Milwaukee Brewing Company has a series of limited beers it calls ABV, or Attitude By Volume. Owner Jim McCabe says these special small-batch beers represent a certain street cred among the beer aficionados who look for the "woo and wow" factor of something unique. The latest ABV to turn up in Madison is "Godzilla," an Asian-spiced Belgian witbier, a cloudy, pale brew infused with green tea and chamomile. This is a monster of a beer at nearly 10% alcohol by volume, hence the name.
What is it? Godzilla from the Milwaukee Brewing Company.
Style: The base beer from which Godzilla emerges is a Belgian witbier, or white beer, and pronounced "vit." The wit is a cloudy, pale straw beer. It commonly has a spicy character, almost peppery flavor, along with a low hoppy-bitterness and alcohol ranging from 4.2%-5.0% ABV. The style is traditionally unfiltered and made with a high percentage of wheat, along with malted barley and sometimes other grains like oats. Coriander and sweet orange peel are added for aroma and finish. Originally, such spices were used before hops became a common component in beer. Some brewpubs will serve a wit with a slice of orange to accentuate the citrus flavors. In fairness to Godzilla, it could be considered an "imperial" wit, because of the amount of fermentable grains, additional spices and final alcohol content.
Background: Godzilla received its name as it was developed nearly two years ago in home brew trials and test batches. Kurt Mayes, who helped create this beer, is a former chef who previously worked for the P.F. Chang restaurants before landing a brewer position at Milwaukee Brewing. The beer is based on his homebrewing recipes. Godzilla eventually found its way to the taps of the brewery's parent brewpub, the Ale House in Milwaukee's Third Ward, in 2010 When originally released, it sold out in just one week, making it the fastest selling seasonal for the Ale House at that time.
The ingredients include two different types of green tea that are added to the wort. Head brewer Robert Morton says working with tea in beer is extremely challenging, because if the wort is too hot, the tea can make the final beer very harsh. So Morton and Mayes had to develop a process where the tea was steeped at lower temperatures than the boiling wort, and then was infused later in the process. Likewise, dried chamomile flowers were steeped in the cold fermenting beer for about five days. Because its base beer is a wit, Godzilla also receives some of the traditional spices for the style like coriander, ginger and orange peel. The brewery gets is tea locally from Rishi Tea in Milwaukee who also offered advice on how to infuse the tea into the beer.
Godzilla is a spring seasonal for Milwaukee Brewing. Like the namesake monster, this beer is dangerous at 9.8 % ABV. This year, it is only found on tap accounts in a small number of local bars and restaurants, including the Old Fashioned and Dexter's Pub. If you want to try it, you'd better hurry, because the brewery only made 30 barrels for both Milwaukee and Madison.
- Aroma: Light, sweet hints of rose-like chamomile.
- Appearance: Hazy golden yellow with a medium, soft off-white head.
- Texture: Full-bodied and bubbly.
- Taste: A sweet yeasty start with tones of coriander and ginger up front, followed by the sweetness of the chamomile.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Smooth, sweet and honey-like.
Glassware: The tulip glass will highlight Godzilla's brilliant golden color, and the flared lip will support the soft white head. Unfortunately, because it's only available on draught, most taverns will serve it in the standard bar pint.
Pairs well with: Because of all the spices this is a beer to try with Asian cuisine.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Godzilla is an unexpected find -- and a beer worth seeking out. All those spices may turn some people off; when I first heard of the brew, I couldn't help but think it would be a train wreck of flavor. But I was wooed, just like the folks at Milwaukee Brewing intended. There's a soft sweetness from the tea and chamomile that reminded me of full-bodied mead. It has all the accents of a Belgian wit with coriander and ginger and hints of orange that blend with the tea for a refreshing warm-weather brew. Just be aware of the monster in the glass, because Godzilla has the breath of fire and a menacing kick at 9.8 percent ABV. That "A" stands for attitude and alcohol!