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My Gateway Beer

By Jasmine · March 31st, 2008 · 2 Comments

Everyone has one. That beer that tipped the balance in your life away from Bud Lite and over towards the world of craft beer. Mine was New Glarus’s Spotted Cow.

I was a student at UW-Madison. My new friend Jen brought me to a place on State Street that she claimed had great burgers–it was far too dingy for any of my roommates to want to hang out in so I’d never paid any attention to the place. We sat in a tattered green booth, ordered burgers and then, because Jen told me to, we both ordered Spotted Cows. Row of New Glarus Bottles

The bottles are beautiful, with a cow on the label (of course) and their distinctive green paper ring around the neck. I’d never tasted anything so lovely. Sweet and with actual flavor – it was a beer that I WANTED to drink, instead of just seeing how many I could suck down before I couldn’t take it anymore. For many years, though, I was stuck here. I declared unfiltered wheat beers my favorite kind of beer and ordered it everywhere I went.

If Spotted Cow was my gateway drug, then New Glarus was my dealer. When Joe and I first started dating in New York, I would go home for a family visit and return with my suitcase half-filled with their Fat Squirrel - a creamy, nutty brown ale – for him to try. The only reason I didn’t fill it completely is because I needed clothes for padding.

Two winters ago, we flew directly into northern Wisconsin, bypassing Madison (the only place you can get New Glarus’s beers) entirely. So I called up my cousin who was going to school there and asked if he could get us a few bottles of their Wisconsin Belgian Red. I’d heard so much about this beer. It is consistently rated among the top beers anywhere, winning gold and silver medals all over the place for years now. I couldn’t believe I’d never tried it. I had to have it. My cousin managed to smuggle two bottles into the trunk of his car and over to my parents’ house on the day of our family Christmas party.

Belgian Red is tart and sweet at the same time. The label calls it the perfect marriage of wine and beer, and, with a pound of Door County (that’s in Wisconsin, folks) cherries in each bottle, it is more drinkable than any fruit beer. Even my mom liked it.

Finally, after all these years of my love affair with New Glarus, I got to visit the brewery last summer. First we ate lunch in the town of New Glarus, Brewery pic thanks to Emily McNeillknown as Wisconsin’s little Switzerland. It’s a tiny place, with a historic “old town” section and brown and white houses with scalloped roofs. The very first restaurant we walked into had a shining row of New Glarus taps. They served nothing but. Next to my Weiner schnitzel and handmade deep fried cheese curds, I got to try Belgian Red on tap. The head is a light red-brown and the smell is all cherry. It was one of the more divine moments of my beer drinking career.

The brewery tour is a self-guided audio tour, but is excellent and extensive. And at the end, of course, you get to taste three beers. I tried the Uff-da Bock, Yokel lager, and, my new favorite, Dancing Man Wheat. Dancing Man Wheat is citrusy, malty, rich and refreshing. One of the best hefeweizens I’ve ever had. So, while I hope my journey hasn’t ended, you can see it has come full-circle.

Tags: Beer I can't get my hands on · Beerventures · Women in Beer

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 This Month’s Session // May 6, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    [...] talk about how they first got into good beer. I happen to have just posted about that in my “Gateway Beer” [...]

  • 2 Boak // May 6, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Hey, nice post. Would have fitted in perfectly with the session!