Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Glarus - Stone Soup

Can I get away with another Wisconsin beer during a month in which you're supposed to drink locally?  As I explained in the last post, I think so.  Today's review stems from New Glarus, WI where Dan & Deb Carey run one of, if not The, finest breweries in the state.  I have been holding on to my stockpile of New Glarus for a little while now, but I needed a fix.  This bottle is often commended by friends and family so it should do the trick quite nicely.  Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 11/12
Loads of caramelized banana are the first and strongest part of this beer's nose.  It is accompanied by the customary spices: primarily clove, but also includes all-spice and cinnamon.  A citrus aroma hides in the background and could be brought on by hops or coriander, though one would tend to err toward hops as there are also extremely light floral and grass attibutes as well.

Appearance 1/3
 A brighter shade than the hazy color of store bought honey.  Head is medium-sized at best, cream colored, and dissolves extremely fast.  Nothing special here.

Picture is my own.

Flavor 16/20
Interesting.  This beer is almost nothing like its aroma.  It bursts in with an abundance of crisp lemon citrus, hints of the spices, and a lesser caramel tone.  The backbone gives us the banana from the aroma, but not enough to take away the spotlight from the citrus.  The finish finally allows the banana esters to show through, albeit in a fading capacity.  In fact, the citrus that comprises the majority of this beer's flavor profile mutes a lot of the finish and aftertaste.  The aftertaste is fairly clean, except for a muffled banana and some light hops bitter.

Mouthfeel 4/5
The higher carbonation contributes a lot to the citrusy, refreshing nature of this beer without becoming prickly.  The medium body does not contain any creaminess to speak of, slightly betraying its Belgian roots, but this beer has been a variation on the style through and through.

Overall Impression 7/10
A very good beer even if it does stray from the traditional Belgian stylings.  It offers some of the essentials, but is generally a lighter offering and definitely appropriate for this summer season.  However, it does leave out some of the preferred qualities of Belgian Pale Ales (BPAs): the creaminess, warmth, thick head, and banana esters in the flavor profile.  However, these are deliberate choices made by the brewer or consequences thereof (more citric acid = less head) and not flaws.

Total 39/50
This is a mild offering of a Belgian ale.  If you normally expect larger things from your Belgian styles, you may be a little disappointed, as I was.  However, when I finished scoring the beer still rated higher that I thought it would have.  It is a variation on a style and is remarkably true to the brewers' intent, even if that intent is not what we may or may not have preferred in that particular brew.  This is a nice option to have if you want the Belgian ale flavor, but might not be in the mood for a 9% (or more) ABV brew.  I could also see the citrus and milder flavors being used as an excellent gateway into craft beers for someone who already appreciates the "Blue Moons" of the market.

This beer definitely has its niche, unfortunately, I think my niche often opts for something a bit stronger.  Cheers to another solid offering from New Glarus!  This is a sound example of a lighter variation of a great style.  Prost!

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