Today's guest post from Matt Lange of Beer Talk Today about New Glarus' new Alt.
There has been a bit of buzz in the Madison beer community surrounding the upcoming New Glarus release, Alt. The description on the New Glarus web site (“this might be more accurately termed a Triple Alt”) is enough to stir up some intrigue. The excitement is not misplaced.
Last week I was down in New Glarus with my co-hosts interviewing Dan and Deb Carey for the Beer Talk Today/Madison Beer Review Podcast. (You’ve listened to it, right?) When we first got to the brewery Dan was in the middle of some kind of intense conversation with New Glarus’s head of quality control and former Ommegang brewmaster Randy Thiel, so Deb showed us around the original brewery for a bit. After sitting down for a formal interview and showing us around the impressive new brewery, Dan asked us what beers we’d had so far. We all shrugged. “What?” Dan said, “you guys haven’t had any beer yet?” We had not.
Dan then went over to a couple of his brewers for advice. “Should I give them H7 or H11?” Dan asked. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but I knew I liked the sound of it.
He then led us to one of the giant fermenters, which we found out was “H7,” and with the help of one of his brewers pulled up a ladder to begin the surprisingly difficult process of giving us a taste of his aging Alt beer. The difference between H7 and H11 was that, while the two are filled with the same wort, H7 is being aged on 250 lbs of oak chips. The two will be blended together in the bottled version of Alt.
So, the version we had was probably a bit more oaky than the final product will be, although the beer was going to stay on the oak for a few more days and likely took out some more oak flavor before being blended back with the rest of the beer. As we had it the oak was very prominent, as well as strong toffee and caramel flavors. It was dry and very drinkable for a beer of about 9 percent abv, the dryness probably due to the use of raw turbinado sugar. The dryness made me think of a Belgian dubbel, and in a way it was much like an oaked dubbel without the pronounced estery Belgian yeast flavor. It had a bit of a noticeable alcohol bite, which Dan said he thought would fade with more aging. “It’s a good thing you guys weren’t here a few days ago,” he told us, “it still tasted like rubbing alcohol.”
Rubbing alcohol it was not, and as it was it was a very fine beer. I’ll be very interested to see how the packaged version tastes after being blended back to reduce the oak flavor and with a bit more time to mellow. And being a bottle conditioned beer, this is one to add to the beer cellar.
The other great thing about this beer is that although it cost a lot for them to make, they are selling it at the normal price point for their six-pack beers as a “Christmas present to our customers.” Well, as far as Christmas presents go, I think I know what I’ll be getting my beer geek friends back in Minnesota.