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Monday, January 13, 2014

New Glarus Brewery's Stone Soup

  • Style: Abby Ale (Belgian Pale Ale)
  • ABV: As always, New Glarus was grandfathered in under the ABV ruling and almost never confirm their ABV percentage.  My best guess on this one is some where around 6% or so.
  • Ease to locate: New Glarus (all together now) is only sold in the great state of Wisconsin.  I figure that if they have to put up with the Packers, they need some good beer to even it all out.  Here's a link to their beer finder
  • Color: Ever so slightly hazy, liquid straw with a hint of amber tint.  Lots of visible carbonation
  • Head: Two fingers with lots of fluffy, very light ivory colored foam.  Lovely clumps of lacing.  Great retention.
  • Aroma: Heavy bread yeast with tons of Belgian esters.  Fruity and slightly spicy. Nice lemon zest character.
  • Mouthfeel: Light and effervescent.  Very easy to drink
  • Finish: Medium and dry.  Smooth and crisp on the swallow.
  • Food friendly?  Yes.  The fruitiness of the Belgian esters and the brightness from the lemon zest will pair nicely with a variety of food.  Try it with a lamb stew or something a bit more delicate, like a fatty fish.  Pair it with nutty cheeses, such as Sbrinz and Swiss.

 Link for Apple Users: I've been trying to post the Land of the Lost Stone Soup episode for 2 days, but You Tube has it missed up with a Second Grade  play.  And let's face it, Second Grade plays are only cute if you are personally resposible for one of the Second Grader's personal well being.  So you get this instead
                                                                                             Yes, it has absolutely nothing to d with Stone Soup.  But it's Weird Al!  In a fat suit!  With Ding Dongs!

A couple of months ago I took the nephew to a CSO (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) production of the children's book, Stone Soup.  It's the story of a clever wanderer (read: unemployed con man with a  rock) who transforms a village into a community by tricking them into making soup together.  Most of the story itself went over my two year old nephew's head, but he seemed to enjoy the music (and absolutely loved getting to jump around like a demented jack rabbit on the cushions after the performance.  Actually, I think more people might grow to love classical music if this was always the practice.)  The concept of the story does remind me of the culture of craft beer today.  Everyday I seem to read about collaborations between different breweries, each brewer bringing their expertise and their ideas to the mash turn.  Some of my favorite one off beers have resulted in these collaborations and I can't help but think that the community brewing strengthens the individual brewer's abilities.  What does this have to do with New Glarus' Abby Ale, Stone Soup?  Yeah, I've got nothing.  Even after reading New Glarus' explaination of the name.  the best I've can come up with is that  it's an appropriate name for a beer in this exciting period of Midwest brotherhood (and sisterhood) brewing history.

My Stone Soup poured a ever so hazy liquid straw gold.  Rumpelstiltskin could have quaffed this beer while working his lucrative loom.  A light amber tint glowed around the edges when held to the light and the carbonation visibly bubbled to the surface.  A strong two finger head formed with fluffy, just off white, foam.  Gorgeous clumps of thick lacing clung to the sides of the glass.  It was, what i like to call, a very pretty pint.  The aroma of yeasty bread and fruity esters rose strongly from the surface.  Layered in was a spicy quality and a nice brightness of lemon zest.  The bread yeast and banana ester notes were rounded out on the state by a very mile pale malt sweetness.  The spiciness from the nose became easier to distinguish as cloves and cinnamon.  There was an ever so light, musky note layered very deeply into the taste that I think really helped to balance out the fruity esters nicely.  A light, moderately effervescent mouthfeel made this a perfectly easy to drink beer.  The finish was medium in length and nicely dry.  The swallow began with a spicy, fruity crispness and slid smoothly into a barely sweet pale malt end.

Abbey Ales are extremely easy to pair with food.   Their inherit fruity, lightly spicy, softly sweet qualities compliment a variety of dishes.  Try pairing your Stone Soup with a  winter favorite, lamb stew and green beans.   The mild flavors of the dish will bring out the cloves and cinnamon notes on the beer while the esters will compliment the mildness of the meat.  You could also drink this Abbey Ale with a delicate, yet simply prepared, pan fried trout.   The beer's flavors won't over power the lightly seasoned fish (like an IPA might) and the moderate carbonation will lighten the heaviness that can sometime leaden a fried meal.  New Glarus just about kills it on everything they brew.  I do, however, wonder about their somewhat bi polar naming abilities.  On one hand you have your Serendipity, Spotted Cow and Fat Squirrel.  On the other?  Berliner Weiss.  Sasion.  Winter Warmer.  Either they use up all their imagination in one devil may care, winner take all, Mad Libs running wild like a two year old after a concert spurt or else the malaise of a long and cold Wisconisn winter just gets to them in the worst way sometimes.  But no matter what Deb Carey and crew decide to call the fermented hops that they produce, I'll happily lap them up.  I advise you to do the same.