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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Two Summer Beers With Local Twists

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Each season arrives with its own specialty brews, from the light, crisp pilsners of summer to the heavy, robust stouts and double bocks of winter. Many of these seasonal offerings fall into familiar patterns—every beer drinker can expect the usual offering of Oktoberfests and pumpkin beers in the fall, for instance—but this summer has brought a couple of new beers with unique local twists from two Milwaukee brewers.

On the shelves since May, Lakefront Brewery's Wisconsinite beer has already proven to be a hot seller for the company, and it's easy to see why. It may be Lakefront's most ambitious beer ever. Every ingredient in the beer comes from Wisconsin: not only water, hops, wheat and malt, but also its yeast—a true rarity, since virtually all commercial brewing yeast originates from Europe. Lakefront President Russ Klisch recruited Jeremy King of the Northern Brewer supply store to create a native Wisconsin strain of yeast grown from local malt.

“If you go to any major liquor store and look at their beer selection, in every one of those beers, the yeast in those beers originated from Europe,” Klisch explains. “There's no North American yeast in any of those beers. Even with wine, bread and bourbon, virtually all of those strains of yeast come from Europe. I think in the coming years you're going to see a big wave of companies trying to find different strains of yeast for their product, because right now we're bursting at the seams trying to get enough of this beer out of the door to meet the demand.”

The yeast that King developed has a faint banana flavor, so Lakefront created a weiss beer recipe to complement it. The final product is crisp, straw yellow, and at just 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV), exceptionally drinkable.

For those looking for a little bit more of a kick, the Milwaukee Brewing Co. is offering another imaginative summer beer that puts the spotlight on local ingredients. Created by brewer Kurt Mayes, the company's O-Gii is brewed with three forms of Rishi Tea—green, ginger and chamomile tea—and clocks in at an impressive 9.2% ABV.

“It's a high-alcohol beer, but it's a really easy-drinking beer,” Mayes says. The green tea accents are mild, but the ginger gives the brew a faint snap, and the chamomile comes across in the nose, giving this imperial wit a distinct honey aroma.

The beer had previously been available in a handful of local bars under the name Godzilla. For obvious copyright reasons, Milwaukee Brewing Co. had to change that name in order to sell the beer retail. Cans of O-Gii should be available later this summer. In the meantime it's available on tap at several area bars, including the Milwaukee Ale House and Sugar Maple.