Old World Beer – New World Cheese


Before I left Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to take the Sprecher Brewing Company Tour – and then participate in the reserve tasting where participants could try ten different Sprecher beer, all paired with a Wisconsin Cheese.

Let’s start with the tour. This is not a beer in hand tour because honestly, a lot of kids like to tour soda factories, and Sprecher makes some great soda (if you haven’t had it – you’re missing out). Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, but very scripted, a totally different experience than Lakefront or Milwaukee Brewing Company. If you’re looking for family friendly – this is your tour. Honestly I think our tour guide could have benefitted from a drink or two before he started. The most helpful thing that was talked about on this tour that you just don’t always hear about is the different marketing segments in the craft beer world. Lots of folks say their a craft brewery, some are brew pubs, some are microbreweries – but what does that mean? Read up here.

Next we’ll talk beer. If you just signed up for the regular tasting, you’ll be able to enjoy all the beer on tap in the small tavern. If you signed up for the reserve tour, you’ll get to go in a nice back room with maybe 15 other people to hear about some more great beer.

I want to talk mainly about the beer – but I’ll make sure to highlight some of my favorite beer & cheese combos.

The first beer was their Chameleon Hop on Top. This would be a great introduction to a Pale Ale for someone who was exploring beer for the first time. It’s 4.2 ABV and has familiar tasting malts and hops – so if you don’t like this, you probably don’t like pale ale.

Second, we tried Sprecher’s Hefe Weiss. This one was described on our guide as coarse and grainy – but I found it to be lighter than our guide described it. This one, again, tastes exactly how you would expect it to reading the name, but the cheese they added in with it made it this pair one of my favorites. The paired cheese was White Cheddar Cranberry from Monroe, WI. It was nice and tart just like the beer, but had a great mix or spicy flavor and that traditional sharp white cheddar taste that really balanced out the beer well.

When we moved onto the Special Amber, one of Sprecher’s best-selling beers, I just thought to myself that I should give this to all of my friends who don’t like tasting craft beer. I really do feel like this beer could be a good introduction to craft beer texture for newbies, but the flavor just wasn’t enough for me. The malt flavor was complex, but not bold, and certainly not worth the effort in my book. The hops were nice and familiar tasting, but it’s just not enough. I want to like it, I just don’t.

The next beer was the Pub Brown Ale – paired with Horseradish & Chive Havarti. It was great. The beer taste was complex and had a great combination of caramel and pale malt. There’s just a hint of fruit flavor in this beer that on the tour you’d learn comes from an Irish yeast culture. The cheese was full bodied, spicy, and fresh tasting. This combination took me a little longer to get down, but it was worth it.

The Mai Bock was the next one I tried, and it was right up my alley for the summer months. It had full hop flavor, light fruit flavor, and smelled great. It’s a nice light spring beer with a great flavor, and a nice kick, coming in at 6.0 ABV.

When I heard the next beer was to be paired with wonderful, crumbly Aged Cheddar Cheese from Chilton, WI, I was almost too excited to pay any attention to the Great Czech Style Pils I was about to drink. This is a classic Pilsner with some earthy, spicy flavor that really draws you in. It’s clean cut enough for summer, but flavorful and aromatic enough to satisfy those looking for something a little creative.

FUN FACT: If you think something tastes a little off, or just a little different in the Pilsner, that would be the soft water you taste that we make special here to mimic the naturally occurring water used in Eastern Europe.

The Chameleon Ryediculous IPA was really, really yummy – but you really have to drink it slow to make sure that your stomach doesn’t get overwhelmed. This one starts out citrusy and earthy – but turns out to be an aggressively hoppy beer the more you drink. It finishes nice and clean, but you’ll want to take a quick break between drinks to really let this one sink in.

A good straight forward version of a solid Belgian Beer is Sprecher’s Abbey Triple. Sprecher is great at making sure everyone who visits their brewery can taste a great example of a great European beer. This one is a staple – and nothing out of the ordinary for Sprecher.

The last really hoppy beer of the bunch was the IPA2. This style of beer was originally brewed in England for British Troops stationed in India – so naturally it’s rather aged and has certain sweetness to it. This one is double dry hopped – so the hop flavor is extra potent for those of you who like coarse, hoppy beer.

A great way to end a bunch of drinking is always with Stout that tastes a little bit like coffee. The Russian Imperial Stout was great example of a deep roasted coffee flavor with a sweet end that tasted a little like licorice. This was paired with my favorite cheese of the day, the Sartori Espresso BellaVitano it was nice, sweet cheese with espresso rubbed into it. Needless to say to say, I had a few extra pieces of this one.

If you stick around – you might get a chance to try something else. We were able to try the CitriBomb, a nice, citrusy IPA that smelled, and tasted like some amazing fruit, and was a great way to end the tasting. If you pop back out into the tavern, you’ll have the opportunity to try some their great sodas, and extra beer or two, and run over to the gift shop before you leave to get everything from coasters to beer scented soap.

Overall – great choice. The reserve tasting is a few extra dollars, but I say they are well, well worth it.

More on Sprecher:

Follow on Twitter: @sprecherbrewery

More on the Beer: http://www.sprecherbrewery.com/beer_menu.php


Classy in the Country


I was pretty certain that my Wednesday was going to be a normal day full of research and work, which I don’t particularly like, especially when compared with beer tasting. Lucky for me, the day turned out very different. I had a chance to go to an awesome exhibit in Appleton about Wisconsin’s food, drink, and the history behind it including everything from immigration, to farm strikes, to sturgeon fishing – then finish the day with some good beer. I took a picture of one the first fat testers used in cheese making, and a lot of other pictures. If you have any doubt that Wisconsin is awesome, I really recommend looking into this exhibit more.

Getting to the beer – I had to take my friend to get her car fixed at her boyfriend’s garage that’s in the middle of a small residential neighborhood in Suamico, WI. We needed something to do while it was getting fixed. Despite your stereotypes of places in the country in Wisconsin, most of these places take credit cards and have the whole to do now, but our stop was even a step up from that.  If you’re ever north of Green Bay in what might seem like the middle of nowhere if you’re from a city – you should totally stop at The Bottle Room. They have a room full of wine, great artisan food (obviously including an amazing cheese plate), and some great Wisconsin craft beers.

I tried a flight of four craft beers that I think are a good fit for the summer months. Luckily, it was craft beer week at The Bottle Room & I got myself a flight of four beers at 6 ounces each for fewer than ten dollars. It was a winner.

First I had the Horny Goat: Watermelon Wheat. When I first read the name, I very seriously thought it was going to taste like kool aid. I’ve had one watermelon beer before, and it was interesting.  It basically tasted like someone mixed some cream and watermelon together, with a wheaty after taste.  That was 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon (not my favorite beer – but kudos on the name). The Horny Goat beer was better. The watermelon taste was still light – but the experience was a little more complex. It started off bitter hoppy taste, but quickly transitions into a nice wheaty watermelon. It’s not sweet – you taste it on the back of your tongue where (I learned this in Girl Scouts and for some reason remember it), you taste sour and bitter flavors.  The taste slowly gets more subtle as you wait for the taste to settle in – which I recommend.

Next was Abita: Spring IPA. This is a nice light IPA that goes well with summer. The first thing I noticed was the tangy smell. The first tastes will taste tangy, medium on the bitterness and hoppiness scale, and some light spicy flavor will settle in quickly – and that will be the lasting taste. This beer has all around a bunch of nice soft, light flavors that are flat out balanced really nicely. If you’re looking for a good summer beer – give it a try.

The Dark Horse: Crooked Tree IPA is not so much for summer, but it’s not extremely heavy, so it worked for me. This is a great beer for those of you who like bitter beer. It has some citrusy overtones, an all-around bitter flavor, and a dry, crisp end to each sip. Even though the flavor doesn’t scream summer, for those of you who look for a crisp, thirst quenching texture in your bitter beer for the summer – this is worth at least a sample.

Last I tried the Central Waters: Shine On. For all you Florida Georgia Line fans who are intrigued, this one is a medium weight, hoppy, spicy red. If you like reds, you’ll like this. I have to say I thought it tasted pretty standard, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. This red is high on the hoppy end and low on the molassesey end. Give it a try and decide for yourself – the folks at Central Waters know what they’re doing.

The best days are always the ones that are full of unexpected fun, and learning. This was one of those days. The Bottle Room was great. The wait staff knew what they were talking about – and they really have something for everyone. The friend I was with likes wine – so she got to sample four of those while I had fun tasting my beer.

Whenever I write about a spot in Northeast Wisconsin, I really have to stress that I am doing all I can to encourage folks who come up here for Packer games to venture away from Ashwaubenon, go to a nearby town, or go downtown, and support some of our great local folks instead of the chains downtown. You’ll find some great down to earth folks who know a lot of Wisconsin’s rich culture, a smaller crowd, better beer, and people who know more about it. The Bottle Room is just another example.

More about the Bottle Room:



More on the Breweries I Tasted (and you should too):

Horny Goat – www.hornygoatbrewing.com, @HornyGoatBrewCo

Abita – www.abita.com, @TheAbitaBeer

Dark Horse – www.darkhorsebrewery.com, @DarkHorseBrewCo

Central Waters – www.centralwaters.com, @CWBrewing

The Gem of Central Wisconsin


Dinner on Wednesday night was at a classic spot in Madison, The Old Fashioned. They routinely have one of the best beer selections in the area, and the best cheese curds in Madison, and I really mean the best. We put our name in for dinner with enough time to go upstairs and participate in the Central Waters tap takeover upstairs. Folks who like beer often cite Central Waters as a gem in Central Wisconsin. I have been a fan of their Glacier Trail IPA for a while, but trying more was a treat.

First I tried the Illumination Double IPA. This was a dream come true and one of the best IPAs I tried all week it had an almost minty edge and the hops had a real crisp kick. For someone who likes a straight up wonderful hoppy beer without anyone trying to soften it up – this one is for you, and I absolutely loved it.

Next I tried the Hop Rise Session Ale. This beer was great because it had a lot of nice flavor – but was subdued enough to have during a meal. It was a little creamy, very smooth, and had a great citrusy hoppy taste that anyone who appreciates good flavor should at least have a sip of, especially over the summer months.

The next two beers were on the darker side, and both really well made. First was the Rye Bourbon Barrel Stout. I don’t particularly like bourbon barrel beer, but this lightly aged beer had a little extra sweetness, was moderate on the creamy scale, and high on smooth scale. I’m not saying anything for sure, but even if you don’t really like the bourbon barrels, you should still give this one try if you’re looking to expand you’re beer vocabulary.

Last was the Peruvian Morning Coffee Stout. This was great. A lot of breweries make a super straight coffee stout that tastes exactly like iced coffee. This one was a little different. It’s really light, smooth, had a great coffee taste, but also had a light vanilla spice taste. If you like a little flavor in your coffee and are more of a coffee snob than a beer snob – this is so your beer.

After we tried beers – we had a good dinner. Now I don’t usually write about food, but I wouldn’t be doing due diligence if I didn’t at least briefly talk about these cheese curds. They make a lot of different styles of cheese curds here but this are lightly deep fried, never soggy, and never too big so you can take small bites, and really enjoy them. I don’t like huge cheese curds with a ton of breading, so in my book, these are prefect small golden brown pieces of cheese curd heaven, and I hope you can go to the Old Fashioned and decide for yourself someday.

All around this place has good beer (beer week or not), and a great spread of Wisconsin food. You’re not really visiting Madison if you don’t stop by.

More Information on the Beer (at Central Waters & the Old Fashioned):

On the Web: centralwaters.com/beers/ & www.theoldfashioned.com

On Twitter: @CWBrewing & @Theoldfashioned

Things to Google Before You Go:

Wisconsin Style Old Fashioned

Barrel Aged Beer