One of the great benefits to a road trip through any part of Wisconsin is that you get an opportunity to purchase beer from New Glarus Brewing. Based in the town of the same name, New Glarus is only distributed in the state of Wisconsin. It has become something of a marketing ploy and rallying cry for this most excellent craft brewer.
You can tell that New Glarus is a big deal because almost every liquor store near the water park resorts advertises that they carry the beer. It’s like a flame for those thirsty moths. I already felt like a bootlegger heading home to Iowa with a truckload, or so it seemed at the time, of Surly Brewing cans in the bed of my pickup. Thus, I played it close to the vest and picked up a few twelve packs of New Glarus products. Restraint, it’s my new thing.
Some Spotted Cow was going to a neighbor who was kind enough to clear my driveway of snow while we were out of town and another twelve pack was going to be my gift to a forthcoming New Year’s Eve party, so I was left with a sampler pack to talk about. It’s true, I love the sampler pack. Contained within was the well-known Spotted Cow, Moon Man, Black Top, and Two Women.
If you have been in Wisconsin over the past few years, I am sure you have spotted a tap with Spotted Cow:
Described as a “Wisconsin farmhouse ale” Spotted Cow is the perfect beer for the state that prides itself on sausage, cheese, and snowy football Sundays. Spotted Cow is light without being a throwaway. The fruit and spice notes are understated in a way that makes them complementary to most foods, especially heavier fare such as the aforementioned cheese and sausage. True to the “farmhouse ale” designation, which I am going to say is akin to a low-alcohol saison, Spotted Cot is a beer that you can be comfortable in throwing down more than one without fear of being “that guy” at the bar.
In fairness to the other beers I will discuss in a little bit my opinion of Spotted Cow was not formed on the basis of the three bottles in the sampler pack. Over the course of the weekend it was the one beer I consistently had on tap with dinner or during some bowling. Many pints flowed from the taps. I would also like to point out that I feel this is a much better beer out of a tap. The differences in flavor and what else are not large, but the beer just seems better coming out of a keg than out of a bottle.
Moon Man is a more main stream American craft beer:
It’s a “no coast IPA” and I dig that designation. It is both damning of the geographic labels we put on beer so often and an acknowledgement of the fact that Wisconsin has no coast to speak of if you conveniently ignore the awesome Great Lakes coastline of the state.
The idea behind Moon Man was to produce an IPA with a lot of flavor, but without the extremism that seems to haunt the style. I think this beer is a smashing success. It’s got a lot of hop flavor and aroma which is a direct result of a pretty hefty dry hopping, but the beer is neither too big in terms of bitterness or alcohol that it becomes overwhelming. It is a deft hand that brews Moon Man.
I do not know what to say about Black Top:
I wanted to like this beer a lot, especially after pouring a Moon Man and being impressed. Something just fell flat and even after three bottles I cannot figure out what was not hitting the spot. Maybe the flavors got muddled as the addition of darker chocolate and molasses notes fought with, rather than complemented, the cleaner body that seems to be a hallmark style of New Glarus. I am not prepared to give up on the beer just yet, but it would take some convincing to give Black Top a fourth chance.
Two Women leaves me conflicted:
I was sick for much of Christmas break, including when I drank some of these beers, so a grain of salt needs to be taken with every comment I make about flavors. Nonetheless, something in Two Women gave me pause every time I took a drink. A distinct burnt or off note was present in each glass that I still cannot place.
It should not be on account of the hops because Two Women is brewed with Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops which are relatively mild and balanced. As a lager it should have a very clean flavor profile and the beer does except for that one off note. Given my health over the break I would reach for another bottle of Two Women and see if something was off on my end.
New Glarus Brewing is putting out excellent beers. I have found that you can always seem to have a new style to try depending upon where you find yourself in Wisconsin. If you find yourself in Wisconsin, take part in an “only in Wisconsin” event and get yourself some beer from New Glarus.