Ashley Kinart took over as brewmaster at Capital Brewing in Middleton last fall. Then just last month, her boss, Capital's director of operations and production Brian Destree, left to take a brewing job with MillerCoors in Milwaukee. "I've been crazy busy," says Kinart about finding herself with even more responsibility over the past few weeks since Destree's departure. Kinart, an employee of Capital since 2012, has ascended rapidly to become one of a small number of woman brewmasters in Wisconsin. Last summer, she introduced her first solo creation at Capital with Fishin' in the Dark, an imperial schwarzbier. Now Kinart has offered another major new brew in less than a year. It's a hearty wee heavy Scotch ale called King George. It's one that malty beer lovers need to try, and it's another sign that Kinart can hold her own among Wisconsin's brewers.
What is it? King George by Capital Brewery of Middleton.
Style: Scottish beers tend to emphasize malty qualities, with less attention to hoppiness. They often are brewed with brown malts and for longer boiling times, which accentuates the caramel and chocolate flavor tones. The Scotch ale (also called a wee heavy) is distinctive among Scottish brews, with an even richer dark color, more malty sweetness and a higher alcohol content, ranging from 6% to 8% ABV. Traditional recipes may include peat-smoked malt, which lends light to modest smoky and earthy tones to the aroma and flavor. In the case of Capital's King George, the hints of smokiness are from cherrywood smoked malt.
Background: King George is the first wee heavy that Capital has brewed. "We're trying to open up our diversity a little more with English and Scottish styles of ales," says Kinart.
King George is made with more than a dozen specialty malts, which give it rich chocolate, caramel and biscuit flavors. However, there's a distinctive undertone of roasted cherrywood smoked malt. "That smooth sweet-smoke flavor goes really well with the other dark malts," says Kinart. But, she warns, a little can go a long way. "Smoked malt is something that you really want to be careful with; a touch too much can become overpowering." Cherrywood, as opposed to peat-smoked malts in traditional Scotch ales, offers a more subtle smokiness with more attention to the wood, so it ends up being smooth and sweeter.
The beer is named for longtime Capital Brewery employee George Dean, as a tribute to his hard work. "When I first started at the brewery, I was introduced to him as the king," says Kinart. "He's one of those guys who always get stuck with all the dirty work and the jobs that nobody seems to want to do," says Kinart. George Dean's partial likeness is on the label; the mirror reflection of a king, deep in the label's background. The label is somewhat like a painting by 17th-century Spanish painter Diego Velázquez, who depicted images of the royal court, sometimes placing subjects positioned in front of mirrors or windows.
King George was brewed on New Year's Eve and is just beginning to appear in local stores. This Scotch ale is a strong beer at 8.2% ABV. It's sold in 22-ounce bomber bottles for about $8. When on tap in Capital's bier stube it sells for $5/snifter. Only 1,700 bottles are offered for 2015, yet Kinart says King George has great potential to join the brewery's regular lineup, possibly in four-packs. However that won't happen for at least another year.
- Aroma: Light malt, with hints of bready caramel and light roasted smoke.
- Appearance: Deep bronze color; clear. A modest, soft, tan head.
- Texture: Medium- to full-bodied with roundness and softness.
- Taste: Smooth caramel and bready maltiness. A light yet firm touch of smoke in the background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Malty and caramel flavors plus a plum-sweetness; balanced and clean. A hint of smoke and smooth warmth.
Glassware: The heavy dimpled glass mug is great to show off the Scotch ale's deep bronze hues while allowing it to slowly warm and bring out more of its smooth malty and smoky tones. However, with a single 22-ounce bomber bottle of King George, it might be better to share it with a friend in a couple of snifters. Snifters are ideal for sipping and focusing the malty and light hints of cherrywood.
Pairs well with: The caramel-malty flavors go well with soups and stews, especially those heavy in beef broth. The smooth, mild, smoky sweetness is also nice with buttery cheeses. An exceptional choice for this beer is Saxon Creamery's Snowfields, an aged butterkäse.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Consensus: King George has not received enough ratings to be evaluated by either Beer Advocate or Rate Beer.
The Verdict: Ashley Kinart is really making a mark as brewmaster. I was excited last summer when she offered her take on an imperial schwarzbier, thinking outside the box for dark lagers. Now she's done that one better with her version of a Scotch ale. It has all of those wonderful malt-focused flavors of caramel, chocolate and biscuit-breadiness that a good wee heavy should have. The choice of cherrywood-smoked malt is more than an accent; it is the backbone of the beer, even more clearly as the beer warms. While I really like peat-smoked malt in a beer like this, King George shows it doesn't have to be a robust campfire smoke to be distinctive. What I enjoy most is how the cherrywood-smoked malt blends with a dozen other specialty grains in a smooth, silky drinking experience. The focus is on fruity-woodiness, more than smoke. So, for those who don't like rauch (smoked) beers, this is one that shouldn't scare you away. A little smoke can add depth when it's part of the right combination of specialty malts. This is a beer I hope finds a place in Capital's winter season rotation. King George is Kinart's best yet -- but she has many years ahead of her, and there's bound to be other great beers that will emerge from any brewhouse she runs.