Well, friends, I have been waiting to sample this beer for some time. It has been sitting in my fridge for a bit, waiting for just the right moment. Apparently, that moment was today. This beer has a bit of a reputation (as does the brewery) and I was trying not to build it up too much in my mind - I have to give a fair review after all. The bottle claims loudly that it is a "Belgian red style," and (a little less loudly) that it is a "Wisconsin ale brewed with cherries." In fact, the bottle description claims that "a pound of Door County Cherries" goes into every bottle. For those of you unfamiliar with Wisconsin, Door County is the tip of Wisconsin that extends out as a peninsula into Lake Michigan. It is known for its wine, natural beauty, fruits, culinary delights, and other such delicacies which easily fit into the "finer things." I'm more than anxious to try this beer. Let's pour!
|Picture is my own. Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only|
Its a bouquet of cherries. Period. Please do not read this as cherry cough syrup or maraschino cherry or cherry flavor slurpy. This smells like proper cherries right from the tree. There are sour notes and light hints of spice. It is difficult to get much else through those cherries. Wow!
Besides the smell, it even looks like authentic cherries. No candy apple reds here, just a very dark, wonderful hue of amber. It is slightly translucent when held to light, otherwise the picture tells all. The head size was nice from the pour, but did not stick around long. The head originally appeared peach in color, but settled down to a nice cream color instead. Its texture was like the lightest whipped cream you have ever had, but still maintained decent carbonation. Just like whipped cream compliments a dessert, the head was a perfect compliment to the beer beneath. I would like to deduct a point for its lackluster head retention, but am hard-pressed to do so when it was so very pleasant when it was around. I think I just wanted more of it! EBC ranking is 38.
|Picture is my own.|
On a side note, this beer is capped with red wax. The was does not look as glamorous as that on Maker's Mark, but it still makes you take a step back when you see it. Beer with wax must mean business, right? I felt that deserved another picture.
|Picture is my own|
Not to be let down, this beer delivers on its taste of cherries. It is not the fake taste of sweeteners (New Glarus has a reputation to defend after all), nor ciders, but real, honest juice. The taste seems too complex to allow otherwise. The sour hints in the aroma were false, it was simply the tart of the cherries. This is delicious and the cherries are not overwhelming. After holding this in the mouth for a moment, a bitter taste begins to evolve. Almost as if it were dark cherries? I am not sure what causes this, but the bitter finish is certainly present and rounded out by a cherry aftertaste. I would rather that bitter finish be replaced by a warmth or a vinous finish. This beer is not a lambic, nor a "wine-beer" (like Dogfish Head's 'Red & White'), but its own version of those two tastes.
The body is certainly more "beer-like" than one would expect with its juice-based roots. However, it is still extremely light (think American lager). I do perhaps it were not so light, but with more body this beer might fall into the "syrupy" trap that so many other beers find too easy to do. I also imagine a bit more warmth might make this an even more successful venture for New Glarus, but may tread the line of becoming a port (without the smokiness).
Overall Impression 9/10
A fantastic beer from top to bottom. Despite its extreme flavor, it remains very drinkable and light. This is definitely an experience that I recommend. It is another excellent alternative to the lambics out there and another fun thing against which to compare them. The only factor keeping this beer from a perfect 10 was the bitter sensations. I found it a bit distracting. I worry that it was supposed to be a more "mature" flavor to round out all the sweetness, but I did not find it complimentary. There must be a better way if that is their intent.
A ranking of 45 earns the Wisconsin Belgian Red the description, "World-class example of style." The only problem is, I am not sure what that style would be. It has more body and richer flavor than lambics that I have tasted. It lacks the vinous nature of some beer-wines (the aforementioned Red & White, etc). It is just plain better than hard ciders with its fuller body, delicate head, and complexities. It is wonderfully sweet, without overwhelming the drinker. I had no problems finishing this bottle (1 pint, 9 fl oz), nor do I believe I would have such problems in the future. Kudos, New Glarus! This was quite a treat.