Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Innovating Tradition

Perhaps for good reason, Wisconsin is the Land of Lagers. Our craft (and macro, for that matter) reputation began with Sprecher and Capital and Leinenkugels. Our tradition is steeped in Miller, Pabst, and Old Style. Our new breweries are kicking out some of the best bocks, dopplebocks, eisbocks, and kolschs made in this country (or any country).

So, it should come as no surprise when a brewery releases a whole series of lagers. Well, what if those lagers are treated like ales? Hopped to the gills, with a single strain of hops? What if the lager uses wet hop?

We're all familiar with single hop IPAs. Mikkeller has a whole slew of them. But what about single hop lagers? Personally, I've never heard of a single brewery doing a single-hop lager. Until last Thursday when Dave Anderson, of Dave's BrewFarm, posted to Facebook that he was brewing up the first of a series of single-hop lagers. The recipe is all-new (not merely a hoppy Select), and its unknown yet whether the beers will end up in bottles. For now, you'll just have to drive out to the Labrewatory in Wilson, Wisconsin, about halfway between Eau Claire and the Twin Cities. First up is the citrusy tastiness of Amarillo. Yesterday he announced that the next in the series would be the pine and resin Simcoe. If you want a say in what comes next, go check out his Facebook site and let him know. Personally, I'm pulling for East Kent Goldings or Perle.

From the other corner of the state comes the latest release of Local Acre from Lakefront. Last year's was a nice, strong lager that put the focus clearly on the Wisconsin-grown 6-row Lacy barley. This year's recipe is tweaked to take advantage of the hop harvest and the nearby hop fields. On-tap at various locations and in bottles around the state, the hops are big and bright and oily. While the oiliness and mouthfeel of the fresh hops somewhat masks the softness and subtlety of the malt, it is a big change from last year that is a wonderful beer in its own right. It is great to see Lakefront using the Local Acre name to house a beer made with 100% Wisconsin ingredients. And, in the process, innovating in style with a fresh hop lager.

[editor's update: completely forgot to mention Capital's lagers - HopBock, and Tett - in the first case a hop(pier) bock, and in the second a dry-hopped dopplebock]

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