Beer of the Week: Brewing Projekt WISCoast

WISCoast.JPG

Brewing Projekt WISCoast.

I am proud of the brewing scene in Northwest Wisconsin. Breweries are relatively sparse over a large area spanning from the Chippewa River to Lake Superior, but most of the dozen or so make great beer. Some are among the oldest microbreweries in the Midwest—South Shore in Ashland and the one and only brewery in my county, Valkyrie. More recently, Hudson, Hayward, Superior, Menomonie, Somerset and other towns have become home to some skilled brewers serving beer in distinct spaces with great character. Oh, and there’s good old Leinenkugels.

Soon, the region may have its first mid-size craft brewer. After months of negotiating terms with the City of Eau Claire—without little evidence of progress—The Brewing Projekt reached an agreement to move into a larger, vacant space across the street from its current site in the heart of Eau Claire. The news came after a rally attended by more than 500 people, including myself. What a fun affair, with music, great weather and a dozen style-shifting, flavor-packed beers on tap.

It had been an extra-long time coming for these brewers, who had to cut through a considerable amount of red tape just to be licensed to brew, in large part because owner William Glass also owned Fire House bar in Eau Claire.

But where there’s a will there’s a way. Now, the Brewing Projekt envisions its new space as a destination brewery. It is my hope that the “Projekt” will be a stepping stone to making Eau Claire a destination city for beer lovers. Though much different than The Projekt, a block down Oxford Avenue, Lazy Monk Brewing makes superb representations of classic Central European styles—more about that here. Further, K Point Brewing is growing on the south side, Brewster Bros. and, of course, good old Leinenkugels up the road in Chippewa Falls. There are many more within 30 miles of Eau Claire, all serving beer on par in quality as that of most breweries in Madison, Milwaukee or the Twin Cities.

Eau Claire also offers other amenities prized by many beer lovers—an extensive system of paved trails and singletrack for bikers, good paddling waters, Ice Age hiking trail, challenging disc golf courses and a fantastic music scene highlighted by the Blue Ox and Eaux Claires festivals.

But let’s get back to the beer. My first from The Projekt, and a delight during the dog days of summer, WISCoast Pale Ale is a good introduction to the brewery’s distinct lineup.

First of all, having grown up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, I’ll drink anything with a cow on it. Citrusy hops and wheat make this an incredibly fruity, refreshing beer. The Brewing Projekt states, “Crafted to be wickedly crisp and totally refreshing.” Agreed.

Don’t wait for the expansion to visit The Brewing Projekt. Make a day or weekend of it. Eau Claire is very cool.

Rating: Glass – GROWLER – Case – Keg

 

 

Advertisements

Beer of the Week: Central Waters Cassian Sunset

 

FullSizeRender (2)

Central Waters Cassian Sunset.

If Goose Island is #1 in the barrel-aged beer game, Central Waters might well be a close second. This is a common ranking in the Midwest.

In my book, however, Central Waters is #1. Granted, I’ve only had two vintages of the original Bourbon County Brand Stout. Reason: 1. Hard to get in Northern Wisconsin 2. Only released once a year 3. I’m not into shelling out extra cash or trading for beer 4. Goddamn InBev.

Alternatively, I can get better than a half-dozen of this Amherst (WI)-based brewery’s barrel-aged beers in a year’s time for less than $15 per 4-pack. This lineup is all affordable, consistent beers with big barrel character.

Granted, this has changed somewhat with tickets to the brewery’s anniversary releases selling out in minutes and the introduction of $40 per bottle Ardis Insignis.

So, is Ardis Insignis worth it?

Hell, I have no idea. I didn’t even bother to enter the raffle because I’m not paying $40 for 22 oz. of beer. Hey, I gotta draw the line somewhere.

No, rather I’ll be reviewing another recent release, Cassian Sunset.

Central Waters says: “A bourbon barrel aged imperial stout with local Emy J’s coffee, whole vanilla beans and cinnamon.”

First thought: “YAASSS! A new Central Waters beer!”

Second thought: “Oh no, they’ve taken a perfectly good BB stout and ruined it with spices and shit.”

You must understand, beers jam-packed with vanilla and/or coffee have almost always ended in disappointment for my taste buds.

Well, I bought some anyway. After all, I could attest to the fact that Emy Js has great coffee, having spent 4 years in college in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. And, Central Waters’ Brewhouse Coffee Stout is a rare exception to my “coffee beers suck” belief.

After my first glass, my suspicions seemed correct. I was ready to give away the other three bottles.

But, the first taste was from a shaker pint glass at a cold temperature. I felt I had done an injustice. So, a week later I had another from a tulip/snifterish glass at the proper temp. Big improvement.

Yes, the coffee, vanilla and cinnamon is there, but remain subtle enough. I still can’t say I’m a fan of these additives, but there is good balance in this beer. I certainly can’t fault Central Waters for trying something new with its tried-and-true barrel aging project.

This beer is, ultimately, another testament to the fact that Central Waters is one of the best in the business.

Too often beers are made extreme for extreme’s sake. Central Waters has certainly jumped in on the popular trends of incorporating barrel aging or huge amounts of sexy hops, fruit, peppers, spices, etc. But the brewery has also shown enough restraint and skill to produce flavorful beer that is also easy-drinking. I was surprised how quickly I finished my glasses of Cassian Sunset.

This supped-up bourbon barrel stout is decadent, like maybe spice cake, brownie and coffee ice cream mixed together. That sounds a little strange and excessive, but damn, I’d be a fool not to try it.

Rating: Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg

Beer Run Episode #5 Blog Recap

Review: Green Man Porter

Porter-01-400x400

“Faulkneresque” as in William Faulkner

dying63

“The cover of this edition is particularly effective in summarizing both plot and character. Addie Bundren has died and her family is carting her coffin to Jefferson to be buried with her people. The macabre funeral journey faces natural catastrophes of flood and fire as well as an intense family struggle. Her husband (Anse) and her children (Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman) all have their own agendas as they travel toward the burial. Cash makes the coffin and carries his tools with him; Jewel’s treasured horse serves several symbolic functions in the story; and they travel, coffin and all, in a wagon drawn by a team of mules.”

Similar motif going on at Burial Brewing Company.

 

Asheville beer scene lives up to the hype, including Sierra Nevada.

 

By “Going to Stout” we mean the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Stout_Bowman_Hall_1

And by Michael Jackson, we mean this Michael Jackson.

 

This is a cask beer engine.

 

Billy Dee Williams, ladies and gentlemen.

 

Here’s another classic in our book.

 

Here’s the whole show.

Beer Run Episode #5

We had such a great interview with Ryan Verdon of Real Deal Brewing that we couldn’t bear to cut the show down to a half hour. We talk about this Menomonie (WI) nanobrewery’s sessionable English-style beers, as opposed to “Barrel-aged barleywines of death.” Plus, Carl and I review a Porter all the way from Green Man Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina and look back at some classic beer commercials. “It works every time”

Beer of the Week: Surly Xtra-Citra

XtraCitra

Beer of the Week: Surly Xtra-Citra

Disclaimer: I am not a hophead. I don’t go crazy for IBU bombs. I might even say IPA is my least favorite style.

However, every once in a while I get a craving for a crisp, fruity IPA. Such an effect is often created with a good dose of Citra Hops.

A beer company rep I talked to recently referred to the hops as “Almighty Citra” for its popularity and difficulty to obtain in large quantities. Other breweries have had more luck, such as Marz Community Brewing Co.

There are also the hop hanchos at the well-known Minneapolis, Minnesota brewery Surly. Unlike the hop-loving public, I don’t seek out Furious, Abrasive or Overrated often.

But one of the latest releases, Xtra-Citra, had me intrigued. The beer screams summer from its sun-yellow can its sessionably low abv (4.5%) to the obvious fruity, spry Citra flavor.

My fridge void of a light, crisp ale in an adventure-ready can, I picked up four tallboys of Xtra-Citra.

Surly is generous in providing information on the ingredients on its website. The beer pours bright golden with an airy, white head. Fresh fruity, grassy aromas follow. The taste is more of the same. There’s lemon-lime and tangerine fruitiness, and a bitter, grassy, almost-saison like finish, likely helped by the Warrior bittering hops and English ale yeast.

As a showcase for Citra, this ale nails it.

But for this malt man, the citra is a little over-the-top. I like my citra balanced with a fuller body and another flavor/aroma hop like cascade.

Ideally, I’d have this beer on occasions where any fresh, light beer tastes good—on a hot day after manual labor, while fishing, between paddle strokes in a kayak or around a campfire with roasted hot dogs.

Rating: Glass – GROWLER – Case – Keg

Beer of the Week: Base Camp S’more Stout

9a219372b052a7fc028eb4c3fe35484d_320x320

Base Camp Brewing S’more Stout.

For those who love beer and love to travel, naturally, beercations are a must.

I’m heading to Asheville, North Carolina this week. I can only hope the trip is as good as the one I took last fall, visiting the Pacific Northwest. I spent most of my time in three legendary beer towns—Bend, Portland and Seattle.

I have many great beer memories from the trip. I watched the sun set behind the Three Sisters mountains—after climbing South Sister earlier that day—with a few hoppy ales and an amusingly drunk mother-daughter combo at Crux Fermentation Project in Bend. I talked politics with an odd duck of an old man at the hole-in-the-wall taproom of Wingman Brewers in Tacoma, Washington over a P-51 Porter.

But the best company I had in my travels was my cousin Bean—real name Jenny, short for Jelly Bean—who lives in Portland. After not seeing each other for 3-4 years, we reconnected in perhaps the best way possible—over beers. We had an absolute blast meeting other people’s pups at the Lucky Labrador, marveling at the $1,500 Dave at Hair of the Dog and enjoying a warm night from the comfort of the Bailey’s Taproom patio—so much in fact we swiped a couple glasses, either just for laughs or for a memento of the many laughs we had that night.

Perhaps the most distinct taproom we visited was that of Base Camp Brewery, themed to recreate the feel of a remote mountainside. Also distinct was the S’more Stout. I had high expectations, but did not expect my glass to have a perfectly roasted marshmallow as a garnish. Given a quick scorch from a blow torch, the marshmallow was a delightful touch on a great beer.

I feel a little strange about this review, having just found out about this incident, but I won’t hold it against the beer. It was also one of the few beers I had on my beercation that I could find in the Midwest—in a sleek, 22-ounce, aluminum, bottle-shaped can no less.

0ffae205e0a554c5f3a8734ba04802cb_320x320

Despite the badass vessel, having it a second and third time does not compare to the first. Beer is always better in a taproom near where it was made, especially if enjoyed with good company and maybe a toasty garnish.

Regardless, this stout is rock-solid with plenty of roasty and chocolaty notes and a smooth, sweet finish. At 7.7% it is middle of the road for a stout and a good beer to stuff in a backpack on a hike out to quiet spot under towering trees and bright stars. I’ll build a fire and have a cold aluminum cup in one hand and a sticky s’more in the other.

Rating: Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg

Bonus photos from Bend!