Fearful Symmetries

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12 April, 2016

Manoominale: Wild Brunette by Barley John's Brewery Company



There were two Minnesotans came out of the West,
Their brews with many a fan,
And these two folks made a solemn vow:
Barley John's must can.


Barley John's Brew Pub was founded in 2000 in New Brighton, Minnesota, a northeastern suburb of Minneapolis, by Laura Subak and John Moore. Fast forward ten years or so and they are keen to expand their business by packaging their beers for resale. Unfortunately their plans ran afoul of Minnesota laws which restrict the sale of beer brewed at a brewpub – it had to be purchased on premises – as well as disqualifying a brewpub from owing a packaging brewery. And so the couple were forced to riven their ownership scheme in twain: Subak became sole owner of the brewpub while Moore opened the packaging brewery across the St. Croix River in New Richmond, Wisconsin last year.

My understanding is that this arrangement is sadly ironic for, while Cheeseheads will have Barley John's beers available in cans, Minnesotans will not. This is Minnesota we're talking about here. They still have Blue Laws. Minnesotans keen on buying cans will have to drive over to Hudson to get it on their regular treks to buy New Glarus. We Cheeseheads are able to enjoy four flavors of Barley John's brews which began appearing on store shelves here in Madison back in mid-February: an IPA called 6 Knot, Old 8 Porter, Little Barley Session Ale, and Wild Brunette, a brown ale made with wild rice. I was attracted to Wild Brunette as I like wild rice and cut my microbrew teeth drinking Capital's Wild Rice lager, amongst other beers.

I took advantage of the longer days to bring my Wild Brunette outside where it almost the magic hour. Not that this helped my poor photography skills very much, but I was able to get a good look at the beers beautiful reddish brown hue. While you may not be able to tell that it is clear, you can certainly see the large ecru head that my pour produced. It lasted a good, long while too.

The aroma was no less tantalizing with the woody, earthy, nutty wild rice right there to greet my nose. The malt added more nuttiness in addition to roasted grain. There was a little grassy/herbal hop scent to be had as well.

That Minnesota grown wild rice came through in the taste and was the first thing I tasted. Perhaps this can be attributed to my brain actively desiring to taste the delectable grass seeds. Although there was a goodly amount of it, the malt flavors were more prominent with more nuttiness and a big sweetness that was redolent of plum and toffee. Lurking underneath was some chocolate. Carbonation abetted the hops in balancing the big, rich malt flavors. Some Willamette greens added a nice, mellow herbal flavor while Warrior gave a sharper, spicier, and somewhat citrusy flavor and some bitterness too.

A swelling wave of spicy/peppery hop flavor and some bitterness swept away the lingering sweetness and earthy wild rice flavor making for a rather dry finish. My glass was covered in lacing with big bands of foam up and down the side.

Wild Brunette is 7.2% A.B.V. and so it is no small beer. It has fairly heavy body and combined with the sweetness could make for a rather cloying flavor. But the wild rice, carbonation, and hops all act in concert to bring the malt to a more manageable level. And I really enjoyed the wild rice here. It dominates the aroma and is no slouch on the tongue either. Plus I just like to see Upper Midwesterners utilizing native bounty instead of trying to emulate the West Coast. I also want to note how much I enjoyed the hops which offer grassy/herbal as well as spicy and citrus flavors.

Everything just blends harmoniously for a tasty, beery gestalt.

Junk food pairing: Wild Brunette is a pretty big beer and will stand up to pretty much any food you care to throw at it. I'd pair it with either some wild rice snack sticks to keep the wild theme going or a bag of Funyons with their roasty onion flavor.

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|| Palmer, 5:09 AM

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