Looking for a cold beer after working in the backyard on a hot July day? The owners of the Berghoff brand have released a new beer they're hoping is exactly what you're looking for. The name? What else for a summer brew but Backyard Ale?
What is it? Backyard Ale from the Berghoff Brewery, and produced by Minhas Craft Brewery of Monroe, Wis.
Style: Backyard Ale is an American wheat ale. It is made with a high percentage of wheat malt, some 30% to 75% of the total. The style can be made using either ale or lager yeast, but more commonly is fermented with an ale strain. It is light golden to straw in color, and is usually hazy but not cloudy. It has a light fruity aroma and flavor from the yeast. There may be hints of banana, but it should not have the strong clove and spiciness of a German Hefeweizen (Bavarian wheat beer). This style is light, bubbly, crisp and overall clean and refreshing. It ranges from 3.5% to 5.5% ABV.
Background: Berghoff beer has been around for quite some time. The original Berghoff Brewery was founded in 1882 in Fort Wayne, Ind. After a fire in 1888, founder Herman Berghoff helped get the business rebuilt, but soon left for Chicago to open the Berghoff Restaurant, which lives on as a catering company. In the early 1960s, the Berghoff family called upon the Joseph Huber Brewing Company in Monroe to make beer for its downtown Chicago restaurant.
Huber was eventually sold to the General Beverage Group, which purchased the Berghoff brand in the 1980s from the family. When General Beverage sold Huber to Canadian investors and it became Minhas Craft Brewery, the Berghoff brands were broken off and kept by General Beverage. Although the beer is made at Minhas, the Berghoff Brewery exists as its own company, managed somewhat like a brewery within a brewery, with Gary Luther as the consulting brewmaster.
Backyard Ale is the first time Berghoff has used 16-ounce cans, and it's also its first attempt at a straightforward American wheat beer. However, over the past decade, Berghoff has made a few similar styles, such as a Honey Wheat, a Raspberry Wheat Ale and last summer's Heartland Hefeweizen. So far, Berghoff has released just two batches of Backyard Ale, to test the 2011 summer market.
According to Luther, who helped devise the recipe, Backyard Ale is about half wheat malt and half barley malt. Because it's lightly filtered, the remaining suspended yeast makes the it appear hazy. It's fermented with an English ale yeast and finishes between 5.0% and 5.3%. The beer has a light hoppy character from German noble hops called Spalt. Luther says he's still tweaking the recipe to bring out more of the crisp aroma and to reduce some of the beer's haziness. Backyard Ale is sold in four-packs of 16-ounce cans for around $5.
- Aroma: Light, grainy, with hints of floral sweetness.
- Appearance: Hazy, light, yellow-golden color, bubbly, with a thick, soft off-white head.
- Texture: Light to medium, very bubbly and crisp.
- Taste: A light crisp citrus hoppiness in the beginning with a bubbly yeasty background that offers a hint of banana.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Bubbly and very carbonated, and mostly clean; however, there is a faint distracting vegetal sweetness that lingers.
Glassware: The tall weizen glass will show off this beer's color, its hazy yellow-copper body and its effervescence. However, since it's really a beer that is supposed to go with a hot day of yardwork, so right out of the can is encouraged.
Pairs well with: Backyard Ale is best on its own, especially for those looking for a beer that's bubbly and crisp after some outside activities. It's okay with the backyard grill too.
Rating: Two Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Don't take my two bottle opener rating as an insult to this beer. Backyard Ale is what it is, a hazy golden, crisp and bubbly summer brew. I appreciate it, and I'm even keeping a few of those 16-ounce tall boys in my fridge for when the temps are high.