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Beer Here: Riverwest Stein Beer from Lakefront Brewery

Credit:Robin Shepard
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Beer and baseball are inseparable. In Wisconsin, where beer is central to the state's identity, our beloved Brewers undeniably have the best name in all of sports, and their mascot is the loveable, lederhosen-wearing Bernie Brewer. Riverwest Stein Beer from Lakefront Brewery is one of the few microbrews that can be found inside the confines of Miller Park, and home or away, it'll be in my hand through the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.

What is it? Riverwest Stein Beer from Lakefront Brewery of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Style: Riverwest Stein Beer is an amber (red) lager. The style is characterized by a reddish-brown to copper color and a medium body. It has a light, malty sweetness, and the malty aroma and flavor can even have a light roasted tone. The hoppiness is light, and is held in the background. Overall, an amber lager is well-balanced and clean tasting. It ranges from 4.8% to 5.4% ABV. The origins of this type of beer are found in the Vienna red lager, a style that emerged in the mid-1800s.

Background: This beer gets its name from the Riverwest neighborhood in Milwaukee, where Lakefront Brewery is located. At the heart of its recipe is caramel malt and unroasted barley, with hops that include Willamette and Cascade. Riverwest Stein Beer is the number one seller for the brewery, accounting for over 25% of its total sales. It has received a number of awards, including a bronze medal at the 1991 Great American Beer Festival, a silver medal at the 2003 World Beer Championship, and a Grand Champion honor at the winter 2007 U.S. Beer Tasting Championship.

Riverwest Stein Beer is one of just a handful of microbrews that can be found inside the confines of Miller Park. The stadium has been the home field for the Milwaukee Brewers since 2001, and is named for the iconic brewer that is the second-largest beer maker in the U.S. and still a major employer in the city.

The team's mascot is Bernie Brewer, a character created in 1973 who became a longtime fixture at County Stadium. Whenever the Brewers hit a home run at the old ballpark, Bernie would celebrate with a trip down a slide from his right-field chalet, ending up in a big stein of beer.

Today, the mascot slides from "Bernie's Dugout" into a hot tub branded the "Kalahari Splash Zone." Whatever happened to the original chalet and stein? When County Stadium was razed, Lakefront owner Russ Klisch saved them from the debris heap. He purchased the setup and rebuilt it inside the brewery. So for Milwaukee Brewers fans, and friends of Bernie, tours of Lakefront satisfy more than just a love of beer.

In fact, Lakefront offers one of the best tours among Wisconsin's craft breweries. The brewery is located in an cream-colored brick building that was once used by the city of Milwaukee to repair street trolleys. Visitors walk through the brew house floor, and are even offered a beer while standing under the former Bernie Brewery chalet.

Brewery visitors are also encouraged to sing along with tour guides to the tune of "Making Our Dreams Come True" -- the theme song for the opening credits of Laverne & Shirley -- as then walk through the bottling area. The first five seasons of the ABC sitcom spun off from Happy Days featured the setting of a fictional Milwaukee brewery named Shotz.

Lakefront tours are $7, and include four 6 ounce samples and a souvenir brewery pint glass. Reservations for tours are taken online and tend to fill up quickly.

Riverwest Stein Beer finishes at about 5.7% ABV. It sells at Miller Park for $7/glass and in your neighborhood store for around $8-$9/six-pack.

Tasting notes:

  • Aroma: A light, yet firm caramel maltiness.
  • Appearance: Clear, deep copper with a medium, soft-creamy, tan head.
  • Texture: Medium bodied with a round yet crisp mouthfeel.
  • Taste: Begins with a solid maltiness and a light roasted biscuit-like caramel maltiness in the background.
  • Finish/Aftertaste: The caramel maltiness wants to linger, but the crispness of the hop gives it balance, so its flavor ends clean and fast.

Glassware: As the name indicates, the best way to enjoy this beer is in a stein. I prefer the tall 20-ounce Frankfurt stein, with its narrow shape and clear glass to show off the beer's color.

Pairs well with: Amber lagers are very versatile food companions. Riverwest Stein Beer goes well with ballpark food, as there is just enough caramel maltiness to cut through the fried and fatty nature of sausages and hot dogs. It'll also stand up to a modest amount of spice. If there is a perfect beer for chips and salsa or queso nachos, Riverwest is it. It is also a nice match for Asiago.

Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four)

The Consensus: B+ (very good) at Beer Advocate, and 88/99 (overall/style) at Rate Beer.

The Verdict: I've been fortunate to attend over a dozen Brewers games in person this season, and I always try to pick my seats at the park to be close to the vendors who sell Riverwest Stein Beer. I really like the beer for its malt presence, which is well balanced and clean. Its flavor, color and body are ideal for ballpark food and simply just sitting back and watching the game. Of course, it tastes better when the Brewers are winning. Whether I'm watching at the park or in my living room for away games, this will be my beer of choice for Major League Baseball's 2011 post-season, hopefully all the way through the World Series.

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