View Full Version : Wisconsin Belgian Red
This is a renowned microbrewery beer, made by a small outfit in New Glarus, Wisconsin. It is one the few beers well-spoken of that I never had - until recently when fellow SB member Bob (don't know his surname) gifted it to me at the last Gazebo.
Coming off a cold that sent me to Hades and back (I think), I thought I'd try something new and offer some taste notes.
First, a toast to Bob for the kindness of his gesture: a number of people have done similar in SB including Randy Goode, Lenell Smothers, Randy Blank, Cliff Michel, Tim Sousley and Roger Hodges. I am in the debt of all of you and will try to reciprocate.
Now a taste note: there is a fresh cherry nose to this brew which is most appetizing. I get a taste that is reminiscent of a fresh sweet fleshy American cherry - the type used is Montmorency from Door County, Wisconsin.
There are also notes of almond, which probably comes from using the cherry stones as well (ground or broken when added to the barley malt and wheat ferment with the cherries).
The taste of the beer is sweet and very similar to American cherry pie! There are sub-acid notes as well, so the medicinal sweetness, while pleasing and (surely) destructive of any lingering beasties which would bring my cold back - reason enough to pound this down - is balanced by a pleasant skein of bitter/acid which lends complexity.
It is quite different to any Belgian kriek beer I've had and as good, just different.
The use of fruits in brewing is no gimmick, it is an age-old practice in most of the traditional brewing countries except it died out in most of them until revived here and there under influence from Belgian specialists like Liefman and the various lambic brewers who throw in some cherries or raspberries for the secondary to add extra fermentable sugar and flavor.
Thanks Bob, for this great treat, it is the perfect early libation for the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.
Yes, new Glarus produces fine beer. I'm drinking a Bourbon Barrel Bock from New Glarus as I type this. very very interesting. I am truely lucky to live close so many good beer producers.
I was so not impressed with their Uff Da and Spotted Cow that it was a long time before I tried any of their other beers. My loss. I guess I can't blame them for making unobjectionable mainstream beers to pay the bills and sell to the tourists.
Southern Wisconsin is home to a lot of nice breweries. One of the things I miss most about working in Milwaukee is being able to swing by Sprecher to pick up beer (and soft drinks) and take the Lakefront tour (although I liked it a lot better at the old location). Oh, and the Ale House in the third ward.
I also miss shopping for factory seconds at Usinger's and hitting the spice shop across the street, but that's not drink related.
Gary i`m very curious about that Wisconsin Belgian red,is it something similair as the red beers as Vos or Rodenbach or is it more like kriekbeer?There`s also a beer i can recommand you it is called Bourgogne des Flandres crispy and fruity but strong,also a bit red in colour.Perhaps this was the inspiration?
It's more like a Kriek, in that it's made with cherries.
Its inspiration would have been kriek bier from Belgium but it has developed clearly some of its own specificity.
Most kriek bier uses a lambic beer base, i.e., a wheat and malt brew fermented with wild yeast. New Glarus uses I understand an ale yeast which incorporates some wild strains but it is not fermented in the open air purely from wild airborne yeast I believe. The taste suggests a standard yeast with some wild influence, in fact, this is what I meant by "sub-acid". Liefman's kriek uses the house's sour-style brown ale as the base. Liefman's yeast probably also is a mix of a cultured and some wild strains but the Liefman brown beers too are not wild yeast brews like lambics and do not contain wheat I would think (or not very much).
Rodenbach and that style of East Flanders red ale did not generally incorporate fruit additions but was not dissimilar in palate to some lambic due to containing a component that was intentionally soured by long oak vat aging. However, Rodenbach has at least one expression today that is sweetened by the addition of a fruit extract. So the "sour-sweet" taste is part of its character today and in this sense the beer is part of this larger family of fruited sour-sweet ales.
So I would say the New Glarus beer presents a definite connection to all these Belgian beers in its light sourness. It seems connected to the kriek-lambics in the sense of using a wheat-and-malt base, but also to the cherry-macerated ales likes Liefman's which is not wild-fermented as such.
I assume that in all these beers where a substantial fruit taste subsists (as definitely New Glarus), either the fruit is added after the beer is finished or is added to assist fermentation and a way is found to retain the fruit taste after packaging.
Pasteurisation is possibly used by some of these brewers since if it is not I would think fermentation would proceed in the bottle (or tank earlier) and eat up the fruit sugars so no taste of fruit would subsist or very little. It may be that a good filtration is enough to preserve the unfermented fruit sugars for long enough before consumption.
However it is done by each producer, the style is certainly a very notable one. Liefman's version is more tart than New Glarus' and reflects the use of a different type of cherry.
You took away my curiosity by telling it was a cherrybeer,i thougt that the name red represented a "red"beer,we use that term here for certain types of beer i mentioned.Kriekbeers are one of my favorites to drink,in summer then that is,but that`s were my interests in fruitbeers stop,raspberrybeer is a product put on the market by some smart guys but it is not a genuine historical beer like the Kriek is.The Belle-Vue brewery had at one time even a bananabeer,don`t bother drink that.In Holland we have now a beer made from some non-edible coconut called Mongozobeer,it has a very fresh but strange taste,the brewer is a African guy that has his recipe from his mother in Angola only he too is making banana and other fruitbeers that make my eyebrows raise.Do you expect that those Wisconsinbeers are to be exported to our side of the big foam?
Thanks, Eric. Liefman has also made a raspberry version (frambozenbier) for many years and raspberry addition was also a tradition amongst some kriek-lambic producers. Other fruits seem of more recent usage although I suspect apple somewhere too played a role, maybe in the distant past (it seems to pop up here and there in the West in the form of apple-flavoured beers, or cider-beer hybrids, and these are very old mixtures I think, as are honey and barley malt beers). I am sure some of these North American fruited beers are available from beer specialty import companies in Belgium and Holland. Unibroue from Quebec has exported its beers to Europe and it counts amongst its range an excellent apple beer, and one made with cherries too except in its case it advises to consume the beer warmed.
A North American ale made more in the style of East Flanders' sour beers is la Folie from New Belgium Brewing in Colorado, an excellent product.
Russian River Brewing in - Santa Rosa, CA! - makes an interesting red ale too broadly in the Belgian style. When I first read about sour aged red beers in Michael Jackson's books 30 years ago I never thought I'd see the day when some brewers would undertake the style here. And when eating pizza at Russian River with some SB-ers over the summer we were gazing at racks of beers aging in big wooden barrels on the second floor, it looked for all the world like a corner of a Kentucky rack house. For a moment there I thought I WAS in Kentucky, but that's what SB company, two days of bourbon and strong ales can do to you.
Unibroue's apple infuenced Ephemere is one of my favorites when I can find it. Unfortunately I find the version with currants much more often and don't care as much for it. The apple in Ephemere is merely a wisp, just enough to allow me to notice it but not enough to overpower. Many of the other fruit flavored beers I've tried put in too much extract (The local microbrewery Ed and I visited when he was in town said they use extracts because of FDA regularions on using fresh fruits if I remember correctly) and there is a fine line between the essence and the dominance in a lighter beer.
Dane, I have a bottle of Unibroue's Ephemere in the fridge, I got it in Montreal a few weeks ago. It really is very good, I am sorry you can't find more of it in your area. It uses (to my taste) the Canadian McIntosh apple which has quite a specific flavor and odor. You might consider pouring a glass half-full with one of those stronger-tasting local fruit brews and then fill the other with a beer from the same brewery that isn't fruited, or use another beer that would serve well for this purpose. I drank half the Wisconsin Belgian Red one day (it's a 26-ouncer), and the next day I blended the remaining half with a local microbrewery ale (Wellington County's Iron Duke). It cut the sweetness and still preserved plenty of the cherry taste, while stiffening the malt base (since Belgian Red is partly a wheat brew).
You mentioned an Ephemere with currants? I haven't seen this. I know we get an annual release with cranberries, which have a very strong flavor but to me don't quite overwhelm the beer. Still, I prefer the apple. I'd be interested in trying one with currants.
The currants version is rare and hard to find in Canada, interesting that it has a presence in the western U.S.
Well, not in the Western states exactly but a strong presence in St Louis before I left a year ago. Lukas Liquor Superstore, The Wine and Cheese Place, and Wine Merchant LTD were three of my favorite stores for picking up greater varieties of beers as well as bourbons and all three had the currants version. Probably all from the same distributor I'm sure.
Good to know, Dane. My brother lives in St. Louis, so next time I visit him, I'll have to bring some home.
BTW, what's the dusty situation up there? Did you pick it over pretty well?
We got to try this beer at a recent BJCP class, the Belgian Red that is, and I thought it was quite pleasant with a good amount of malt that balanced the cherries nicely. I wish we could get New Glarus beers down here.
Both the apple and currants versions of Ephemere (which means ephemeral in French - the idea was these beers would be rare seasonal releases originally) are reviewed in the current issue of All About Beer. The magazine's Buyer's Guide feature focuses on wheat brews and has an excellent survey of some of the best currently available in this category including imports, micro beers and some made by old-established breweries. The Saranac fruit beers look most interesting, for example. It will assist people living in different parts of the country who are interested in these brews.
This issue of AAB is one of the best ever.
It has a fine tribute to Michael Jackson, simple but effective with an excellent photo retrospective.
It has a superb, lengthy article on how the beer renaissance has proceeded in the South and South West with historical and social references that would interest many in the whiskey world. The article does not cover Kentucky - or even refer to it - and my sense is as a border State Kentucky is not considered part of the South for the purposes of the article. Still, it is a fascinating survey, e.g., it is noted that Alabama and Mississippi still prohibit the sale of beer with an ABV in excess of 6%. Nonetheless the beer renaissance has implanted there and the owner of a small brewery in Alabama is interviewed for example. There is reference to a book by an Alabama university professor on the history of the Southern Temperance movement which looks most interesting. His name is Joe Coker and further details are available for those interested at www.kentuckypress.com.
An excellent issue all 'round.
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