Not to mention that we in Wisconsin are a little ... how shall we say? ... odd?
Blissfully ignorant of trends going on in the rest of the universe, Wisconsin breweries are putting out some phenomenal Dortmunders (Brewfarm Select), Weizen Dopplebocks (Capital), Saisons (O'so), Old Ales (Lakefront Bridge Burner), and bizarre bastardizations that defy description (Matacabras and Thermo Refur). Only Brewfarm Select (available in the Twin Cities) is available outside of the state (I don't think Capital and Lakefront send these particular brands out of state).
[ed note: also Thermo Refur is available in MN. I understand that many WI breweries pick and choose a few outside-WI locations, but, for the most part, only regular and a few seasonals are making it out and certainly very little of the stuff might be considered innovative, creative, or interesting.]
Which brings us to the one in-state brewery that does seem to get the attention and notoriety it deserves: New Glarus. Notoriously reclusive, New Glarus keeps on trucking, and getting high marks from smuggled bottles that seem to blindly find their way around the world. Pssst...hey...I have a bottle of Raspberry Tart...need a bottle of Imperial Saison...
Yet even New Glarus, while worldly in its releases, seems ignorant of trends. In the last years it has released the sour Imperial Saison, Berliner Weiss, Old English Porter, and Cran-bic. Yet, in the year of sour, only the softly tartish Enigma approaches sour. Instead, New Glarus chooses to release its Cherry Stout and now, this, an Abt.
Do you even know what an "Abt" is? I don't. Hell, I don't even know how to pronounce it. I've heard it pronounced like "apt", like "abbot", and my own personal choice "A.B.T."
Beer Tutor tells me that an "Abt" is another name for a "quad". Which is interesting because New Glarus just brewed a Quad.
Created by La Trappe, Abt (also known as quadrupel) are Abbey and Trappist beer styles of great strength and bold flavors. Abts tend to be darker with dark fruit flavors while Quadrupels tend to be lighter in color and may have a peachy taste. Both styles have strong, rich, malt flavors with very low hop content and flavor. Alcohol presence is very noticeable and the ABV is usually over 10%.Not sure I buy that distinction, by the way; I've had "quads", such as Ommegang's Three Philosophers and Avery's Reverend (not to mention New Glarus' own Quad) which are darker. Perhaps not quite the dark emphasis, a brighter fruit yeast and alcohol notes, but not exactly light and "peachy" either.
In any event, it's not exactly the trendiest beer in the world and I don't exactly foresee a coming onslaught of quads and abts in the near future. Maybe we don't need the validation that the rest of the country seems to crave. As of yet we've managed to sustain more breweries per capita than almost any other state in the nation; our domestic market is supportive and seemingly insatiable. So, here we are, with a stereotypical Wisconsin craft beer - obscurity and independence made extremely well.
New Glarus Abt
[Ed Note: Matt, Travis, and I all wanted to review this beer, so rather than draw straws or rocks-paper-scissors or race to the blog, we all wrote a review]
Appearance: Brown with ruby highlights, small head.
Aroma: Lots of Belgian yeast character; dark fruit, raisin, plumb, a bit of clove.
Flavor: Similar to the smell, Belgian yeast esters with some Pilsner-malt grainyness and just a touch of caramel. Quite dry in the finish, not a lot of malt character. This was probably made with only base malt and dark candy sugar, with little or no character malts.
Drinkability: Nice and dry, maybe even a bit drier than it's Belgian inspirations, but the ABV and warming alcohol flavor make this a sipper, not one for the session.
Summary: A nice addition to the Unplugged lineup, if not as innovative as some of the other offerings. Quite similar in yeast character to a beer like St. Bernardus 12, but a little bit lighter and drier in the finish, making it seem more like a higher ABV dubbel than a Grand Cru/Dark Strong, but now I'm just splitting hairs.
Appearance: a beige foamy head sits on top of a saddle brown body with an orange-ish glow on the edges
Aroma: smells of cherries and a slight oakiness; a bit roasty and a shimmer of alcohol on the end of the nose
Flavor: a little more malty than the nose might imply, the yeast esthers are definitely front and center, but there is a strong caramel malty sweetness; a definite alcoholic syrupyness hints at the strength
Body: big-bodied and slightly syrupy
Drinkability: Definitely not one to pound, and I would be hard pressed to drink more than one in succession, but I'm enjoying the one that I have in front of me, and, really, what more could you ask for
Summary: I did this entire review without reading Matt's (above) first. I think he's probably right on with his assumptions about the malts, but I sense some roasted malts in there as well that may add some color and a bit of aroma and the tiniest bit of flavor, but the candi sugar is prevalent; I disagree about the dryness though, there's a crispness in the front of the flavor profile, but the finish does not seem dry at all; overall, it's enjoyable as a refined beer perfect for sipping in the late fall, setting down to age for a few years, or pairing with a braised chicken in red wine sauce.
Appearance: pours a dark, opaque mahogany with lighter ruby edges. A finger or so of greyish khaki head fades to spotty skim after a minute or two.
Nose: Bready yeast dominates the first whiff, with dark cherry, rum-raisin and nutty notes carrying through to a sherry-like finish.
Palate: Liquid bread rolls onto the tongue as dry, crackery malts make way for candied dates, raisin, vanilla, cherry and green apple skins. The yeast, candi sugar, malt bill, and alcohol content combine for a drying overall impression in the mouth.
Dan has created a truly "authentic"-tasting Belgian-style beer with the Abt. Throw this in a svelte .3L bottle and slap a Made in Belgium sticker on it and I wouldn't bat an eyelash. Belgian beers are especially defined by the yeast strain used and those characteristic spicy-estery notes have proven difficult for most American brewers to replicate. If Capital Brewery's Weizen Doppelbock is liquid banana bread, the Abt is liquid fruit cake. I mean that in the best possible way, of course.
Without the use of excessive barrel-aging or wild yeasts that can often lend an over-engineered feel to some of the Unplugged-series beers (the Quad and Imperial Saison come to mind - though I did enjoy both), the Abt is allowed to shine as a fine replication of the complex elegance that makes the abbey beers of Belgium so memorable. I can't wait to revisit this beer after a year or two as the yeasts and malts are allowed to mature, mellow, and meld.