BADGER STATE WI BIEN
Badger State Brewing Co.
Green Bay, Wisconsin
4.7% | Mexican-Style Lager w/ Limes
Badger State Brewing Co.’s Wi Bien is the second lime-infused Mexican-style lager to make our Six to Seek (the first being Hangar 24’s Aventura). Both beers, as so many others in the market right now, show that brewing this broad style isn’t so much about hewing to tradition, but rather using ingredients that put you in mind of the style. “Perhaps as often as anything else,” writes Ken Weaver, “it’s about capturing that vibe of drinking a Mexican lager.”
Lime is an easy way to do that, so it’s no surprise that many are brewing with an ingredient that others are content to garnish any number of Mexican beers. In the case of Wi Bien, which is brewed with both lime zest and lime juice, that tart lime is the most noticeable aroma coming out of the glass. Behind that lime is a sweet pilsner breadiness that helps balance the tartness; and even the limes, too, seem to add their own sweetness. If you’re the kind to occasionally slip a wedge of lime down the neck of a bottle, you’ll find that this does indeed capture that vibe.
6% | German-Style Marzen
While some bemoan “seasonal creep” and others wait until at least September to enjoy an Oktoberfest, I’m happy to enjoy the style no matter the weather. It doesn’t hurt that the last couple of days here in North Carolina have been much cooler than usual, a sign that fall is indeed right around the corner.
In my home state, that means thousands will soon journey to Asheville, a mecca for fans of beer and fall foliage alike. Hi-Wire’s Zirkusfest is one of the city’s best Oktoberfest beers, having won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2016. With notes of rich Munich malt, a touch of caramel sweetness, a firm noble hop character and a dry finish, this limited release could indeed be enjoyed year-round–but there’s no doubt that it’s best enjoyed during (or on the cusp of) autumn.
ODELL CLOUD CATCHER
Odell Brewing Co.
Fort Collins, Colorado
6.8% | Milkshake IPA
A new “milkshake IPA,” Cloud Catcher has graduated from Odell’s pilot system to all 18 states in the brewery’s distribution. It’s brewed with lactose and double-dry-hopped with Azacca, Cashmere, Citra and Galaxy, which all lead to big notes of pineapple, apricot, tangerine and grapefruit, on the nose and on the palate. It’s no doubt juicy, but there’s a just-right bitterness and a little West Coast character as well. As the brewery notes in its press release for this beer, it can be difficult to scale up hazy IPAs such as this for full distribution–but the brewery has managed to do it.
HOP BUTCHER / ASLIN STEALING SIGNS
Hop Butcher For The World & Aslin Beer Co.
7.5% | Hazy Double IPA
This collaboration from Hop Butcher For The World & Aslin Beer Co. is hopped with Galaxy, Simcoe and the seldom-seen Moutere. It’s that last one, bred from Southern Cross and a New Zealand hop, that seems to give this double IPA an interesting bit of spiciness. Not pepper spiciness, of course, but something more like a sprig of rosemary. It comes across as a little jarring at first, but only because that note isn’t often found in hazy IPAs. It takes just a couple of sips for it to click, with that spiciness complemented by the more expected notes of tangy grapefruit, orange zest and a trace of dankness. With a creamy mouthfeel and a distinctive take on a style everyone’s brewing these days, this one’s worth seeking out.
FORBIDDEN ROOT SPARKLING ROSÉ ALE
Forbidden Root Restaurant & Brewery
10% | Ale Brewed w/ Niagara Grapes & Hibiscus
The brut and rosé trends show no signs of slowing down, with this latest example coming from Chicago’s Forbidden Root. This one is brewed with Niagara grapes and, like others, gets its pinkish hue from hibiscus. Were you to sip this blind, you genuinely might think you were drinking wine. Not only is it remarkably winelike in aroma and flavor–with notes of lemon, white grape and a dry finish–but it’s about as strong as a wine at 10% ABV. There’s a glimmer of hop character and bitterness, but not so much to bring you back to beer world. And yet, of course, we know it to be an ale- and a cleverly disguised one at that.
FOUNDERS CURMUDGEON’S BETTER HALF
Founders Brewing Co.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
12.7% | Maple-Syrup-Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Old Ale w/ Molasses
The fifth beer in Founders’ Barrel-Aged Series, Curmudgeon’s Better Half is back and released in the brewery’s taprooms today (it should also hit shelves later this month). The brewery made many fans happy when it brought CBS out of retirement, and now they’ve done the same with Curmudgeon’s Better Half, which was last released in 2012.
Like that earlier release, this year’s version is the brewery’s old ale aged in barrels that held bourbon before going on to age maple syrup. The bourbon is most distinguishable on the nose alone, but the first sip reveals a depth of flavor: not only the bourbon and maple syrup, but sweet caramel, rich malt, fig and vanilla. It’s boozy bread pudding in a glass.
Earlier I wrote of how I could enjoy an Oktoberfest all year long, and I can certainly do the same with Curmudgeon’s Better Half. But if you pick up a four-pack or an extra 750-mL bottle, do yourself a favor and stash one away for winter. You won’t regret it.