Last weekend the frau and I took a trek out to Verona and visited Wisconsin Brewing Company
. We did so as an act of nostalgia, to recall the days when Kirby Nelson was not a hophead and was instead someone who reveled in being the brewmaster at a "Wisconsin lager brewery". Well, that and I had two free brewery tour passes each of which came replete with a free pint. And Verona was on our way home from New Glarus so we'd be in the neighborhood anyway.
As someone who began drinking Kirby's beers over a quarter century ago, it is genuinely odd to be at WBC and see the beer menu. Moving past the paucity of lagers, there are the hoppy brews. Various IPAs, most of which have "HOP" in big, bold letters in the name, would surely have been anathema to Kirby not all that long ago. And his helles bock is dry-hopped. And then there are the Belgian-style brews. Anyone remember Prairie Gold or the experimental beer Kirby made which was basically Island Wheat brewed with a Belgian yeast? Back In 2010 anyone who proclaimed that he'd be brewing Belgian-style beers in 2016 - and ones that weren't bad at that – would have been spirited away in the night and committed to Mendota.
Our tour was conducted by a lovely young woman named Athena which is a wonderful name. (I wonder if her parents were classicists and teased her as a child by telling her that she popped out of her father's head.) She was quite friendly and knowledgeable about the brewhouse and what laid therein despite not being a brewer. Sacks of red wheat seemed to be scattered around the entire brewhouse. Presumably they'll be brewing S'Wheat Caroline
anon. The cooler held some interesting sights. First there was a pallet of six carbuoys filled with proto-beers destined for Madison Craft Beer Week. There was little indication as to what styles they were but the carbuoys had labels with hop names on them – Saaz, Citra, Waimea, et al. And in the corner was a rack of whiskey barrels filled with Depth Charge scotch ale just aging away.
Before the tour we indulged in some breakfast brews. The frau got a flight while I had a pint of WBC's latest brew, Nectarine
, a Special Pale Ale. I had noticed that it was billed as "Fauerbach's Nectarine" and asked Athena about this. She told me that the former Madison brewery (it closed in 1966) had a low-alcohol "hop and malt tonic" back in the day that was even marketed to pregnant women. The beer had nothing to do with the tonic beyond the name which was a tribute to local brewing history.
Nectarine pours a lovely light gold color. It's clear so I could see a smattering of bubbles in it heading up to a nice crown of white foam that lasted for a fair amount of time. Long enough, anyway, for me to actually get a photo of it.
It was still morning when we ordered our beers so the big citrus aroma of Nectarine seemed highly appropriate. I presume the grapefruit-like scent came from the Cascade and unnamed experimental hops while the orange came from the orange peel. I also caught a hint of grass in there too which I really liked as it contrasted with the citrus.
As with the aroma, so the taste. The hops really came through in the taste with grapefruit/citrus first followed by some floral flavor and even a bit of the grass. And the orange peel added to citrus madness as well. It became more prominent as the beer warmed lending a slight sweetness. Right out of the tap I couldn't taste much malt but, as with the orange peel, I began to taste a little malt sweetness as the brew warmed. Despite the name, the addition of orange peel, and the use of honey malt, Nectarine is not a sweet beer. I'm not familiar with honey malt but, from what I gather, it's a very sweet malt that gives beer a golden color. Presumably just a bit o' honey malt was used here.
The beer finished with a moderate bitterness as the fruity hop flavor faded to reveal more grassy hop taste. There were large patches of lacing all around my glass.
Nectarine is all about the hops. Well, and orange peel, to be fair. Citrus dominates both the aroma and taste. The beer has a light body and a clean, almost maltless, flavor which allowed the hops to shine. Having said this, Nectarine isn't a very bitter beer; it just has plenty of hop flavor. It's 4.9% A.B.V. and will no doubt be a fine summer sipper for many folks. Personally, one pint was enough for me. Not unlike Supper Club, Nectarine's not bad but comes across as being one dimensional and, of course, that dimension is trendy, West Coast hops. I wish it had more maltiness, more grassy hops flavor, or even just more fizziness. Just something to provide a little contrast to the citrus.
Nectarine is available on tap only at the moment (and only at the brewery, I believe) but bottles will
Junk food pairing: Pair your Nectarine with a bag of Doritios Dinamita Chile Limón tortilla chips. Sure, it adds to the citrus onslaught but the salt and chili are complementary and help bring out the malt a touch.
Labels: Beer, Pale Ale, Wisconsin Brewing Company