Out of this World IPA

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This post is geared towards all of my friends who are between campaigns, on a budget, and still want to drink a nice hoppy craft beer (because you’re a hipster, just be okay with it). New crafty beers sometimes run you a couple more dollars than you would like – so I am always looking for a 6 pack or a 12 pack that I can buy at a good price with a great taste. Stevens Point Brewery in Wisconsin totally delivered that starting in 2013 when they added their Beyond the Pale IPA to their year round brewing schedule – I got 12 cans for 12 dollars at home here in Green Bay.

Beyond the Pale comes in at 6.3% ABV and 64 IBUs.  That means it’s quite a bitter beer, but it’s constructed really well. This beer is light to medium weight, and I can always sit and have two comfortably. It’s main flavor is Galaxy Hops from Australia. If you’re an American hop enthusiast, you can compare these to Citra Hops easily. The Galaxy Hops give this IPA a crisp, but subtle peachy – orangey after taste to end just perfectly.

Beyond the Pale is well balanced, and not complicated. You have to love hops to like it, and I’ll say this was a great way for Stevens Point Brewery to jump on the hop wagon a couple years ago. You can find out more from Stevens Point Brewery by following them on twitter at @pointbrewery.

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Red Eye in Wausau Wisconsin

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When people think about going to Wisconsin to drink – they almost always decide to go to Milwaukee. I’ve written about Central Waters Brewing Company in Amherst, Wisconsin and today I wanted to highlight Red Eye Brewing Company in Wausau. All of this to say that Central Wisconsin is sometimes overlooked by beer drinkers from outside of the state – and there isn’t just one good spot, but there are totally enough places to take a good trip. Central Wisconsin is home to a lot of awesome local food, and tiny restaurants that are highlighted for their creativity and rotating menus. That has started seriously trickling over to the beer scene.

Red Eye Brewing has a great brew pub right downtown in Wausau with a creative selection of year round and small batch beer, and a great food menu. You should absolutely take a look at their food menu before you go. Even if you’re just going to drink – I want to plug getting the Mushroom Merlot appetizer. It won’t be too filling, but will complement your time drinking beer nicely with some bread, some vegetables, and a ridiculously artful balance of wine, onion, cheese, and some sourdough bread.

I had three beers when I was at Red Eye this weekend, and if you’re a fan of smokey beer, you’re in luck.

I’m going to start with Firewater. Firewater is a Wild Rice Bock – and it’s so smokey that there’s a chance you’ll write it off without fully appreciating the work that went into it. For the sake of honesty – I don’t like it, but I do want to tell you why you might. First – if you like anything smokey, you’ll LOVE this. Second, the beauty of this being a bock is that it’s also coarse and a little hoppy, but you do need to let the the taste settle a second before you taste the hops. You can actually have yourself a medium weight, mildly coarse, and a hoppy smokey beer. Lots of things are happening here, and you should try it, if only for sport.

The next beer I tried was a classic there: Mind’s Eye Rye. This was a great Porter and it went really well with the Mushroom Merlot I was mentioning earlier. First off, it’s smells smokey and only a little bitter. It tastes just the same, with the added value that it goes down super smoothly and there’s a tiny chocolate after taste. I’d highly recommend this one – there’s lots of a subtle flavor in a beer that is also super easy to drink.

The last beer I had there, which was my favorite, is the Scarlet 7  Abbey Dubbel. This beer, as is typical for Red Eye, has a lot of flavor -but this one is particularly well balanced. The Scarlet 7 smells like dark fruit, tastes bitter at first, and leaves you with an after taste that tastes like raisins with chocolate-y notes.  The Scarlet 7 is also pretty coarse, so if you like a beer you can chew on a little bit, this one is for you. You can also occasionally find Scarlet 7 as a guest draft at O’so Brewing Company in Plover.

What I was able to have this weekend really just scrapes the surface of what Red Eye has to offer. Their seasonal Rye’s are great (I had their Lemongrass Rye this summer… YUM), they are always pushing the limits of creativity with their beer, and they do the same with their food. Red Eye wins the award for being dangerously successful, and I would say the trip is totally worth it.

 

Yes. I liked a Flower Beer.

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I was passing through Madison on my way to a wedding in Western Wisconsin and needed a place for lunch  – so I stopped at a place where I had always had a good experience before with beer to see if the food was up to par.

I took my first look at the beer list and saw the Twisted Hibiscus option. I had been meaning to try Revolution Brewing’s Rosa Hibiscus Ale for awhile – since I’ve never tried a hibscus beer. Even though it wasn’t the beer I’d been eyeing up, this was my chance to try one out.

I’ll admit I was hesitant at first because I’d been convinced before that anything with a floral edge was just going to taste like over acidic coffee that resulted from someone just trying to be too creative. I do not like coffee with “floral notes.” This beer was really pleasant though.

What was really great about it was how well balanced the flavor was. I could tell that this wasn’t a first draft. It flowed like any well made beer should – starting and ending sweet & smooth with a brief bitter kick in the middle. The hibiscus was subtle enough to not scare me away – so I was pleasantly surprised and only really upset that Vintage Brewing Company couldn’t have this all year.

The story here is that I was feeling adventurous, but a little scared, and it worked out. So if you are in front of a beer that seems a little crazy to you… try it.

All Day Octoberfest

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The Staghorn Oktoberfest is our new New Glarus fall beer, and the Old Fashioned’s beer of the month… which means 2.50 pints and 9.00 pitchers. We went for the pitcher.

If I didn’t have a soft spot for the brewery that only sells in Wisconsin and makes one of the greatest staple go to beers in America, this review might be worse. I want to say that if you’re looking for a full bodied,  malty Octoberfest that’s edgy and new – this is not your beer. This beer is light, tastes like you want an Octoberfest to taste, is not too smooth & not too coarse, and most importantly… you could literally drink this all day long.

In a state that has an Oktoberfest Festival probably within a half hour of any given place at some point between September 1st & October 31st (that become flooded with Miller Light drinkers) – this beer works.

The Staghorn Octoberfest could easily be the beer we drink inbetween stronger, thicker beer to hydrate and cleanse the pallet. It’s a million times better than your average “water beer” and provides a goos introduction to Octoberfest for newcomers. So although it’s really not for me, it could be for you, or some of our friends that we bring to Oktoberfest with us this year.

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

My Birthday Beer in Milwaukee

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I want to start this one out by mentioning it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted. I started a new job, went through moving, and have had a lot on my plate during the last few weeks. I’ve always told myself that no matter how hard I work, I should keep my hobbies, even if it’s just a few hours a week. I’ve done a pretty terrible job of keeping a good balance this month. I visited Milwaukee Brewing Company on June 1st – and I’m never waiting this long to write about good beer again.

Milwaukee Brewing Company was great. You shouldn’t need to worry about making reservations because they only allow half of their tour to be reserved, and allow the other half to be walk ins so that they can promote a culture where if someone decides they want access to good beer . It’s one thing have a good beer – but it’s another to have a company that values making sure as many people as possible can have access to it.

Milwaukee Brewing Company is a great spot to visit in the summer. It has an open garage style front you can walk right in – and there’s ice cream right down the street for after your tour. You’ll walk in, check in or sign up, and continue to the bar, where you get one full glass of beer, and then a series of “half pours” after the first one – and they really more like ¾ pours. You can start drinking a half hour before your tour – and stick around for a half hour after to sample whatever beer you want to drink.

I started out with Hop Happy IPA. It was a light weight, and straight up traditional tasting minty hoppy beer. If you like IPA, you’ll like it. If you don’t know what a well-made, standard IPA is, try this; it’s how it’s supposed to taste. It’s a winner. I tasted this beer in a bar full of what was clearly a group of great summer- loving folks who clearly came on bicycles and didn’t take the time to take their bike helmets off during the tour. The first few minutes at MKE Brewing were all around entertaining.

I had the chance to fill up before my tour group got called over to start the tour – it was Pull Chain. It’s ridiculously hoppy and mildly coarse, but light enough to have more than one, great for hop lovers looking for a smooth drink. If you get it in house, you’ll get fresh ground cascade hops on top.

When you start your tour – you’re going to get to watch a nice video about the history of Milwaukee Brewing Company and Milwaukee Ale House. If you go in the middle of the day – your tour guide will probably have had a beer or two; ours was drinking Jasmine IPA from his coffee mug – and that’s what I tried next.  The Jasmine IPA has a light aroma scent with a strong creative hop mixture as the flavor. It’s medium weight – and tolerable in the heat until you realize it’s at 6.6 ABV. This one is absolutely stronger than it tastes.

After filling up – we got back to learning about beer, and some fun facts about Milwaukee Brewing Company. We learned about how much solar power they use to power their company – and how they’re one of the most environmentally friendly breweries in the region. You’ll also hear some fun facts about the history of beer, including some anecdotes about trade routes to India from Europe and the fermentation process for international history buffs.

If you’re like me, this is the point in the tour when you’re participating, asking questions, and making sure everyone knows that you’re the expert in the crowd. Naturally, I thought that meant it was time for me to use my ticket for an extra strong beer – and I tried the O-Gii. If you like farmhouse ale, you’ll like this sweeter, stronger, more well aged version of it that gives it a unique twist of American and Belgian style flavor. This beer is deceptively light for an over 9.0 ABV – so don’t drink it too fast.

The last beer I tried on my way out was Louie’s Demise. It’s great amber ale that adds a non- traditional hint of sweetness – making for a more drinkable, flavorful beer. This one really has a balance that’s missed too often by brew masters looking to make good amber.

On your way out, you should be sure to take a look at all of the art work and posters for the different kinds of beer they make, and ask about the ones you think are interesting. There are some awesome stories behind the names of beer at this place.

Overall this place is a must attend if you’re in Milwaukee. The staff is friendly (they all wore Christmas ties with their shirts that day), the beer selection strikes a great balance between classic and creative, and the crowd will always be a ton of fun.

Check Out More Information on Milwaukee Brewing Company (& some other great spots I visited) here:

MKE Brewing: mkebrewing.com, @MKEbrewco

Bel Air Cantina (this is where I had dinner the night before my tour – great choice, great tacos): http://belaircantina.com/, @BelAirCantina