Tag Archives: capital brewery

New Brew: Capital Weizen Doppelbock

7 Jul

Today’s New Brew isn’t exactly a first-time entry into the market.  Last brewed in 2002, Capital brewmaster Kirby Nelson has resurrected his Weizen Doppelbock as the latest entry in the Capital Square Series of high-octane special-release beers.  Kirby has proven himself to be the Da Vinci of Doppelbocks, with his Blonde Doppelbock, Autumnal Fire, Imperial Doppelbock, and EisPhyre all among the best bockbiers made in America today.

The weizenbock is the platypus of the beer world.  Blending the bright fruity esters and spicy yeastiness of Bavarian weissbier with the rich caramel maltiness and high proof of the venerable doppelbock, weizenbocks are banana bread in a glass, but retain good drinkability, even in warm summer months.

Capital Weizen Doppelbock

Style: Weizenbock

Vitals: 8.0% abv; courtesy of The Isthmus’ Robin Shepard: Liberty hops; Bavarian hefeweiss yeast; wheat and Munich malts

Company line: “A boosted version of all the personality quirks that make the Bavarian Weizen style unique and beloved.”

My take: pours a dark, murky amber with ample white, soapy head that fades quickly.  Aroma exudes clove and banana schnapps.  Liquid banana bread in the mouth with complex notes of chocolate-covered peanuts, soft caramels, and spice.  Finish is mostly dry with a lingering spice note.  Mouthfeel is dense, yet smooth.

Kirby said his inspiration for this beer was Schneider Aventinus, the first weizenbock I ever had, and arguably the benchmark for the style.  He’s reaching in the right direction and his doppelbock chops definitely shine through.  Ultimately, this one lacks the depth and harmony of flavor of the German classic, but it remains a supremely drinkable, highly interesting beer that combines the richness of a winter brew, with the thirst-quenching character of a summer brew.

Check out this post and other great beer-related news at Madison Beer Review.


New Brew: Great Dane Belgian Barleywine

9 Mar

Currently on-tap at the Great Dane downtown, Belgian Barleywine is a monster of a beer and over a year in the making.  According to Robin Shepard of Isthmus, brewmasters Kirby Nelson of Capital Brewery and Rob LoBreglio of Great Dane Pub & Brewing collaborated some 14 months ago on a beer with sights set on pushing the boundaries of traditionally-brewed beer.

The Reinheitsgebot or German Purity Law of 1516 decreed that beer should only be made from 3 ingredients – water, barley, and hops (yeast’s role in fermentation wasn’t fully understood until the 1800’s with the help of Louis Pasteur and wheat as a fermentable is still technically non-compliant with the law).  While the law was repealed in 1987, brewers in Bavaria and those abroad with German roots still use the Reinheitsgebot as a marketing tool and signifier of tradition and quality.

It was with this rich tradition in mind the Kirby and Rob set out to make the strongest (by alcoholic potency) beer that adheres to the Reinheitsgebot in the world.  Using Austrian über-bock Samiclaus and its 14% abv as a benchmark, Rob’s barleywine expertise as inspiration, they implemented an extended fermentation where additional wort was added to the special blend of high-alcohol-tolerant Belgian yeasts at 4 to 5 hour increments over the course of 5 days and aged the 10-barrel batch for 14 months. Despite falling short of their 17% abv goal, the resulting Belgian Barleywine is no joke at nearly 14% abv.

Beer: Belgian Barleywine

Style: Belgian-style barleywine

Vitals: ~13.75% abv, proprietary blend of Belgian-style yeast strains, adheres to Reinheitsgebot

My take: sits a densely hazed cider brown in the snifter with a thin ring of tan bubbles struggling to survive around the perimeter.  Nose is intensely fruity with notes of dried apricot, golden raisins and clovey Belgian yeast.  As you might expect out of an ale with the heft of 3,000 lbs of barley behind it, the palate is drowned in sticky sweet malts that again evoke concentrated dried fruits along with caramel and banana-clove courtesy of the Belgian-style yeasts.  The sticky mouthfeel is somewhat tempered by the dryness of the high-octane alcohol presence, but this is still a beer that will stick your lips together.

There is word that some of this rocket fuel might make its way into bourbon barrels for a later release.  I personally think wine barrels would be a more natural fit for the fruitiness and yeast profile of this beer, but am intrigued either way to try this beer again with the benefit of some age and softening.  A very cool collaboration by two of Wisconsin’s best brewers.  Won’t likely be available for long so get your butt downtown and get your six ounces before they’re locked back in the cellar.

New(ish) Brew: Capital Imperial Doppelbock

16 Feb

It is well-known to any self-respecting Wisconsin beer-lover that Kirby Nelson of Capital Brewing is the local (in not national) king of doppelbocks.  From Blonde to Autumnal Fire to the once-a-half-decade top dog, Eisphyre. As Capital has branched out from its German roots (with debatable results), some old friends have been left by the wayside (Dark Doppelbock and Weizenbock among them).  The Dark was one of my favorites as I got into the rich German style and I was certainly sad to see it discontinued.  Needless to say, I was pleased when I took my first sip of Imperial Doppelbock (Codename: Barbara – Kirby’s wife’s name) only to recognize a lot of Dark’s smooth character.  I must say, the idea of an Imperial-Double-Bock (does that make it a quadruple bock?) seems comically extreme, even in today’s age of imperialized everything in the craft beer world.  This beer came out in bottles around the holidays (after a few test batches reached local tap lines last year), so it isn’t brand new, but should still be kicking around some area shelves.

Beer: Capital Imperial Doppelbock

Style: (Big) Doppelbock

Vitals: 9.0% abv, uses Belgian amber candi sugar as an adjunct

Company line: A Dark hued version of the style utilizing the addition of amber candi sugar to “Imperialize” the situation.  Although honoring our Brewmaster’s wife Barbara, its cleverly derived acronym was deemed unacceptably unacceptable”

My take: pours a deep, translucent mahogany in the glass under a finger of caramel-tinged foamy head.  Nose is full of molasses, caramel, biscuit and dark fruits.  Raisin and candied dates star on the palate with caramelized sugar and molases adding body without feeling cloying.  Mouthfeel is velvety smooth and left slightly coated after each sip though the overall impression is biscuity and dry.  An impressively rich-yet-smooth doppelbock that manages its 9.0% heft with grace and elegance – traits I’m sure the brewer had in mind when naming it after his better half.  Long live the king of doppelbocks.

‘Tis the Season: New Glarus Snowshoe Ale

18 Nov

*Holiday music sold seperately.

Snowshoe is a beer that New Glarus likes to trot out for the holiday season, then lock up in the cellar, not to be seen for years.  That’s part of the allure of New Glarus’ rotating seasonal slate.  In any given year, there is no guarantee you’ll see a certain offering.  Recently, Dan and Deb have turned to their fans for suggestions for new beer styles and for which seasonals they most want to see in the coming year.  Gotta love a brewery that listens to its loyal followers.

Snowshoe isn’t a beer meant to knock your socks off.  It’s just a solid red ale with a robust malt backbone and brisk, spicy hop profile that makes for good drinking as Wisconsin’s all-too-short autumn becomes but a fuzzy memory.  In a time of the year where breweries are parading out heavy-handedly-spiced winter warmers, it’s refreshing to see an imminently-drinkable, expertly-constructed, yet robust ale meant for repeated quaffing.  A fine rival to Capital Brewery’s Winter Skal – another fine example of locally-made winter red ale that shuns the spice for understated elegance.

Beer: New Glarus Snowshoe Ale

Stlye: Amber/Red Ale

Vitals: 5.35% abv, American and German malts, Yakima Golding and Bavarian Hallertau hops

Description: “Expect this beer to be a beautiful copper-red, with a fruity ale body and a spiced hop finish. Then sit back and rejoice in the season because it’s these Wisconsin winters that keep the whiners out. –newglarusbrewing.com

My take: Really does pour a striking ruby-amber, with ample khaki-colored creamy head.  Nose is surprisingly fruity for a straight-forward red ale, with a coppery metallic hop edge.  Sweet, fruity malts are balanced by a dry, toasty finish, braced by the sprucey/herbal hops.  Evokes the act of cutting down a Christmas tree, as cheesy as that sounds.  Who says I can’t be sentimental?

Then and Now: Capital Eisphyre 2006 vs. 2009

17 Nov


Capital Brewery is world-renowned for it’s spot-on reproduction of German-style lager beers. Brewmaster Kirby Nelson has particularly nailed the robust doppelbock style with a number of impeccable variations including Dark Doppelbock, Weizenbock, and local favorites Blonde Doppelbock and Autumnal Fire.  The later is a rich fall seasonal built on an Oktoberfest base and can be found warming spirits this time of year all across the greater Madison area.  A few years ago, Kirby went one better by further enriching the Autumnal Fire through the eisbock method – that is chilling the fermented beer below freezing in order to skim off the ice that forms, thus concentrating the alcohol and malt flavors.  The result was an impressive beer with an impressive, if Dungeons and Dragons-esque name: EisPhyre.

EisPhyre was made in extremely-limited quantities as what appeared to be a one-time offering.  As such it disappeared quickly as people stocked their cellars for a beer that seemed suited to laying down.  To our surprise, the phoenix was reborn this month as EisPhyre returned to the shelves for an encore performance.  Luckily, I showed the patience and foresight to hold on to two bottles in hopes of just such an occasion.  Eisphyre showed promise for laying down over its first year-plus, but how has it held up after over three and a half years?  Let’s take a look at my review of the original, circa June 2006

Following the name, pours a fiery orange-red-amber with streams of carbonation and a short, foamy tan head in my vintage Schlitz goblet that vaporizes in mere seconds. Nose is subdued – bready malts with a metallic undertone, backed by some light fruit and alcoholic vapors. Taste jumps out from behind that meek nose with loads of doughy malt, sweet caramel, tropical fruits and an alcoholic kick that boxes you right on the temples. To know that Autumnaldave drank two 44oz mugs of this in succession at the brewery boggles my mind; a bottle under my belt and I am surely feeling the effects – though the drinability remains deceptively high and the mouthfeel is velvety and luxurious. Predictably, this is Autumnal Fire on steroids – but only the most refined and dignified prescription. A truly Wisconsin-made lager here, enough to make a Madison-born boy proud.

After a year or so, the booziness was definitely mellowed, and the malty complexity really came to shine.  Over three years later, the original batch has coalesced into a viscous malt concentrate.  Completely gone is any discernable hops presence to balance out the intense sweetness.  Coupled with a diminished carbonation level means this has become a kind of sippable malt liqueur.  The depth of malt is still there for sure, with rich caramels, brown sugar and gooey figs and dates.  While it may have lost some of the balance that made it a dangerously drinkable eisbock in the past, it has managed to stay defect free and avoided taking on any metallic or vegetal off-flavors that is common in beers of this age.  I’m glad I drank most of what I had every few months as it aged so I could track its maturation.   It’s safe to day it’s not getting any better at this point, but it has been a fun ride.  On to the fresh stuff.

Ahhhh, there it is.  A brisk, minty hops flourish to stand up to the sticky malts.  This is a case where I appreciate the rougher edges and crisp carbonation of the fresh beer that keep it from resembling a pancake topping.  The Autmnal Fire base is obvious here, with the main differences being a richer mouthfeel and warming alcohol presence.  Tasting the fresh next to the aged really accentuates the hops and their vital importance to making this a balanced and drinkable beer for its size.  If you’re a fan of big, malty German bockbier, EisPhyre embodies the style with a bit of American swagger for good measure.  Get it while you can, which won’t be long.  Somewhere in the area of 250 cases were produced for the area.

New Brew: Capital Dark

9 Sep

Apparently Wednesday is new beer day here at 43N/89W.  My latest trip to Barriques brought to me, among other things that you’ll see reviewed here soon, a six of Capital Dark from Middleton’s own Capital Brewery.  This beer is based on the recipe from one of the brewery’s first two “Garten Brau” from 1986 and is, in a way, a nostalgic rebranding of their long-time offering Munich Dark.

Beer: Capital Dark

Style: Munich-style Dunkel Lager

Description: “Rich, bold and smooth! Plenty of specialty malt flavors with a slight dryness in the finish makes for a beer with excellent style. – capital-brewery.com”

Vitals: 5.4% abv

My take: Pours a striking dark mahogany with a healthy off-white head that fades to a soapy film.  This beer pulls no punches in its unabashed maltiness, nor should it based on the tradition of the style.  A variety of specialty malts have combined to create notes of toasted biscuit, caramel, cocoa nibs and dark fruit.  While sweetness is the dominant impression on the tongue, it aptly avoids becoming cloying with a dry, toasty finish – about as smooth as a beer with this much malt complexity can be.  I would liken this beer to a session version of a dark doppelbock – a beer rich in malty flavor that doesn’t stick to the mouth or overfill the stomach.  As a brewer, Capital  has always been best when they stick to their German roots and this beer is right in their wheelhouse and truly a masterstroke on their part.  A great choice as the leaves begin to change  color and fall seems nothing but inevitable.

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