The high tide of the summer vacation season has arrived, especially in places like the Wisconsin Dells. While everyone else has their favorite water park, I'm perfectly content in the air-conditioned confines of Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co., enjoying a refreshing summer brew or two.
Brewmaster Jamie Martin says summer is the brewpub's busiest time, noting that it's difficult to stay ahead of the light beer tastes of the season. A couple of weeks ago, she released a special brew with the crisp spicy tones of lemongrass. The beer, Sweet Lou's, should last well into August for those venturing to the Dells for a late-summer break.
What is it? Sweet Lou's Lemon Grass Ale from Moose Jaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co.
Style: Sweet Lou's Lemon Grass Ale evolves out of an American Krystal Wheat beer. The Krystal Wheat is often highly filtered, so it ends up being very clear. The flavors can be much lighter than regular wheat beers, but there should still be some of the well-known wheat character, like hints of banana and cloves. American wheat ales generally range in alcohol from 3.5% to 5.5% ABV. The distinguishing ingredient in Sweet Lou's is the lemongrass, which lends spicy, citrus and earth/grassy qualities to the overall flavor. Lemongrass is an aromatic herb often used in seasoning seafood like shrimp, scallops and Southeast Asian cuisines.
Background: Brewmaster Jamie Martin says she created this recipe because she wanted to make a summer beer that would be light in body, yet have a distinguishing flavor from all the other light-bodied wheat beers available this time of year. Martin adds lemongrass in two ways to the base beer. First, she puts it into a spice bag that gets dropped into the whirlpool during the actual brewing process. Then more lemongrass is added during fermentation while the beer is cellaring. Martin says about 60 grams of lemongrass go into a barrel of beer. A little lemongrass will go a long way, she explains.
As for the name, Martin refuses to explain the reference. Sweet Lou's Lemon Grass Ale sells for $4/pint and $11/growler (refill). It finishes at 4.6% ABV.
- Aroma: Light maltiness with a hint of fruity lemon.
- Appearance: Bright golden with slight haziness. Medium, soft, tan head.
- Texture: Light- to medium-bodied, bubbly mouthfeel.
- Taste: A solid crisp fruitiness up front with a malty, grainy and grassy background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A light earthiness with a hint of roasted grains.
Glassware: Sweet Lou's is served in a standard bar pint at Moosejaw. However, if you take home a growler, a fluted pilsner would display the bright golden color and focus the subtle spicy aromas of the lemongrass.
Pairs well with: The flavors are light and crisp, somewhat similar to dill, so a seafood entree like the brewpub's broiled walleye would make a very complementary dish.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Sweet Lou's is definitely a summer beer. The lemongrass is more spicy than the lemony tone you might expect from its name. Its flavor is rather sharp, with hints of earthy/grassy, yet with a slightly vegetal background. The beer is light and refreshing, one well worth a pint or two on a warm day. It's not a beer I'd regularly seek out, but it proved to be a fun, unexpected find amid the water parks, carnival rides and sideshows of the Wisconsin Dells.