Back before the holidays, I mentioned a bunch of New Glarus beers I had received and promised more in the way of reviews a little further down the road. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to further down the road.
In a way, this is little more than a tease for most of you, since New Glarus beers are scarcely available outside of Wisconsin. But the brewery has some kind of chops, so just in case you find yourself within arm’s reach of any of these, here are some thoughts:
R&D Gueuze: This is part of the brewery’s experimental series and, according to label, has been spontaneously fermented for a year outside the brewery. The colour is a rich gold and the nose certainly speaks to funky Brett, with notes of citrus, underripe pear, oak, dried hay and herbs and a little barnyard. The body has the character of a Belgian gueuze in its dry, tart profile, but the flavours are completely different – not surprising when you consider that a whole different batch of yeasts were at work. The start is lemony and almost a bit sweet before the dryness really kicks in with a strong lemon and lime juice character carrying very restrained floral notes – rose water? – and hints of digestive biscuits and melon. The finish sees the emphatic return of lime — peel, pith and juice — with lingering herbaceous notes. A fine effort which seems to speak of Wisconsin farmland.
R&D Golden Ale: Another experimental brew, this one crafted as an homage to Orval. The nose has plenty of horse blanket notes, just like Orval, but is less dry and with tropical fruit notes lurking beneath the funk. The start conveys a lot of that fruitiness, with pineapple and kiwi notes, before drying somewhat into the body and adding both hoppy bitterness and tart spice. The drying continues into the mild to moderately bitter, still funky finish. Like the Gueuze, this is a beer inspired by Belgium but decidedly of New Glarus, in which fashion it represents some of the best of Belgian-influenced brewing in the US.
Dancing Man Wheat: I’ve had this strong (7.2%) weizen before and was only too happy to give it another go. The nose is bubblegummy with a strong sugary edge tempered only slightly by some clove notes, but the start surprisingly shows more spice than sweetness, with strong notes of clove immediately asserting themselves in advance of a fruity, malty, peppery body with complexity that stands in stark contrast to the simplicity of the aroma. I get barbecued banana, lots of clove, some white and black pepper, perhaps a bit of plummy and grapey fruit, all ending in an off-dry, spice accented finish. An impressive if unorthodox effort.
Staghorn Oktoberfest: “Wisconsin’s Real Red” is perhaps a jab at Leinenkugel, but this beer is more a deep coppery gold than an amber or a red. The nose is a rich toasted cereal grain with a hint of smoke and perhaps a whiff of hazelnut, while the body starts just off-dry wwith a suggestion of buckwheat before growing a little sweeter and faintly smoky, with a toasted rye bread character and firm maltiness. The difference between this and Munich Oktoberfest beers is the dryness and the use of toasted malt, which gives it a flavour more approaching a Vienna than a sweeter helles.
Back 40 Bock: About to tuck in to a sandwich of kielbasa and cheese, I reach into the fridge for a beer and discover…a bock, of course. What could be more natural? Deep brown with an off-dry aroma of roasted chestnuts, light chocolate, a hint of licorice and just the faintest whiff of campfire, this beer holds out promise of equal parts satisfaction and quaffability. The flavour, however, delivers on the latter but skimps on the former, with a surprisingly light body and only very modest complexity, featuring some toasted grain (à la Ovaltine), gentle nuttiness and subtle hints of roast, ending in a dry and faintly cocoa-y finish it. The label says “without pretense,” so perhaps this is what they meant to craft, but I find it lacking the excitement I expect in a bock.