Beer Review 0474: New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Ale
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.
With New Glarus currently celebrating 20 years as a brewery, expansion is in order — the good news about the expansion is that lots of extra room will be dedicated to New Glarus’ stellar fruit beers, of which Strawberry Rhubarb is a brand new edition, having just came out this summer. (Check my other New Glarus fruit beer reviews — Serendipity, which earned 97 points, or Raspberry Tart, which garnered 91 points.)
The inspiration for Strawberry Rhubarb came from Mrs. Carey, who suggested to her husband that he make such a beer. Apparently, strawberry-rhubarb pie is a big deal in Wisconsin, even if it takes a ton of sugar to make rhubarb palatable. On the label of the beer, rhubarb stalks are described as “barbaric,” referring to their sharp tartness. “Rhubarb doesn’t taste very good, so it was a lot of work. But we figured out a way to do it,” says Mr. Carey.
Strawberry Rhubarb is brewed with a wild yeast, and comes in at 4% ABV (alcohol by volume). If the beer sells well, it will join the year-round lineup; the rhubarb is local, provided by attendees of New Glarus’ Polka Fest in June 2013. In exchange for the ingredient, New Glarus offered beer tokens. The strawberries are courtesy of the state of Oregon.
This beer pours an average size, creamy and soapy head composed of both large and very dense, small bubbles. The foam lasts atop a reddish-brown beer that looks pretty murky, but actually isn’t as cloudy as you think. Out of light, this looks more brown, but held to light, you see a vivid red glow and that the cloudiness does not contain particles or sediment. Lacing is fair, leaving a few thin but sticky sheets of coating.
So, you remember those strawberry candies you had as a kid that had the wrapper that looked like a strawberry? (You can see a picture and order them here.) They had a soft, gooey center — officially, these candies are called Strawberry Bon Bons, and they come in 5 pound bags. These candies were one of my favorites as a child, even though I wasn’t that crazy for actual strawberries. This beer smells EXACTLY like those candies — creamy, sweet, and strawberry. There’s really no beer component to this aroma other than maybe some biscuit malt, and that might be reaching. There’s a touch of tartness, but mostly sweet creamy strawberry, note-for-note identical to those Strawberry Bon Bon candies.
The taste starts out just like those candies — creamy strawberry, very fresh and sugary sweet. It’s light bodied but the flavor is heavy, if that makes any sense — this continues until right before the finish, where a touch of tartness starts drying out the palate, similar to cranberry juice. The finish has a long lingering creamy strawberry, dessert sweet, but savory at the same time. The mouthfeel is thin and foamy, with active carbonation. The taste is, quite simply, addictive.
Folks, this beer is every bit as good as Serendipity. I must sing the praises of New Glarus — I haven’t had even a mediocre beer from them, and I SO wish I could just amble down to the store and pick them up any old time. I must thank Dave (Untapped user OnWisconsin) for sending me this brew in a trade, otherwise I would have never gotten to try it. This is a must-have if only to revel in the fact this is beer, not strawberry candy.
New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Ale, 97 points. Price: $9.99 US for one 750 ml bottle.