Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Warming Quartet

The December solstice approaches. Nights are growing colder and longer. You’ll need beer that can take the chill from your bones. Here we have four brews currently available in Oshkosh that’ll thermalize your inner being. We’ll start with the beer brewed closest to home and branch out from there. Let's go...

Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout by Central Waters Brewing
Yesterday, I ran into two people at different times of the day who told me just about the same thing: this year’s Bourbon Barrel Stout from Central Waters may be the brewery’s best. Black and full bodied, the beer brings together notes of bourbon and vanilla over a base of roast and mocha-like malt flavors. As I sat with the beer it reminded me more and more of a bourbon-dosed dessert cake with a layer of thick icing. The beer is somewhere north of 9% ABV, but its booziness works well with its more lush aspects. Wickedly complex, the beer’s varying elements coalesce into something phenomenal. Get this. Four packs of Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout are available at Gardina’s for $13.99

Big Slick Stout by Ale Asylum
Ale Asylum has been brewing Big Slick for years, but this fall was the first time they’ve bottled it. I’d always heard good things about it, but had never had the chance to try it until it hit the shelves at Festival Foods a couple weeks back. It’s as good as I heard it was. Every bit as black as you’d expect it to be, the beer sends up a gush of coffee and roast-malt aromas. The roast part of it comes off almost as ashy, which may not sound especially pleasant, but it is. The mouth is smooth and creamy with a bitter/sweet suggestion of powdered cocoa and caramel flavors. This one clocks in at 7% ABV. Festival Foods in Oshkosh is selling it in 6-packs for $9.99.

3X Mild Ale by Summit Brewing
Don’t let the name fool you. What has come to be known as “mild ale” is a wispy, dark shadow of the beers that were once part of this category. The 19th century milds – and there were a number of different types of mild – were robust and generously hopped. Summit’s 3X Mild takes its cue from those earlier styles of mild.

The almost exaggerated malt flavor and aroma of 3X immediately won me over. It’s all caramel, molasses and toast. Perfectly lovely. The beer features an experimental American hop currently known as Experimental 06300 that’s supposed to give off a chocolate note, but that was lost on me. This is an unabashedly sweet beer with just a touch of bitterness enveloped by malt. It’s 7.2% ABV, but you’d never guess it. A delicious beer. Gardina’s has it in 6-packs for $9.99. If you don’t see it on the shelf, ask for it. Also, look for Gardina’s to bring this in on draught in the near future.

Alaskan Smoked Porter by Alaskan Brewing Company
This beer is a longtime favorite of mine, so I was happy to spot it the other day at Ski’s. Like the name says, this is a smoked porter and the beer represents the best of both parts of its title. The smoke shows itself at every point; from the aroma through the lingering finish. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s not reserved either. It’s just solidly there with a flavorful, savory meatiness that’s wonderful. But what makes the beer work is that at its base is an excellent porter. It has a creamy mouthfeel that delivers a balance of malt flavors with hints of toffee, raisin and char. I’ve had this beer countless times and it never fails to impress. At 6.5% ABV it’s warming without being overwhelming. Alaskan Smoked Porter is available at Ski’s in Oshkosh in 22oz bombers for $10.99.

Have a great weekend and stay warm. Prost!


  1. Now your talking, my kind of beers. Now if it were 80 degrees I would be happy!

  2. Did somebody say 80? I'm down with that.