picture here is of the first label for the beer, which they printed at a local copy shop and then applied by hand to each bottle. The label has since been dressed up considerably (personally, I’d like to see the old one revived), but the beer inside is as potent as ever. At 9.4% ABV this is a winter warmer if ever there was one. Holiday Spice is a ruby colored beer with a rich aroma that reminds me of a Christmas fruitcake made with a shot or two of booze. It smells delicious. The beer is brewed with a substantial amount of honey and spiced with cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg and orange peel. The flavor veers towards that fruitier side, somewhat like a doppelbock with spices. The spices and honey are all prevalent, but mellow enough to merge well with the booziness of the beer that comes up in the finish. The mouthfeel is full and lush. Take a couple of these this weekend as you’re freezing your ass off.

Eastside Dark
This has long been a favorite of mine. It’s a simple, flavorful, dark lager that you can drink several of without getting bored, burned out or bombed. Since 1992, this beer has been raking in awards. In 2011, a beer panel assembled by the New York Times picked it as the second best dark lager among a selection of 20  beers of the style from both Europe and America. And just a couple weeks ago, Eastside Dark won gold in the Bohemian-Style Schwarzbier category at the prestigious European Beer Star competition in Germany.

This is a dark beer a few shades short of black that pours under a tan lid of thick foam. Its malty aroma bounces between biscuits and nuts with a wisp of coffee in there, too. The beer is wonderfully quafable with subdued notes of chocolate, coffee and bread crust, none of which are even close to being overbearing even after several glasses. There’s a slight tang from the hops that finishes the beer and urges you to return the glass to your mouth. This is a tasty, easy drinking beer.

Both of these Lakefront beers are easy to come by in Oshkosh, Ski’s Meat Market, Festival Foods, and the Pick n’ Save stores being solid bets. Holiday Spice is sold in 4-packs, Eastside Dark in sixers.

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