When it rains, it pours. It seems like New Glarus beers were nearly impossible for me to get a year ago but today I'm awash in Spotted Cow, Fat Squirrel, Moon Man and Stone Soup. These beers have come to me as gifts from friends who visited Wisconsin, friends who live in Wisconsin and even my neighbor (who also has family in Wisconsin). Sometimes it seems like I'm the only one who doesn't spend a few days in Wisconsin over the summer. This bottle of Two Women is a new one to me, I hadn't heard of this beer before this summer and I've been holding on to it for a few weeks because it has the word LAGER printed on the label. It might sound prejudicial, but when you've got your pick of the New Glarus litter, the Lager is going to be the beer that's left over at the end.
This beer came to me from Wisconsin in a mixed box of bottles I received as a gift a couple weeks ago. Most of my attention was focused on the New Glarus bottles I received and I completely overlooked this Shergill IPA. This bottle is fairly nondescript, it's a simple red, white and green label with an Indian parade elephant on the bottom. I decided to open up this bottle today because it'll be one of the few early fall 70+ degree days we'll have left. I've got a pork shoulder on the smoker, the dog is sleeping on the deck and things seem pretty great... then I went and ruined it all by pouring a glass of what has to be the worst beer I've had this year. Seriously, it's bad, really bad...
This bottle of Lilja's Sasquatch Stout has been in the basement beer fridge for over a year now. There's no date on this bottle but seeing as how this beer is a Stout, I think it'll be just fine. There's actually quite a lot of stuff on this label, but not much of it is of any use... There's a line about the "Cheddar Curtain" and "Your Darkest Side" but you won't find the alcohol content of this beer or the date on which it was bottled. It may not be useful, but it's still a decent label even if I don't know who or what Lilja is...
I'm nearing the end of my New Glarus stash and it's bittersweet, the moment... not the beer. Toward the end of summer I received a sizable quantity of Wisconsin's most sought after product (as far as I'm concerned). It seemed like each beer was better than the last. The Spotted Cow was good, the Moon Man was great and the Enigma was amazing. I've opened up a bottle of Fat Squirrel this afternoon to make some room in the old fridge and finally wrap up these New Glarus reviews. Like most New Glarus beers, this is the first bottle of it that I've had and I don't know much about it. In fact, I didn't even know they made this beer before I got them... All I know is this is a Nut Brown Ale and all the New Glarus beers I've had thus far have been delightful. Not a bad place to start.
Sand Creek and the Lilja line of beers don't make their way this far southwest so I had to bring this bottle back from Illinois myself. I knew virtually nothing about this beer when I picked it up this summer, I was just on the look out for beers that weren't distributed back home. I picked up a number of Lilja's bottles and promptly forgot all about them... This Hop Nest Monster IPA has been sitting in the basement for a couple months now so I figured I'd better hurry up and drink it because it certainly isn't getting any younger... It's for the best really, as the summer weather turns to fall and I bring the sweaters out of storage, hoppy IPAs won't be my first choice of beer.
Even though New Glarus doesn't distribute to my state, or any of the states adjacent to me, this isn't my first Spotted Cow. I've had this beer three or four times before. Usually, it's the result of someone coming back from a Wisconsin vacation with a couple bottles of, "this great local beer you've just gotta try!" They're talking about New Glarus of course, and more often than not they beer they bring me is the Spotted Cow. I'm not complaining, it just seems like Spotted Cow is ubiquitous with Wisconsin craft beer... I hear you can even get it in some of the finer gas stations in the Cheese State. It's a neat anecdote but it's not the most interesting beer New Glarus makes year round... it's good but it's also a little boring.
When people talk about New Glarus' beers they are quick to bring up the tart and sour fruit ales the brewery produces for local consumption in Wisconsin. Most of these beers don't leave the state as they are best when they are at their freshest. Being several states away from Wisconsin I haven't been privileged enough to try any of the strawberry, raspberry or cherry beers New Glarus has brewed... at least not until now. I recently got this bottle of Enigma from a local homebrewer that vacations in Wisconsin. I found myself hankering for some sour cherries as the summer winds down so I figured it was time to pop open this Unplugged Sour Ale.
It is a rare occasion when I'm able to pull a bottle of New Glarus from the fridge. I recently came across a number of bottles of various New Glarus beers and just couldn't wait to dive in. Hoping to save the best for last I decided to start with what I saw as the low hanging fruit of the haul. New Glarus' Moon Man is a Pale Ale that clocks in right at 5% ABV. It has a light aroma which does a great job of showcasing the sweet citrusy hops in this beer. Overall I thought the aroma and appearance of this beer were mediocre at best, I felt good about my decision to knock this beer out first.
Get it? Heifer Weizen... that's clever. This bottle of Lilja's Heifer Weizen was found on a recent vacation across state lines where Wisconsin beers are more readily available. I'd never seen the Lilja's beers from Sand Creek Brewing before so I snatched up as many as I could. Among them was a lone bottle of Hefeweizen that says "Wisconsin Farmhouse Wheat Beer" printed on the side. The label looks more or less homemade, with a badly photoshopped picture of cows in a field with a thought bubble asking "Where's da beer?" Kitschy? Sure, but professional beers aren't always the best tasting so I was undeterred. What really sold me on this beer was the tagline at the very bottom of the label, "brewed behind the Cheddar Curtain." Ha!
My expectations of this beer were pretty low. I've had a couple Stevens Point beers before and I remember them being nothing special. They were better than mass produced macrobrews but in the pantheon of great craft beers, Stevens Point is pretty far down the list. Also, it seems like the bulk of O'Fallon's beers are being brewed in Stevens Point now... and they're pretty poor quality. I tried to keep an open mind though and give this beer as fair shake. I'm pleased to say the St. Benedict's Winter Ale is better than I was originally expecting. How much better? Well... not much.