Mallards Cream Ale at the Duck Pond
The Madison Mallards may play in the Northwoods League, but the beer list at the Duck Pond is definitely Major League. And if we're assessing the summer beer lineup, my roster includes Mallards Cream Ale, a beer made especially for our hometown team by the Great Dane.
What is it? Mallards Cream Ale from the Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company.
Style: The American-style cream ale or lager is a mild, pale golden brew with a smooth, yet light, malty body and low hop bitterness. This style emerged prior to Prohibition as brewers looked for a beer to compete with the emerging popularity of American light lager. While commonly referred to as a cream ale, these beers can be either an ale or a lager, depending upon the brewer's preferred yeast and fermentation temperatures. A lager yeast is used for Mallards Cream Ale, but the beer is fermented at a warmer temperature than most lagers. Overall this style is light and refreshing and low in alcohol at 4.2%5.6 % ABV.
Background: Mallards Cream Ale has been the flagship brew for the Duck Pond for the past four years. The Great Dane-Hilldale is responsible for supplying it to the park, and Don Vasa, who oversees brewing there, says he's making more Mallards Cream Ale this year than ever.
But you don't have to go to the ballpark to get it. It's been such a hit that all of the Great Danes are currently serving it on tap. The downtown location even makes its own version, and in a pinch, the east-side location has been known to request extra kegs of it from the Dane's Wausau brewpub.
Mallards Cream Ale is made mostly with Pilsner malt, a lager yeast and Saaz hops. All are common in Bohemian pilsners. However, for extra body and mouthfeel, Vasa adds a light amount of oats and then ferments the beer about 5 degrees warmer than if he was making a pilsner. Mallards Cream Ale finishes at 4.5% ABV. It sells for $4.50/pint at the stadium and the Great Danes, or $10/growler (refill) from the brewpub.
Vasa has another hot summer brew on tap at the Great Dane-Hilldale this month. The Pepper Pilsner is made from four different types of hot peppers, which give it a spicy heat of its own. His recipe involves adding jalapeños, habaneros, poblanos and serranos to a light-bodied pilsner beer. This brew finishes at 5.3% ABV and should be around through July.
- Aroma: Mallards Cream Ale begins with a very light malty nose.
- Appearance: Clear, light yellow, with a medium soft, white head.
- Texture: Light-bodied, bubbly and crisp.
- Taste: A firm, but mild malt presence with a faint lemon-like fruitiness in the background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Clean, crisp, just a hint of dryness.
Glassware: The traditional pilsner glass is good for Mallards Cream Ale at home because its tall, slender shape will highlight the beer's brilliant golden color, while the flared lip supports its soft, foamy head. However, at the ballpark, the stadium cup works exceedingly well.
Pairs well with: Baseball and a hot dog!
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Mallards Cream Ale isn't a beer I would normally order in the climate-controlled confines of a brewpub, because it's lighter than I usually like. But put me in the ballpark on a hot evening, and it's leading off. With its light amount of oats and just a kiss of hops, it's a beer that's crisp, refreshing and doesn't fill you up in the heat.