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Wednesday, March 4, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 18.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Beer Here: Kilbourn Hop Ale from Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing
A portion of the hops used to make this beer are harvested locally from a farm in Wisconsin Dells owned by Brownie Zinke.
A portion of the hops used to make this beer are harvested locally from a farm in Wisconsin Dells owned by Brownie Zinke.
Credit:Robin Shepard

Moosejaw Pizza & Brewing Company brewmaster Jamie Martin just won a silver medal at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival for her Dells Chief Amber Ale. She has worked at the Wisconsin Dells brewpub for just over three years, starting as a brewer's apprentice and working her way up to a paid position. While "Chief" is the brewpub's flagship offering, the Kilbourn Hop Ale is a favorite of the local beer enthusiasts for its bold bitterness and locally grown hops.

Within the next week, Martin intends to release a special version of Kilboun Hop Ale, what she calls a "Fresh Hop" batch, that is made from the 2008 hop harvest. "This is the time of year I throw in some real fresh, green, wet hops directly into this batch and that provides lots of aromas and bitter flavor," she says about the American Pale Ale named for Dells city father Byron Kilbourn.

For those making the short trip north to sample a few of Martin's brews, this weekend is the annual Wisconsin Dells on Tap beer festival. Held near the Municipal Building from noon to 5:00 pm on Saturday, October 18, the event will feature more than two dozen Wisconsin brewers, including many from the Madison area. For persons not getting an advance ticket, a limited number go on sale at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the tent.

What is it? Kilbourn Hop Ale from Moosejaw Pizza & Brewing Company.

Style: The American Pale Ale has an emphasis on hoppy bitterness, however it also offers firm malty flavors too. By name, the hops that dominate its recipe are American. Hop additions at the end of the brewing process contribute more to flavor and aromas, rather than just bitterness, which combine for a complex taste experience. American Pale Ales vary in color from golden to deep bronze, and range in alcohol from 4.5 - 5.5% by volume.

Background: Kilbourn Hop Ale is intended to be medium-bodied, amber color with pleasant hop flavor and aroma. A portion of the hops used to make this beer are harvested locally from a farm in Wisconsin Dells owned by Brownie Zinke, who offers up a small patch of hops just for this beer. "Brownie carefully watches over them all season," notes Martin. Sauk County, which includes the western shores of the Wisconsin River along the Lower Dells, was a leading area for hop production in the 1860s, producing over a quarter of the state's total crop. Kilbourn is a reference to Kilbourn City, the original name for Wisconsin Dells. The community changed its name in 1931 to better identify with its natural landscape.

Kilbourn Hop Ale is a standard beer at Moosejaw, and sells for $4/pint or $14/growler.

Tasting notes:

  • Aroma: Light, but firm hoppiness.
  • Appearance: Hazy, deep bronze color with a thick bubbly tan head.
  • Texture: Medium to full bodied, sharp and crisp.
  • Taste: Begins with a caramel malty introduction with a bitterness that builds.
  • Finish/Aftertaste: Firm piney hoppiness.

Glassware: This beer is served in a standard bar pint at Moosejaw. That type of glass will showcase the color and of the beer, and the beer's firm hoppy nose will stand up to the wide mouth. But a glass mug would do the same, offering more surface area to allow the beer to warm slightly and bring out a complexity between the malt and hop flavors. However, if you really enjoy hops, a cooler beer will hold more bitterness.

Pairs well with: Pale ales match with a variety of burgers, brats and veggies. But the level of hoppy bite offered by Kilbourn Hop Ale deserves a spicy entrée. My choice while at Moosejaw was a specialty pizza topped with jalapeños.

Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).

The Consensus: B+ (very good) from Beer Advocate and a 72 from Rate Beer.

The Verdict: Kilbourn Hop Ale will make the trip to the Moosejaw very worthwhile. While the hoppy aroma may seem a little tame, it has an assertive piney hop flavor.

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