Two Session Beers and a Stout for the Ages

by Jim Lundstrom

What better on a cold January night than to crack open a glass of liquid sunshine in the form of an unfiltered wheat beer, in this case, an El Hefe from Pearl Street Brewery of La Crosse. Hefeweizens are guaranteed to brighten the day. This one is bright and tart, with just a hint of spiciness. A simple, toothsome beer, and, honestly, there is no more to say about it.

Next up was Happy Tail Cream Ale from Bare Bones Brewery of Oshkosh. I think some pals from the Fox Valley inserted this into the Magic Fridge during a visit. I love cream ales. It’s about as close as an ale can get to a lager, right up there with Kolsch and alt ales. Like those two other styles, cream ales are brewed with top-fermenting, warm temperature-loving ale yeast but are conditioned at cold lager temperatures, which tempers the normal fruity esters of ale yeast and results in a clean and crisp, lager-like ale. This is a simple and refreshing beer, ultimately sessionable, and, honestly, that about sums things up.

Looks like I’d better move on to something more complex or I’ll never finish this beer column. And to my horror, the only new item in the Magic Fridge is a bomber bottle that I’m not ready to crack. It’s my sole cellar beer, at this time.

Well, except for the three bottles of Goose Island’s Bourbon County, which have been sitting in the bags they came in when I bought them because I thought it was best to just forget about them for as long as possible.

Tonight it was no longer possible to forget about them. But which of the three 2016 vintages should I have? The bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout, the bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout with coffee added or the bourbon barrel-aged barleywine?
What an argument my mind had! But, in the end, it was a pretty easy decision. I decided the basic bourbon barrel-aged stout could serve as the baseline when I finally taste the other two, somewhere down the road.
This stout pours with a promising oily viscosity and dark as a blackguard’s heart.
It’s a still beer, as in not much carbonation. It looks and tastes like a port, a very black port. Huge dark fruit and berry flavors, devil’s food cake, Mexican cinnamon, coffee and a fantastic tart cherry finish. Incredible. Exquisite. I get chills with each sip. This is no mere beer, but beer taken to the highest heights. A bona fide nectar of the gods.

A wise and wealthy person would put as much of this beer away as he or she could get because it would be so interesting to see where these flavors go with age. The neck label states: “Develops in the bottle up to 5 years.” If you can find and afford them, buy at least five bottles and try one for the next five years. I think it will be an amazing and rewarding journey.