Beer Review 0378: New Glarus Raspberry Tart Fruit Ale

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After the last incredible fruit offering from New Glarus Brewing Company (New Glarus, Wisconsin), Serendipity (97 points), I’m super excited to see what they have up their sleeve this time.

New Glarus 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 brewing giant Anheuser-Busch. Dan unearthed copper kettles from a brewery in Germany that was to be demolished; when the retiring German brewer learned that his equipment could live on, he sold all of the goods for scrap value to Mr. Carey.

Raspberry Tart is part of New Glarus’ year-round lineup. Packaged in a 750 ml bottle with a waxed cap, this beer is brewed with Oregon raspberries, and is spontaneously fermented in large oak vats. Coming in at 4% ABV (alcohol by volume), the beer proudly advertises the fact that it uses year-old Hallertau hops. You don’t see many beers — perhaps this is the only one — that openly say they use hops which would be considered ancient by most hop fanatics.

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Raspberry Tart pours a large, soapy and frothy head that diminished quite fast, but did leave a solid finger of thick foam atop the beer. The liquid is vibrant maroon red in the light, but outside in normal conditions it takes on a darker ruby color that looks like it might have a touch of brown to it. The body is clear, free of particles and sediment, and lacing is sparse to non-existent, only leaving behind a couple of specks.

The nose can be described quite simply: raspberries. Bright and deep, the raspberries used in this beer are literally all you smell; perhaps there is a faint suggestion of sweet caramel malt in there, and an earthiness, but I’m guessing that’s more from the fruit than the yeast. The nose is remarkable in the fact you’d never guess this was beer; anyone would easily peg this as fruit juice.

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The taste very much follows the nose: punchy, sharp raspberry up front that starts out as much sweet as it is tart. This beer is highly, highly drinkable, but I’m not so sure it is refreshing. Although it has a thin mouthfeel, it seems thick because of the sweet and tart combination. Finishing, the fruit becomes more tart and even slightly verges into the sour category, leaving a very lightly bitter yet still fresh and true raspberry to dry out the palate. Raspberry Tart is light-bodied, with a foamy and gritty texture when swirled.

I would love to know how much raspberries New Glarus throws into this concoction, but I’m guessing that is probably a trade secret. Point is, it must be a ton because this is pure raspberry soda. An outstanding beer for the right occasion. Not as good as Serendipity, which has more complex fruit flavors.

New Glarus Raspberry Tart Fruit Ale, 91 points. Price: $9.99 US for one 750 ml bottle.

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