Monday, November 7, 2011

New Glarus - Staghorn

Normally, I'd ask if you're sick of New Glarus beers yet, but since I know such a thing is as probable as the Colts winning the Super Bowl this year I'm continuing my ironman streak of reviewing New Glarus beers until my beer fridge has made room for more newcomers.  It's a dirty job, but somebody has got to do it.  Today's review is for their Octoberfest called "Staghorn."  Let's pour!

Sorry for the pink-ish tint.  8MP Cell phone camera is the best I have at the moment.
Aroma 10/12
The first hints to the nose were almost-musty straw aromas.  They were followed by a clean lager smell and a developing hint of sweet malt with a biscuit toasting.  There is also a light citrus aroma that when combined with the straw-like malts, smells very much like earthy, ground coriander.

Appearance 3/3
The label of this beers asks the drinker to "Be sure to hold this one up to the light of any harvest moon and enjoy 'Wisconsin's Real Red.'"  While I certainly consider the malt base to be adequate for a red, I think that definition would sell this beer short.  This beer is a desireable burnt gold color, the way autumn leaves sometime hang in their transition from yellow to brown.  Lots of ascending carbonation is a nice touch and the head sticks around so long that if it were company, you'd have to start brushing your teeth to get it to leave.  The abundance of lacing is only the icing on the cake.

Picture doesn't do this beer justice.

Flavor 18/20
Stylistically accurate and well made.  The beer starts clean and creamy and its backbone stealthily, gradually takes over the palate.  It is malt sweetness and the bit of toastiness from the aroma.  There is no hop bitter to speak of, though the malt sweetness is not allowed to completely take over so apparently the hops are playing their part from just offstage.  While their bitterness is not felt, a bit of their citrus tartness is.  This is not entirely customary in Oktoberfest beers, but the crispness is welcome and is wonderful metaphor for the crispness in the fall air.  The finish is somewhat drying and slightly bitter, more good indicators of hop presence, with less sweet malts than in the aroma or backbone.  The aftertaste is a lingering, light, lonely bitter note.

Mouthfeel 5/5
The non-prickly, smooth, and ample carbonation in this really helps keep the beer lighter and refreshing.  It is slightly heavier than medium-bodied and never comes close to being cloying with its malts.

Overall Impression 8/10
This is certainly a well-made, excellent Oktoberfest and it adheres well to the traditional guidelines.  It is difficult for many to fully appreciate lagers with all their subtleties and discreet flavors.  However, this beer with its technical prowess and unique Oktoberfest sweetness can be appreciated by experienced and developing palates alike.

Total 44/50
I love Oktoberfests.  I really do.  I look forward to them and pumpkin beers more than almost any other types of seasonal beer.  Drinking an Oktoberfest or Marzen is like a welcoming to the upcoming season.  However, I am seldom blown away by an Oktoberfest.  Are they tasty?  Hell yes.  Are they well-crafted?  They can be.  Do they have a great beer heritage?  Absolutely.  Is it going to knock of the socks off of a lot of craft beer drinkers?  No.  However, in the case of Staghorn that is not the beer's fault.  This is a lager and in a world of "triple this" and "barrel aged that" if can become difficult to appreciate a simple, balanced, beer that doesn't have its volume turned up to 11 (for those that don't get the "11" reference, please see the video at the end of this post).  This beer is tasty, sessionable, refreshing, and suited in more than one way for the fall season.  What?  Did you expect anything less from New Glarus?

"But our beer goes to 11..."

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