New Glarus brewmaster Dan Carey took more than a year to design his latest beer, a "No Coast Pale Ale." Along the way he sampled almost 100 varieties of hops and even traveled to Washington state to observe the hops being harvested.
While he admits to being a fan of big and bold bitter beers, Carey says he set out to make something more drinkable without all the "in your face" hoppy resins that stain the tastes buds and often end up making a beer too high in alcohol for drinkers to enjoy more than one at a sitting. Well, if we can put an astronaut on the moon, then Dan Carey can design a better pale ale -- and he has, with a brew named Moon Man.
What is it? Moon Man Pale Ale by New Glarus Brewing Company of New Glarus.
Style: The pale ale is characteristically lighter in color than the porters and stouts, thus the name. It is a style known for medium- to high-hop bitterness in flavor and aroma, and a medium body. The pale ale originated in the English Midlands town of Burton-upon-Trent, where extremely hard water and large additions of hops helped make for bitter beers. English pale ales often have an herbal hop character in the bitterness and aroma, while American versions are more known for a citrus or resiny character along with some maltiness that is subdued to toasty or biscuity tones. Pale ales commonly range from 4.5-5.5% ABV, but some American breweries are known for much stronger pale ales.
Background: Dan Carey says that Moon Man is really neither British nor American, but it has characteristics of both. Most notable is the hoppy nose to the brew. Carey says that attribute makes it the most aromatic beer that his brewery has ever released. Moon Man is made with five different varieties of hops; four of them from Washington's Yakima Valley and the fifth from New Zealand. Carey uses equal amounts of the five and most are added during a dry-hopping process involving nearly 2 1/4 pounds of hops per barrel. The malts that go into the beer are primarily from Wisconsin- and Minnesota-grown barley.
Moon Man is destined to become a year-round beer for New Glarus. It replaces Hop Hearty Ale in the brewery's regular lineup. The beer actually gets its name from a pet cat -- a very cool calico housecat belonging to one of the New Glarus brewers -- and his paw print appears on every bottle of the beer bearing his name.
Moon Man takes about three weeks to make and it finishes at 5% ABV. Moon Man sells for around $8/six pack and just started appearing in local shelves during the past week.
- Aroma: Firm, floral hoppinesss with a hint of fruity citrus tone.
- Appearance: Brilliant golden color with a slight haze and a thick, soft, tan head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied, bubbly and round.
- Taste: Assertive hoppiness with an earthy or grassy bitter background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Light, but firm and solid dry bitterness. Doesn't last long, but bitter still ends strong.
Glassware: Moon Man has enough hoppiness that it will stand up well in a basic bar pint glass that also allows the head to expand above the body of the beer.
Pairs well with: This beer has with just enough bitterness to complement light lunch sandwiches or even grilled brats and burgers. It also makes an appetizer beer with spicy cheese nachos or even hot wings.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Moon Man is, as Dan Carey says, a pale ale with solid flavor, strong aromatics and sessionable qualities that balance the flavor and alcohol content. The nose is indeed assertive, and its flavor is more under control than many APAs and IPAs, though some hop fanatics may find the brew a bit tame and far from the final frontier of bitterness. However, appreciate this beer for what it is -- a firmly bitter beer with a great fresh hoppy nose. It's bottle conditioned, so expect just a little haze from the yeast. It's best to not let this beer sit around and age. With all the aromatic hops, it's probably at its finest as soon as you take it home. I like Moon Man's aromatic personality and for being very drinkable with just enough hoppiness that it doesn't overtake a meal.