As the snow begins to melt and the temperatures begin to slowly rise, you might find your mind turning to spring and, along with it, a few good beers.
In Wisconsin, sampling craft beer in season is a real part of our German heritage. Temperatures might not have solidly climbed out of the teens yet, but here in the dairy state, we’re all donning shorts and drinking up some of the finest brews from our local breweries.
Picnic Ants Farmhouse Ale
O’so Brewing Company (Plover, Wis.) has brought back its craft beer Picnic Ants Farmhouse Ale, and their passion for “freestyle brewing” just in time for spring. It’s a Belgian imperial saison that is truly a work of brewing artistry. Each year, the batch gets a bit better, and this year is no exception. The yeast that goes into O’so Picnic Ants is a Belgian variety which thrives in the heat and ferments at almost 90 degrees (about 20 degrees warmer than most ales). The yeast reacts very violently and efficiently to create a light, clean-tasting beer that is also dry. It’s crisp and fruity, but has almost no sugars. The yeast will remain active in the bottle so it becomes more carbonated as it ages, making it a true living beer.
For a Belgian beer, the alcohol content is on the heavier end of the spectrum, weighing in at a full 7 percent. Pick up a six-pack and don’t invite too many friends to try it; it’s an easy drinking beer that will leave you thirsty for another. It’s available in healthy-sized 22 oz. bottles and will set you back about $3.99 per bottle.
Spring Unshadowed from Ale Asylum (Madison) is really one of the best examples of unfiltered crisp and refreshing German Hefeweizen beer. Light golden in color, a sweet banana aroma, a big white head and a hazy appearance mark the characteristics of this beer. If you could bottle spring and taste it, this would be the beer that best captures it in a smooth, drinkable formula. Price-wise, a 16oz. draft costs about $4.25.
Point Three Kings Ale
Stevens Point Brewery (better known as Point) releases its Kolsch style beer Three Kings Ale in February. The crystal clear, lemon, yellow-bodied beer has a big showing of bone white head, two fingers deep. The head quickly dissipates to a delicate lacework of bubbles on the side of the glass leaving you free to taste. In this case, patience on your part will be rewarded should you possess it, as this ale gets richer tasting and displays a more pungent aroma as it warms up. A pinch of bitter and yet a clean easy drinking beer best describes the taste of this ale as the noble hops impart some flavor and the field corn produces the rest. The folks at Point created a nice Kolsch style beer that’s out way before spring ever hits here in the Midwest — probably to help us warm up our taste buds. At 4.9 percent alcohol, you can even enjoy a few of them. A pack of 12, 12 oz bottles costs about $12.99.
Capital’s Mutiny IPA
Capital Brewery (Middleton,Wis.) makes some of the finest beer in all the world, and we’re blessed to have it on the shelves of almost all the stores here in Wisconsin. What would a spring brew list be without a solid IPA? Capital’s Mutiny IPA is bright and lively, and you can enjoy one at Capital Brewery’s own Bier Garten when the weather turns fair. This IPA is amber to a golden haze in color and the flavor can be described with one word: malt. The head will linger for quite a while as a thin soapy layer and a lush lacing of bubbles. After piney hops taste and the lupulin threshold is reached by the taste buds you can grasp the sweet undertones on your tongue. The finish is pretty dry. There is a saltwater-like aroma with a hint of hops and musty pine vegetation. I drink this more quickly than I realized – thinking an IPA will last longer — but the taste is good enough for me to say their slogan, “It’s time for a Mutiny!”. The price is around $12 for a 12-pack of cans.
Sprecher Brewing Company (Glendale, Wis.) rounds off the list with their excellent Mai Bock. A straw yellow to pale orange-bodied beer, Sprecher’s Mai Bock has a medium body with a single finger of soft, fluffy white head. Clean, yet satisfyingly spicy, describe the taste, with notes of pears, toasted grains, and you’ll get a nice mouth full of carbonation. A good helping of hops rounds out the flavor and balances it, making it a smooth, well-crafted spring lager worth checking out. Sprecher beer is available in 4-packs at most Whole Foods stores across the country, or costs about $1.79 per 16 oz bottle, so even if you don’t live in Cheesehead country, there is no excuse not to try it.