Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Snarling Badger – Grand Teton Brewing

Before I get too far into my review of Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse from Grand Teton Brewing, lets cover a little of the brewery's history.  Charlie and Ernie Otto founded the first post-prohibition micro-brewery in Wyoming in 1988 after securing the first malt beverage manufacturers’ permit issued by Wyoming in 35 years.  The brothers began commercial operations in Wilson, Wyoming and by 1989 started distributing their flagship beer “Teton Ale” to local restaurants and bars.

                1989 also marks the year that the brothers discovered a container that would become a crucial container for craft breweries, the growler.  The original growler that they found was little more than a tin pail with a lid, however the brothers were quick to identify the need for a modern version and reintroduced the growler as a 64-oz glass jug, one can only think that the rest of the fledgling industry cheered at its release.  In fact, I can’t think of a single craft brewery that does not take advantage of growlers today.  They have an interesting story on their website covering the history of the growler; I highly recommend checking it out.

                In 1992, after a three-year grass roots campaign, the brothers pushed first for the legalization of brewpubs in Wyoming and then opened Wyoming’s first brewpub in Wilson.  The new brewpub led to a rapid surge in popularity for the brewery and later that same year they acquired a 22 oz bottling line.  Distribution of their beers in bottles led to further expansion to a new brewhouse on the other side of Teton Pass in Victor, ID; 17 miles away, and across the Idaho border from Wilson.  The new location allowed better access to locally grown barley from the Teton Valley, hops from Southern Idaho and clean, fresh, glacial spring water from a natural spring a half mile from the brewery.

                The new facility allowed for further growth with a brewhouse capable of an annual production of 10,000 barrels and temperature controlled fermenters to allow for ale and lager production.  The brothers also purchased a high-speed 12 oz bottling line to handle the increased demand.  The new brewery allowed an increased market expansion to cover the entire state of Wyoming, Utah and Montana.

                In 2000, the Otto brothers changed the name of the brewery from Otto Brother’s Brewing to Grand Teton Brewing in recognition of Teton National Park and continued to remain successful.

                In April of 2009, Charlie sold the brewery to Steve and Ellen Furbacher who further expanded the brewery, doubling production and expanding distribution in California, making California the brewery’s largest market.  The brewery is currently planning to focus on growth in existing markets and is in the process of acquiring additional fermenters and warehouse capacity to satisfy current demand.  Everything they are doing is working because the brewery was recently named as one of the “Top 100 Craft Breweries in North America” by the Brewers Association.

                Grand Teton also has a strong commitment to the environment, the local economy and non-profits, be sure to check out their Philanthropy page.

                As for this post, lets move on to the review.  Before I do though,  I would like to thank Grand Teton’s Communications Manager, Julie Levy for her quick response to my request for additional information.  This post benefits greatly from the information she provided.  Thank you Julie!

                On Beeradvocate, Snarling Badger has an 83.  Over at ratebeer it has a 48 overall and a 35 for style.  Once again ratebeer comes in extremely low for some reason, but anyone who reads this blog knows that I put little stock in ratebeer’s ratings and only include them for additional perspective.  Don't let the haters keep you from experiencing this wonderful brew.

They say:

                Grand Teton Brewing Company has been brewing bold, flavorful beers and serving them from large, beautiful bottles as part of its Cellar Reserve Series since March 2004.

                We’ve always intended these beers to be wonderful fresh but also to be “cellarable”--to improve with months or even years of proper storage. Over the years we’ve been happiest cellaring our strong malty beers. That’s made selecting styles for our summer Cellar Reserve releases a challenge, since the best beers for cellaring are not always the best beers to enjoy on a hot summer’s day.

                In Berliner Weisse we think we’ve found the perfect style for our summer Cellar Reserve. This north German wheat beer is traditionally brewed and released very fresh. It has a light body from the wheat and refreshingly tart acidity that make it a perfect summer thirst-quencher. Its lemony tartness is provided by a secondary fermentation with lactobacillus, the same microorganism that’s responsible for yogurt’s tang. That tartness increases and improves with age, so the people of Berlin are known to buy extra bottles to bury in their gardens for two years or more.

                As usual with our Cellar Reserves, we’ve taken a traditional style and added our own twist. In this case we’ve tripled the strength over the traditional beer, which should only increase its aging potential. For the primary fermentation we used a traditional Bavarian hefeweizen yeast that produces soft notes of banana and clove. We followed that with lactobacillus and six months in conditioning to create a complex fruity acidity that compliments the soft sweet malt tones and a unique ale that is both fulfilling and refreshing.

ABV: 7.5%
IBUs: 15
Color: 5.9 Lov.

                Check out this great video by on Snarling Badger from Brewmaster Rob Mullin.  

Julie Levy provided additional information on the malt bill and hops used:

Idaho 2-Row Malt
German Wheat Malt
German Vienna Malt
Acidulated Malt

Mount Hood (American version of German Hop)

I say:

            Snarling Badger pours a hazy light gold with a nice thick, foamy, off-white head with excellent retention; exactly what I expect and like to see in a well-brewed wheat beer.  The aroma is wheaty and bready with tart, slightly sour notes on the backend.  For a Berliner Weisse, I was expecting a more immediate tart, lacto twang rather than the more subdued sourness that I experienced, perhaps that derives from producing the Berliner Weisse in the traditional fashion of introducing Lactobacillus in secondary.  As with Brettanomyces, it seems as though the effects of Lactobacillus change depending on when it is introduced.

            The flavor profile presented by Snarling Badger was far more complex than I have experienced in previous Berliner Weisses.  It started smooth and wheaty with slight banana and clove notes lingering in the background before finishing with a pleasant tartness.  It was an exceptionally drinkable example of a Berliner Weisse, and with a surprisingly high 7.5% ABV there were no Alcohol notes in the flavor (traditional Berliner Weisse beers are in the 3%-5% ABV range).  Snarling Badger was medium-bodied with a moderate to high level of carbonation, which felt just right in this beer.

            In Snarling Badger, Grand Teton has produced an excellent Berliner Weisse that should continue to mature in the bottle for years to come.  If you are able to find a bottle in a liquor store near you, be sure to pick up at least 2; one for immediate consumption and one to cellar for at least a year.  I have heard from multiple reliable sources that a good Berliner Weisse ages well.

            Thank you again to Julie Levy for providing me with additional information for this post, it is greatly appreciated; and thank you to Grand Teton’s brewmaster Rob Mullin for producing this excellent beer!  Grand Teton beers are a rare find here in Wisconsin and I hope that I can sample the full range of his beers in the near future.

            That’s all for today, be sure to check back on Friday for my next review!

            Happy Drinking!!

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