This Summer, Stick Close to Home
By Nick Rasmussen
Summer beer advertisements aim to make us as hot as the season (succulent slices of citrus fruits, labels adorned with scantily-clad women and name-dropping unimaginable bliss are just some of the all-too familiar examples). Take a moment to peel back the layers of obvious hyperbole—with eyes uncovered, begin to imagine that summer beers aren’t necessarily part of a category or single style. Rather, they are a collection of seasonal interpretations.
The real truth is: a summer beer is whatever you want it to be, not always the ones you find stacked at the end cap of your local liquor store. The following are some Wisconsin-brewed beers that shed the preconceived notions of what a summer beer should be and underscore what a Wisconsin summer beer can be.
Ale Asylum Bedlam IPA
Most Wisconsinites are at least vaguely familiar with the ubiquitous brand of Ale Asylum. Based in Madison, this brewery churns out some of the most charismatic and compelling beers in the state. While the canning of Hopalicious, their dynamic pale ale, has highlighted the seasonal marketability of Ale Asylum, it’s their Bedlam IPA that I find to truly be a dog day delicacy. Bedlam is a Belgian-style IPA that brilliantly blends American Citra hops with prominent Belgian yeast to offer notes of banana, pepper and tropical fruit. Bedlam boasts a sensible bitterness that is pronounced but welcoming and rounds out the light malty foundation for an equitable experience.
Ale Asylum Brewery
2002 Pankratz St., Madison
Central Waters Glacial Trail IPA
This beauty-of-an-IPA from Amherst’s Central Waters is a fist in the air that celebrates summer’s most liberating qualities. Traveling along with the Glacial Trail’s aromatics, you traverse aromas of lemon, orange, grapefruit, spruce and pine. A significant pale malt infrastructure sweetly stabilizes the generous American hop additions while grass, pine and juicy, robust citrus fruits wash over your palate. This beer strikes a brilliant symmetry that is rarely found in an American IPA. The next time you find yourself in some oppressive Wisconsin heat, consider reaching for a sixer of this gem.
Central Waters Brewing Company
351 Allen St., Amherst
Lakefront Eastside Dark
I know what you’re thinking: a dark beer and summer do not play well together. While I’d normally agree, that’s not the case with this Lakefront mainstay. A Bavarian dark lager that is roasty and bready, Eastside Dark is actually quite refreshing. A medium-bodied mouthfeel, iced coffee character and a lovely earthiness restrain the heavily roasted malts, while undertones of dark chocolate and black licorice mingle together in eccentric harmony. The carbonation keeps things fresh, while the dry finish leaves you feeling cool and content.
1872 N. Commerce St., Milwaukee
New Glarus Two Women
Even though other New Glarus beers get more attention, few beers brewed in Wisconsin can challenge the stylistic integrity or the exquisite crispness of the year-round Two Women Lager. Traditional in the German-pilsner style, this golden-hued beer balances Bohemian malts and Noble hops. The result? A lightly toasted, biscuity, floral and earthy character. The juxtaposition of an unobtrusive—but noticeable—bitterness against a faintly honey-sweet and mellowed citrus ending will combat the summer heat and refresh your soul.
New Glarus Brewing Company
2400 State Highway 69, New Glarus
O’so Infectious Grooves
With a moniker like Infectious Grooves, you know things are about to get fresh and funky. And funk is exactly what you get when you swirl this puckering palate pleaser and inhale all of its wild things. Infectious Grooves is built upon the Berliner-Weisse style of wheat ales, but has more sour and lactic personality than a typical representation of the style. The bottom line is that O’so has crafted a tart, lemony, effervescent beer that is drinkable, sessionable and intensely refreshing. While sour beers might not normally cross the spectrum of summer suds, this is a definite exception.
O’so Brewing Company
3028 Village Park Dr., Plover
Potosi Czech Style Pilsner
Potosi is a well-known, but often forgotten about, brewery in this state. And it’s a shame because they do brew some distinctively tempting beers—in particular, their Czech Style Pilsner. This pils is rooted in the tradition and charm of Bohemian pilsners, and adheres to the geographic characteristics that make Czech pilsners so distinguished. Potosi’s version uses European malts, specifically Pilsner and Cara-pils, along with Saaz and Northern Brewer hops to yield bready, earthy, herbal attributes with some delicate, lingering bitterness. The whole is a pilsner that is crisp, faintly biting and penetratingly cool on a torrid day.
Potosi Brewing Company
209 S. Main St., Potosi
Curious as to where to locally find the beers above? Check out these Milwaukee-area bottle shops:
Discount Liquor’s two area locations, in Milwaukee and Waukesha, have become serious destinations for craft beer seekers, as well as those in search of wines and spirits. Their rotating seasonals, along with their year-round beer selections, are astounding and offer the remedy to precisely what ales—or lagers—you. If you have a question, their staff is exceptionally adept and knowledgeable, so don’t hesitate to ask away.
5031 W. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee
919 N. Barstow Ave., Waukesha
The Malt Shoppe
Where do you go when you’re looking for a stellar single bottle selection, or a chilled six-pack, or maybe even a growler? One of those stops ought to be The Malt Shoppe in Wauwatosa. This hybrid bottle boutique and tap/growler shop caters to the full gamut of beer lovers, from the “I want to build my own 6-pack” shopper to the “sure, I’ll drink a draft beer as I walk through the store” browser. The Malt Shoppe also has some Cicerone Certified Beer Servers on staff, so if you have that seemingly weird or nerdy question, let it fly.
The Malt Shoppe
813 N. Mayfair Rd., Wauwatosa
Ray’s Wine & Spirits
Don’t let the name fool you. Ray’s Wine & Spirits, while boasting an impressive assortment of both wines and spirits, does pride themselves on having a dizzying beer selection. Ray’s has been a fixture in the Milwaukee community for more than 50 years, and that experience is evident in their expertise, service and brand diversity. Once you find that six-pack or bomber you’ve been craving, head upstairs to grab a growler and enjoy a beer at Ray’s Growler Gallery.
Ray’s Wine & Spirits
8930 W. North Ave., Milwaukee
Nick Rasmussen has been a self-proclaimed beer geek ever since he took his first sip of Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA back in 2009. Born in Stevens Point, WI and now residing in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood, Nick is a Cicerone Certified Beer Server, a home brewer and a passionate food zealot, particularly with regard to organic, locally-sourced vegetarian and vegan food. When he’s not writing or brewing beer, you can find Nick either running or biking along the lakefront or out dining with his fiancee, Katie.