Weddings call for champagne, and it’s sometimes worth going to brunch just for a Bloody Mary. But there are times when only a brew will do (and here in Wisconsin, that’s most times).
Planted prominently on a hilltop in the rolling countryside of the southern part of the state is the New Glarus Brewery, best known for Spotted Cow. Along with strolling the Capitol Square for the Saturday Farmers’ Market and watching the sun set over the lake at the UW Memorial Union Terrace, getting to know New Glarus is intrinsic to the local culture.
Last weekend I made the requisite trip to the small town steeped in charming Swiss heritage. A cleanly paved drive leads up a curved and winding hill to the grand compound that looks straight out of Bavaria. After a quick pass through the gift shop (we’d come back for souvenirs later), my sister and I checked out the operation, stopping to watch the mesmerizing bottling supply chain and trying not to breathe too deeply in the potent-smelling room where the sterilizing and straining happens. The outdoor patio was calling our names, loud and clear, and as interesting as the mechanics were, we wanted to sip some brews in the sun.
For $3.50 we each tasted three cold ones while taking in the emerald overlook. Along with settling on a favorite book (something timeless but not ubiquitous), deciding whether I prefer dense or flaky fish, and committing to an NFL team (Mom says Packers, Dad says Vikings), having a go-to beer is on my life list of to-do’s. And though the sampler-sized portions were just the right amount for early afternoon, I didn’t walk away with a set-in-stone slant. The following weekend I picked up a few more varieties to finish the job. Here’s the rundown.
RUN: Seasonal(August and September)
STORY: “Wisconsin’s Real Red.”
TASTE: Red amber with a spicy kick, crisp finish
PAIR: Braised short ribs
POUR: Stone Soup
RUN: Seasonal(August and September)
STORY: “Moving a mountain begins with a single stone.”
TASTE: Fragrant up front with spicy notes of clove and ginger, finishing with warm malt tones=
PAIR: Fish tacos
POUR: Totally Naked
RUN: Seasonal (April through August)
STORY: “Beer at its most basic.”
TASTE: Mellow and smooth with a mature aroma and no coarse bitterness
PAIR: Mediterranean pizza
POUR: Two Women
STORY: The collaboration of two craft companies both led by women in a salute to the Sumerian and Viking women who first dominated brewing
TASTE: A classic country lager, discreet but sharp
PAIR: Tortellini salad
POUR: Moon Man
STORY: “Because in Wisconsin you don’t have to be extreme to be real, just be.”
TASTE: Bright bold blend of five hops with a strong malty flavor
PAIR: Pad Thai
POUR: Spotted Cow
STORY: The iconic farmhouse ale, cask conditioned in solidarity with the pre-prohibition preference
TASTE: Fruity but not sweet, full-bodied with a cloudy golden color
PAIR: Ham & Havarti Panini
POUR: Berliner Weiss
RUN: Thumbprint (handcrafted limited edition)
STORY: “The champagne of the North”
TASTE: Tart, lively, fresh
PAIR: Lobster roll
I’m no beer nut, but I genuinely enjoyed each one. I expected some to be masculine, dark, bitter and heavy, but all went down easily and didn’t make me feel like I’d spontaneously sprouted a gut post-consumption. And even more than the interesting flavor combinations born from an adventurous brewmaster, the clever names and unique stories behind each bottle are what hooked me, creating the sensation that I was drinking in real experience.
In the spirit of the New Glarus slogan “Drink Indigenous,” the seasonal sip will be my default pick – and any other time, a simple Spotted Cow will serve me well. Come on over to our corner of the country and see for yourself.
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