Sud Savant: New Glarus – Golden Ale

Today, friends, is a bit of special bottle that I have been holding onto for a little while now. However, as I have been offered employment today (for the first time in 8 months) it is a chance to celebrate and to crack open one of the finer things in life.

Unfortunately, this is a one shot deal. This beer was never released by New Glarus. It was part of their Research & Development and I happened to pick up a bottle when visiting the brewery (which is GORGEOUS, by the way). This bottle looks nothing like any of their regular bottles, but has a great look to it with faux handwriting on the bottle and their watermarked logo on a label designed to look like antiquated paper.

The bottle reads as such: Style: Golden Ale, Brewed: 03-23-09, Bottled: 06-18-2009, IBUs: 38, Batch: 160 BBL, OG: 15° P, ABV: 7%

Brew Master’s notes: Bold floral bouquet sweeps forward encouraged by Maris Otter Malt. Ale & Brettanomyces promote complex Brett characters – dry finish. Alive and still fermenting this bottle will continue to build carbonation. Pour w/ care.

Aroma 12/12: Sweet honey and flowers. Flowers, flowers, and more flowers. Literally like sticking your face in a bouquet full of Stargazer Lillies. Nay, a greenhouse full of Stargazer Lillies. The biscuit and straw malt flavors are present, but hard to find behind such an overwhelming force. A slight warmth is felt, but not detected in the aroma. This is amazing.

Appearance 3/3: This beer seems illuminated from the inside. The colors of raw honey and ripe peach make it a golden delight. The orange-tinted head is very generous, with large, soapy bubbles, but does not last as long as I would like. In fact, you can watch the head dissipate before your eyes, before settling as a single finger’s worth.

Flavor 20/20: First sips give you a tiny citrus bite on the tongue before turning their attentions elsewhere. The “elsewhere” is flowers that fade in and out, barely a hint of barnyard must, suggestions of a Belgian yeast (spicy and barely banana sweet), and a light bitter that hides in the background waiting to be paid attention. A wine-drinker’s slurp renews the honey sweetness. The finish is quite spicy given the otherwise sweet character of this beer. Lots of pepper, clove, and hop bitter really bring all the sweet floral esters back down to earth. The aftertaste is a similar blend of bitter and flowers, though eventually only the bitter remains (und die Blume abgefallen…) and leaves the mouth fairly dry. What an ale!

Mouthfeel 5/5: The light, crisp, tiny effervescence in this beer is the perfect blend of being bubbly enough to keep this beer refreshing and compliment its light flavors, but small enough to help enhance its creamy body. It is abundant to the end, of this medium-bodied brew. Despite its light malts, 7% ABV, and medium body, any alcohol warmth was undetectable.

Overall Impression 10/10: This beer is perfect. It’s true to style, laden with flavor, excellently crafted, highly drinkable, has perfectly camouflaged alcohol, and immensely refreshing. I cannot make one honest suggestion for improvement to this beer.

Total 50/50: Well, it finally happened. To date, I have never given a beer a perfect score, but it had to come sometime. I cannot imagine a more worthy beer. The highly floral taste, the use of Belgian yeast, seamless hop bitter for balance, appropriately prickly carbonation, and high(er) ABV all make this beer supremely quaffable. I have never had a light style beer with this much flavor. Pilsners, Helles, most lagers, etc… all fall away to this beer. I just cannot get over the blend of floral sweetness, musty Belgian yeast, and light hop bitter. Perfection!

I have had high expectations for New Glarus beer in the past and as most high expectations do, they often leave one disappointed. Through no fault of New Glarus, other than their excellent reputation and my past experiences with said reputation, I have built them up quite a bit in my mind. This beer left no disappointment. It destroyed my expectations and left me wanting more. Much more. The only bad thing I can say about this beer is that I’ll probably never have it again. Great white buffalo. Great white buffalo. Great white buffalo.

***If anyone has this to trade, I will make it worth your while.***

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!