Monday, December 10, 2007

Beer of the Weekend

I was sick on Friday, so there was no Beer of the Week to be had, but in lieu of that, I have a special BOTWE.

I'm hardly one to recommend a beer from a large macro like SABMiller (now MillerCoors), but Miller's 140 year old, Chippewa Falls, WI based subsidiary Leinenkugel's can squeeze by my normal regulations.

Although Leine's was acquired by Miller in 1988, which was then subsequently added to the SABMiller empire later, Leinenkugel's is the seventh oldest brewery in the country, and is still brewed in Chippewa Falls (and Milwaukee), and still run more or less by the family. Were it not for the infusion of Miller marketing dollars, and the brewery's willingness to innovate, it might have been one of those sad stories of regional breweries I write about in the Pabst Americana Series. As it stands, Leine's is available in 38 states.

I'm not a huge Leine's advocate; in fact, out of their 7 year round brews, I dislike 5 of them, and of their seasonals, "Big Butt," a doppelbock, is the only one to stand out.

The second in the "Big Eddy" series, however, is a standout. So named for the stream that fed the original brew house, Leine's foray into specialty release territory started with the Big Eddy IPA. The second, released within the last month in select markets (Milwaukee, Madison, Detroit), is the Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout.

I talked a little about Imperial Stouts back here, so refresh your memory if need be. This Big Eddy pours like motor oil, with a thick tan head that emerges after you pour, with some remains lingering throughout. True to form, Leine's Russian has a high alcohol content, and three different varieties of hops, both used to preserve this style of beer for its long sea voyage over the Baltic. The alcohol certainly comes through in the nose and on the tongue, giving this brew a big mouthfeel and a dry finish. It smells faintly of bourbon. Although alcoholic, the flavor is dominated by sweet malts, with hints of maple and black cherry. The coffee flavor common in stouts is there, but it's not overpowering.

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy series is a step in the right direction, and the Russian Imperial Stout is a worthy beer. It's not really brewed to be paired with food, so enjoy it on its own, perhaps paired with a cold winter afternoon.

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