is one of Wisconsin's newest microbreweries. It lies in downtown Somerset - up nort in St. Croix County, within spitting distance of the Mississippi River, and not far from the Twin Cities. Proprietors Matt Wallace and Trevor Wirtanen caught the homebrewing bug and decided to open a brewery back in 2011. Their dream was realized last year when their 3 bbl brewhouse opened.
I found some crowlers of Oliphant at Riley's last month. Since I'd not seen them before nor have I since, it seems likely that they did a bit of self-distribution when they were here for The Great Taste of the Midwest. There were three flavors, if I recall correctly, and I went for their gruit/grut, groot.
groot pours a lovely, deep mahogany – a nice break in the line of yellow beers that I've been drinking lately. My initial glass was clear but there was sediment at the bottom of the crowler which ended up in the terminal pour. I got a nice, big tan head which lasted for a while and there were some bubbles making their way upwards from the bottom of the glass.
The aroma had a doughy sweetness but I also smelled clove, vanilla, and cinnamon. I couldn't help but think of gingerbread cookies with this completely – in a good way - unexpected scent. The taste was very similar with a bready malt sweetness and clove being the most prominent flavors. There was a sense of drinking gingerbread cookies here but ones that were from Jamaica. This was not liquid cookies as there was also bit of an earthy, woody flavor present too. I later emailed the brewery to ask what botanicals were in groot and was told that there were clove, caraway, juniper, and rainbow peppercorns. I couldn't detect the caraway so it must have become part of the gruit's botanical gestalt but I can see that the juniper and peppercorns were likely the primary contributors to that earthy flavor I tasted underneath the gingerbread.
groot was rather dry on the finish owing to the carbonation with the clove lingering until the next sip. My glass was, sadly, left without any lacing.
This was a most surprising beer. The usual gruit botanicals like bog myrtle, yarrow, and mugwort are nowhere to be seen so Oliphant gets points from me for taking the path less traveled. I also appreciate that they brewed a gruit that didn't attempt use a bitter tasting plant to as a hop substitute. There is no bitterness here at all. The spices are really about complementing the malt rather than playing against it. It should also be noted that I am not the biggest fan of clove. I don't dislike it but I prefer it be part of a larger seasoning regimen. It's a prominent flavor here but I drank a couple glasses or more of groot. The Dulcinea and my medieval Fretourys of Applys batter got the rest.
Aside from the spices, groot had an easy-going medium-light body and was very smooth. It's 6% A.B.V. so you'll want to share your crowler and/or, like me, use some in a historical recipe. Hopheads will likely avoid groot and I am sure many others will as well with a crowler costing $8.99. Not cheap, although cheaper by the ounce than most bombers but more expensive than growlers. Plus the can is not reusable. Crowlers are the craft beer equivalent of the vortex bottle.
Junk food pairing: Pair groot with a bag of Lay's Greektown Gyro potato chips. These chips have some kind of magical lamb dust on them which will go well with the earthy, woody spices in groot.
Labels: Beer, Gruit, oliphant, Somerset