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Beer Here: Thumbprint Scream IIPA from New Glarus Brewing

Credit:Robin Shepard

Just when you think you know what to expect from New Glarus Brewing, brewmaster Dan Carey releases something that catches you off-guard. His most recent surprise is a new Imperial IPA named Scream. It's loaded with hops -- "a boatload of Cascades," says Carey. He uses 10 different varieties of hops in the beer, including several Wisconsin-grown varieties, three of which are from the brewery's own hop fields.

What is it? Thumbprint Scream IIPA from New Glarus Brewing of New Glarus, Wisconsin.

Style: The Imperial India Pale Ale, or IIPA, is also called a double IPA. The style is an American creation, evolving from hop lovers' quest for a robust and aggressive bitterness and strength. The IIPA is most often deep golden to reddish amber in color, with medium- to full-bodied mouthfeel. It's known for a strong hop profile that features resiny, piney and/or citrus tones depending upon the type of hops in the recipe. There should be some maltiness, which adds a spicy and warm complexity to the flavor profile, but it should be clean and not dominate the overall flavor. The finish will often have alcoholic warmth, attributed to a 7.5-10% ABV.

Background: "We make a beer in this style every few years because people have a lot of interest in it," says Dan Carey. While New Glarus Brewing may be best known for Spotted Cow and its fruit beers, this bold IIPA shows how well-rounded it is as brewery. "We don't want to be boxed in to a single product," notes Carey. "We want to say, 'Hey, we make lots of different styles.'"

What really screams about Scream are its hops. The beer's 85 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) make it one of the hoppiest beers New Glarus has ever produced. "It's about at the limit for us as far as the bitterness that we go for in a beer," says Carey. All that hoppy flavor and aroma make this beer one to enjoy as soon as you can get it from the brewery. "I think it is best to get early because the fresh hop aroma disappears over time," he adds.

Scream has over 10 varieties of hops used in six separate additions over the brewing process. But it's the use of whole leaf hops that lends a unique bitterness to the beer. "Using whole hops is a lot of fun," says Carey. "We tried to get as much aroma and drinkability as we could in a big beer."

Whole leaf Cascade is the dominate variety, while others worth noting include Vic Secret from Australia, Wisconsin-grown Columbus, and more hops from the brewery's recently planted fields that include Brewer's Gold, Chinook and New Port. "The good thing about all of those hops is that if the beer takes off and we decide to make more of it, a big blend of hops protects you from events and shortages," notes Carey. "If you make a beer from one hop you are screwed if something happens."

Scream is also made with central Wisconsin-grown barley along with the English malt Maris Otter. Those Wisconsin grains makes up about a quarter of the total grist.

This beer takes about five weeks to make and is bottle conditioned. It finishes at just over 9% ABV. "It's a good sipping beer -- not something you want two or three of at a time," notes Carey. "But drinking a pint of it is fun."

Carey expects Scream to be available through the rest of 2014. "We've made 500 barrels so far and we might make more," he says. It's the latest beer to be released in the brewery's Thumbprint series, which sell for around $10 per four-pack. Thumbprint beers are limited releases that are introduced every few months, with no guarantee that they will ever be made again.

New Glarus Thumbprint Scream is named for an eagle that likes to watch over the brewery's hops, explains Carey. "There was a bald eagle that was hanging around our hop field last year. It would fly along the Sugar River and land in the trees near the hop field. It reminded us of the Wisconsin story of the eagle Old Abe," he says.

Old Abe was the bald eagle mascot of Company C of the Eighth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment that fought in the Civil War. Company C had been known as the Eau Badger, but after adopting an eagle (named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln) while en route to Camp Randall, the company switched its nickname to the Eagles. Old Abe is believed to have been present for more than 30 battles, narrowly avoiding wounds in several of them.

Dan and his wife Deb, the brewery's founder and co-owner, originally considered the name Screaming Eagle for the beer, but it was already taken by the Screaming Eagle Winery and Vineyards of Oakville, Californai. As with most New Glarus beers, Deb designed the label, complete with her own drawing of an eagle.

Among the next beers to watch for from New Glarus is this year's version of its Strawberry Rhubarb, which has been bottled. The brewery held its annual Big Squeeze in New Glarus last weekend, a celebration in which a free pint of beer is offered in exchange for five pounds of rhubarb. That's saved and prepared for the next batch of the popular summer fruit beer.

Tasting notes:

  • Aroma: Firm hoppiness. The aromas are solid but subdued compared to the flavor.
  • Appearance: Hazy orange-copper. A soft light-tan head.
  • Texture: Medium- to full-bodied. Bubbly, with a softness.
  • Taste: Assertive and strong citrus hoppiness. A spicy warmth in the background.
  • Finish/Aftertaste: Bitter, dry and warm with a light-spicy astringency.

Glassware: A heavy clear glass mug is great for a strong IIPA that deserves to be sipped. The thick handle provides some insulation so it stays colder a little longer. The colder serving temp accentuates the hops. The mug is also just a great way to show off the vivid orange-copper color.

Pairs well with: Scream is a big beer and, and hop-lovers will want to enjoy at least the first bottle on its own. Its assertive hoppiness is nice with spicy dishes, including Cajun or Indian cuisine. The beer is also a nice match for Stilton, sharp Cheddar and bleu cheeses.

Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four)

The Consensus: 99 (world class) at BeerAdvocate and 97 overall/86 style at RateBeer.

The Verdict: New Glarus Thumbprint Scream really surprised me with its level of hoppiness. That's partly because I'm always looking for new beers and mistakenly thought this was a re-release of the Imperial IPA that the brewery offered in 2011. While that beer was a nice IIPA, Scream takes fresh hop bitterness to another level.

There's a lot going on with the citrus-bitterness of the Cascades and a deep spicy-complexity from all those other hop varieties. A hearty malt backbone from a blend of Wisconsin and English barley adds alcoholic warmth. With all the hops and a 9% ABV, there is just a bit of hot-astringency to the finish. But that's not a bad thing given that Scream is supposed to be a bold and brash IIPA.

What I like best about Scream is a hoppy aroma and flavor that's assertive, but not so much that my palate is wrecked after just one. I like it as a sipping beer; because of the strength, one at a setting is enough. However, if you enjoy hops and spicy-warmth, Scream can seduce you into having another. It's a brew that might just inspire hop-lovers to scream with praise, and a memorable addition to the New Glarus menagerie of beers.

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