I've always liked the Milwaukee Ale House. Though I can't remember ever being really blown away by any of their beers, it's always a place I seem to end up at when I'm in Milwaukee. A nice location right on the Milwaukee river, decent pub food and solid house made beer are all good reasons to check it out.
The Milwaukee Brewing Company, as they call the production brewing side of their operation, almost didn't happen. Their business plan from day one was to start a brewpub, and once that was successful, expand out into production brewing. But when the brewpub bill reared its head a couple of years ago, making it illegal to operate a brewpub and a production brewery that produces over 10,000 barrels a year, the Milwaukee brewing folks had to act quickly to finish their production facility before the law went into effect, grandfathering them in as an exception to the law. (Ale Asylum is another example of such an exception)
At some point the Milwaukee Brewing Company began distributing their product here in Madison, with seemingly little fanfare. Each time I've seen a six pack of their beer on the shelves my thoughts have gone something like "Louie's Demise...I've heard of that somewhere before. Wait, that's a Milwaukee Ale House beer! Oh yeah, they bottle their stuff now." Then I buy something else. I also can't think of any conversations with my beer geek pals that have involved Milwaukee Brewing Company, nor any mentions of them in any of the beer geek blogosphere that I inhabit.
But that all changes today. At some point Milwaukee Brewing Co began a "Timed Release" series of seasonal beers, and I decided to try out the Solomon Juneau Extra Pale Ale. I probably did a poor job of choosing a beer to review; their website calls it "the perfect summer ale," so it's very likely that this beer was bottled a while ago and has been sitting on a store shelf for a few months. And with the first frost advisory of the season already upon us, this might not be the best time to drink a summer ale regardless of freshness. Oh well, with that in mind, here's the review:
Appearance: light straw with little to no head.
Aroma: A fairly pronounced noble hop aroma; grassy, spicy.
Flavor: Very nice hop flavor up front. Czech saaz is an excellent and unexpected choice in this type of beer. The bitterness is moderate, and the malt on the finish is a touch sweet while still being a bit watery and blank on the finish.
Drinkability: The reduced bitterness and low ABV (4.8) keep this beer pretty drinkable, although the malt sweetness wears on you a little bit as the glass goes down. A slightly lower Original Gravity and slightly higher attenuation, keeping the ABV the same, would make this one a little bit better.
Summary: This is one in a line beers I've had in the past year that hit your palate in a similar way: big hop flavor and aroma up front makes your brain think "IPA," then all of a sudden the flavor drops away to a moderate bitterness and light body that almost seems watery and bland after the rush of flavor that the beer begins with. Surly Bitter Brewer, Grumpy Troll Grumpy Creek, New Glarus Moon Man and (with a bit of a twist) Chameleon Brewing Hop on Top all had a similar progression of flavors. And similarly, after the first sip I think "meh, interesting idea, ok beer," but by the end of my glass I always want more. That's pretty much the definition of a great session beer, right?
This particular one is a tough sweeter in the finish than the others I mentioned, which hurts the drinkability a bit, but the great flavors from the Saaz and Styrian Golding hops make this one worth seeking out, even if it would be better in warmer weather.
Golden Ales with the flavor and aroma hops of an IPA: the new pink?