I was in Wisconsin a few weeks ago, and of course I was looking forward to having some beers from the New Glarus Brewing Co. I more than satisfied my Spotted Cow craving, and in addition was able to enjoy many other of the brewery’s offerings. Though I’m not prepared to review them all, I am ready to discuss two. The first is Fat Squirrel, a brown ale; the second is Hop Hearty, a seasonal IPA. Both are very good, so remember to grab some next time you’re in Wisconsin.
This year-round nut brown ale is very refreshing, something you don’t always find with nut browns. Many times nut browns, intended to produce a distinct malt character, can be overpowering. It’s not uncommon for nut browns to be too thick, not smooth and have a nut flavor that is unbalanced and leaves a stale residue. Fat Squirrel doesn’t have any of these problems. Sitting on the lighter end of the malt and mouthfeel spectrums, yet still providing full flavor, is what sets this nut brown apart. From the beginning of each sip the lightness sets the tone. The malt component follows suit with a mild sweetness that isn’t overpowering or stale, and doesn’t change intensity during the sip. The nut element emerges about halfway through each sip, matching very well with the malt sweetness. A slightly sweet and mild nut flavor, reminiscent of hazelnuts, fuses with the malt. Even though the flavors don’t hit you right away, by the completion you’re satisfied, and at the end of each sip you’re left with a sweetness that’s not overpowering, but enough to let you know you’re drinking a brown ale.
What is especially unique about this nut brown ale is the refreshing aspect. Every time the malt or nut flavors emerge, refreshment comes with it. Most times bursts of malt flavor are accompanied with weight, not lightness. It’s a nice change of pace from traditional brown ales, and is done very well. Because of it’s lightness Fat Squirrel is very drinkable. While this nut brown deserves all it’s accolades, I would still prefer a slightly stronger flavor. Too much would throw off the balance, but a touch more would add a little more creaminess and body. Overall, though, this is a brown ale you can enjoy any time of the year, and if I lived in Wisconsin, I would.
For some reason I didn’t have high expectations for this American IPA. Whatever the reason for my skepticism, it disappeared quickly after trying Hop Hearty. This is a fantastic take on the classic American IPA. It won’t “wow” you with an incredible amount of hops and doesn’t use a random, interesting ingredient to make it special. Instead, Hop Hearty is a simple, yet wonderful, take on the style.
A nice reddish-golden color greets you with a fresh hop aroma. The bouquet leads you through each sip, which is smooth and evenly-hopped. Light in mouthfeel in the beginning and only slightly heavier on the back end, the citrusy sweetness of the hops is consistent throughout. The hop sweetness that starts you off remains on the tip of your tongue as the sip progresses, and as the back end approaches, the sweetness begins to wane and gives way to savory and somewhat syrupy caramel notes. It might sound like a drastic change, but it’s not. Hops are the clear focus here, and they form a solid backbone. The new sweetness only emerges just enough to end each sip smoothly and without any bitterness, yet without compromising any of the great hop flavor from earlier in the sip. You come for the IPA, and as a bonus get some sweet, darker notes. The only issue is that after a while the slightly syrupy consistency can become a little much. This is definitely a beer you can enjoy many of in one sitting because it’s not very heavy, but the back end might become a little much after too many.
If you’re looking for hops that will blow you away, you won’t like Hop Hearty. This IPA isn’t extreme in any way, but for me, that’s one of the reasons it’s so good. It’s simple and understated, yet still delivers enough hops to meet an IPA craving. You won’t be disappointed with this beer, and if you’re looking for a standard IPA, you’ll love it.