Galena Brewing Company

The Galena Brewing Company is located on Main Street in Galena, Illinois.  They offer a flight of five beers for $8.  I tasted both their flagship beers as well as the seasonal brews.  In the past, I was impressed with their offerings and I was not disappointed during this visit.

Flagship Beers

* Farmer’s Cream Ale: crisp, refreshing, slightly malty, light, unassuming, no bold flavors, 4% ABV, 15 IBU

* Miner’s Treasure Amber Ale: deep amber in color, slightly malty taste, lightly hoppy, sweet aftertaste, 5% ABV, 20 IBU

* Annabelle’s India Pale Ale:  golden, slightly citrus and pine flavors from dry hopping, 7.5% ABV, 70 IBU

* Uptown Brown Nut Brown Ale: deep chocolate brown color, roasted malt flavors including nuts, molasses & toasted bread, 6% ABV, 25 IBU (one of my favorites!)

* Uly’s Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Stout: rich, creamy, full-bodied ale, notes of chocolate, roasted malts and coffee, light/drinkable stout, 6.25% ABV, 45 IBU

Seasonal Brews

* Summer Weisee Bavarian Style Hefeweissen: citrus, light, crisp, easy on the palate, appreciate no lemon more orange flavors, 4% ABV, 10 IBU

* Rustic Rye Saison Farmhouse Ale: light, crisp, little more bitter, higher alcohol, best flavor with ABV, 7% ABV, 22 IBU

* Identity Crisis India Black Ale: dark, stout, coffee flavors, 8% ABV, 83 IBU

* Rastafa Rye Carribean Rye Ale: interesting, almost hemp flavor (maybe my imagination or the power of suggestion with the name!), 5.7% ABV, 22 IBU

* Intombi Tart Berliner Weisse: lemon flavor, summery, too sweet for me, 4.8% ABV, 5 IBU

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Millstream Brewing Company Windmill Wheat

Millstream Brewing Company is based out of the Amana Colonies in Iowa.  In 1985 Millstream opened its doors and became the first brewery to operate in Amana since the 1800s.  Their craft beers include an Iowa Pale Ale, John’s Generation White Ale, Schlid Brau Amber, Heferweissen, Back Road Stout, German Pilsner, Schololade Bock and Oktoberfest.  My goal is to visit their brewery at some point this year!

Basic Info (via bottle and website)

* Millstream’s lightest beer

* Malted wheat is blended with traditional malted barley, and brewed with special hops to create a “Summer Fest” beer

* 4.5% alcohol

* IBU: 10

* Food Pairings: salads, mild fish, perfect for breakfast (omelets, cheese, sausage, bacon)

My Notes

This beer is light and refreshing. It was perfect after a long day at work when I was extremely thirsty and a nice, cold beer hit the spot.  It does not have any strong flavors so I think that some people who don’t think that they like any beer beyond domestic beer might find themselves enjoying this craft beer.  I am going canoeing soon and we will start drinking fairly early in the day and this beer will be perfect for a summer day on the water. I love that the website states that this beer is perfect for breakfast! I may have to consider drinking this while tailgating before Iowa Hawkeye football games.

Potosi Brewing Company Steamboat Shandy

Potosi Brewing Company is the closest brewery in my area.  Located in Wisconsin, the home of many fabulous craft breweries, Potosi Brewing Company has a long, rich history.  They celebrate the art of beer at the National Brewery Museum and research library located at the brewery.  I have visited the brewery many times, but always simply for pleasure and never with a discerning eye with the intention of writing about it.  I look forward to driving there again soon and tasting the brews with my notebook in hand.

I typically enjoy a good summer brew, so when I saw Potosi’s Steamboat Shandy, I was immediately interested in sampling it.

Basic Info (via bottle and website)

* Light bodied golden ale blended with pure cane sugar and lemon juice

* 4.5% ABV

* Available April through September

* Refreshing crisp and clean beer

My Notes

This beer was too sweet for me.  As much as I often like a bit of lemon flavor in a summer brew, the addition of pure cane sugar sent it a bit over the edge for me.

Beer Styles

Essential ingredients for producing beer include water, cereal grains, yeast and hops.  Water accounts for 85-90% of beer content.  The best beers are made with germinated barley.  The yeast is responsible for the fermentation process.  The strain of yeast is important to the style of the finished beer.  The hops imparts bitterness and other unique qualities to specific styles of beer. The bitterness in beer is measured in International Bitterness Units (IBUs).

The two major styles of beer are ales and lagers.  Ales are made with quickly fermenting top-fermenting yeasts.  Lagers are made with a slower bottom-fermenting yeasts.

Ales

Pale Ales: Typically bronze or copper colored as opposed to dark brown.

Bitters:  A well-hopped ale with good acidity and a hoppy bitterness in the finish.

Porters: Dark in color and strong in flavor, a lighter companion to the stout.

Stouts: Extra dark, almost black in color, made with highly roasted malts.

Wheat or Weisse:  Made from what and having a tart, spicy palate.

Lagers

Pilsner: A classic beer golden in color with a flowery aroma and dry finish.

Bock: German term for strong beer.

Beer Cheese Spread

When I think of beer and cheese, I immediately think of Wisconsin.  I found this particular recipe while visiting a brewery in Wisconsin and I think it is best made with real Wisconsin cheese and craft beer.

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Beer Cheese Spread

8 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

10 ounces (2 1/2 cups) shredded swiss cheese

3 ounces (about 5 tablespoons) porter or full-bodied brown ale

3 strips cooked bacon, crumbled

* Combine cream cheese, butter, mustard and swiss cheese in a food processor.  Process for 30 seconds or until well mixed.

* Add beer and continue processing until very smooth.

* Pulse in bacon just until incorporated.

The spread is best if made at least one day ahead.  Store in air-tight container in refrigerator up to five days.  Remove from refrigerator one hour before serving. Garnish with additional crumbled bacon if desired. Spreads well on the Ritz Pretzel Crackers.

Schlafly Summer Lager

Schlafly, a brewery based out of St. Louis, captured my heart many years ago.  A very close friend of mine from college is from St. Louis and I have visited her and her family in St. Louis many times.  Her brother is a brew master at Schlafly’s and we have visited Schlafly Bottleworks when they lived in Maplewood.  One time I was even sent home with a case full of mislabeled bottles.  Half the fun was trying to guess what kind of brew we would get when we opened each bottle!  I have not met one of their brews that I do not instantly love.

A few years ago, I was thrilled when I noticed a local restaurant carrying Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale.  I love a good pumpkin ale, but a good quality pumpkin brew can be hard to find.  At that point, no where else in the area carried any sort of Schlafly beer, so I would make special trips to this particular restaurant on a regular basis to get my fix.  Thankfully, local grocery stores have started carrying Schlafly beer!  I often buy the variety pack case so that I can sample different types of brews.  I recently found the Summer Lager, which I have never tried.

Basic Info (via bottle and website)

* Bright, golden beer perfect for summertime

* The malts used impart a wonderful, fresh grain character, reminiscient of European lagers

* The German hop, Mittelfruh, lends a mild lemony, spicy flavor

* Available seasonally (April through August)

* ABV: 4.5%

* IBU: 17

* Appearance: Straw colored, bright

* Process: German-style Helles

* Hops: Mittelfrüh, Magnum (DE)

* Grains: Pale, Europils, Carapils ®

* Yeast: German lager

My Notes

This is certainly a nice, light, easy-drinking beer.  Perfect for sitting out back near the fire pit and enjoying some good company.  The lemony and spicy components are not overpowering, but add a subtle summer feel to the beer.  It would pair well with a grilled chicken sandwich topped with a slice of grilled pineapple.

Minhas Brewery

Minhas Brewery is located in Monroe, Wisconsin.  It was a short drive south of New Glarus, which we had just visited the same day.  My brother, his friend and I walked in just in time for their 1:00 tour of the facilities. We started by having a few of the bottomless samples they offered on the tour.  I began with the Lazy Mutt, which was a wheat beer. I will be writing specific tasting notes in the future.

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Minhas was recently purchased by a brother and sister from Canada.  According to the video we watched at the beginning of the tour, they are focused on production and packaging a high volume of beer from their facilities.  They produce 550 cans of beer per minute.  They move the beer from the brewery to the other plant for bottling underground.  Growing up in a small farming community in Iowa, I associated the smells in the brewhouse with the room on a dairy farm where the bulk tank is housed and where they stored the kegs smelled like the local feed store.

They also keep a library of the beers they brew, keeping a case of each brew.  Each batch is tested 85 times throughout the process.  I had never thought of the concept of a brewery keeping a library of their beers, but I’m sure a lot of companies have this practice.  It makes perfect sense to be able to go back to a particular production if the need arises.  This plant dates their beer by the month, date and year to be able to locate specific ingredients of batches.

Not only do they produce their own brews, they also produce and package beer and other alcoholic beverages for other companies.  Some of the labels we saw along the tour included Crunk limeade drink, Jaguar, and Blackeyed Voodoo.  Blackeyed Voodoo was originally based in New Orleans, but was outsourced to this plant after Hurricane Katrina.

Some of their beer appeared to be intended for the craft brew lover, but the majority of the beer was similar to domestic beer.  They even commented that college kids love the Boxer beer (presumably because it is inexpensive and easy to drink).

The conclusion of our visit at the Minhas Brewery was a little soured for me because I was having issues with my debit card.  Turns out, someone in Kansas had tried to charge a hotel room on my card and there was a hold put on my account.  I was truly grateful for the hold, but it was still embarrassing to be declined in front of a group of people I had just toured the brewery with that afternoon.  My mind was also racing with worst case scenario thoughts about what could have happened to my account, which the beer I had drank throughout the day did not help.  I hope to return again and be able to fully enjoy the experience!

New Glarus Beer

The tasting room at New Glarus Brewing Company was expansive and well staffed.  There were picnic tables set up right outside of the room to make it easy to enjoy beautiful weather while sampling their beer. Each sample was one ounce of their brew and cost $3.50 for three samples.  As they had six types of beer on tap, I decided to purchase two sets of samples.

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Spotted Cow (Farmhouse Ale)

This unfiltered Farmhouse Ale is their best selling beer.  They describe it as easy, approachable, slightly fruity and soft on the palate.  I tasted notes of citrus fruit, specifically grapefruit.  It was light, crisp and definitely easy drinking.  Perfect for a summer afternoon.

Cabin Fever

This beer is a Wisconsin Style Honey Bock.  They describe it as easy going and more approachable than its traditional dark German cousin.  The pale bock is brewed with an exclusive blend of Wisconsin two row barley and balances seamlessly with their special European hops.  Naturally sweet Clover Honey was added in the kettle, accenting warm flavor notes on the tongue.  The honey notes were prevalent.  This beer would taste good with a slice of orange added.

Two Women (Classic Country Lager)

This beer is the collaboration of two craft companies: New Glarus Brewing and Weyermann Malting, both led by women.  It is a classic country lager brewed with Weyermann’s floor-malted Bohemian malt and Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops.  This beer smelled malty on the nose.  It was light with a clean finish.  The long finish allowed the taste to still develop.  This was one of my favorites!

Moon Man (No-Coast Pale Ale)

This beer is seasonal with a bright, bold blend of five hops that flirt obligingly with the smooth malty backside.  It is bold and engaging without pretense.  This beer is brewed to be enjoyed immediately.  This beer had a bitter nose with orange and grapefruit.  When tasting, the lemon flavors were more prevalent.  The beer became smoother as I drank it.

Black Top (Black IPA)

This beer pours a hop forward jet black color with aromatic bitterness.  Chocolate and molasses malts undertones are weaved together with a soaring rush of clean citrus and pine notes, delivering a drinkable Black IPA.  The smell of hops jumped out of this glass, but the most prevalent taste I noticed was roasted coffee beans.

Serendipity

This beer was produced after a sever drought caused the cherry crop to fail.  The brewmaster purchased the cherries he could and mixed it with apples the cranberry harvest.  This beer was a happy accident of Wisconsin’s favorite fruits aged in oak with almost a magical wild fermentation in this sour ale.  Strong cherry notes were noticeable in the nose, but the taste was strong cranberry with a slight apple flavor.

New Glarus Brewing Company

New Glarus Brewing Company is located in New Glarus, Wisconsin.  Before visiting their facilities for a tour, I had tasted their Spotted Cow beer and enjoyed it.  Always up for a good brewery tasting and adventure, my brother, his friend and I spent last Sunday visiting their brewery.

They are in the midst of some construction and expansion, but that certainly didn’t hinder the experience while we were there. The outside of the building has the look and feel of a Swiss Colony. The whole town is clearly proud of their Swiss roots.

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In one area is the tasting room, where you are able to sample three tastings for $3.50.  At this time, they had six beers to offer so I went for all of them. I will be writing about my specific tasting notes on their brews in the future.

Through another area was the gift shop and a self-guided tour.  The beauty of the situation was that you were able to bring your samples or pint of beer into the tour.  We sampled a bit and then headed through the hallways to check out the facilities.  Staff at the brewery was extremely helpful. Even though the tour was self-guided, there was a member of their crew in the area to answer any questions.

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Walking into the tour, I felt as if I was transported into Willy Wonka.  Large copper vats lined the left side of the first room we entered.  A gentleman working in the touring area answered all of our questions, educating us on their brewing process.  He also explained that the copper barrels were purchased from a company in Germany that was going out of business.  The German business was going to sell them as scrap metal, so New Glarus Brewing Company bought them at scrap metal prices, which for copper is still quite pricy. The copper portion of the barrels is not functional, but the real barrels used are located directly below these barrels.

The facilities were immaculate.  There is a major distinction between more modern brewing facilities and older companies in this regard.  If you have toured many breweries, there is certainly character in the older brewing houses but there is also the impossibility of keeping everything in an old cellar perfectly clean.

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Pipes weaved in and out of the multiple floors on the tour.  I was curious where all of the pipes went (and if they were all even functional!) The end of the touring area showed the production room, which looked as if it was lifted directly out of the Lavern and Shirley set.

The self-guided tour was relaxing and interesting.  I still had two tastings left after the tour and they finished up in the gift shop while I evaluated the last two brews. (To be honest, I think they were embarrassed about the fact that they were with someone that was taking notes at a brewery.  I forewarned them.)  I will definitely return to New Glarus in the summer and taste some of their new brews and enjoy the outdoor area to sit and have a beer.

Celebrity Wine, Beer & Spirits

Is it just me or does it seem like every time I turn around I see a new wine, beer or spirit produced by a celebrity?  Maybe I am just jealous of them because they have such a high disposable income that they can simply do this as a side investment for fun, while many average citizens (myself included!) would love the opportunity to devout their whole career to running their own business in the wine, beer or spirits industry with the luxury of basically unlimited funds.

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Now, it is pervasive everywhere you look.  Even in television shows.  I remember being flabbergasted when I located a bottle of Avion tequila in a liquor store while looking for margarita ingredients. I thought it was a fake tequila concocted purely for the show Entourage. I had no idea it was an actual spirit. It was like life imitating art.  On the show, one character was trying to use his celebrity buddy to market the tequila.  I ended up purchasing a bottle simply because they had a smaller size that was half the price of the other good tequilas (and it ended up being a solid choice).  Well played, Turtle. Well played.  Your marketing and celebrity status got my attention.

Sean Combs has Ciroc vodka. Rapper Xzibits now has a line of tequila called Bonita. George Clooney and Randy Gerber are launching a tequila named Casamigos. The Grateful Dead and Pearl Jam are crafting beers with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Kenny Chesney is launching a rum called Blue Chair Bay.

In the wine industry, I am assuming that Francis Ford Coppola was probably one of the first to dip his toes in the water back in the 70s.  Now Drew Barrymore has a line of wines, along with Fergie’s line titled Ferguson Crest, Richard Gere’s Tuscan label, Mike Ditka’s line (Mike Ditka?!?), Keyshawn Johnson’s line, and Tyler Florence has wines under Mondavi.  I am certain there are many more celebrity wines out there that I have never even seen.

I have no doubt that some of these celebrity offerings are actually decent wine, beer and spirits.  But the industry is starting to remind me of the perfume/cologne industry where anyone with money can develop their own brand. Now it is hard to even find a perfume or cologne display that isn’t dominated by celebrity options.

Has anyone tried any of these (or other) celebrity owned wine, beer and spirits?  I have tried the Avion and Coppola wine, but other than that I have pretty much steered clear of these offerings.