When I started this story, I thought I would focus on a summer beer style or two, like summer wheat beers. But in the process of doing my homework, I learned that focusing only on wheat would be far too limiting. We'll have a great, diverse list of beers to choose from beginning in a couple of weeks.
Ale Asylum expands its bottled lineup with two beers. Sticky McDoogle, a deep copper and malty Scotch ale, appears in six-packs beginning in June. Tripel Nova, a beautiful golden Belgian tripel with sweetness and alcoholic warmth, will arrive in four-packs in July. Ale Asylum has also added to its weekend food selections with smokehouse plates from Eldorado Grill.
Capital Brewery of Middleton brings back an old seasonal favorite last seen in 2005. Brewmaster Kirby Nelson expects his Wild Rice lager to be at local stores just after Memorial Day. It's a clean-tasting lager with a light yet firm, nutty flavor and soft sweetness.
Meanwhile, Kirby's Supper Club, an American pilsner, will make its way to a handful of local taps in June. Nelson says it deserves a supper club motto like "Don't pour 'til after four."
Furthermore Beer of Spring Green has a reputation for beers that just don't fit the mainstream, hence the brewery's name. While Fatty Boombalatty has been around for a while, Furthermore co-owner Aran Madden calls it a "semi-seasonal" designed for summer. This is a cloudy orange, spicy, aggressive Belgian witbier that goes well with a cookout.
The Great Dane Brewpubs have a lot going on. In early June, GD's downtown brewer Eric Brusewitz will release an organic brown ale, followed by a Belgian pale ale. The Belgian pale ale has complex flavors with a bitterness from Styrian Goldings and Saaz hops. Brewer Pat Keller of the Great Dane in Fitchburg just put a Maibock on tap, and plans to serve an amber lager in late June that will be similar to a Sam Adams.
At the Hilldale location, brewer Don Vasa is coming to the plate with Mallard's Cream Ale and Big League Brown, both of which will be available at the Duck Blind during Madison Mallards games. Both beers are brewed at the Hilldale brewery.
But the special Vasa treat is a pepper pilsner made by blending three different types of peppers into a juice. Then Vasa takes a pint of the brewpub's pilsner and adds drop after drop of the spicy liquid until it tastes the way he wants it to. He converts the drop per pint into ounces for an individual barrel. Each batch allows for improvising a "hot" summer beer.
Grumpy Troll of Mount Horeb held a brewing competition in February for local home brewers. The four finalists will make seven-barrel batches this summer alongside brewmaster Mark Duchow, and an overall winner will be determined by sales. The beers include a ginger and jasmine ale, a Belgian golden ale, a dark Belgian ale and an India pale ale. The exact order is yet to be set, but expect the first to appear in late June.
Duchow's own summer seasonals include a robust imperial stout and a dark wheat. In late spring, the Grumpy Troll opened a pizzeria in the second floor of its building, where a show kitchen allows you to watch your pizza being made while you select from 12 Grumpy Troll brews.
New Glarus brewmaster Dan Carey is offering an Imperial Saison. It's part of his limited "Unplugged" series that are sold in four-packs. Imperial Saison has a tartness and distinctive light hints of apricot. He made only about 100 barrels, so it'll likely be gone before Independence Day.
Wheat beer fans should be happy to see New Glarus' Dancing Man Wheat. Later in summer, the unfiltered lager called Yokel will be available. But dark beer fans should mark the calendar for August; that's when New Glarus should introduce its Olde English Porter.
Tyranena Brewery of Lake Mills just released four-packs of Bitter Woman in the Rye. It's a ramped-up version of the popular and hoppy Bitter Woman IPA, but with additions of rye malt. Rye adds some soft body to the beer, while increasing the dry bitter tones. Brewery owner Rob Larson describes it as "brewed with an orgy of hops to satisfy the cravings of the most indulgent of hop heads." It's released on the heels of Tyranena's Scurvy, a hoppy beer with dried orange peel that accentuates the citrus and bitterness of the brew.
Lake Louie Brewing of Arena sets a standard for light-bodied summer brews with its Belgian witbier, Belgian Prairie Moon. It's crisp, sharp, citrusy and very refreshing. And Lake Louie's Tommy Porter offers an exceptional witbier that is ideal for the months ahead. It's my lawnmower beer of choice, and I mean that as a compliment.