By Will Carroll
It’s Craft Beer Week in America, but I’ll be honest. I don’t think there’s going to be a parade. I’m sure brewers around the country will put out some nice specials and such, but like most things, a week or a day don’t make much difference to how craft beer is perceived.
In fact, I’m not even sure if the term “craft beer” is large enough at this stage. Without getting too metric and using terms like “nanobrewery”, it’s tough to put someplace like Stone or Dale’s under the same umbrella as a smaller operation like Lakefront or Black Acre. Even with those two, there’s a massive difference.
Black Acre is a very small brewery based in Irvington. Even with their upcoming expansion, Black Acre isn’t going to be a large brewery. What they are is a damn good one. I stopped by on Sunday afternoon to their funky space in “downtown” Irvington, just down from Jockamo’s Pizza and tried a sampler of their beers. It had been a while since I’d been in and since they’re not widely distributed, I’d forgotten just how good they were.
One of their most innovative beers is Carver’s Army. It’s a porter with all the chocolate overtones you’d expect, but you might not expect what happens when they boil in peanuts with that porter. It’s not the Reese’s Cup of beer with layers of sweetness, but instead you get a good porter on the palate and then a lingering taste of peanuts on the aftertaste. It’s very subtle but an interesting beer. I’m not sure I would drink it every day, but I’m glad it was in my sampler.
I did really like their Hop Pun. It’s a monster, along the lines of Bell’s Hopslam, with a palate-wrecking 275 IBUs. Actually no, it’s more. Green Flash’s Palate Wrecker only had about 100 IBUs! Somehow, Black Acre has kept their Double IPA quite drinkable despite all those hops. I mean a lot of hops. It’s not a subtle beer by any stretch, but it is one that I’d recommend trying.
I also checked their Iffy Pop Pilsner and their signature Saucy Intruder, a Rye IPA that has a pronounced spice to it. I also got a taste of their “Braggot” called Ghost Bees. I’d never heard of a braggot, which is a kind of mead. Black Acre ages theirs in an apple brandy barrel and it definitely comes off as a cider. Well, a really strong cider since it checks in at 15 percent ABV!
Back at home, I saw some beers from Lakefront at my local store. Lakefront is a Milwaukee craft brewery that gives one of the best beer tours around. Milwaukee is a beer town, but it’s dominated by Miller. Lakefront isn’t big like that, but they’re big for a craft brewer. Their factory right on the river near the old Pabst factory really feels like a bigger operation, but they do a quality beer.
They have a couple that occasionally sneak into the market, usually their “EyePA” and a gluten-free beer that has become their best seller. I happened to see their summer beer, called Wisconsinite. It’s a great summer weiss that’s made with only ingredients from Wisconsin. It has a light spicy-earthy yeast taste and a bit of citrus on the finish, which makes it a perfect ballpark beer. If you like Summer Shandy but want something a bit more challenging, you’ll love this.