When was the last time you picked up a comic book with your favorite beer? Ever heard of Robert Crumb? If you're into underground comics and know who Crumb is, then the next time you're at the downtown Great Dane Pub and Brewery, look at the beer menu board for Mr. Natural's Organic Nut Brown.
"Mr. Natural" is a comic book character of Crumb's, a mystic guru who dispenses advice like the Great Dane offers beer. Great Dane owners Rob LoBreglio and Eliot Butler are fans of Crumb's work, so much so that they named this latest addition to their standard beer list in his honor. Appropriately, it's an organic brew.
What is it? Mr. Natural's Organic Nut Brown Ale from the Great Dane Pub and Brewery.
Style: Nut Brown Ale is a style known for its maltiness, with little or no hop aroma. The malty tones and light sweetness may also have hints of nuttiness or toasted flavor. These brews are often reddish-brown to dark-brown. They are smooth, medium-bodied beers with nutty or roasted notes in the aroma and flavor profile. They are commonly 4.5%-5.0% ABV.
Background: Mr. Natural's Organic Nut Brown is made with five different types of malt and German Perle hops, all of which are organic. It's actually the first new beer in several years to be given a standard slot on the brewpub's beer board.
While it is called organic, it's not "certified" organic, a distinction that requires specific storage, handling, and processing of the raw materials. However, as the Great Dane's head brewer Eric Brusewitz notes, it is made with all organic ingredients: "This beer costs about twice as much to make as a normal nut brown because of the price of organic malts." He looks for a nut brown to have complex sweetness "with caramel in the flavor and nuttiness in the aroma."
This isn't the first organic brew for the Great Dane. When the brewpub first opened in the mid-1990s, the brewpub's Landmark Gold, a beer that eventually became today's Landmark Lite, was made with organic malts and hops. However, the recipe changed over time, moving away from those ingredients. "This fits well with Madison," notes Brusewitz. "We thought it was time to bring back an organic beer, and it's selling very well."
"Mr. Natural" is a cantankerous character who touts salvation through mysticism and natural living. Crumb's work regularly ran in Zap Comix in the '60s and '70s. Those interested in checking out his work will find it among other comic book artists currently on display in an exhibit called "Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics into Comix, 1963 1990" at the Chazen Museum of Art. It runs through July 12. Crumb lives in France, but recently visited the exhibit while touring Madison.
Mr. Natural's Organic Nut Brown finishes at 5.9% ABV and sells for $5.50/pint at the Great Dane downtown.
- Aroma: Malty with light hints of roastedness.
- Appearance: Clear copper with a thick, marbled, off-white head.
- Texture: Medium bodied.
- Taste: Firm caramel maltiness. A roasted, slightly grainy background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Malty, roasted, lightly dry and very smooth.
Glassware: This nut brown is well suited for the English or nonik pint. A clear pint with a gentle curve in the upper two-thirds of the glass makes for a firm hold and great presentation of the clear, rich, bronze-bodied brew.
Pairs well with: This nut brown's subtle sweetness and light roastedness make it a wonderful meal beer. Choose an entrée with a modest, not overly sweet, flavor; avoid dishes with overpowering spice or acidity. Roasted meats, semi-sweet barbecue on the grill, or skillet-fried fish are excellent companions.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).