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Belt’s Beer Garden: Giving thanks for beer!

This week Wiseacre and Rhinelander are spotlighted

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This week we all have a lot to be thankful for. Family, friends, loved ones...and of course beer. So, for the holiday, I brought a few beers from nearby states into my home to celebrate the occasion.

I’ll begin with a brewery that just broke into the Chicago market - Wiseacre.

Wiseacre is the first brewery from Tennessee I’ve spotlighted here. They call Memphis home and have been cooking up beers since 2013 (from what I’ve found…I could be a tad off though). Currently, they have expanded distribution to six states: Arkansas, Illinois (Chicago), Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), and all of Tennessee.

Their one year-round IPA, Ananda, is one of the few beers I can get from them up here in Chicago. A six pack set me back just $8.99 and the beer is no slouch, packing 61 IBU and an ABV of 6.1%.

Ananda pours a cloudy golden orange color with just over a finger of sticky, airy white head. The foam quickly becomes little more than a dusting floating atop the beer; but, as it fizzled out, it clung to the sides of the glass quite well even before I had even taken a sip.

There is a nice, slightly hoppy, aroma to it that mostly earthy and grassy. Some light citrus (like lemon and orange) linger in the background, as does a light toasted malt scent. It has an aroma almost like a hybrid farmhouse-IPA.

My first taste began with a strong carbonation that lasts throughout the entire sip and a medium body. It seemed like the flavors the hops and malt imposed subtly faded up from the bubbles. But, boy, were those flavors quite nice.

Like the smell, there were earthy undertones to this beer but, surprisingly, the malt and citrus notes came out much more in the taste than in the smell. It leads off with a sweet caramel malt that fades gently into a lemony-orange taste.

Ananda was quite balanced…at least until the end. That’s when the hops took over. The backend has some bitter pine that comes out, providing a hoppy pinch, before more of the lemon ends the sip on a positive note.

There is a dryness that coats your tongue after each sip, as well as a lingering resinous pine flavor. But, all-in-all, it’s a pretty solid IPA.

As the beer left my cup, the sticky head continued to coat the entire side of my glass. There were some well defined lines that marked each sip as well as some strains of random bubbles between each line.

Overall, this was a pretty good drink to start off my relationship with Wiseacre. It was balanced, has good flavors, and had that hoppiness I like in an IPA. The only drawback was the lingering bitter dryness…but still well worth the cost of admission. 8/10

8 beers

Next from my northern neighbors, it’s Rhinelander’s Thumper.

Rhinelander is a small town way up in Wisconsin - almost to Michigan’s UP. But, interestingly enough, Rhinelander Brewing is no longer made there…instead it’s made in Monroe, Wisconsin (which is no where close to Rhinelander). Monroe is a smaller city in south-central Wisconsin, that’s pretty close to the Illinois border.

RBC has a few year-round brews - Mythical Jack, Imperial Jack, Chocolate Bunny, Export Lager, and the one I found, Thumper. You can find Rhinelander pretty much all over the Midwest: Wisconsin, Kansas, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, and parts of Illinois.

Thumper pours a dark copper color…and almost looks more like an amber ale than an IPA. Just a fingers worth of tan head topped the beer and most of it fizzled away rather quickly; leaving just a small dusting across the top with in a few moments.

On the nose it was quite a malt forward beer, as there was a strong bready, slightly grassy, aroma that led the way. There were subtle hints of citrus and a sweetness to it as well. For me though, I was hoping to get more of the hops in the smell…especially since the bottle says it was “fiercely hopped and hopped again.”

My first sip was better than I was expecting to be honest. It starts with a smooth, slightly watery mouthfeel and barely any carbonation to it. Then the sweet flavors begin to invade the taste buds. Leading the charge is a caramel malt flavor that over takes the bready malt that was so big in the aroma.

The first part of the taste is all sticky-sweet caramel before that fades in to a slightly hoppy, slightly bitter citrus flavor (mango and grapefruit mostly) and some grassy/floral notes that compete for the final moments on your tongue.

After all is said and done there is a tiny sweetness left behind from the malt; but, once again, the hops are very subdued in this IPA…which I was disappointed by. The only time you can even tell that there are hops in the beer is at the very end, when they pinch your tongue with that brief bitterness.

As the beer leaves my glass, the tiny remaining bubbles stuck sporadically to the glass, leaving a pretty minimal lacing. The 6.8% ABV this beer packs is hidden behind the sugary flavors really well, meaning it can/will sneak up on you.

Overall, this is an average beer…and not much of an IPA. It has solid flavors, with those sweet caramel and floral notes, but barely any hops or other characteristics. In fact it drinks way more like an amber ale or bock than an IPA.

It’s quite drinkable and the price is certainly right…but don’t expect a typical IPA from this one. 7/10

7 beers