Sud Savant: Review New Glarus – Strawberry Rhubarb

Beer geeks! Hello! I’ve missed you all! Between taking on some new responsibilities at work and being involved in some local community theater, I’ve barely had 30 minutes at home on any given day that wasn’t spend shoveling food down my throat or preparing to enter/exit my bed. Unfortunately, this is not nearly enough time to write the craft beer reviews that I like. Fortunately, my obligation to the theater is ended and I now have my life back! Actually, it was a great time, but I’m very glad to have some time again to write about and review amazing craft beer.

As good fortune would have it, my father MOTHER, who lives close to the Wisconsin state line, was gracious enough to pick up some of New Glarus’ Strawberry Rhubarb for me. You may consider me excited. Rhubarb in the spring and early summer is a childhood treat that I recall quite fondly. Whether it was in a rhubarb crisp, rhubarb pie a la mode, or just raw dipped in sugar from the bottom of a Dixie cup, rhubarb is a tart, sweet treat that absolutely sings summer. Mixing it with strawberries, as if often done in pies, is also awesome, though since I can find strawberries much more easily than rhubarb, I tend to be a bit of a “rhubarb purist” and try to find it featured by itself. I’m also excited because, duh, it’s New Glarus and they make some of the best fruit beers that you will find. Even when their normal fruit crops were low in supply thanks to an drought-inducing and uncooperative Mother Nature, NG produced their Serendipity and made splendid results with what they had available. One of my favorite “fruits” AND one of my favorite brewers? I’m ready to get this party started. Let’s pour!

Aroma 11/12: When this was first opened I could smell candy in the air. Sweet, sugary goodness enveloped me. I was wondering if it would smell any different when the nose was close, but it would end up not varying too greatly from what was first detected. This beer smells very sugared. Like the best Jelly Belly ever. Do you want that in a beer? Your call. I’m a little wary of it right now. I like fruit, but I’m not here to drink the equivilant of Kool-Aid that I used to make as a kid with an extra two cups of sugar. I’m not too worried because this is new Glarus, but usually their aromas are the strongest part of their beer and while this is far from bad, all the sweetness makes me nervous. The aromas of each fruit are detectable and with the rhubarb the sugar goodness ends up working pretty well. It’s easy to remember those sugar-carrying Dixie cups we had as kids. There is an attempt at a balancing agent, though I won’t go as far as to use the term “bittering agent.” The sensation is more akin to that of a black tea. As this warms, it shows a hints of mustiness and reminds me of real, fresh strawberry juice from my juicing days. I suppose that gives some additional credence to it being more “authentic,” but it smells so unbelievably sweet! However when it comes to New Glarus, it is easy to give them the benefit of the doubt regarding authenticity.

Appearance 2/3: This looks pretty much like cider straight from the apple orchard after you’ve stirred up all the sediment in it. For the most part, it’s simply brown and cloudy, but New Glarus is full of tricks. Hold it up to the light and you’ll quickly see a glinting ruby with all but trace amounts of the brown leaving the glass completely. Didn’t see that coming! The head is moderate in size, cream in color, dissipates rather quickly, but stays as a creamy covering on the surface.

Flavor 20/20: When you have a beer that contains such sweet ingredients as this, it’s expected that when it first hits the tip of your tongue, you’ll be hit with a very forward sweet flavor. Expectation met. Though in a brief rearranging of the expected order, the tart of the rhubarb comes forward first followed by the sugary wash of strawberry juice. I suppose I would’ve expected the sweet sensation first given the placement of those particular taste buds on the tip of the tongue. The tart makes room for the nectar-like strawberries with getting out entirely out of the way. This two combine in the way they do in a well-made pie before turning to New Glarus’ staple fruit beer finisher. By that, I don’t mean how the beer finishes, it just seems that if you hold a New Glarus fruit beer in your mouth they will all (Belgium Red, Raspberry Tart, Serendipity) resort to this darker, slightly more bitter flavor. I wish I could describe it better. I suppose it’s like biting a bit too close to the core of an apple. Still lots of the apple flavor that you expect, but just a hint of something bitter as well. Only the sensation in the Strawberry Rhubarb isn’t bitter, it’s just… I don’t know. I just don’t know what to accurately compare it to. Perhaps the faint “tea” note from the aroma? Do they age this in oak the way they do their Wisconsin Belgian Red? Is it just the same malt base? Are they again using aged Hallertau hops? What is it?!? I have a feeling that only Dan or Deb Carey can scratch this itch of curiosity, but if any of you awesome craft beer people out there know, PLEASE comment below! The actual finish is a lingering tartness (no surprise there), that much like the beer when in the mouth, gives way to the “mystery flavor” in the aftertaste while the mouth is left with an unexpected dryness considering how sweet and tart the beer is.

Mouthfeel 5/5: As always, when it comes to New Glarus fruit beers, the mouthfeel is more than you expect. They never miss a chance to dive out of the way of “average.” This brew successfully avoids the over bubbly and thin qualities that a lot of lesser lambics tend to find. The beer, while ample in carbonation, provides it with microscopic bubbles. This keeps the beer feeling lively in the mouth, but without the prickle of over-carbonation (or the burps). It also lets the beer feel more substantial by allowing the drinker to feel more of the actual liquid than the bubbles, contributing to a heavier and silkier mouthfeel.

Overall Impression 10/10: It’s a New Glarus fruit beer, what did you expect, a sub-par effort? Other than an aroma that I basically couldn’t convince my brain wasn’t some crazy, new, amazing, Skittle flavor and a somewhat murky appearance, this beer earns top marks all around. Strong aroma, well-blended and captured flavors, and a great mouthfeel all make this yet another fruit beer to find from New Glarus. If you haven’t had a New Glarus fruit beer, there’s no excuse. Make a friend in Wisconsin, trade them something amazing from your area, and get it. If you want to drink world class beers, you can’t miss them.

Total 48/50: I try hard to reserve high scores for beers that really “wow” me. But how can you be wowed when you expect greatness? It’s like the honor roll student that brings home another report card full of straight A’s. “Great job honey. Throw it on the pile with the rest of ’em.” But you know what? It’s still an A. It’s still another testament to continued excellence. Some might say that this beer doesn’t differ much from the other New Glarus fruit beers; that they just did it with a different fruit. I say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Dummies. More for me.

Keep making the good stuff NG, and I’ll keep puttin ’em away. Cheers!

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!