Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: Awards

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Today is the last day of 2008 2009. A year that has seen much for the brewing industry. The big got bigger, and the small got ... well ... bigger. This could be one of those years that a few years in the future we look back and can point to things that happened and say "this was a turning point". The AB-InBev merger changed the American and global landscape in ways that we can't really imagine right now. Some Wisconsin breweries took industry-leading steps in producing, brewing and marketing beer that will be the future of global microbrewing. History has been revealed within the construct of modern trends in ways that could re-define a style. On the other hand, it could all just be an insignificant point on the timeline of the universe without any real consequence at all.

In any event, at least we got some good beer, right?

Best Experimental Beer: Brewed in 2008, but released in 2009, Furthermore's Thermo Refur was a hodgepodge of style, technique and ingredient that worked (or didn't work) really, really well. It was the first in a theme repeated throughout the year about temperature and taste. This beer really likes warmer temperatures - treat it with respect and you just might like it. But, then again, you might not.

Best New Release: O'So Dank. OK, I haven't published my review of it yet, but trust me, if you think I slobber on the knob of Furthermore and New Glarus you'll accuse me of taking it bending over from O'So next year. I'm sorry. Was that too graphic? The leaps and bounds that O'So has made this year has vaulted Marc and company into the top of the Wisconsin brew chain. The improvement is obvious to anyone who has been to a beer festival lately; the lines for these guys rival the lines for some of the best in the region. And the adoration is well-deserved - they're making some really unique, challenging, and fun beer. This beer reminds me of a really hoppy Bridge Burner. Technically a "special release" since it's the first anniversary beer, I put it here in the hopes that they will make this every so often just for me.

Best Seasonal: Ale Asylum Ballistic. OK. Technically a "new release" but it will be a seasonal for them, so there. My favorite quote from my interview with Otto regarding the likelihood of an imperial IPA: "Probably not. Our take on the style would have to be so brutally hopped it wouldn’t tickle the taste buds so much as beat them into submission." Not more than 6 months later Satisfaction Jacksin is on the shelves beating our taste buds into submission.

Best Special Release: Tyranena Dirty Old Man. Rye? Check. Whiskey? Check. Porter? Check. Practically everything I love combined into one beer? To quote myself: "I'm all over that like a fly on shit." I can be so poetic.

Best Year-Round Release: New Glarus Hop Hearty IPA. New Glarus now lists this under "Beers we have known and loved" which leads me to think that it will not be brewed next year. That makes me very, very sad. So, a "new release" that's technically a "special release", a "seasonal" that's technically a "new release" and a "year-round" that isn't going to be made any more. Should I just stop labeling the awards and call it "Beer I Liked This Year Award #X"?

Best Beer 2009: New Glarus Old English Porter. Sorry everyone. You either love it or hate it. And, well, I loved it. It made me re-examine the very nature of a whole style of beer. It caused me to write seemingly endless words about porters, what porters are (and are not); it caused numerous comments both for and against. Poured at 55 degrees, its complex interaction of sour, roast and smoke make this not just one of the most unique beers in Wisconsin or the United States, but truly one of the best beers in the world.

Best Brewery 2009: Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, WI. All year Lakefront has impressed. The Imperial Maibock tasted fresh and inspired, the IPA was a fantastic summer thirst-quencher, the Holiday Spice was pretty darn tasty. And the Local Acre. We haven't actually talked about the Local Acre yet, but we will very, very soon and we will be talking about it in a lot of detail. In fact, so much detail you'll probably be posting here to stop talking about it. And, I won't stop talking about it. It is the future of the brewing industry. And not to minimize the work of others (like Dave Anderson at BrewFarm and Paul Graham at Central Waters and Bo Belanger at South Shore and Kirby Nelson at Capital who also have put in a lot of work that we will talk about in nauseating detail), but Russ Klisch deserves to be recognized for his dedication to this project and his environmental and local-centric ideals.

Best Porter 2009: O'So Nighttrain. The readers (who may have been directed here by someone up in Plover, not to point fingers ;) voted for O'So and I can't say that they are wrong. The Nighttrain is a fantastic, full-bodied, chocolate and espresso punch.

Best Brewpub 2009: vote in the poll on your right in the coming days and results will be tabulated in March.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lakefront Holiday Spice Lager

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I really, really want to get up a review of the new Lakefront Local Acre. But, I'm trying to put together an event for that tasting and it looks like it'll have to wait until after the New Year. So, sorry. In the meantime, since it's the holidays, here's Lakefront's Holiday Spice Lager.
Our version of a winter warmer: brewed with cinnamon, orange zest, clove and generous amounts of honey. Pours a deep amber to
ruby color with an off-white head. Aromas are fruity and spicy, with a slight floral undertone from the lager yeast. The flavor is smooth, full and spicy, balanced by the bite of Mt. Hood hops and a substantial, warming alcohol character. This is a full bodied beer, making it a holiday taste sensation that will warm your bones on a cold winter night.

Great with holiday meals; really cuts through the richness of fatty meats like goose and beef roast. Also a nice treat on its own…try sipping our Holiday Spice Lager by the fire on a cold Wisconsin evening and create joyful holiday memories that you'll hold on to.
Lakefront Holiday Spice Lager
BeerAdvocate(B+). RateBeer(85).
Appearance: A dense, two-finger, white-ish head; body is bronzed brown; looks a lot like a brown ale, or a dopplebock; a large helping of carbonation
Aroma: clove and cinnamon is immediate; the orange is a little harder to spot; a sweet, bready, earthy fruit maltiness
Flavor: plenty of alcohol bite competes with the spicing for your attention; malt is hidden, though the hops come out more in the finish
Body: so viscous, the bubbles look like they are struggling to make it to the top, more like oozing to the top; it coats the mouth, has a long, alcoholic finish
Drinkability: this is definitely a sipper; I might be able to drink two if I had one with dinner, but I certainly wouldn't be driving afterwards
Summary: A nice holiday treat; someone on the Lakefront website mentioned that they had annual holiday bet if you could drink a six-pack of this in one evening - this isn't something I would recommend, or even try; I'd like some more complexity, to see the malts come out of the spicing and the alcohol, but even as it is, it is a nice sipping beer that is definitely something a little different.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tyranena Sheep Shagger

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Tyranena Sheep Shagger Scotch Ale
BeerAdvocate (A-). RateBeer (UR).
Appearance: hazy burnished copper, with a foamy golden tan head; I really like the look of this beer, it looks pretty in my authentic imperial pint glass; it has very fine carbonation
Aroma: malt and rising bread; a low alcohol-like aroma in the back;
Flavor: hard and malty; with a surprisingly clean finish; a bit of hops and alcohol and a very slight viscosity to it that keeps the malt flavors; not as complex as, say, the Lake Louie Louie's Reserve, but very tasty
Body: the water hardness was a bit surprising; I expected a softer, more pillow-y, viscous, mouthfeel and didn't really get that at all; the finish is cleaner than I would have expected
Drinkability: A very versatile beer that would pair well with just about any traditional midwestern winter meal from spaghetti and meatballs to meatloaf, lasagna, beef brisket stew, or ... well ... lamb
Summary: This is a very fine beer and if it seems like I'm picking at nits it's because there's really nothing to not like about this beer; it is what it says it is, and while I'd like to see softer water, or more malt complexity, I'd heartily recommend this along with Lake Louie's fine scotch ales

Friday, December 18, 2009

Press Release Friday: Bigfoot Draft Vertical Tasting

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At The Malt House on Monday night. Be there. Period. $10 for a flight. Why are you even questioning that?!

------------START PRESS RELEASE--------------------
Beer fans,
The Bigfoot draft vertical is back! We're tapping 2001, 2004, and 2009 vintages of Bigfoot barleywine on Monday 12/21 to celebrate the solstice. Yay, the days will be getting longer.

A flight with all three vintages will be $10. Sierra Nevada staff will be here from 5-7pm to talk about the beer and give away prizes. Bring a friend, this is going to be fun!

Cheers,
Bill

Ha ha! I know how to post on this site!

8 comments
WARNING! Madison Beer Review has been hijacked. Hijacked by Mrs. MBR for an unscheduled post. Um, sorry, Mr. MBR. That's what you get for letting me know the passwords.

The holidays are upon us. I want the Comments section filled with suggestions for beers that would make great gifts for Mr. MBR. As this is Madison Beer Review, a focus on local ones or at least locally available would be appreciated. Tell me what beer and why you recommend it. If you are nice, you will likely even see reviews of my final picks on this very site. And as an added bonus you may get some gift ideas for Chrismas, Kwanzaa, and the last few days of Chanukkah.

Now please get to it.

I now return control to MBR and promise not to break in again. Until next December.

Curiosity Killed The Cat - Cran-phyre

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While I haven't written about it much, in my non-MBR life I've been a bit obsessed with beer cocktails. You know, the idea of mixing beer with other, non-beer (or other-beer), liquids or solids to achieve a new drink. I know among the beer cognoscenti that you can have your red velvet cape and goblet forcefully taken from you if you admit even being in the same room as a beer cocktail.

For me, it started with the Chelada debacle that wrote about back in June of 2008. The idea that there was a group of people in the universe who put clamato juice (CLAMATO!) in their pale lager, liked it, convinced others that this was a good idea, and that this idea became a big enough force that Anheuser-Busch dedicated shelf space to it. I find the mere existence of such a culture fascinating.

Shortly thereafter I linked to an article from BeerAtJoe's (a San Francisco-an with some ties back here to Madison) talking about a drink consisting of tomato-water with lager in a salt-rimmed glass called a "redeye". Heck, serve it in a fancy a glass, someone might actually be fooled into purchasing this rich-man's chelada. Then I saw Zane Lamprey's TV Show called Three Sheets." And this dude gets into a whole panoply of beer cocktails.

Not to mention my obsession with shandy at this year's Great Taste of the Midwest.

So, I had a bottle of Eisphyre and a bottle Cranbic open from my tastings this past week. I wonder what would happen if you mix the two 1:1.

Wisconsin Cran-phyre
Appearance: looks like Eisphyre, with bubbling; a little more "yellow" than the deep amber seen in the original
Aroma: malt on fruit with a pronounced lambic character that comes through
Flavor: tastes like Cranbic with a lot of alcohol
Body: softness from the Eisphyre is predominant, but Cranbic cleans up the finish; the alcohol continues to linger
Drinkability: actually pretty damn good; the cranberry flavor component is a little weird, cherry might work really well, but actually pretty darn good; I'd drink more of this
Summary: I was surprised. I had no idea what to expect when I mixed these two, but they complimented each other amazingly well. Like I said, the cranberry was a little weird, but not really that weird. It tasted both like, and not like, each of the two beers and was quite complex and enjoyable.
Summary:

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Glarus Cranbic

19 comments
Another one of my biases, I'll warn you ahead of time: I don't like cranberries. I'm coming around to them, but, really, I just don't like them. Way too sweet and sharp for my tastes. I love lambics, but cranberries, not so much. So, I solved the problem of my bias by finding an unbiased third party to taste this beer for me: Mrs. MBR. She loves cranberries. And lambics.

So, today's review is my notes, verbatim, from Mrs. MBR's mouth.

New Glarus Cranbic
BeerAdvocate (A). RateBeer (98).

Appearance: honey-ish, but it's reddish; kinda red, but kinda not; a strawberry blonde maybe
Aroma: smells like a fruity shampoo I used to have, but in a good way; you can definitely smell fruit, but not necessarily identifiable as cranberry
Flavor: Everything that Sand Creek Cranberry isn't [ed note: Mrs. MBR and I went to the Cranberry Discovery Center in Warrens, WI and bought a 6-pack of the Sand Creek Cranberry; neither of us finished the bottle we started and we dumped the other four down the sink; this was a few years back, and I believe that the recipe for that beer has been changed for the better]; tart, sweet and drinkable; definitely tart, with a tinge of sweetness; like a raw cranberry
Body: light on the tongue; dry champagne-like; strong, the immediately gone, but the memory remains
Drinkability: I would drink again, but not tonight; a great cocktail-party beer
Summary: {OK, I'm back} Truth be told, I did drink some of it, and even for my non-cranberry-liking predilections, I thought it was pretty decent, though I couldn't help thinking that I'd like it even more with cherries instead; but Mrs. MBR really liked it, and the champagne comparison is quite apt. In fact, this beer looks very, very different when served (as suggested) out of a champagne flute, than out of a pint glass (or, in my a case, a low-ball tumbler).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Capital Eisphyre

4 comments
Doppelbocks are a tough style to crack. In some respects I hold beers in the style to the highest of standards. Some of the most revered old-world beers are doppelbocks, or its cousin the "old ale." One of the problems, I think, with the doppelbock is that anything short of the top echelon is uninspiring at best and terrible mouth-syrup at worst.

Moreover, it is a style in which my clear personal preferences are somewhat off-style. Which is to say, I like them drier with a little less of an alcohol bite. Yet, these are often considered hallmarks of the style. Unfortunately, like Hallmark greeting cards, can make the beer a little sappy. (Was that comparison a little over-stretched?)

This year sees the latest incarnation of Capital's Eisphyre, a 9.8% ABV doppelbock modeled on the Autumnal Fire.

Capital Eisphyre
BA (A-) RB (96)
Appearance: thin, foamy head; tan; crystal clear, brilliant amber; almost whiskey-like color; very pretty; served at 56.4 degrees.
Aroma: not huge, but definitely sweet alcohol and some caramelized sugars and malt
Flavor: soft and foamy but not carbonated; caramel, dark cherry, brown sugar and alcohol; nice malt complexity, but much more muted and understated than I was expecting
Body: soft and foamy; long finish demands sipping
Drinkability: For a full-bodied, 9.8% ABV doppelbock it is surprisingly light on the palate and easy to sip; not really intended for sessionability, but definitely looking forward to the next one
Summary: this beer presents an interesting dilemma for me because I really like it; but, it doesn't hit my wheel-house on doppelbocks; for instance, the muted, subdued flavors, despite the obvious complexity, encourage frequent sips, yet because of the long (long!) finish, the flavors get muddied; maybe at a colder temperature where the impact is more concentrated this beer might shine a little more, but, at least for me, the doppelbock is a 50+ degree beer. Like I said, though, even despite my quibbling this is a fantastic beer and a great representative for Capital.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

2 comments
Today we taste the newest beer from the New Glarus Unplugged series, Wisconsin Cran-bic.



Here's the mp3.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Glassware

5 comments
I'll keep it relatively brief, but wanted to point this out. New Belgium, following in the steps of Sam Adams and hundreds of Belgian breweries, have created a "special" glass for their beer. You can purchase it here.

In typical fashion, each feature of the glass serves a specific purpose: a narrow opening that enhances aroma, a globe shape that focuses the aroma, etchings in the bottom that create surface blemishes to encourage bubbling, it is stemmed to prevent warming from the hand.

These glasses provide a couple of functions other than the specifics pointed out. First, they are great marketing pieces, providing another avenue of customer recognition. It also presents the product in a unique fashion that allows the brewery to be creative in a manner in-tune with its own philosophies. Finally, from a pure price perspective, it provides an interesting presentation in a respectful manner and, chances are, it isn't a full 16oz pint - yet bars can, and will, charge full "pint" prices. Thus, more servings from each barrel at the same price.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Your List of What Not To Buy

6 comments
In anticipation of tonight's showing of BeerWars the movie, I wanted to present you with a list, prepared by BeerWars creator Anat Baron, of brands owned by AB-InBev and MillerCoors. Keep in mind that this is partial list, these holding companies own many, many more brands; but these are some of the top sellers.

--------------------START LIST-------------------------
ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV
BUD LIGHT
BUDWEISER
NATURALLIGHT
BUSCH LIGHT
BUSCH
NATURALICE
MICHELOB ULTRALIGHT
BUD ICE
BUD LIGHT LIME
BUDWEISER SELECT
BUD LIGHT GOLDEN WHEAT
MICHELOB LIGHT
KING COBRA
HURRICANE HIGH GRAVITY
BUD LIGHT CHELADA
ROLLING ROCK
BECKS
STELLAARTOIS LAGER
ODOULS NA
HURRICANE MALT LIQUOR
BUSCH ICE
MICHELOB AMBER BOCK
BUDWEISER CHELADA
BUDWEISER SELECT 55
BUD DRY
LANDSHARK LAGER
MICHELOB
MICHELOB GOLDEN DRAFT LIGHT
TILT 8% LEMON LIME
BUSCH NA
SHOCK TOPBELGIAN WHITE ALE
MICHELOB ULTRALIME CACTUS
MICHELOB ULTRAAMBER
BUDWEISER AMERICAN ALE
BASS ALE
KOKANEE GLACIER PILSENER
BACARDI SILVER MOJITO
ODOULS AMBER NA
ANHEUSER-BUSCH SEASONAL
BECKS PREMIER LIGHT
BACARDI SILVER RAZ
MICHELOB ULTR POMEGRANAT RSPBRRY
BUD ICE LIGHT
TILT
HAAKE BECK NA
HOEGAARDEN WHITE ALE
ZIEGENBOCK AMBER
BACARDI SILVER STRAWBERRY
BODDINGTONS PUB CREAM ALE
BECKS DARK
BECKS OKTOBERFEST
BACARDI SILVER LEMONADE
KIRIN ICHIBAN
MICHELOB SEASONAL
WILD BLUE
ROCK LIGHT
BACARDI SILVER SIGNATURE SANGRIA
MICHELOB ULTR TUSCN ORNG GRAPFRT
BACARDI SILVER WATERMELON
REDBRIDGE
BACARDI SILVER MOJITO POMEGRANATE
KOKANEE GOLD
TAKE 6 HOME VARIETYPACK
BUSCH ASSORTED
BACARDI SILVER MOJITO MANGO
BUD EXTRA
MICHELOB HONEYLAGER
LOWENBRAU

MILLERCOORS BREWING
COORS LIGHT
MILLER LITE
KEYSTONE LIGHT
MILLER HIGH LIFE
ICEHOUSE
MILWAUKEES BEST LIGHT
STEELRSRV HI GRAV LAGER
MILLER GENUINE DRAFT
MILWAUKEES BEST ICE
COORS
MILWAUKEES BEST
MGD LIGHT 64
OLDE ENGLISH 800 MALT LIQ
MILLER HIGH LIFE LIGHT
BLUE MOON BELGIUM WHITE
KEYSTONE ICE
MICKEYS MALT LIQUOR
FOSTERS LAGER
GEORGE KILLIANS IRISH RED
SPARKS
SPARKS PLUS
MOLSON CANADIAN
BLUE MOON SEASONAL
STEELRSRV TRIPLE EXPORT
MILLER CHILL
HAMMS
MAGNUM
RED DOG
KEYSTONE
MOLSON ICE
LEINENKUGEL SEASONAL
HENRY WEINNHARDS PRIVATE RESERVE
OLDE ENGLISH HG800
FOSTERS PREMIUM ALE
SOUTHPAW LIGHT
HENRY WEINHARDS BLUE BOAR PALE
LEINENKUGEL SUNSET WHEAT
MILLER LITE ICE
PILSNER URQUELL
PERONI NASTRO AZZURRO
LEINENKUGEL
GROLSCH LAGER
LEINENKUGEL CLASSIC AMBER
MOLSON GOLDEN
SHARPS NA
MICKEYS ICE ALE
COORS NA
MOLSON XXX
HENRY WEINHARDS HONEYHEFE
LEINENKUGEL BERRYWEISS
MOLSON CANADIAN LIGHT
HENRY WEINHARDS BLOND LAGER
LEINENKUGEL RED
LEINENKUGEL VARIETYPACK
OLD VIENNA
HENRY WEINHARD CLASSIC DARK
COORS EXTRAGOLD
HENRY WEINHARDS BELGIAN WHITE
SPARKS LIGHT
LEINENKUGEL LIGHT
HENRY WEINHARDS SEASONAL
LEINENKUGL CREAMYDARK
HAMMS SPECIALLIGHT
TYSKIE GRONIE

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

REMINDER: Beer Wars, Wednesday, Dec 2, 8pm, Majestic Theater

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Just a reminder that MBR is joining up with Dane101 and Furthermore Beer to present Beer Wars: The Movie. There will be a free tasting beginning at 8pm, with the movie beginning at 9pm. Immediately following the movie will be a short Q&A session with Furthermore owners and operators Aran Madden and Chris Staples.

The evening ends to the raucous sounds of Madison's own Pale Young Gentlemen.

Press Release Tuesday - Brews For WYOU

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A bit of disclosure is probably necessary: Mrs. MBR used to be on the board for WYOU. Still, it's a great cause and it keeps an outlet for public access to television on the air. So, get thee to The Nottingham Co-op on Saturday night, donate some money, drink some beer, and eat some food. Who knows, you might just get the itch to video tape yourself at a White House State Dinner and want to take advantage of WYOU's programming to make yourself famous.

----------------START PRESS RELEASE-----------------------

WYOU Community Television Announces
“Brews for WYOU”

Madison’s WYOU hopes to raise $2,000 with the first in a series of craft brewers’ events designed to preserve community television.


Madison, WI - WYOU launches the first event in its "Brews for WYOU," a craft brewers series to preserve community television to be held at the Nottingham Co-op, Saturday, December 5th, 2009. Beginning at 8pm, the event showcases quality beer from Furthermore Brewing in Spring Green, WI and Blucreek Brewing in Madison . Both breweries have donated half-barrels to aid in WYOU’s fundraising efforts. Brewing representatives will be on hand to answer questions and facilitate the pouring.

“Brews for WYOU” will also feature an adventurous sampling of live Madison music including hip-hop stalwarts The Crest, grunge mavens Axiom, indie rockers The Sesters, plus a genre-blending mix from DJ Polarbear. All performers are also donating their time to benefit the station.

Along with video highlights of WYOU programming, "Brews for WYOU" will also feature Access TV Legend Cooking with Bob grilling live and in person on the outdoor patio.

The Nottingham Coop is located at 146 Langdon St. on Lake Mendota . Admission prices range from $8 - $10 and include complimentary beer. Guests must be 21 and over with valid I.D.

WYOU is the public access television station serving the city of Madison and Dane County in Wisconsin . The station has been a resource to the citizens of Madison since 1976 for the production and distribution of locally produced programs. Our producers include students and teachers, conservationists, social workers, accountants, activists, healthcare workers, independent filmmakers and members of local religious organizations. Our mission is to stimulate and facilitate open community use of the public access station for the development of local television programming. We educate the community in the use of digital cameras and editing software and provide facilities for independent producers to learn how to create programs.