Sunday, April 17, 2011

New Glarus - Unplugged/Apple Ale REDUX!

Fellow tasters, I came upon a rather unsettling discovery the other evening.  I had the exact same bottle of beer and two completely different taste sensations.  They were bought at the same time and may have very well been in the same pack - I am not sure after they enter "the beer fridge."  What I do know is that my wife enjoys beer flavored with fruit (krieks, lambics, etc), and so I buy those for her from time to time.  It not only keeps the wifey happy ("Happy wife, happy life!"), but it also gives me the chance to sample some brews that I might not otherwise try.

This "second taste" belongs to New Glarus' - Apple Ale, a member of their 'Unplugged' series.  I feel that it certainly deserves a second chance, especially after tasting a second flavor.  This is not to say that my tasting has been inconsistent, exactly the opposite.  I sampled the same beer, yet experienced two different flavors.  Either I got a bad bottle or New Glarus has some serious product consistency issues with which to deal.  The second taste of the beer tasted more like, well, beer!  It was not as cidery.  It was a beer with apple flavorings as opposed to a apple-flavored cider.  This time I will even pour it in a snifter so I can capture every last bit of aroma and match it to every hint of flavor.

Let's pour... AGAIN!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 9/12
Same as the last review, but there was a little more malt aroma to this.  Rather what I expected.  Long story short: more beer aromas (and not cider), equals more points.  They say it's an ale and this bottle smells more like an ale.

Appearance 1/3
Same great color and mixed qualities or cider and juice, but the head not only doesn't produce, it doesn't even stick around.   Even an aggressive pour cannot produce a decent-sized head (or much of any for that matter).

Picture is my own.
Flavor 16/20
A strengthening of the brown ale base give this beer the boost it needs to break free of the "cider" mold in which it has been cast.  Not by much, but enough to be taken a bit more seriously.  The brown ale base incorporates itself in every phase of the palate.  The initial taste is more sour than it was previously, but it still followed by the sparkling cider taste and a buttery flavor.  The main structure is the a light version of the cider flavor combined with the butter and the brown ale hints.  I cannot express what a difference this makes.  It changes the brew from a juice-like concoction into a much more mature offering.  The finish is still sweet and buttery, but now adds the brief flavor of the brown malt, albeit lightened.  Aftertaste definitely adds brown maltiness to it as well; a nice compliment to the authentic cider notes.

Mouthfeel 4/5
No longer "woodchuck-esque" in its body.  Its amazing what malt presence can do.  It changes the body from soda/cider into something closer to beer.  Much improved.

Overall Impression 7/10
Not a huge adjustment overall, but one that adds complexity and maturity to an brew with excellent, authentic flavors.  It went from cider to beer.  A sweet beer, but a beer nonetheless.

Total 37/50
This bottle helps redeem this "unplugged" offering from New Glarus, though it does not explain the inconsistency between the bottles.  The slight variation in flavors changes the complexity and overall theme of the brew.  I would no longer have a problem discerning this from a cider, nor would anyone else.  I am glad that most of the bottles I had purchased (8) turned out this way as opposed to the cidery offering I experienced before.  The ratings change is not a world of difference as that I still feel it is a rather simple (though authentic) brew, but I do need to be forthright and honest about the brews I sample.

I hope this serves as a reminder to always give a beer a second chance.  You never know now long a distributor has been holding onto a case, or how long a retailer held it in back, or to what temperatures it was exposed, etc, etc.  After all, if you are not willing to give a beer a second chance, you may be missing out on something you will truly enjoy.

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