Beer Review 0358: New Glarus Serendipity Fruit Ale

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New Glarus Brewing Company (New Glarus, Wisconsin) are all about keeping it local. “DRINK INDIGENOUS,” their bottle crowns say — and they mean it; New Glarus doesn’t distribute beers beyond the state of Wisconsin, saying it’s all they can do to keep up with demand just for their home state.

Founded in 1993 by Deborah Carey (the first woman in the United States to found a brewery), New Glarus started life in an abandoned warehouse with used equipment. Dan, Deborah’s husband, is a master brewer and was a production supervisor for Anheuser-Busch. Dan found copper kettles from a brewery in Germany that was to be demolished; when the retiring German brewer learned that his equipment would live on, he sold all of the equipment for scrap value to Mr. Carey.

Like most craft brewers, New Glarus have a year-round series, a seasonal series, and a special, limited release volume called Thumbprint. The beer I’ll be reviewing today is a year-round offering, available in 750 ml bottles that have waxed caps.

Serendipity is a fruit beer brought about by a severe drought that devastated Wisconsin’s cherry crop. With only a small amount of cherries, the Wisconsin apple and cranberry crop came out good, so all three were combined to make this 4% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer. They call it a “happy accident fruit ale,” and classify it as a sour ale. Unclear to me is the oak aging done on this brew — according to New Glarus’ website, they say the fruit is aged in oak, not the beer, but I’m going to guess they mean the beer. Thanks to Dave (OnWisconsin on Untappd) for sending me this bottle as part of a trade. Otherwise, I’d never get to try it.

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Serendipity pours an average size, creamy and soapy head; creamy at the bottom with big soapy bubbles at the top. It is lasting, and the beer itself is vividly colored a dark ruby red. The body is clear, free of particles and sediment, and lacing is fair, leaving behind just a few trails when the glass is finally emptied.

On the nose, at first blush this is a wild beer! Very fruity, lots of cranberries up front, juicy and fresh picked; then apple and cherries in more of a minor role. The cherries seem really dark, and you can actually smell the skin of the fruit. This aroma reminded me of two things: a nicely flavored fruity bubblegum; and cranberry ginger ale. Especially the cranberry ginger ale — the only difference between the beer and the soda is the intensity of the aroma, with the beer being much more pungent. Outstanding.

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The flavors open with tart cranberry and a deep, cordial cherry. You’d think you just poured yourself some fruit juice. The apple comes in toward the middle of the taste and brings with it a nice earthiness that transitions into the finish, where the cranberry really becomes the star, wrinkling the tongue in dryness and slightly puckering the lip with a tart edge. The cranberry lasts long after the swallow and plays along with an apple peel flavor, leaving the palate refreshed and ready for another sip. Light-bodied, the texture is a bit gritty when swirled but the carbonation is only average. Damn tasty.

While this beer claims to be a sour, don’t be lured into thinking it’s incredibly tart. Serendipity is no more sour than your average bottle of organic 100% fruit juice, but the flavors are incredible and you’ll be saying to yourself “this is not beer.” The apple peel flavor and earthiness are fantastic. Oak aged? I don’t get any of those characteristics but that doesn’t detract. What a nice change of pace…an absolute joy to drink this beer, although I’d only want it when I was in the mood for it. Tonight happened to be that night.

New Glarus Serendipity Fruit Ale, 97 points. Price: $9.99 US for one 750 ml bottle.

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