Fearful Symmetries

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07 January, 2016

You Got Beer in My Cocktail: Old Fashioned Berliner Weisse by MobCraft Brewing



Madison’s (soon to be Milwaukee’s) MobCraft Brewing is famous for pioneering the crowdsourcing of beer recipes. My experiences with their brews have been very hit or miss but I don't mind trying out one of their brews every so often that sounds interesting.

And of one their brews that sounded interesting was Old Fashioned Berline Weisse. Just as the name indicates, it's a Berliner Weisse flavored with various spices and aged in either bourbon or brandy barrels in order to turn an unsuspecting bier into a simulacrum of Wisconsin's unofficial cocktail, the Old Fashioned.

In addition to not knowing much about beer, I also don't know much about cocktails. So I've gleaned from the Interwebs that the ur-Old Fashioned was made by muddling sugar and bitters and then adding whiskey. The concoction was then garnished with an orange slice. Cheeseheads, however, tweaked the recipe at some point lost in the mists of time to use brandy instead of whiskey and added a splash of soda or sour mix. It also gained a maraschino cherry for additional garnish. This article by Rachel Fell seems as good an introduction to Wisconsin's version of the drink as any. And it comports with what I've always heard about the state's love affair with brandy, namely, that it began at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago after some visitors from north of the border fell in love with Korbel and returned home to spread the gospel.

I recently tasted the brandy barrel aged variation of Old Fashioned Berline Weisse. The brew was released back in July 2014. While not fresh, my bottle has been stowed away in my cellar so it's been kept relatively cool and out of light.

Old Fashioned Berliner Weisse pours a gold hue which was rather darker than I expected. While my initial pour was clear, my last one was totally turbid. This was an extremely effervescent bier as befitting a "champagne of the north". Foam rushed out of the bottle upon de-capping. In my haste to put the cap into my bottle cap recycling can, I didn't notice the frothy ejaculate and, like Onan, some of it ended up on the floor. Once decanted, my glass had a large off-white head that proved to be in no hurry to depart as well as a country ton of bubbles in the bier itself moving on up.

As I noted above, Old Fashioned is brewed with various spices and they are meant to mimic bitters. On the nose I could smell the cardamom and star anise, but not the juniper. There was also the scent of the oranges. Everything on the aroma reappeared in the taste. And again, I could not taste juniper. Joining those spices and the fruit was brandy. The barrel aging was done with a relatively light touch so, while you cannot miss its flavor, it doesn't overpower the other components. Being a Berliner Weisse, this is a sour beer courtesy of lactic acid. And Old Fashioned has an assertive sour flavor, though it isn't particularly lemony or citrus-tasting as is usually the case.

This is something I've wondered about since I've started drinking sour beers. Why is it that some lactic acid sour beers have that lemon flavor whereas others do not? Does that taste fade with age, perhaps? Something to investigate.

Lastly, I shall note that the carbonation is prominent. Not only is the Berliner Weisse a fizzy and vivacious style, but all those bubbles help imitate the soda or sour that is used in the Wisconsin iteration of the cocktail.

For the finish those spices lingered a bit until finally fading which allowed the lactic acid to prevail for a sour, dry finale. Schaumhaftvermoegen was sparse as the vast majority slid down into the bier. However, there were a few spots of foam to be had.

While I don't indulge in Old Fashioneds and it's been several months since I stole a sip from one, MobCraft's tribute to my state's favorite cocktail tasted very much like how I remembered its namesake tasting. My frau, who indulges in an Old Fashioned much more frequently than me, gave it the thumbs up saying that it tasted just like the cocktail. It was as if our dining room had been transformed into a supper club.

Beyond the whole mimicry element, Old Fashioned is a tasty brew. It has a light body and is all fizzy and bubbly yet it also boasts a plethora of flavors from spices, fruit, barrel aging, and bold bacteria. I was quite impressed with just how much I could taste the brandy considering the bier is only 5% A.B.V.

Junk food pairing: If you should have any Old Fashioned left, begin by pairing it with the fried equivalent of a relish tray. Grab some dill pickle potato chips and some vegetable chips. Once you've polished those off, go for Meijer Prime Rib & Horseradish Wavy Potato Chips.

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|| Palmer, 6:52 PM

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