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

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.

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.

Brewery Tours

When I first started this blog, I made a few goals for myself.  One of the goals I set was to travel to a new winery, brewery or distillery every month. I enlisted the help of my brother, asking him if he would be willing to spend his much coveted weekends with me on the pursuit of good, local beer. (And by local, I mean anything in Iowa or a connecting state!) Thankfully, he is willing to make the sacrifice and we have planned an outing this weekend to two breweries and a distillery in Wisconsin.

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My brother and I had plans to go to New Glarus Brewery on the last weekend in April, so when a group of guests that I was working with at the winery last weekend started talking about New Glarus, I asked if they had any advice.  They were a wealth of knowledge about other places to visit and quickly our trip to one brewery turned into a day including two breweries, a distillery and a tavern/cheese shop.  I could not be more excited!  (And I’m thinking I should win some sort of ‘Sister of the Year’ award for this deal.)

Maybe it is the teacher in me, so used to planning field trips and preparing for the unexpected, but I always feel the need to research where we are going ahead of time to have an idea of what to expect.  That night after work I went home and looked up Minhas Brewery, Minhas Distillery and Baumgartener’s Cheese Shop and Tavern.  I will give a full report on the beers and spirits after visiting, but I wanted to share a few of the things I am excited about before the visit to see if they live up to my expectations.

New Glarus Brewery

Spotted Cow at the New Glarus Brewery is by far their most popular brew in the area, but I look forward to trying the other types of beer they produce.  There are six beers available year round, seasonal beers to compliment the time of year and they always have a few surprises up their sleeves to keep things interesting.  I am most curious about their Thumbprint Series, in which they let their brewmaster loose to create whatever his adventurous heart desires.

Minhas Brewery

The tour at Minhas Brewery looks fantastic! After touring the facilities, you can hang out in their Lazy Mutt Lounge and enjoy bottomless beer samples of their brews.  Considering the crowd that may be joining my brother and I, Minhas may want to rethink this policy before the weekend.  They also send you off with a “Thank You” pack full of bottles of their beer, root beer and a souvenir glass. For the mere $10 you spend on the tour, I think that is quite the deal!

Minhas Distillery

Located conveniently across the street from the brewery, the Minhas Distillery also provides a tour of their facilities.  Their spirits selection includes gin, three types of rum, rye whisky, tequila, vodka and irish cream.  What I am most looking forward to, though, is their horchata rum.  I did not find any information about it online, but the couple I spoke with at the winery said it was fabulous and leaps and bounds above RumChata, which has become popular in this area.

Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern

You can not visit Wisconsin without stopping for cheese!  Thankfully I got the inside scoop about a fabulous little cheese store and tavern a block away from the distillery called Baumgartner’s.  Apparently they have the second best chili (only after your mother’s) and a cheese sandwich that is a must try item.  They feature locally brewed beers on tap to compliment their food.  What can be better than a quaint, local tavern after a day of tasting locally brewed beers and spirits?  I can’t think of anything, either.

Needless to say, I am counting down the days to the weekend!

Goals

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Welcome to my journey of alcohol enlightenment!  This website is a culmination of multiple passions that I possess: creative writing, continuing education, alcohol consumption and delicious meals.  My goal is to eventually become a certified sommelier.  This website was initially born out of the desire to have documentation of the interesting things I am learning.  It will also be a valuable resource when I have a particular vintage or brew that I vaguely remember, but can’t quite place. I will simply be able to jump online and look it up in my own personal wine, beer and spirits encyclopedia.  I never would have imagined that my life’s opus would revolve around alcohol.  But I love that it does.

Part of continuously educating myself on the wine, beer and spirits industry will involve tasting a plethora of new alcohols.  Rough job description, right?  One goal I have for myself is to travel to one local winery, brewery or distillery each month and write about my experience.  I will also try one new wine, beer or spirit each week and document my thoughts.