Milwaukee's Brenner Brewing
is a relative newcomer. If memory serves, the brewery opened in Milwaukee's Walkers Point neighborhood last year and they began distributing here in Madison only last month. Or was it May? Regardless of when Mike Brenner's brews arrived on Madison store shelves, it was a rather quiet affair from what I could tell. It doesn't seem that Brenner has a flagship beer like Spotted Cow that is widely known nor a highly sought-after IPA that gets the hop heads hotter than a whore in a cucumber patch.
I was happy to hear that Brenner would begin distribution here in Madison because they brew Bacon Bomb, a rauchbier. The poor rauchbier. Back in May during Madison Craft Beer Week I was as The Malt House chatting with owner Bill Rogers and Metropolitan's Tracy Durst. I brought up rauchbiers and Bill said that he no longer carries them as apparently I was the only person who drank them. L-A-M-E. Rauchbier just gets no love. The Wisconsin State Journal's Beer Baron, Chris Drosner, "can't stand smoked beers"
while Isthmus' beer writer Robin Shepard admits "Smoky beers are not for everyone, and I'm one of those who shy away from them."
L-A-M-E. And seriously Mr. Shepard, some German rauchbiers that have an overwhelming smoke flavor "can leave the impression that the wort was filtered through an ashtray"? That sounds pretty asinine to me. Granted, I've never been to Germany but none of the half dozen Schlenkerla beers I've had tasted like they were ever near an ashtray. Does Mr. Shepard ever complain about the overwhelming hoppy bitterness of IPAs that taste like they were mopped up from the floor of a malort factory? Does he ever complain about brett beers that can leave the impression that the wort was filtered through a swamp?
Don't worry, though, dear reader. I'll be your pregustator since the professionals in this locale are lame and won't help you.
On to Bacon Bomb.
Ooh la la! Just look at that deep, sexy reddish brown color! It pours clear and I got a nice tan head which dispersed rather quickly. The effervescence was on the low side with only a smattering of bubbles on the bottom of my glass. And notice how my glass has a slight, in the words of Robin Shepard, "inward taper"
to focus/concentrate the smoky goodness at my proboscis. As I looked at the beer it was impossible not to smell it. In fact, I could smell the smokiness upon opening the bottle. Brenner advertises that it uses both German beechwood and Wisconsin cherrywood smoked malts in Bacon Bomb and there was a certain sweetness to the smoke aroma which may have come from the cherry. In addition to the rauch goodness there was a hint of an earthy/camphor-like scent – black pepper is added to BB.
And what would a beer named "Bacon Bomb" taste like? Bacon! Smoke! My baseline rauchbier is something by Schlenkerla and BB certainly has plenty of that smoky bacon flavor, though not as much as Schlenkerla's Märzen oder Urbock. It was right around the level of their Weizen. The pepper was in the background here though certainly noticeable. And there was a bit of bready, malty sweetness to be had as well. Brenner notes that they use a yeast strain which makes for a light body and I have to say that I was rather surprised by this. In fact, I'd rather that the beer were a bit heavier on the tongue. There is also chocolate wheat in the grain bill and I have to say that I prefer beers with smoky/roasted grain flavors to, in general, have a mouthfeel that is more towards medium than light.
Bacon Bomb finishes with some lingering smoke flavor as well as herbal/grassy hoppiness. Again, going by the touchstone of rauchbier, Schlenkerla, BB has a more prominent hop flavor. It's not very strong, mind you, but it does provide some contrast as well as some dryness to the finish.
To the best of my knowledge Bacon Bomb is brewed year-round which is fantastic news. There is a distinct paucity of smoked beers around town. BB has a goodly amount of smoke flavor and I love the addition of pepper. It is 5.3% A.B.V. and goes down quite easily. My only complaint is that the body is on the thin side. This isn't a fatal flaw – more an observation on how Bacon Bomb compares to the Platonic Ideal of a rauchbier. Along these lines I have to admit that I don't know what style BB is. It tasted closest to a Märzen but I think the addition of chocolate wheat keeps it from strictly adhering to a recognized style.
Junk food pairing: I found that Bacon Bomb went quite well with Extra Toasty Cheez-Its as well as Jalapeño Smokehouse Almonds.
Labels: Beer, Brenner Brewing Company, Rauchbier