Friday, December 23, 2011

New Glarus - Cran-bic Ale

To set the record straight, I'm only a half-liar.  I may have insinuated that the prior post would be my last fall seasonal beer, but in fact, it was only the last pumpkin review for this year.  Loophole having been leapt through, today's review is New Glarus's Cran-bic Ale.  I've been holding on to these last two bottles for a while (since my New Glarus kick in October/November) and I can no longer justify doing so.  Besides, if I don't drink these last two soon, my wife will.  Let's pour!

Aroma 11/12
I'm not sure how complex an aroma one can achieve with a lambic, but this does have a lot going for it besides just cranberries.  Before I go into that, let me clarify, there is NO shortage of cranberries in this ale.  Their tart and bitter nature is abundant and dominates the aroma.  That said, there are some other more subtle aromas present, but they must be sought.  The first is an oaky roundness lent from the barrels in the brewing process and the second aroma is one I am particularly fond of in a lambic.  I find that a good lambic can often give off an aroma like a nice champagne; that slightly dry, tannin-like scent.  The Cran-bic Ale certainly fits the bill.

Appearance 2/3
For a beer that smells this tart, and therefore acidic, I suspect there will not be much in the way of head.  I am correct.  The head is thin like champagne, but not very generous and does remain as a ring around my glass while I drink.  The color is fascinating!  It's a beautiful amber with coppers and a tint of "grapefruit pink" throughout the brew.  The pink is harder to see with a full glass, but when you pour those first few ounces to get a good whiff, the blush of this beer is quite noticeable.

Flavor 20/20
This is the first New Glarus beer where I prefer the taste to the aroma! Not an easy task with Dan Carey brewing.  The beer immediately starts sour like brettanomyces and the proceeds to dump cranberries on top of that.  The tart start is not too intense, but will be a great treat for sour lovers and lambic lovers alike.  Soon after the sour it draws back quite suddenly and lets a marvelous sweetness take over and provide and fantastic balance for the palate.  The sweetness is almost certainly from the cranberries, but it tastes sugared.  Behind this sweetness is the champagne-like carbonation, oak notes, and a light cranberry bitter.  The finish is a mouth-watering tart on the sides of the mouth with the silky smooth oak detectable right down the center of the tongue.  It even throws in those champagne-like tannins to finish this right.  The aftertaste gives one last chance for the tart and bitter cranberry flavors to play on the tongue, but quickly fades into a salivating, fairly clean finish.

Mouthfeel 5/5
It feels like a lambic should, but with a bit more smoothness from the oak.  The carbonation is tiny and appropriate, though the finish can be a bit slick with a beer this sweet.  The light body makes it way to easy to drink this fast and not appreciate the complexities within, but thankfully the tart of the cranberries assumes the task of slowing down the drinker.  The beer is not drying in the least, despite the tannin-like qualities in the brew, and always leaves the mouth watering.

Overall Impression 10/10
This is a superior lambic to many that I have tasted.  It's also a nice compromise for those who think they might be getting into sours.  The aroma showed some delicacies behind a big cranberry scent, but the flavor really let the other contributing ingredients shine through.  The champagne qualities of this beer from start to finish really help to separate it from other offerings in this style.

Total 48/50
This beer is a winner from start to finish.  It really seems to go above and beyond the call of a bubbly, light-bodied, fruit beer.  The oak adds complexity to every area of this beer and the taste is something I truly hope New Glarus brings back year and year again.  I don't know why I'm surprised at how pleased I am with this beer.  With New Glarus' history of award-winning fruit beers (Wisconsin Belgian Red & Raspberry Tart) anything they do that involves tartness, fruit, and beer should simply be accepted with a solemn nod of the head.  If that sounds like bias, it is, but it is bias based in cold, delicious facts.  They have yet to prove otherwise and I doubt they will.  I officially declare this the "Champagne of Lambics."  Prost!


  1. I aged one of these a year and it rounded it out very well making it more sherry like. I loved it. This is one of the things I truly miss not living in Wisconsin anymore.

  2. Looks like this is the second beer this week I'm going to have to age (when it's released next year)! Thanks for the recommendation. As far as missing New Glarus... I'm always open to trades. :)