When brewers get feedback on their creations, it isn't always from paying customers. Sometimes staff favorites can find way their onto the menu. It was in-house peer pressure that had a lot to do with the recent reappearance of a special wheat beer on the taps at the Hilldale and East locations of the Great Dane.
Brewer Nate Zukas says this beer, called Tangerine Dream, has been a favorite among the brewpub's bartenders and servers. It was their encouragement that is responsible to this late summer treat for fans of both hoppy and wheat beers. It should be available on tap for a few weeks, and is a featured brew at the Dane during celebrations leading up to the Great Taste of the Midwest.
What is it? Tangerine Dream from the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company of Madison, Wisconsin.
Style: Tangerine Dream isn't easily described within the craft beer industry's judged styles. It best falls among German wheat beers like the Bavarian-style hefeweizen, the dunkelweizen (dunkel means dark) and the weizenbock. But within all that yeastiness is a level of hoppiness that has the personality of a pale ale.
This beer actually starts out as an unfiltered hefeweizen before Great Dane brewer Nate Zukas ups all the basic ingredients, and uses three different hops that blend together to bestow the namesake citrus character. The hefeweizen is cloudy pale straw to golden in color with a light and bubbly body. These brews often offer a variety of spicy accents like clove, vanilla, apple, banana, and even bubblegum. They are made with more than 50% wheat malt, and typically have very low amounts of hoppiness. Hefeweizens fall between 4.9%-5.5% ABV, while dunkelweizens range up to 7% ABV and weizenbocks can reach 9.5% ABV.
With Tangerine Dream, everything gets turned-up with more wheat and barley malts, which lend a richer orange-amber color, while the level of hoppiness is much stronger than can be expected in the he hefeweizen, dunkelweizen or weizenbock styles. It could be considered a hybrid of these styles, and that's why when this beer is ordered at the Great Dane, staff may describe it using a term like "doppel-hefeweizen-bock."
Background: Tangerine Dream gets its fruity-citrus flavor mostly from the hops than blend with the fruity esters produced by the hefeweizen (ale) yeast. While it may seem like tangerine juice is added to to the beer, that is not the case, says Nate Zukas.
"We knew it was going to be very floral and aromatic with a lot of hop flavor, but we had no idea that is was going to end up tasting like tangerine," he explains.
The hops that go into making Tangerine Dream include Hallertau (German), Saaz (Czech) and Mosaic (U.S.). While Hallertau was added for primary bittering in the boil stages of brewing, all three were used during dry hopping conducted in the fermenter. "The tangerine flavor and fruitiness comes from the Hallertau, the Mosaic, and the hefeweizen esters," explains Zukas.
Zukas considers that flavor as one of those happy surprises that occasionally happen unexpectedly in the brew house. "It was a really cool outcome," he notes. "We had never dry hopped a hefeweizen before, so it was very much an experimental beer for us that turned out, and is now a favorite beer of our staff."
For those familiar with Crop Circle Wheat, the standard hefeweizen made by the Grate Dane, Zukas describes Tangerine Dream as a bigger, ramped-up version of it. "Crop Circle Wheat drinkers enjoy this because they like fruity, ester-forward beers, and this just builds on the appreciation of the yeasts in hefeweizens," he says. However, it's the tangerine and hoppy-bitter bite that really distinguish this beer.
Tangerine Dream was inspired by a trip last fall to Germany by several of the Great Dane's brewers. While there they visited Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn in Munich. This brewery is known worldwide for its exquisite wheat beers and especially for Aventinus, a wheat doppelbock that was first brewed in the early 1900s. Zukas says it was his enjoyment of Aventinus led him to trying another Schneider specialty called Hopfenweisse, which provided the inspiration to create the recipe for Tangerine Dream.
The beer's name comes from an inside joke among the Great Dane's brewers, as Tangerine Dream was the name of an underground psychedelic rock and electronic music band from Germany that was popular in the 1960s and '70s.
The first batch of Tangerine Dream was first brewed by Zukas late last year. The current tapping is just the second batch that he's brewed. It's made at the Dane's Hilldale location, and is served both there and its location on the east side of Madison. The beer sells for $5.50 per glass and $12 per growler refill.
- Aroma: Strong hoppy-citrus.
- Appearance: Very cloudy orange-copper color. A medium, soft, light tan head.
- Texture: Full-bodied, and while it looks heavy it really isn't. There almost a fluffy-softness to the mouth feel.
- Taste: Crisp citrus hoppiness is what Tangerine Dream is all about. You really get the tangerine and spiciness of the hops throughout the flavor profile. These is a yeasty-ester background with some maltiness, however, the citrus is what dominates.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Tangerine and yeasty fruitiness that remains crisp, with just a hint of dry spicy-bitterness.
Glassware: The Great Dane-Hilldale serves Tangerine Dream in an English pint glass, while the Great Dane-East offers it in a tall weizen glass. I really prefer. The latter. This beer has a brilliant orange color that really light up the shapely weizen glass while the inward taper hold the soft head and focuses the citrus tangerine and spicy accents of the hops under the nose.
Pairs well with: Tangerine Dream is a very nice beer with a specialty salad. From the Great Dane menu, this beer's citrus notes of tangerine and firm bitterness are a great match for the sesame tuna salad with its body of greens and lightly spicy soy peanut dressing topped with seared tuna. Another excellent choice that's just as rewarding is the fresh mozzarella and Tomato panazella salad.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers
The Verdict: Tangerine Dream is a great summertime beer. While there's the crisp fruity and yeasty qualities of a hefeweizen, it offers the hop-lover a burst of citrus-tangerine bitterness. It's that really unique hoppy-bite that makes this beer memorable.
Tangerine Dream is a bigger beer in body and alcohol, so it's best to not confuse it with the easy drinking hefeweizen. It starts out like one, but it doesn't take long to realize that it's richer in flavor, body and has a much higher ABV. This is a beer to enjoy for its refreshing qualities, while respecting its 7.5% ABV. The tangerine element stands out and makes this a special beer, especially while it's fresh and young.
If you're a fan of hefeweizens and the bitterness of pale ales, Tangerine Dream is a beer that weds the two, and you'll want to try it.