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Belt’s Beer Garden: Wisc’d away

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Two brews from the Badger State.

neon3

This week I went just an hour or so north to the cheesiest place in the Union: Wisconsin. I returned with a few new beers that I have never had and wanted to share with you. One of which has the craziest label I’ve ever seen...in a good way.

I’ll start with the awesomeness that is Karben4’s Fantasy Factory.

Not many labels are as unique or bold or awesome as this one. In fact, the box is the sole reason I bought the beer. I mean just look at it. Let it soak in…a gun-wielding cat riding a fire-breathing demon unicorn in front of a rainbow in what is possibly a Mario level (just saying that castle looks quite familiar…). I was sold immediately. Shut up and take my $10 Karben4!!

But beer is more than just labels and bottle art. So it’s on to actual business; making sure the contents inside match the awesomeness on the outside.

First off, Karben4 is from Madison, Wisconsin and opened up during the final days of 2012. As far as I can find they are only available in southern Wisconsin for the time being (spanning from the Illinois border to the Wisconsin Dells). And this awesome label is from their main-stay IPA, Fantasy Factory.

Fantasy Factory poured a cloudy burnt orange color with plenty of sediment floating around. The one thing missing was a lot of head; instead less than a finger of foam ever bubbled up and it was all but gone just a few seconds after that.

There was quite a unique and inviting aroma to this beer. Up front there were loads of sweet, hoppy citrus - orange and lemon zest were the most prevalent but there was also some light melon and a hint of pineapple. Bready English malts floated in the background while a resinous pine note rounded everything out.

When I took my first sip my mouth was greeted with an initial punch of bready and caramel malts before the hops took over a moment later. The bright citrus flavors (mostly orange and melon) melded nicely with the malts during the middle of the sip before the whole thing ended with that piney resin taste and a toasted malt flavor growing on the back of my tongue.

There was no real lingering aftertaste; sure the pine and toasted malt stuck around for a moment or two, but nothing too bad. It does have a slightly dry finish to it though, making me smack my lips between sips. Fantasy Factory straddles the line between a light and medium body…so I’ll just say it’s a light-medium body with very mild carbonation and very slim/spotty lacing as the beer is taken from my glass.

This beer was pretty good …for the first eight ounces or so but then something happened. Towards the bottom, as the beer warmed up, the piney and malty flavors seemed to become more gentle and the citrus more prevalent, which I was very happy to see. I like the beer initially…but I REALLY liked the beer at the end.

There isn’t too much bitterness with this beer, as the 63 IBU are hidden pretty well. But the alcohol sneaks up the more you drink. At only 6.3% it isn’t terribly high in ABV, but you can definitely feel it start to warm your chest and cheeks as you near the conclusion.

Overall this is very balanced IPA, if not a tad bit on the malty side of things (more of an English IPA than an American IPA) but the flavors are really nice and everything worked really well together with no one flavor overpowering another. Is the beer inside as cool as the label outside? No…but it’s pretty damn close. If you’re in lower Wisconsin – or specifically the Madison area – do yourself a favor and check them out. 8.5/10

8.5

Next, from a little bit further north, Titletown’s Green 19.

If you keep heading north in Wisconsin you’ll eventually find Green Bay…a place known for a certain NFL team and not much else. If you know anything about the Midwest it’s probably that Packer fans are incredibly passionate and loyal. That loyalty spilled over into a local brewery – Titletown.

Titletown occupies an old railroad depot that’s been around for nearly 120 years. They don’t take this for granted as they celebrate not only the history their football team but of the local community as well. Currently you can only find them in Wisconsin (mostly Madison and Green Bay), but I got my hands on their staple IPA – Green 19. A six-pack of 12-ounce bottles cost the standard price of $9.99.

This American IPA poured a bright copper color with about a finger and a half of sticky eggshell white head that slowly fizzled down to a dusting after a few moments.

On the nose this beer was pretty hop forward; nice aromas of melon, grapefruit, and other citrus with a pine resin sitting just behind all the fruit. There was some light toasted malt lingering in the background as well but this beer was definitely hop-centric.

My first sip slightly surprised me. There was a lighter mouthfeel to it with just a dash of carbonation. When the flavors came out I was expecting the citrus up front with the pine coming later…instead though I was smacked in the face with a pine cone immediately. And, while that flavor didn’t last long, it was a bit of a shock up front.

The citrus, though, would not be outdone. Big notes of grapefruit and orange then come out mid-sip with the melon just peeking out every so often. As the citrus and fruity flavors fade, they don’t leave any lingering aftertaste. Instead, just a slight dryness takes their place and leaves you wanting to take that next sip almost immediately.

Flavor-wise, the malts balance really well with the hops, cutting the bitterness and adding a slight sweetness but not making themselves really noticeable. At approximately 55 IBU, this beer has just a slight bitter sting up front but those malt and fruit flavors really kill the bite from this beer.

Those sticky bubbles stuck with the brew the entire way down my glass and left some nice bubble strands along the way – nothing too crazy but there was prevalent lacing.

The more I drank of Green 19, the more I enjoyed it. The 6.5% ABV was all but hidden and, more importantly, as the beer warmed (although I drank it quicker than anticipated so it might not have warmed up that much) the flavors remained consistent, balanced, and delicious.

Titletown lived up to its name in my book…and that’s coming from someone who lives in a place where it’s frowned upon to even mention Green Bay. But good beer deserves recognition no matter where it’s from. Unless it’s Toledo…nothing good comes from Toledo. EVER. 8.5/10

8.5