One of the great things about the Great Taste of the Midwest, whether you have a ticket or not, is the debut of so many new brews. One that stood out for me at this year's festival was Appleanche, an apple beer unveiled by Capital Brewery for the first time at a Great Taste pre-party last Thursday. This apple-based beer is different from many because it's based on Blonde Doppelbock, a full-bodied lager released by Capital late each winter. The result is a richer, stronger beer with a blend of caramel maltiness that has the sweetness of apple.
What is it? Appleanche from Capital Brewery of Middleton, Wisconsin.
Style: Appleanche begins with a base beer that is very similar but not identical to Capital's Blonde Doppelbock. The doppelbock style is a full-bodied, deep amber to dark brown lager beer with a sweet, rich caramel malt character. The doppelbock will have a strong alcoholic strength, ranging from 6.5% to 8% ABV. The hop bitterness is evident but not excessive. Fruity esters are also common, but not overwhelming. The apple that is added is 100% apple juice from a supplier in the northwestern U.S.
Background: Appleanche is the latest beer in brewmaster Brian Destree's limited-release Capital Square series of bomber bottles. Most of Capital's big bottle beers are considered one-time brews. So, depending upon how well Appleanche sells, it may or may not come back.
"Apple is a hot flavor right now," says Destree. "I wanted the apple to be up front but not like a crisp-tart light cider. This is still a big beer."
Appleanche is brewed with a lager yeast. To make it, apple juice is added into the brew kettle. Because the sugars in apple juice will ferment, some of the beer's strength comes from the fruit. As it's bottled, Destree adds just a little more apple juice, which accentuates the apple aroma even more.
Capital made only about 75 barrels, but most of it will be distributed in the Madison market. The beer was just bottled and kegged on the Thursday before the Great Taste, only a few hours before it turned up on tap at Lucky's Bar and Grille for a pre-party. The following day, the number of glasses of Appleanche in the Bier Garten was a good indication that it's being well received.
Appleanche is sold in 22-ounce bottles for $8-$9. It is also currently available on tap at the Capital Bier Garten for $4/glass or $12/growler (refill).
Capital Brewery was recently named Grand National Champion in the 2013 edition of the United States Open Beer Championship. The competition was held in Atlanta in June, with beer across 65 categories/styles evaluated by judges from the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Winners were announced in early July. The Middleton brewery captured three golds (for Capital Pilsner, Lake House and Capital Dark), one silver (for Wisconsin Amber), and two bronze medals (for Supper Club and Maibock) in the competition. Other Wisconsin breweries recognized included Stevens Point Brewery, Sprecher Brewing and 3 Sheeps Brewing.
- Aroma: A firm beginning of fruity apple aroma.
- Appearance: A clear copper color, with a thin, off-white, soft head.
- Texture: Full-bodied, with soft-roundness to the mouthfeel.
- Taste: A sweet apple flavor comes in at the beginning with the aroma. This gives way to the richer malty tones of the doppelbock, but the apple comes back and stays for the finish.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Light, firm apple tones mingle with a caramel maltiness and spicy alcoholic warmth.
Glassware: The large bowl of a snifter provides a beautiful serving vessel. The inward flare of the lip draws the apple aromas to the nose. Also, this is a strong, high-alcohol beer, and the snifter encourages sipping. As the beer warms, you'll notice layers of apple flavor that blend with the malty sweetness.
Pairs well with: Appleanche is quite nice on its own, either as an appetizer or as a dessert beer. The waves of apple flavor seem most unique and evident without the influence of food. Given its strength, it's particularly good as a dessert beer, or even as a nightcap.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Appleanche is first and foremost a doppelbock. Yes, there's plenty of apple with a sweet, yet sharp, fruitiness throughout. Yet the fruit is slightly more evident in the early aroma, and when it comes back in the finish. Destree's late additions of apple prior to bottling help bring out these aromas more, but the fruit remains where it should be -- as a blend with beer's maltiness.
Appleanche is bolder than most apple beers you'll find. (You may have seen Redd's Apple Ale ads; this isn't like that.) What I enjoy about it is that it remains a big beer and shows off its doppelbock character. It doesn't try to be a cider, or a beer merely flavored with a little bubbly cider. The rich caramel-malt mingles and blends with the apple, creating a spicy, almost brandy-like warmth. If anything, that alcoholic warmth seems a little hot and astringent. Buy a couple of bottles of Appleanche now, give it a couple of months to mellow, and serve it for Thanksgiving.