I got the opportunity to check out Madison’s newest brewery Karben4 this week and I can say that there is a unique and refreshing new brewery in town. I am as guilty as anyone of getting caught up in the Hop-Craze that is currently overrunning the craft beer scene. I drank so many double IPA’s last year that I started to have a citrusy aroma myself. Karben4 bucks this trend by being a malt forward brewery. The concept was such a refreshing thought to me, especially in the depths of winter. I even have a hard time thinking of another brewery that really puts an emphasis on the malty side of the spectrum. While having a great concept is the first step, you won’t make it unless you delivery on the goods. And the results are in…
SamuRyePA – After my malty rant, I know all the red flags went up for readers, but follow me on this one. In its broken down form, this is really a very simple pale ale. Karben4 makes this beer an experience by using a rye malt in this beer. As I said, pretty straight forward pale ale with a superb and mellow peppery rye flavor at the back end of the mouth that becomes more pronounced as you get about 1/3 of the way in to the pint. What is even more beautiful about this beer, is that it is great any time of year. I found it to be a fantastic hoppy break to all the stouts I have been drinking this winter. And do you know why this beer is successful: they keep it simple.
Lady Luck – This is their take on an Irish Red. I should preface my review by saying I am a sucker for red lagers so keep that in mind. I had to include this picture and please forgive me because I had already drank half the beer before I thought about snapping a shot. I have grown away from amber ales because their malty sweetness is usually too much for me. What is beautiful about using a lager yeast and fermenting at colder temperatures is that it keeps a mellower version of the sweetness, but imparts a clean, crisp flavor that makes it so refreshing. There is also a dryness that comes through at the end of this and almost a light effervescence. I usually don’t like to make note of appearance because I like to focus on flavor, but I am making an exception. This thing is DARK red and beautiful.
NightCall – Twitterverse is abuzz for this beer so I knew it had to be on my list to try. After speaking with one of the brewers, he had tabbed NightCall as their flagship beer. You don’t hear many breweries making a porter their flagship, so much respect for that. I went in with tempered expectations because there is so much parody amongst porters. It almost pains me to drink them because often there is so little that separates the best ones from the worst ones. They are usually pretty mellow in the nose, some amount of coffee in the mouth, smooth and not harsh. I will go so far to say that I only like porters that do something different and thank you Karben4 for doing that. Still not much in the nose, maybe a hint of smokiness, but I did start to pick up on it the more I drank and as it warmed a bit. The first part of the mouth has a really great and mild smokiness. Most brewers that try to impart smoke into brews overdo it, but there is a really nice subtleness to it. The body is mild and balanced with no huge coffee flavor, which was refreshing to me. When you make a beer your flagship it needs to be enjoyed by the masses. This beer is not going to blow your mind or make you try and dissect the flavor profile, but it is a damn enjoyable brew that you could easily have two or five of in one sitting.
If you are in Southern Wisconsin you need to stop in and visit these guys before they blow up and get too popular. Nice being able to talk with the brewers and enjoy the great atmosphere. You are a welcome addition to the Wisconsin beer community and thank you for raising the bar.