Glendale's (Milwaukee) Sprecher Brewery
is one of the founding fathers of Wisconsin's microbrew scene having been established in 1985. Chris Welch of Trixie's Liquor here in Madison noted last month
that the venerable brewery derived 70% of its sales from soda. I don't know where he got that number from but I've heard for some time that Sprecher sells more soda than beer.
This is a real shame considering that Sprecher makes some mighty tasty brews. There are the stalwart Amber (one of my all-time favorites) and Black Bavarian (another classic) plus their seasonals are great too including the current one, Summer Pils
But for better or for worse – OK, for the worse, in my opinion – Sprecher has seemingly put more effort lately into malternatives than into beer. I am referring to their series of "Hard Craft Soda(s)"
which began with root beer – what else? - and has now expanded to six flavors including Hard Apple Pie. And more recently Sprecher has released a line of radlers
. It certainly fits the brewery's German image and the radler would seem to be the perfect marriage of libations for a brewery that excels at lagers as well as sodas.
And so I recently purchased some of Sprecher's Orange Radler with grapefruit, peach, and mango rounding out the host of flavors on offer.
Orange Radler poured a lovely light gold hue and was extremely cloudy. The haze was no doubt from the wheat. Yes, Sprecher's radlers are wheat ales with "natural flavoring". Well, the orange one was, anyway. It had a very soda-like head in that it wasn't very foamy and it disappeared quite quickly. There was a fairly large number of bubbles inside heading on up.
As I was diligently examining my glass and the liquid therein visually, I could not miss the brew's aroma. It must have been what John Glenn smelled while orbiting the Earth in a Mercury capsule and needing to quench his thirst – Tang. Nothing says craft thirst quenching goodness like 1950s convenience food.
I was not looking forward to drinking this stuff but I had committed myself to a run of radler reviews so I had to. And actually it could have been worse. Orange Radler was light on the tongue and had a nice fizziness. At first there was the Tang drink mix flavor but it was followed up by a more natural orange juice taste. There was also a bit of tartness that, along with the carbonation and the cold serving temperature, took the edge off the sweetness which was not cloying to begin with. Once the natural flavoring had had its say, it was the beer's turn. A relatively prominent grassy/spicy hop flavor took me by surprise. I mean, any recognizable hop flavor amidst a sea of orange flavoring and juice would stick out like a sore thumb. Lastly there was a little bit of grain to be had as well.
For the finish a mild hop bitterness mingled with the mix of orange for a drier finish than one had any right to expect.
It both saddens and flummoxes me that a brewery which makes such great lagers and great sodas would play against their strengths and come up with this. A grand disappointment. There are some good things here, however, such as the tingly carbonation, the way the beer slyly sneaks into the picture just as the orange flavors think they've got the place to themselves, and that it's not overly sweet. But I should not be tasting instant drink mix here! Sprecher brews a fine orange cream soda already; why do I not taste the orange half of that drink here? Or even better, an orange soda that utilizes juice and tastes more natural. Surely they can brew a fine helles and mix it with their fine soda. Instead they add natural flavoring to a nondescript wheat ale for a brew that comes to 4.5% A.B.V. when it should be much lower, to my mind.
Junk food pairing: When consuming Sprecher Orange Radler, get a bag of Fritos Scoops and fill them with generous amounts of Dean's Sriracha dip.
Labels: Beer, Radler, Sprecher Brewing Company