Gotta love finding new beers, especially seasonal beers being produced for the first time by local breweries. Capital Brewery of Middleton is again expanding its portfolio beyond its well-known German lagers. Over the past two months, brewmaster Kirby Nelson has introduced two new bottled beers. At the end of April he released a Baltic Porter in four packs. His latest beer, Prairie Gold, is a strategic venture into the world of Belgian brews, and for local beer enthusiasts it's the treat of early summer in Madison.
What is it? Prairie Gold by Capital Brewery.
Style: Prairie Gold is a Belgian blonde ale, a style known for its clear, light-to-deep gold color and dense white head. Its nose is light and earthy with some spicy yeast and hop qualities. It can be very bubbly and highly carbonated, but a smooth, malty sweetness in the beginning and a dryness in the finish can accentuate the spicy qualities. The style has emerged as a popular Belgian alternative to the pilsner.
Background: Prairie Gold is scheduled to be a summer seasonal for Capital; this batch was released at the end of May. Nelson makes this beer with nearly 300 pounds of Belgian candi sugar in every batch, which boosts the alcohol content to over 6.5% by volume. Beyond the beer itself, Capital has been stepping us the eye-catching packaging of its brews. Prairie Gold, a reference of golden rays of twilight across the Midwest prairie, features a sunset image of Lake Mendota, sailboats and the surrounding hills and is based on the photography of local artist Pete Olsen.
- Aroma: Earthy, yeasty, spicy.
- Appearance: Clear, deep orange-copper body with a medium, soft tan head.
- Texture: Medium bodied and bubbly.
- Taste: A flash of maltiness in the start with subtly yeasty tones. A light spicy sweetness in the background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Hoppy, but the emphasis is on dryness, not bitterness. There is warmth that builds over the course of a pint.
Glassware: The aroma and color of this beer make for a great presentation in a tall cylinder style of glass, or even the stemmed and flared-lip tulip glass.
Pairs well with: The beer's dryness and spicy qualities go well with pasta dishes, especially those prepared with distinctive but not overwhelming sauces such as pesto and olive oils. Spicy dishes like Italian sausage would also be very complimentary.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: The spicy and yeasty flavors eventually give way to a dryness that really stands out. After a couple of these, one also notices a bit of warmth from the alcohol. Despite all that complexity, this is a very clean tasting beer that'll go well with summer foods or just kicking back on the patio.