If you get some time and want to take a nice day trip and do some reverse-tourism, get in your hybrid SUV and take your cultured Madisonian self on over to the local art haven of Mineral Point. Unless you go today, you'll miss the Iowa County Fair, but that's not really relevant to this blog, is it? No. Not really any good beer to be had at the Iowa County Fair.
However, if you head out there, when you're done touring historic Pendarvis miner colony and you've had your fill of local artisans and antique woodwork, and you've toured Hook's Cheese (award winning colby, bleu, and cheddar), head on over to Brewery Creek Inn. It's a small brewpub (and inn) at the bottom of the hill in Mineral Point. They serve fine food (if you're there on a Friday, they generally have three or four different fishes to fry) and their beers are quite good.
You're probably wondering what this has to do with the hot weather I alluded to in the title of this post. Well, take a gander at their tap list. Down at the bottom there you will see "shandy." Now, that's a little odd. An obscure beer style being brewed by two Wisconsin breweries? Well, I can tell you which one is better. Hint, it's not the one made by the company up in Chippewa Falls. As I said in a prior post, I was moderately surprised at just how tasty the Leinie's Summer Shandy was. (BA.RB.) As a serious beer, it's not particularly strong even for a weak style; but it's really quite refreshing in a "I don't want quality, I just want something to quench my thirst" kind of way.
Well, forget about Leinie's. Order the shandy from Brewery Creek and you will never question how to quench that thirst again. Brewery Creek has brewed a solid, light bodied wheat beer which they mix with half a pint glass of real lemonade. Not Minute Maid, or any of that concentrate stuff, but real live lemons - the kind that gives you a nice pulp to chew on while you contemplate your next sip. You get a nice smooth, light summer beer, with all the kick of homemade lemonade. In fact, if there's one complaint about this beer it's that the lemonade almost steals the show. But, really, we've all had wheat beers, why not let the lemonade shine a bit, eh?
In fact, drinking this shandy just made want to experiment with it. What if they used a sour belgian yeast to make the beer balance just a little bit more. What if they brewed a raspberry or cherry beer to mix with the lemonade. Just imagine all the possibilities.
While I was there, I also had the Dark Amber Ale. It made me ask the question: what's the difference between a "dark amber" and a "light porter" - and except for half a pound of chocolate malt, I'm not sure that there is one. If you like ambers, you can probably bet on the Brewery Creek dark amber. It pours a dark, port-like color with a typical white-ish foamy head that shows a good stability; it's actually hard to call it amber at all, but there is some crimson that shines through, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Not overly hoppy (as seems all the rage the days; though, I will save for another post my sturm and drang about the american tendency to overly hop, with those g-d-mn cascade hops, a perfectly fine amber ale) with a sweet, though not terribly complex, caramel maltiness. The body is a little thin (which I think keeps it on the "amber" side of the amber/porter debate), but it is otherwise very solid.
So, like I said, if you find yourself with a Saturday to kill, or you just want to go somewhere different for dinner (Mineral Point is only 45 minutes away - only 20 minutes further than the Grumpy Troll), I implore you to check out one of the lesser-known brewpubs in the region.