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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 34.0° F  Overcast
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Beer Here: Serendipity from New Glarus Brewing

Credit:Robin Shepard

If you've ever looked around the kitchen and pulled together an awesome meal from whatever you had available, you might appreciate Serendipity, the latest beer from New Glarus Brewing. This unheralded new release is the fruition of brewmaster Dan Carey's efforts to make the best of tough summer harvest conditions. And if you happen to enjoy fruit beers, you'll like this happy accident even more.

What is it? Serendipity from New Glarus Brewing Company of New Glarus, Wisconsin.

Style: The base beer for New Glarus Serendipity is a sour brown ale. The style is an amber- to copper-reddish beer, often cloudy or hazy when served. The sour brown has very little hoppiness and is somewhat low in malty sweetness. The flavor is often dubbed as sour, acidic or even fruity, and that's even before fruit is added. Sour browns will commonly range in strength from 4.5% to 6.5% ABV.

Background: Rapid temperature swings and the prolonged drought made for tough growing conditions in Door County this past spring and summer, resulting in a poor cherry harvest around the region. This left New Glarus short of the locally grown Montmorency Cherries that are an essential part of its Wisconsin Belgian Red, a year-round release for the brewery and one of its most widely celebrated creations.

Given this shortage, brewmaster Dan Carey improvised by combining what cherries he could acquire with apples and cranberries to create a beer he calls Serendipity, a "Happy Accident Fruit Ale."

But not only was this a bleak year for Door County cherries, it was also a poor year for Wisconsin apples, so Carey turned to Gala apples from Washington state for his new recipe. Meanwhile, the cranberries are a blend of Wisconsin-grown and western U.S. harvests.

Serendipity is composed of equal parts cherries and apples, with slightly less cranberry added (as the berry has such a strong flavor). The beer finishes around 4% ABV, and is sold in the 750 mL green champagne-style bottles for $10.

New Glarus has developed a strong reputation and large following for its lineup of fruit beers. Fans of the Wisconsin Belgian Red will have to wait a while before it is made again, though. All of the brewery's newest batch is in stores now, explains Carey, and he won't be brewing it again until this time in 2013. That's provided next summer's Door County cherry crop improves, though, as Carey doesn't want to turn to imported berries to make his "Wisconsin" Belgian Red. Therefore, Serendipity will be replacing it for the time being.

Harvest conditions are also spurring recipe changes for New Glarus Apple Ale, a limited release brew that's hit shelves in late autumn over the last couple years. The brewery is using the Washington Gala apple juice in this beer as well, substituting it for juice made from a blend of apples processed by Kickapoo Orchard of Gays Mills. Apple Ale will be soon be released once again in the brewery's Thumb Print series of four-packs.

The other New Glarus fruit beer, its Raspberry Tart, remains unchanged, as Carey has enough raspberries on contract to last until springtime. But if he can't fine more, there could be a shortage of this beer too.

New Glarus just released the first 200 barrels of Serendipity. If it sells well, Carey says he's prepared to make more.

Tasting notes:

  • Aroma: The cherry tones dominate but not overly so, complemented by lighter hints of apple.
  • Appearance: A brilliant reddish-amber color with a marbled reddish-white head.
  • Texture: Medium and very bubbly. The fruitiness lends an overall sharp, tart, mouthfeel.
  • Taste: The tartness of the cherries stands out, but there are plenty of contributions from apple and cranberry.
  • Finish/Aftertaste: The cranberry tends to come out a little more in the finish.

Glassware: The wine glass is good to encourage sipping and appreciating this beer. Use one with a slight inward flare to the lip to help focus the fruity aromatics under the nose.

Pairs well with: Serendipity is best on its own to appreciate the cherry, apple, and cranberry. Yet if you're looking for a cheese companion, try it with Sartori BellaVitano Gold. The light sweetness of the cheese goes well with the apple tones in the beer. BellaVitano Gold received a first place award from the American Cheese Society in 2010.

Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four)

The Consensus: 92 (Exceptional) at BeerAdvocate, and 99/100 (overall/style) at RateBeer.

The Verdict: Serendipity lives up to its name of being a happy accident. Compared to the Wisconsin Belgian Red, the beer is a little sweeter and not quite as tart, thanks to the blend of cherries, apples and cranberries. The latter two additions are especially appreciated, because they seem to smooth out the tartness of the cherries while adding their own flavors to make this a very refreshing beer. Serendipity is a beer you could put out on the Thanksgiving holiday table. It will make for a very inviting drink to toast making the most of a harvest and set up the big meal ahead.

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