Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Floppin' Crappie Ale

Northwoods Brewing Corp.
Eau Claire, WI

Style: American Wheat
ABV: 4.5%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Drinkable, but flawed)

Pair With:
• Halibut
• Salads
• Salmon
For starters, I have to admit this may be the first beer I've ever reviewed based solely on its name. To give a brief (if that's possible) backstory, Nigel has been a frequent visitor to the great Northwoods of Wisconsin since he was a wee tot. The Northwoods feels like a third home to Nigel, and I have many fond memories of being on holiday at a pristine northern lake. Father loved to fish (yawn!), and often brought home a number of slimy, stinky carcasses after spending many an hour on the lake. He'd pull a basket out of the boat when he came in, which usually was teeming with half dead fish of the panfish variety (bluegills, perch, and crappie) and butcher the poor little buggers right in front of me. While these memories could easily be considered traumatic, they aren't for the simple fact that DAMN- those lil' guys sure were TASTY! Nonetheless, Nigel does vividly recall the sight of crappies floppin' noisily on the bottom of that old aluminum boat, and the sight of them floppin' in agony just prior to father sticking a filet knife into their wee little heads. Ah- sweet memories!

Needless to say, Nigel was as giddy as a Welsh schoolgirl when he found a craft brew aptly named "Floppin' Crappie Ale" upon returning to his Northwoods Xanadu last year. Northwoods Brewing Corp., a small brewpub that bottles and distributes in Northern Wisconsin and a tiny portion of Minnesota, had created an ale that I hoped would capture the essence of my precious childhood memories of small fish slowly dying at the hands of my bloodthirsty father. While the beer doesn't taste or smell anything like fish (this is a good thing), drinking it in a rustic cabin or by the campfire while listening to the waves rythmically lapping against a pure sand beach does bring home that Northwoods charm. It's even better when actually eating beer-battered crappie at a Northwoods fish fry, much like Nigel did this past weekend. Yes, they are still tasty!

Nothwoods Brewing is based in Eau Claire, a college town about 90 minutes east of the Twin Cities in Northwestern Wisconsin, with a secondary location in the nearby town of Chetek. Like any brewpub in this sparsley populated but heavily visited region, Northwoods went with gimmicky names in hopes of peaking the curiosity of various out-of-towners in order to try their brews, which are average at best. Not into the Floppin' Crappie? Try a Mouthy Muskie Ale, a Prickly Pike Pilsner, a Lil' Bandit Brown Ale, a White Weasel Ale, or a Bumbl'n Bubbas Buzz'n Brew. Like other brewpubs in the area, fun names help make up for fairly lame brews. Nigel hopes to expand on this topic in a future article, but has other projects in the works before we get to that.

So, does the beer live up to the name? Uh, no. Not even close, but I've had worse. Very, very dark and malty for an American Wheat, Floppin' Crappie pours nicely, with a deep amber color offset by a nice white head. The thick creamy head quickly evaporates, leaving a decent trace at the top of the glass. The aroma is virtually undetectable. The bit that does come through is mostly sweet and toasted malt, dominated by caramel. The flavor is surprising for an American Wheat. Very thick for the style, sweet malt dominates, led by caramel, molasses, and nutty flavor that is somewhat buttery. Not much in the way of hops, but there is a mild wheat undertone, which barely reminds you that it is in fact an American Wheat rather than an Amber or American Pale. Overall, a sweet, sugary brew that lingers a bit on the tongue, Floppin' Crappie is certainly a unique take on the American Wheat, but fails to blend enough elements to place it higher than a two mug rating in Nigel's book. A medium-bodied brew with a very strong aftertaste, I'd have to say that it's worth a try for any Beer Dork venturing to the Great White North, but don't expect too much.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on June 2, 2007.
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