Halloween Brews

October 28, 2011 1 comment

Here are a few Halloween-themed beer recommendations:


Great Lakes Brewing Co. Nosferatu

This beer will satisfy both the malt and hop lover in you. The taste introduces a rich malt front, followed by caramel with a slight nuttiness to it. Hopped with Simcoe and Cascade, a piney and citrusy hop bitterness arrive midway and lingers into the finish. An imperial red ale is fitting for a beer named after the infamous vampire. Be wary of the 8.0% abv though, as one too many encounters with the legendary Nosferatu may put you down.


Wychwood Brewery

Located in the United Kingdom, Wychwood Brewery seems to have the corner market on Halloween-themed beers. Hobgoblin is the self-proclaimed “Unofficial Beer of Halloween” according to their web site. The beer is an English brown ale, and the brewery’s description: “Traditionally brewed to produce a wonderfully well balanced blend of smooth, rich & satisfying flavours from chocolate & crystal malts combined with a crisp, refreshing bitterness from Styrian, Goldings and Fuggles hops.

Wychwood also makes Wychcraft, an English Pale Ale.
“A seductive blend of Pale, Lager and Cara Malts give a light and gentle base of delicious dry, biscuity flavours, while the addition of English Fuggles, Styrian Goldings and Cascade hops…”

I was less impressed with their Scarecrow, another English Pale Ale.
…combination of tart citric fruit flavours perfectly balanced by a rich biscuity maltiness and rounded off with a spicy bittersweet finish.

Newcastle Werewolf
The makers of Newcastle Brown Ale are branching out by introducing a line of seasonal beers for 2011. Werewolf is their limited edition fall seasonal. It’s a red ale brewed with rye malt. Supposedly it has a subtle berry flavor to it. I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen this on store shelves yet, but I haven’t been looking that hard for it either. Might be worth a try if you’re a Newcastle fan.

Rogue Dead Guy Ale
Another awesome beer that’s good anytime really. Dead Guy Ale is a Maibock, brewed in honor of the Mayan Day of the Dead, (November 1st, All Souls Day). It has a nice citrusy aroma with a hoppy floral boquette. Smooth front with a crisp textured finish. Sweet and citrusy upfront with a biscuity malt goodness. Flavorful finish from the Saaz hops is just perfect.

Unibroue Maudite
Luckily, you don’t have to pledge your soul to the devil to enjoy this Strong Belgian Dark Ale from Canada. Legend has it 8 lumberjacks struck a deal with the devil to get them home for the holidays. Maudite (the damned) pours a cloudy amber with a spicy yeast and fruity aroma. The beers has a sharp carbonation and a warming finish from the 8% abv.

Pumpkin Ales
If you throw a bottle cap this time of year in any good beer shop your bound to hit a sixer of pumpkin ale. There are too many to list here and besides each region has its own offerings. Some are more widely available than others. So seek out your local offerings. I feel pumpkin beers are truly a seasonal style, since for me anyway, they lose their appeal after Thanksgiving, but are enjoyable around Halloween and deep into Autumn.

Laughing Fox from New Glarus Brewing Co.

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment

New Glarus has been on a roll lately. In the past couple of months they’ve released three new beers: Blacktop IPA, Laughing Fox, and a Chocolate Abbey ale under their Thumbprint series. Blacktop IPA is already making its mark, as it won a Gold Medal at this year’s Great American Beer Festival in the American-Style Black Ale category.

Laughing Fox started showing up on store shelves in Wisconsin around Labor Day. This wheat beer is a kristalweizen (essentially a filtered hefeweizen) and clocks in at a modest 4.5% alcohol by volume, which makes it a very sessionable beer.

Beer Review
The wheat ale pours a clear, dark copper in color with a thick light khaki-colored head, that eventually settles down. The aroma consists of bananas, with light chocolate or cocoa, clove, and spicy yeast. The mouthfeel is full-bodied. It has a softness to it with a tingling carbonation. Although, if you push the beer around your mouth, it still maintains a light airiness to it.

Laughing Fox starts off with flavors of wheat malt, banana & some slight chocolate, followed by a dusting of cinnamon. The satisfying flavor of the wheat malt really emerges in the middle. Cloves linger in the finish.

I was really impressed with this autumn release. When I think of Fall, wheat beers like kristalweizens don’t tend to come to mind, but the combination of 50% Wisconsin red wheat seems to work here and gives this beer a little heartier feel in both taste, and certainly appearance to match the cooler weather.

2011 Wisconsin Great American Beer Festival Winners

October 5, 2011 Leave a comment


The Great American Beer Festival was held this past weekend (Sept. 29 -30) in Denver, Colorado. The festival offers guests the opportunity to taste hundreds of different beers. In addition, breweries enter their beers to be judged by an expert tasting panel. Winners are determined and gold, silver, and bronze medals are awarded to best in each of the 83 different beer categories.

Congratulations to the following Wisconsin microbreweries for winning medals this year!

2011 Gold Medal Winners
New Glarus Brewing Co. Blacktop IPA  – American-Style Black Ale
New Glarus Brewing Co. Raspberry Tart – Fruit Beer
Capital Brewery Co. Autumnal Fire – German-Style Doppelbock or Eisbock

2011 Silver Medal Winners
Lakefront Brewery New Grist – Gluten-Free Beer
Vintage Brewing Co. Wee Heavy – Scotch Ale

2011 Bronze Medal Winner
Capital Brewery Co. Eisphyre – German-Style Doppelbock or Eisbock


Beer and Chocolate Tasting Event

September 28, 2011 1 comment

On Tuesday evening, September 20th, Johnson Bank hosted a Beer and Chocolate Tasting at Three Cellars in Franklin. The event featured six different craft beers paired with six different chocolate truffles that were made by a local chocolatiere.

The beer and chocolate pairings:

  • Lindemans Framboise with Chocolate Raspberry truffle
  • Hinterland Luna Coffee Stout with Chocolate Kahlua truffle
  • Breckenridge Vanilla Porter with Chocolate Vanilla truffle
  • Grand Teton Sweetgrass with Chocolate Orange truffle
  • Schell Firebrick with Chocolate Caramel truffle
  • Rogue Chipotle Ale with Chocolate Chili Pepper truffle

Lindemans Framboise with Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

Upon arrival, guests signed in and received a 5 oz. tasting glass with the Johnson Bank logo on it. The Lindemans Framboise and Raspberry Truffle pairing was set up in the middle of the store. Lindemans Framboise is a low alcohol (about 2.5% abv) raspberry lambic. It’s bursting with fresh raspberry flavor and has a tart sweetness to it. As expected, when paired with the raspberry truffle the flavor of the beer compliments the sweetness of the chocolate, but also that tartness helps balance it out a little. This pairing really showcased how a fruit beer like this can be enjoyed as a dessert.

The other 5 tasting stations were set up outside in the brand new beer garden that was built adjacent to the store this year. We stepped outside, and they couldn’t have asked for better weather for the event. The temperatures were in the mid 60s as the sun began to set. It was a perfect early Autumn evening outside!

The first table right outside the door was pouring Rogue Chipotle Ale with a Chili Pepper Chocolate Truffle. The beer was really interesting and I got a slight peppery smokiness toward the back from the chipotle. I can’t recall if the truffle had any heat to it or not from the chili pepper, but the pairing was unique.

Next up was Grand Teton Sweetgrass American Pale Ale with the Chocolate Orange Truffle. I was really surprised by this one. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a hoppy beer with orange-flavored chocolate, but I have to admit, they went together really well. The citrus hoppiness of the beer was really bright on the palate, and when paired with the orange truffle, seemed to accentuate both the fruitiness of the beer and chocolate and the spiciness of the hops.

The Schell Firebrick is a smooth and easy drinking Vienna-style lager. It was paired with a rich Chocolate Caramel Truffle. The malty beer itself has caramel notes to it and seemed to step aside and let the caramel truffle really shine on this one.

I was really eager to try the remaining two beer pairings, because I’m a big fan of porters and stouts. Breckenridge Vanilla Porter is a dessert beer in some regards, just because of the sweetness the vanilla affords to this one. Here was another example of two complimentary flavors exhibited in each. The vanilla and roasted chocolate malt combined with chocolate vanilla was a smooth, rich treat.

Finally, Hinterland Luna Coffee Stout with the Chocolate Kahlua Truffle may have been my favorite. The stout had a deep roasted and espresso-like coffee flavor, along with a dark chocolate bitterness. That combined with the chocolate laced with Kahlua was heavenly. The truffle just melted in your mouth, and all those chocolate and coffee flavors merged into a rich, roasted deliciousness.

Johnson Bank's Beer and Chocolate Tasting at Three Cellars in Franklin, WI.

Overall, I was very impressed with the Beer and Chocolate Tasting. Three Cellars was a great venue to host the event (what’s better than keeping a beer focus at an amazing craft beer store?). I also thought Johnson Bank did a wonderful job organizing the event and making it a unique opportunity for customers to experience something wonderful with a special craft beer and food pairing. Maybe even for others it was a chance to open their minds to the possibility of pairing craft beer, instead of wine, with something like chocolate that they normally wouldn’t even consider.

Beer News: The Monday Morning ‘Prost’

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Today’s Labor Day and while most of us are (hopefully) enjoying the day off, here’s a chance to sit down with your cup of coffee and catch up on some recent craft beer news from the following week or so. Hope you have a great Labor Day!

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout to be released October 3rd
The second in the Founders Brewing Co.’s “Backstage Series” will feature the much anticipated release of their Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS). Some of you might be familiar with Founders Breakfast Stout, (8.3% stout brewed with flaked oats, chocolate, and Sumatra and Kona coffee) and the Kentucky Breakfast Stout (11.2% imperial stout with chocolate, coffee, and aged for a year in oak bourbon barrels). Previously, only available on tap the Canadian Breakfast Stout was aged in Canadian Whiskey barrels. The upcoming bottle version is an imperial stout with a blend of chocolate and coffee, then aged in bourbon barrels that were most recently aging pure maple syrup form Michigan. Expect to pay around $18 for a 750 mL bottle.

Two New Beers from New Glarus Brewing Co.
Robin Shepard’s review of Black Top Black IPA from the New Glarus Brewing Co. Also, look for Laughing Fox, a reddish amber kristal weizen. I picked up a single bottle of Laughing Fox on Sunday and am looking forward to trying it.

Harvest Brews
Here’s a nice article from last Sunday’s (8/28) Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by the author of the “Beer & Food” book, Lucy Saunders. She writes about some of the upcoming Fall beers and pairng them with grilled foods, salads, and dessert. I really wish the Journal Sentinel would run more articles like this on a regular basis.

Guinness Black Lager to Launch in September
GUINNESS & Co. is releasing Guinness Black Lager nationwide this September.

“With Guinness Black Lager we really wanted to build on all the elements that people love about Guinness.  We take immense pride in the quality of our product and ensured that we built on the Guinness legacy when creating this distinctive and refreshing lager. I have no doubt that Guinness and lager fans alike will enjoy this unique tasting new lager,” said Guinness Master Brewer Fergal Murray.

How soon before we can soon expect to see Guinness Extra Black Lager, Guinness Foreign Extra Black Lager, and Guinness Black Lager Draught?

Cafe Benelux High Speed Wit Bier

September 4, 2011 Leave a comment

High Speed Wit

Milwaukee’s newest Belgian-inspired Grand Cafe from the Lowlands Group, Cafe Benelux, opened in June in the downtown’s Historic Third Ward.  A couple of things that set Cafe Benelux apart from its other sister restaurants of Cafe Hollander (of which there are two), Cafe Centraal, and Trocadero are that it has a market inside, roof top seating, and possibly the largest beer selection of the five restaurants. Although the beer menus at Cafe Hollander and Cafe Centraal are extensive in their own right.

My first visit was with a friend on a hot and humid night in the middle of July. At 10 pm it was still 90 degrees outside and the humidity that evening felt like it had to have been around 70%. Despite the heat we spurned the air-conditioned inside and instead opted to sit outside and enjoy the view from the roof top overlooking the Milwaukee Public Market and N. Broadway St.

I ordered the High Speed Wit. It’s one of three “house beers” that are brewed in Belgium for Cafe Benelux. As customary with most Belgian beers, High Speed Wit arrived in its own unique glass. The wit is a cloudy, lemony yellow with a white head. The body is crisp with a moderate amount of carbonation. The taste is tangy with a light lemony citrus to it. The wheat malt is balanced with a light hop bitterness and the finish has a touch of dryness that lingers.

The other two exclusive beers that are brewed for Cafe Benelux are the Tandem Dubbel and Confession Grand Cru. On another visit I tried the Tandem Dubbel with dinner. It too was rather delicious, but that’s a story for another day.

Potosi Wee Stein Wit

September 2, 2011 1 comment

Potosi Wee Stein Wit

The Potosi Brewing Co. is located in the southwestern corner of Wisconsin. The original Potosi Brewery dates back to 1852 and continued operating until it shut its doors in 1972. The property was purchased in 1995 and plans began to restore the Potosi Brewery Bottling Buildings. In 2000 the Potosi Brewery Foundation was established and in 2008 the Potosi Brewing Co. reopened after a $7.5 million renovation effort had been completed.

This year two summer seasonals were bottled, Steamboat Shandy and Wee Stein Wit. The Shandy is a blend of their Good Old Potosi ale mixed with cane sugar and lemon juice. Think of it as beer lemonade, and on a hot day it goes down really smooth.

Wee Stein Wit, a brand new offering, is a Belgian style white ale. It pours a cloudy yellow in color with a white head. The aroma has hints of citrus and spicy clove. The taste has a nice refreshing wheat malt flavor with some orange citrus, coriander, and a slight lemony tang. The body has a decent amount of carbonation.

I’ve had a few offerings (the Cave Ale and Snake Hollow IPA) from the Potosi Brewing Co. and they’ve all been very solid. Wee Stein Wit is a great example of the style and definitely something I’d look for again next year.

Next up: Cafe Benelux High Speed Wit

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