While traveling around Wisconsin, we drove south from Madison to visit the Swiss-German town of New Glarus. We bought pastries, we sampled old-world style meats from an old-world style butcher, and had chocolates from the sweet shop. That left one old-world German product left to sample: beer.
Luckily, New Glarus Brewing has their production facility on the south end of town. The driveway to the facility is surprisingly picturesque, and winds through farms and up the hill to the brewery. The facility appears relatively new, and resembles an old German village. While I have been to some really neat micro-breweries, this is be best looking production brewery I have ever seen.
The tour was self-guided and the highlight were four copper boilers for the wort (above). Not only are they useful, they are pretty to look at.
We completed the tour and returned to the tasting room for samples. I have to admit that we cheated and started tasting the night before, having purchased three bottles at the grocery store. This included Two Women Lager, Fat Squirrel, and Spotted Cow. I thought the Two Women (joint effort with Weyermann Malting) was fantastic. After drinking lagers from the Pacific Northwest for so long, it was a treat to taste something with a European flavor to it. Fat Squirrel is cask-conditioned and is not to everyone’s liking. Spotted Cow is their signature brew and is a pale ale with fruity flavor.
Between the three bottles and three tastings for each of us, we were able to sample their entire production line. Two brews stood out from the rest: Moon Man, a hoppy pale ale that had a great hop flavor but did not stray over into IPA territory. The second beer that stood out was the R & D Golden Ale. The server warned me that not everyone likes this, before she even poured it. The flavor was very earthy and green, and unrefined. I would bet some aging would improve the flavor. This beer was different and not for everyone, but I liked it.
When I asked about growlers, the server told me that the owners had a thing against filling them. he did not understand why, but stated that this was their policy. So we grabbed a bottle of the Belgian Red and headed out. The flavor was like a lambic, with a very strong cherry flavor. This beer was low in alcohol and highly carbonated, so this beer was good for girls and for hot summer afternoons.
This brewery was a surprise for me. First, the facility was fairly large but the server did not know how many barrels they produce. Second, they do not ship outside of Wisconsin, so their clientele is entirely in-state. If you can get some of their beer, I recommend taking the opportunity to try it.