New Glarus – Serendipity: It’s not often that I come across a New Glarus beer that I have not yet sampled. However, when drought beleaguered the Wisconsin cherry crop, interrupting the brewing process for a world-class fruit beer, Diploma Master Brewer Dan Carey stepped in with his usual dose of inspiration and creativity. Enter Serendipity. Snatching up what cherries could be found, New Glarus blended them with some other grand Wisconsin flavors courtesy of a bumper cranberry crop and a harvest of apples that somehow pulled through the dry months. The brew is then aged in oak barrels and left to ferment wildly, thus giving the brew’s name its double entendre for both its fermentation as well as its makeshift ingredients. Would we expect anything less clever from New Glarus? I hope not. Let’s pour!
Aroma 12/12: This sprayed a bit when I was opening it, implying a feisty level of carbonation inside. I then proceeded to smell the beer and my notes look something like “HOLYMOTHEROFCHERRY+APPLEAMAZINGIWANNARUBITONMYFACE!!!1!1!” You know, more or less. This smells like fresh-pressed cider from your local apple orchard blended superbly with cherry’s tart bite and a hint of cranberry’s patient bitter. At this point I do not smell much of the sour ale within, but I’m getting plenty of the same dark cherry tannin smell that makes New Glarus’ Wisconsin Belgian Red such a smash hit. This is a beautiful bouquet with plenty of wow factor!
Appearance 3/3: I was surprised at the generous level of head for this style. It was microscopic bubbles forming a soapy texture that lived longer than I thought it would. Sitting on the table the beer is a crystal clear, gem-like magenta. When held aloft, the top takes the color of real apple cider, while the bottom becomes a vibrant sports car red. I’m just looking at this glass and am so impressed that I’m shaking my head, my brow furrowed. Good grief.
Flavor 20/20: Wow! This is an amazing sour/fruit ale! It definitely borrows heavily from their Wisconsin Belgian Red, but that’s not a bad thing, especially if this beer is to be a substitute until better cherry crops can be grown and harvested. Apples, sweet cherries, and tart cranberries abound, but soon the tannins take a stronger foothold and impose a bit of their “browned apple” flavor. It may have been a bad year for cherries, but apparently the folks at New Glarus found the best in the batch because there is no shortage of cherry flavor here. Well, there might be, but they have supplemented it so well with the other fruits that one can hardly notice and if they did they certainly wouldn’t have anything about which to gripe. The finish is more of the tannins, plus a subtle cranberry bitter that becomes a bit more bold once the other flavors have found their way down the throat. Two things surprised me about the finish: First was that the cranberry bitter was so light. For me, this is a good thing since I generally don’t care for cranberries. Second was the saliva gland-pounding pucker that this beer put on me. After swallowing, my spit factories were cursing a blue streak and ordering all hands on deck! This lasted well after the swallow and my jaw was tingling like mad. Very neat!
Mouthfeel 4/5: Very light in the mouth, undoubtedly aided by the teeny, tiny carbonation that we saw comprise the head. A beer this sweet could very easily become syrupy, especially after warming, but Serendipity avoids this trap with the liberal use of cherry tannins which help provide a bitter backdrop against which they splash their tart, sweet fruits. The back of the mouth is left slick, but the beer itself never comes close to that sensation.
Overall Impression 10/10: Another excellent, world-class effort from the Careys. They have gracefully traversed what will hopefully be a short gap between bountiful Wisconsin cherry harvests. The aroma is second to none, the appearance is very appetizing, and the flavor is not to be considered a consolation at all. In fact, I feel that it’s so similar to their Wisconsin Belgian Red, that were I not told, I might not be able to tell the difference. Of course, it’s been a very long time since I’ve sampled that particular brew, but I feel that Serendipity doesn’t fall very far from the tree (the cherry tree?). If I am permitted one other nit pick it is that the beer makes the back of the mouth quite slick and sticky.
Total 49/50: I feel bad for noting those minor grievances with a beer that is so damn tasty, but that’s why there is only one point deducted. Sure there are things to improve on, but they are so minuscule that they hardly affect what is otherwise a completely pleasurable drinking experience. For me this is a near dead-ringer for Wisconsin Belgian Red (thus its fourth reference in this review), but if I had them side-by-side I’m sure I would be able to discern their differences. In case you couldn’t tell, if you like other New Glarus fruit beers, you’re bound to like this one as well. Chalk this up in the category that can also be used to sway non-craft beer drinkers over to our team. I suppose I was hoping I’d get something new and different from New Glarus, but I’m almost as happy that I did not.
Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!