Stevens Point Brewery
Three Kings Ale
With its refreshing light, bubbly nature, the German-inspired Kölsch is a beer well-suited to ease us into summer in Wisconsin. Its distinctive flavor comes from combining barley, wheat and a special strain of yeast that evolved with the style. Only a handful of German imports are available, and there are even fewer Wisconsin-made versions. Earlier this year, Stevens Point Brewery introduced a Kölsch that received accolades at the World Beer Cup; it's certainly a beer worthy of recognition.
What is it? Three Kings Ale from Stevens Point Brewery in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Style: Originating in Köln, Germany, the Kölsch style of beer is made with ale yeast and fermented warm, yet is commonly aged at colder temperatures. The Kölsch is golden to straw color and very effervescent. The flavor offers some subtle sweetness, but with a slight dryness that adds to an overall crisp impression. The mouthfeel is light to medium. There is some hoppiness, just enough for a sharp, clean flavor profile. The brew will range in alcohol from 4.8% to 5.3% ABV. The Kölsch name, in German law and tradition, applies only to beer from Köln, and it is brewed to strict standards, including with 10% to 20% wheat.
Background: Three Kings Ale is made with four types of malt, including white wheat. It's bittered with Northern Brewer, and for authenticity, the German noble hop Hallertauer Mittelfrüh. The beer received a bronze award in the 2012 World Beer Cup, which is sometimes referred to as the Olympics of beer competitions. Gold, silver and bronze awards are offered in each category. The bronze signifies that the beer is a fine example of the style.
Stevens Point Brewery says the beer's name was inspired from the story of the Three Wise Men, or Magi, whose relics are supposed to rest in Der Kölner Dom (the Cologne Cathedral). The actual Shrine of the Three Kings is a large gilded triple sarcophagus overlaid with gold and silver.
Three Kings finishes at 4.9 % ABV. It sells for about $8-$9/six-pack. It's also available in 12-pack bottles and cans.
Stevens Point Brewery continues to expand production. Over the past three years, it has invested over $2 million in new equipment and warehouse space to take its annual output to over 120,000 barrels. Just a few weeks ago, the brewery started a second shift for packaging lines, which is the first time it has ever used a night shift. The brewery dates back to 1857.
- Aroma: Lightly malty with a grainy sweetness that's a bit vegetal.
- Appearance: Bright yellow and bubbly with a medium soft white head.
- Texture: Effervescent, with a light to medium round body that really offers a nice, clean mouthfeel.
- Taste: A grainy-malty start, but its sharp fruity background lends crispness.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Lightly dry and clean.
Glassware: Traditionally the Kölsch is served in a glass called a stick or stange, which is a tall, clear cylinder with no taper and a rather small capacity of about 7 ounces. If you can't find a stick, a Tom Collins glass substitutes nicely.
Pairs well with: The Kölsch is a great palate cleanser and goes well with summer fare. The crisp, sharp, clean flavor of Three Kings is great with backyard grilled food, but go easy on the spices and barbecue sauces. It's a beer to complement food, not compete with robust flavors. It's also a nice match with brick cheeses.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Three Kings Ale is light, crisp and bubbly, with a sharp earthy-malty accent that makes it well suited to warm weather drinking. There is a sweet musty bouquet that is a bit distracting, but it's the sharp flavor that leaves a very clean and refreshing impression. Three Kings is a nice addition to the Stevens Point family of brews, and especially so for this time of year. The downside is that it won't be around all summer as the brewery transitions to its popular unfiltered American wheat beer called Nude Beach Summer Wheat. That means you had better pick up a six-pack now.