Old World Beer – New World Cheese

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Before I left Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to take the Sprecher Brewing Company Tour – and then participate in the reserve tasting where participants could try ten different Sprecher beer, all paired with a Wisconsin Cheese.

Let’s start with the tour. This is not a beer in hand tour because honestly, a lot of kids like to tour soda factories, and Sprecher makes some great soda (if you haven’t had it – you’re missing out). Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, but very scripted, a totally different experience than Lakefront or Milwaukee Brewing Company. If you’re looking for family friendly – this is your tour. Honestly I think our tour guide could have benefitted from a drink or two before he started. The most helpful thing that was talked about on this tour that you just don’t always hear about is the different marketing segments in the craft beer world. Lots of folks say their a craft brewery, some are brew pubs, some are microbreweries – but what does that mean? Read up here.

Next we’ll talk beer. If you just signed up for the regular tasting, you’ll be able to enjoy all the beer on tap in the small tavern. If you signed up for the reserve tour, you’ll get to go in a nice back room with maybe 15 other people to hear about some more great beer.

I want to talk mainly about the beer – but I’ll make sure to highlight some of my favorite beer & cheese combos.

The first beer was their Chameleon Hop on Top. This would be a great introduction to a Pale Ale for someone who was exploring beer for the first time. It’s 4.2 ABV and has familiar tasting malts and hops – so if you don’t like this, you probably don’t like pale ale.

Second, we tried Sprecher’s Hefe Weiss. This one was described on our guide as coarse and grainy – but I found it to be lighter than our guide described it. This one, again, tastes exactly how you would expect it to reading the name, but the cheese they added in with it made it this pair one of my favorites. The paired cheese was White Cheddar Cranberry from Monroe, WI. It was nice and tart just like the beer, but had a great mix or spicy flavor and that traditional sharp white cheddar taste that really balanced out the beer well.

When we moved onto the Special Amber, one of Sprecher’s best-selling beers, I just thought to myself that I should give this to all of my friends who don’t like tasting craft beer. I really do feel like this beer could be a good introduction to craft beer texture for newbies, but the flavor just wasn’t enough for me. The malt flavor was complex, but not bold, and certainly not worth the effort in my book. The hops were nice and familiar tasting, but it’s just not enough. I want to like it, I just don’t.

The next beer was the Pub Brown Ale – paired with Horseradish & Chive Havarti. It was great. The beer taste was complex and had a great combination of caramel and pale malt. There’s just a hint of fruit flavor in this beer that on the tour you’d learn comes from an Irish yeast culture. The cheese was full bodied, spicy, and fresh tasting. This combination took me a little longer to get down, but it was worth it.

The Mai Bock was the next one I tried, and it was right up my alley for the summer months. It had full hop flavor, light fruit flavor, and smelled great. It’s a nice light spring beer with a great flavor, and a nice kick, coming in at 6.0 ABV.

When I heard the next beer was to be paired with wonderful, crumbly Aged Cheddar Cheese from Chilton, WI, I was almost too excited to pay any attention to the Great Czech Style Pils I was about to drink. This is a classic Pilsner with some earthy, spicy flavor that really draws you in. It’s clean cut enough for summer, but flavorful and aromatic enough to satisfy those looking for something a little creative.

FUN FACT: If you think something tastes a little off, or just a little different in the Pilsner, that would be the soft water you taste that we make special here to mimic the naturally occurring water used in Eastern Europe.

The Chameleon Ryediculous IPA was really, really yummy – but you really have to drink it slow to make sure that your stomach doesn’t get overwhelmed. This one starts out citrusy and earthy – but turns out to be an aggressively hoppy beer the more you drink. It finishes nice and clean, but you’ll want to take a quick break between drinks to really let this one sink in.

A good straight forward version of a solid Belgian Beer is Sprecher’s Abbey Triple. Sprecher is great at making sure everyone who visits their brewery can taste a great example of a great European beer. This one is a staple – and nothing out of the ordinary for Sprecher.

The last really hoppy beer of the bunch was the IPA2. This style of beer was originally brewed in England for British Troops stationed in India – so naturally it’s rather aged and has certain sweetness to it. This one is double dry hopped – so the hop flavor is extra potent for those of you who like coarse, hoppy beer.

A great way to end a bunch of drinking is always with Stout that tastes a little bit like coffee. The Russian Imperial Stout was great example of a deep roasted coffee flavor with a sweet end that tasted a little like licorice. This was paired with my favorite cheese of the day, the Sartori Espresso BellaVitano it was nice, sweet cheese with espresso rubbed into it. Needless to say to say, I had a few extra pieces of this one.

If you stick around – you might get a chance to try something else. We were able to try the CitriBomb, a nice, citrusy IPA that smelled, and tasted like some amazing fruit, and was a great way to end the tasting. If you pop back out into the tavern, you’ll have the opportunity to try some their great sodas, and extra beer or two, and run over to the gift shop before you leave to get everything from coasters to beer scented soap.

Overall – great choice. The reserve tasting is a few extra dollars, but I say they are well, well worth it.

More on Sprecher:

Follow on Twitter: @sprecherbrewery

More on the Beer: http://www.sprecherbrewery.com/beer_menu.php

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