- Mike Riedel
The more a brewery grows, the easier it is to become complacent about the "craft" part of "craft beer." Let's take fruit and vegetable adjuncts, for example. It's much easier to use a third-party vendor to help take care of your extra-flavor needs than it is to juice, slice or purée the additives yourself. I managed to find two new beers that took the wholesome approach, making their beers just like mom used to.
Squatters Craft Beer Strawberry Kolsch: The Squatters brewing duo of Jason Stock and Conor Papineau choose to buy their fresh strawberries and make their own purée for this fruited beer. It pours a golden orange color with pinkish highlights. Strawberry comes through first in the nose, followed with a nice balance of toasted cereal. It's very fresh-smelling, and it enhances the bouquet nicely, offering an appealing balance between the grain and strawberry. There are really only two elements to this beer: crackers and strawberry (shocker). The strawberry flavor acts as the underbody to the beer as a whole, while wheat cracker provides a secondary flavor balancing out the strawberry. The result is somewhat reminiscent of strawberry fruit leather, yet without the sugary sweetness. The carbonation is good for the style. The strawberry and grains don't linger too much on the palate, but do follow into the aftertaste. No real alcohol flavor from this 5.0% beer at all; it shows very light drying on the palate, with no off flavors. It's balanced perfectly for the style.
Overall: This beer delivers exactly what it promises—strawberry forward, with a toasted cracker backing. ABV isn't high, and you really can't taste it at all while drinking. If you want a beer that has strawberry-forward (not heavy) flavor with high drinkability, then give this one a shot.
2 Row Brewing Smoked Jalapeño Porter: The 2 Row crew bought bushels of jalapeños and roasted them in house, á la chipotle, to add smokiness to this new chile beer. This one pours a virtually opaque black with a creamy, lingering beige head. Aromas of wood smoke, fresh jalapeño, bitter chocolate, coffee beans and pepper fill the nose. There is a slight herbal, almost tobacco-like aroma that emerges as the beer warms in the glass, adding a satisfying extra dimension to the overall presentation. Mild, spicy notes of jalapeño are quick to express themselves, followed by notes of bitter chocolate, licorice, wood smoke, tobacco, coffee, leather and earthy hops. The finish is dry, elegant and poised with a balancing combination of tobacco, chocolate, coffee and jalapeño flavors. This ale is medium in body and mildly oily. The carbonation is unobtrusive, bordering on barely noticeable. Despite its stillness in the mouth, this ale remains quite drinkable, as more pronounced carbonation would render the spice from the jalapeños overpowering.
Overall: If there is one ale that just begs to be accompanied by a good cigar, this is it. The rich spice of the peppers and the earthy, leathery notes from the hops would pair perfectly with a good smoke and/or a dinner of smoked meats and vegetables. I'd love to try this with one of Beehive Cigars' House Robustos or a Romeo y Julieta 1875 Reserve Maduro.
Both of these beers have been out for about a week, and there should be an adequate amount of each to last for a couple more. Strawberry Kolsch is only on draft at Squatters. Bottles of 2 Row's chile porter are, of course, available at the brewery or your better beer pubs. As always, cheers!