Classy in the Country

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I was pretty certain that my Wednesday was going to be a normal day full of research and work, which I don’t particularly like, especially when compared with beer tasting. Lucky for me, the day turned out very different. I had a chance to go to an awesome exhibit in Appleton about Wisconsin’s food, drink, and the history behind it including everything from immigration, to farm strikes, to sturgeon fishing – then finish the day with some good beer. I took a picture of one the first fat testers used in cheese making, and a lot of other pictures. If you have any doubt that Wisconsin is awesome, I really recommend looking into this exhibit more.

Getting to the beer – I had to take my friend to get her car fixed at her boyfriend’s garage that’s in the middle of a small residential neighborhood in Suamico, WI. We needed something to do while it was getting fixed. Despite your stereotypes of places in the country in Wisconsin, most of these places take credit cards and have the whole to do now, but our stop was even a step up from that.  If you’re ever north of Green Bay in what might seem like the middle of nowhere if you’re from a city – you should totally stop at The Bottle Room. They have a room full of wine, great artisan food (obviously including an amazing cheese plate), and some great Wisconsin craft beers.

I tried a flight of four craft beers that I think are a good fit for the summer months. Luckily, it was craft beer week at The Bottle Room & I got myself a flight of four beers at 6 ounces each for fewer than ten dollars. It was a winner.

First I had the Horny Goat: Watermelon Wheat. When I first read the name, I very seriously thought it was going to taste like kool aid. I’ve had one watermelon beer before, and it was interesting.  It basically tasted like someone mixed some cream and watermelon together, with a wheaty after taste.  That was 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon (not my favorite beer – but kudos on the name). The Horny Goat beer was better. The watermelon taste was still light – but the experience was a little more complex. It started off bitter hoppy taste, but quickly transitions into a nice wheaty watermelon. It’s not sweet – you taste it on the back of your tongue where (I learned this in Girl Scouts and for some reason remember it), you taste sour and bitter flavors.  The taste slowly gets more subtle as you wait for the taste to settle in – which I recommend.

Next was Abita: Spring IPA. This is a nice light IPA that goes well with summer. The first thing I noticed was the tangy smell. The first tastes will taste tangy, medium on the bitterness and hoppiness scale, and some light spicy flavor will settle in quickly – and that will be the lasting taste. This beer has all around a bunch of nice soft, light flavors that are flat out balanced really nicely. If you’re looking for a good summer beer – give it a try.

The Dark Horse: Crooked Tree IPA is not so much for summer, but it’s not extremely heavy, so it worked for me. This is a great beer for those of you who like bitter beer. It has some citrusy overtones, an all-around bitter flavor, and a dry, crisp end to each sip. Even though the flavor doesn’t scream summer, for those of you who look for a crisp, thirst quenching texture in your bitter beer for the summer – this is worth at least a sample.

Last I tried the Central Waters: Shine On. For all you Florida Georgia Line fans who are intrigued, this one is a medium weight, hoppy, spicy red. If you like reds, you’ll like this. I have to say I thought it tasted pretty standard, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. This red is high on the hoppy end and low on the molassesey end. Give it a try and decide for yourself – the folks at Central Waters know what they’re doing.

The best days are always the ones that are full of unexpected fun, and learning. This was one of those days. The Bottle Room was great. The wait staff knew what they were talking about – and they really have something for everyone. The friend I was with likes wine – so she got to sample four of those while I had fun tasting my beer.

Whenever I write about a spot in Northeast Wisconsin, I really have to stress that I am doing all I can to encourage folks who come up here for Packer games to venture away from Ashwaubenon, go to a nearby town, or go downtown, and support some of our great local folks instead of the chains downtown. You’ll find some great down to earth folks who know a lot of Wisconsin’s rich culture, a smaller crowd, better beer, and people who know more about it. The Bottle Room is just another example.

More about the Bottle Room:

www.the-bottle-room.com/

@TheBottleRoomGB

More on the Breweries I Tasted (and you should too):

Horny Goat – www.hornygoatbrewing.com, @HornyGoatBrewCo

Abita – www.abita.com, @TheAbitaBeer

Dark Horse – www.darkhorsebrewery.com, @DarkHorseBrewCo

Central Waters – www.centralwaters.com, @CWBrewing

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My First Sips of Ale Asylum

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For my after dinner stop at Madison Craft Beer week – I had the chance to stop by the Argus again to try some Ale Asylum beer. It was late and had been a long day – so I didn’t have much, but I did try a couple I really liked!

I walked into the Argus with a much different scene than I did when I went to try Left Hand just a night before. It was packed. Clearly this local brewery had some fans, including a crowd of Wisconsin State Assembly Republicans both veteran and freshmen – as always, it’s nice when we can agree, even if it’s just on a nice glass of craft beer. The people there ranged from your average Madison foodie, to folks in their suits that just left work, to the parents of those people. My expectations were high.

I tried the Hopalicious Pale Ale. This one smells great for starters – like nice smooth citrus. It’s a medium weight beer, and they fit just about all the hop flavor into this thing they could without making it too crazy.  Just so you’re not too overwhelmed, there’s a nice hint of citrus flavor.

Next I had the Bedlam! Belgian Style IPA. This one also smelled nice and citrusy, but as expected the texture was smoother and creamier. There were plenty of hops to around in this one; it’s basically a great example of a straight forward Belgian Style IPA. I wouldn’t have this while you’re trying to eat a bunch of food, or if you’re trying to stay awake for more beer, it will fill you up really fast.

This was a great first try at Ale Asylum beer, but really just the tip of the iceberg. The have a full list beer, and have recently started expanding their distribution a little farther north, which will hopefully help me in Titletown. A list of their beers, both regular and seasonal can be found here: http://aleasylum.com/aboutus-info/brewerybeers/.  You can also follow them on Twitter at @Ale_Asylum.  I’d say so far my expectations have been met; Ale Asylum is going to be the number one stop on my list next time I get in to Madison, Wisconsin.

The Gem of Central Wisconsin

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Dinner on Wednesday night was at a classic spot in Madison, The Old Fashioned. They routinely have one of the best beer selections in the area, and the best cheese curds in Madison, and I really mean the best. We put our name in for dinner with enough time to go upstairs and participate in the Central Waters tap takeover upstairs. Folks who like beer often cite Central Waters as a gem in Central Wisconsin. I have been a fan of their Glacier Trail IPA for a while, but trying more was a treat.

First I tried the Illumination Double IPA. This was a dream come true and one of the best IPAs I tried all week it had an almost minty edge and the hops had a real crisp kick. For someone who likes a straight up wonderful hoppy beer without anyone trying to soften it up – this one is for you, and I absolutely loved it.

Next I tried the Hop Rise Session Ale. This beer was great because it had a lot of nice flavor – but was subdued enough to have during a meal. It was a little creamy, very smooth, and had a great citrusy hoppy taste that anyone who appreciates good flavor should at least have a sip of, especially over the summer months.

The next two beers were on the darker side, and both really well made. First was the Rye Bourbon Barrel Stout. I don’t particularly like bourbon barrel beer, but this lightly aged beer had a little extra sweetness, was moderate on the creamy scale, and high on smooth scale. I’m not saying anything for sure, but even if you don’t really like the bourbon barrels, you should still give this one try if you’re looking to expand you’re beer vocabulary.

Last was the Peruvian Morning Coffee Stout. This was great. A lot of breweries make a super straight coffee stout that tastes exactly like iced coffee. This one was a little different. It’s really light, smooth, had a great coffee taste, but also had a light vanilla spice taste. If you like a little flavor in your coffee and are more of a coffee snob than a beer snob – this is so your beer.

After we tried beers – we had a good dinner. Now I don’t usually write about food, but I wouldn’t be doing due diligence if I didn’t at least briefly talk about these cheese curds. They make a lot of different styles of cheese curds here but this are lightly deep fried, never soggy, and never too big so you can take small bites, and really enjoy them. I don’t like huge cheese curds with a ton of breading, so in my book, these are prefect small golden brown pieces of cheese curd heaven, and I hope you can go to the Old Fashioned and decide for yourself someday.

All around this place has good beer (beer week or not), and a great spread of Wisconsin food. You’re not really visiting Madison if you don’t stop by.

More Information on the Beer (at Central Waters & the Old Fashioned):

On the Web: centralwaters.com/beers/ & www.theoldfashioned.com

On Twitter: @CWBrewing & @Theoldfashioned

Things to Google Before You Go:

Wisconsin Style Old Fashioned

Barrel Aged Beer

Colorado Takes Madison

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My last stop on Tuesday night during Madison Craft Beer Week was the Argus, a place I had been introduced to as a great spot for after work happy hour, to carry on a good conversation, and/or to eat really amazing cheese fries. Tuesday night they were having a tap takeover & meet and greet with folks from Left Hand Brewery in Colorado.

We walked in to a small crowd considering how well these guys make beer. Last year, I had been introduced to their Left Hand Milk Stout on nitro. It’s smooth and chocolaty, and a good example of how to make a good stout. If you like dark beer, this is a must have and probably Left Hand’s most well-known beer.

Next I was in heaven when I had the opportunity to try Left Hand’s Twin Sisters Double IPA for the first time. Like any good IPA it starts off with a bitter bite that you don’t think will fade out – until you get a taste of the sweet malty aftertaste that this beer has. If you like an IPA with some interesting, well put together flavors, you should give this one a try.

Midway through our Left Hand tasting, we got to meet Matt, a nice guy who works for Left Hand who was there to talk to us about the beer, make sure we were having a good time, and to give us some fun stickers. He started out asking if we were drinking Left Hand and asking how we liked it. We discovered that it’s his job to travel and talk about the beer, and that he basically has the best job in the world (even if he isn’t using his engineering degree a whole lot). His co-worker, a self-proclaimed Ryan Braun look alike (you can guess which one he is), had started out bartending and worked at a few different spots before he started at Left Hand.  They were both excited to be in Wisconsin and seemed ready to make sure that we loved beer from Colorado right alongside beer from Wisconsin. We also learned that Left Hand makes about 50,000 barrels a year and distributes widely for you to find them nearby if you have a decent liquor store, but does make a special beer for “beer weeks.”

That was our next beer, and we tasted really quickly why it was made for weeks with lots of drinking: it tastes just like coffee. If you’re at a Left Hand beer week event and are getting a little slumpy, make sure you order the Week Sauce Porter. This one goes down just like a creamy iced coffee and sits at just 6% ABV. It’s a great beer for halfway through a night of serious beer drinking.

Overall this was a great experience. Lots of times you’ll go to meet and greets where the folks from the brewery just sit at the bar – these guys did the opposite and made sure to engage everyone, have fun, and answer questions about their process. It’s always great to hear about great Wisconsin breweries at beer week – but these Colorado folks can make an amazing beer, and absolutely take the cake for making sure everyone had the beer they wanted the whole time.

More Information on Left Hand:

On the web: http://www.lefthandbrewing.com

Follow them on Twitter: @LeftHandBrewers

Things to Google before you go (if you get out to Colorado):

Beer on nitrogen

Great American Beer Festival

Can’t Find a Good Mixer for your Cocktail?: Try Beer

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My second day in Madison for craft week started out at a wine bar, the kind of place that I don’t usually go. But when facing the decision of “new exciting beer,” or “interesting event,” I chose interesting event this time. It was a beer cocktail tasting. I was delighted with what I found out last night at Barriques.

The man running the show was great. I asked what got him into making beer cocktails – or just doing some flat out crazy experiments. He said he had been in the liquor business in one way or another for a long time – and eventually just got sick of using Sprite as a mixer.  I’m going to go through some of the recipes and let you know what I thought.

Disclaimers….

1. If you think beer by itself is subject to personal taste – beer cocktails are even more so. I just want to make it known that all of these are good for whoever’s taste they might fancy, even if I didn’t like them.

2. I take no credit for these bomb ass recipes.

3. The recipes here are all made to use one bottle of beer (12 oz) and serve two after shaking.

Cocktail one was Per. Fect. For. Summer. If you’re not a fan of something like Summer Shandy – this might be a little sweet for you, but don’t worry, they added bourbon. This one is called the Strip and Go Bourbon. Yes, it’s based on the fancy college drink Strip and Go Naked. This one uses a bottle of Bell’s Oberon, a great wheaty beer that always shows up just in time for summer. Mix two ounces of bourbon, four ounces of lemonade, and touch of mint – then shake it up! This was a lot of people’s favorites, I think because the flavors are really familiar. As a non- super fan of lemonade beer, I still liked it because with the right bourbon, and a little mint, you can really take the edge off too much sweetness. This would also be great for people who don’t really like beer our bourbon at all – it’s magical.

The next one was the 7 Iron. It gets its name because if you drink too much too fast, apparently you feel like you got hit in the head with a 7 Iron.  This is made with New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale, one ounce of Yellow Chartreuse, and three ounces of pineapple juice. It’s recommended you serve it with pineapple garnish. I also really liked this one for summer. Remember, as the title indicates, I wouldn’t sit down outside, have more than one, and then try to get up too quickly – especially in warm weather.

I proceed with caution when I say that the Tommy Tequila was my favorite. This one is really for people who are always asking for more lemons and limes to squeeze into their bloody mary. This one takes a bottle of Capital Mutiny IPA, two ounces of tomato juice, and one ounce each of lime juice and tequila. Then obviously add hot sauce to your delight. If a bloody mary is your staple drink with brunch on weekends, or what you drink on a tired morning – I would recommend it. It has a nice kick a traditional bloody mary doesn’t. My only (personal) criticism should be obvious if you’ve read anything I’ve written – I could have used a hoppier, spicier IPA.

The next one is for everyone who enjoys a good smokey beer, it was the Smokey Smokey. It’s made with O’So Night Train Porter, and one ounce of scotch. Side note on this one – if you can ever visit O’So in Plover, WI, you should. They were great friendly folks, and they are right next to a few great places to grab a bite to eat. We talked about this one for a while – you really need the right beer and the right scotch to make it taste to your liking. I would have liked scotch with a little bit more of a bite, because I felt like the smokey after tasted stayed with me for an hour afterwards.

The last one was just a Hard Root Beer Float using Sprecher’s Bootleggers Barrel Aged Hard Root Beer. This was really straight forward, just add ice cream. You really can’t dislike it. If root beer is too sweet for you – you can always try this with other nice creamy dark beers. Ice cream is amazing with almost everything.

The advice from the folks working the event was great. They said they made all of these up themselves, just make sure you stick to 3-4 ingredients max. They also encouraged everyone and said you’ve got to make what you like, and move forward without considering that what you’re making might taste terrible the first time; you’ve just got to keep plugging away. Once again, advice that’s good for mixing drinks – also seems pretty good for life. Never give up friends!

More Information on Barriques:

On the web: www.barriquesmarket.com

On Twitter: @BariiquesMadison

Things to Google Before You Go:

Dessert Wine (too many people walk into wine bars asking for this and have no idea what it is – true story)

How to Properly Cork Wine

No Crap on Tap

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Last night I started my Madison Craft Beer week journey trying some Belgian Beer. But that wasn’t enough. I wasn’t quite satisfied yet, so I looked at the schedule for the week and saw that Karben4, a new brewery in Madison that was recommended to me by a college friend had a bunch of beers on draft at Dexter’s Pub. This place was a nice little bar complete with friendly wait staff, volleyball, cheap food prices, and a punch card for frequent pitcher purchasers.

The place was filled with some real excited hipster beer enthusiasts, and a few folks who had just finished volleyball. I hadn’t heard about Karben4 before last week – but I’ve read good reviews, so I was excited.

The first one I tried was their Undercover Session Ale. This was a gem. It was light, crisp, & great for summer, but has enough complexities in the taste to satisfy a craft beer lover. This is one I appreciated because I expected it to be totally generic based on how it looked, but it was sweet with a hoppy edge to make for a subtle, but really pretty creative flavor. You can also toss one of these at your Miller Light friends, and they just might like it and start getting their life back on track. Moral of the story: don’t judge a book by it’s cover – just because you can see through it, doesn’t mean it’s terrible.

Next – because I’d been missing them all night, I tried SamuRye Pale Ale. This was a little heavy for the flavor, and I wouldn’t recommend having it with your food – especially if you’re eating carbs. I will say the flavor is nice – citrus hops and ryes are a good pair that these guys put together really well. I would really recommend this highly for someone who is starting to like pale ales and is a wannabe imperial IPA drinker. My taste buds wanted more hops – but I also wouldn’t run around giving it to my non beer loving pals.

This is about the time we started getting a little hungry and naturally ordered a soft pretzel and asked the bartender to give us his favorite mustard with it. It was a really good balance of tangy and spicy – and wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet. The pretzel was also nice, chewy & warm. This one seriously hit the spot.

We had the chance to grab one more before we went – it was the Block Party Amber Ale. This one was popular in pitchers with the folks around us coming in from playing volleyball – and I found out why. The Amber Ale was full flavored milky, caramelly, hoppy goodness. Words of warning – drink this one slowly, and don’t give in to peer pressure and chug it, ever. You’ll want to enjoy the flavor, and let it settle in your stomach before you give it too much love.

I wish I had the time to try more – but overall if these guys know how to do anything, they can balance a lot of ingredients in their beer to make a solid flavor whether it’s strong or subtle – their beer is artistic, and I’m excited to try more of it.

More Information on the place & the beer:

Karben4’s Beer: http://karben4.com/beers/

Karben4 on Twitter: @Karben4

Dexter’s Pub: http://www.dexterspubmadison.com/

Dexter’s Pub on Twitter: @DextersMadison

Fun Things to Google before you go (to either or both places):

How to dress like a hipster

Carbon Four Bonds