Most people who spend time actively enjoying craft beer know about the term “whale beer.” A “whale beer” is a beer that is, for various reasons, extremely rare. This scarcity leads some craft beer aficionados to go to great lengths to obtain a bottle (or sometimes only a few ounces) of the rare liquid. The term “whale” comes from Moby Dick where Captain Ahab spends an obsessive amount of time pursuing a whale. Three examples (among many) of notable “whale beers” are The Alchemist’s Heady Topper, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, 3 Floyd’s Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout, and Westvleteren XII.
One could make the case that those four beers comprise the Mt. Rushmore of “whale beers,” some of the most elusive (and highly sought after) beers on the craft beer scene. There is another, lesser tier of “whale beers” that (with some effort) are more accessible to the less-obsessive craft beer enthusiast (i.e., one of my general height, weight and build.) The beers by Wisconsin brewery New Glarus belong in this latter category.
If you live in Wisconsin, getting a bottle or six of Spotted Cow is easy. It is well nigh ubiquitous in the state. But the New Glarus brewery has chosen not to distribute their wares beyond their borders and I don’t live in Wisconsin. Not even close. I am in Kansas. Providentially, I have a good friend that lives in Minnesota and is within 30 miles of the Wisconsin border. Getting The Cow is easy for him and he was kind enough to pick up a six for me. So here I am in Kansas, America drinking a Wisconsin-only beer. Three cheers for good friends who don’t mind sharing the love.
So how was The Cow? Was it worth the wait? Did it live up to the hype? In a word, yes. The beer is fairly low in alcohol (just over 5% abv) and drinks quite well. The brewery likes to point out that they add a bit of corn to the beer’s recipe as a nod to Wisconsin farmers. This corn taste shows up in the beer but is not objectionable. The brewery also advertises that The Cow is a farmhouse ale, but I have to admit that it doesn’t taste like the other farmhouses that I have tried. It tastes lighter with some real hints of fruit. Almost like a wheat beer with a hint of fruit and corn.
Reading over the last paragraph, I realize I haven’t done a very good job of selling the beer from a taste standpoint. Spotted Cow is a great beer with a delightful taste. If I lived in Wisconsin instead of Kansas I would try always to have a six of The Cow on hand. It is a fantastic staple beer that would surely complement a wide range of foods. I enjoyed one of mine with pizza and the beer blended perfectly with the meat and cheese of the ‘za. Spotted Cow at a burgers, brats, and hot dogs cookout would be amazing.
As much as anything else, the craft beer renaissance has been about local beer winning the hearts and minds of consumers. Beer made with local ingredients by local artisans is where it is at in the beer world. Liquid locavore is in; assembly line swill is out. New Glarus chooses to stay small and remain local. This makes their beer difficult to obtain outside of Wisconsin, but I say good for them nonetheless.
Beer prayer: Gracious God, we give You thanks for the New Glarus’ Spotted Cow. As we imbibe in a Spotted Cow teach us to be mindful of our various communities and how to be thankful for them. Arrest in us any selfish desire to grow impatient with our homes that we might learn to rest and put down faithful roots where You have placed us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!
My Untappd rating for New Glarus Spotted Cow: 5/5