Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Bridge Burner

Lakefront Brewery, Inc.
Milwaukee, WI

Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 8.0%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

Pair With:
A wise man once told Nigel that it was foolish to burn bridges. I believe his exact quote was “don’t burn ‘dem der bridges cuz you done need ‘em to get to stuff.” If I’m not mistaken, the brilliant sage who uttered those eloquent words was a member of the Glick family. Good advice, despite its bumpkin roots.

My latest review comes from Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery and it has a historical backdrop, which pleases Nigel. Bridge Burner is an ode to the Milwaukee Bridge War of 1845, which was fought three years prior to Wisconsin becoming a state and a year before Milwaukee became a city. Lakefront provides a brief description on the back of its 22-ounce bomber and more info is available on their website, info that is culled word-for-word from Wikipedia. Hooray for the internet. Nigel searched other sources for more information, which I will share with you here.

“War” is a misnomer in this case; essentially this was a neighborly squabble that would be settled nowadays with teenagers TPing the big oak tree in the opposition’s front yard. Like every rap war ever fought, it was a conflict between Kilbourntown on the west side of the Milwaukee River and Juneautown on the east side (these “towns” being named after two of Milwaukee’s founding fathers, Byron Kilbourn and Solomon Juneau, who were still alive and kicking at the time). In true rap battle fashion, the feud was settled with fire, as the bridge over the Milwaukee River connecting the two towns constructed in 1840 (falsely cited on Wikipedia and Lakefront’s website as being decreed by the Wisconsin State Legislature, which of course was not in existence at the time) was burned in 1845 by Kilbourntown residents who had hoped to isolate Juneautown. No one died in this war, although many were likely left with serious cases of post-traumatic stress disorder and were thus eligible for government assistance. Everything came to a happy conclusion on January 31, 1846, when Kilbourntown and Juneautown combined with Walker’s Point on the south side of the river, incorporating the modern city of Milwaukee in all of its beer-drinking, sausage-eating glory.

While I find this story interesting and applaud Lakefront for once again combining local history with its locally produced beer, it leaves Nigel with a bit of a dilemma. As a resident of Juneautown (my apartment complex is actually called Juneau Village Gardens … no lie, and please don’t stalk Nigel now that you have this information), on the east bank of the Milwaukee River and with Lakefront’s headquarters being less than a mile away on the west bank (hence, in Kilbourntown, now Riverwest), I feel as though I should call in the National Guard and set up a line of demarcation on Water Street, threatening to destroy the good folks at Lakefront if they don’t appease Nigel with boatloads of free beer. Perhaps I’ll wait until the record high waters go down a bit.

Bridge Burner continues Lakefront’s transition from conservative to more experimental, as it’s an American strong ale (although it could fall into other categories as well) that checks in at 8 percent ABV and comes in bomber form. Prior to last year’s release of 20th Anniversary Ale (quite similar to Bridge Burner, I must say) and IPA, Lakefront had a reputation of making quality but tame brews (exceptions being the seasonal Holiday Spice and the mysterious Beer Line Barleywine that I have never actually seen). Although I loved Lakefront before they went more to the extreme, I have to applaud them, as the new brews have taken them to a whole new level. While I place Bridge Burner just a hair below the four mug threshold, like IPA and Anniversary Ale, it’s a tasty brew that has expanded Lakefront’s horizons.

Bridge Burner pours a deep amber, giving off a reddish hue that may have resembled the flames on the Milwaukee River that infamous day in 1845. A thick tan head of about an inch or so slowly recedes like the June floodwaters, leaving a creamy trace throughout with large amounts of stickiness on the side of the glass. Sweet aromas of caramel malt, toffee, and molasses singe the nostrils, as does a healthy dose of American hops. A nice citrusy aroma is present, too, along with a touch of spice, giving this a tiny hint of Belgium.

The taste is excellent, and I’m perhaps being a bit too critical by rating this a mere three. Sweet malt hits the palate right off the bat, with a pleasant sugary flavor of caramel, toffee, and molasses that coats the tongue. A good amount of American hops comes through next, giving it the distinct citrusy zip of grapefruit, orange peel, and even some pear, as well as a hint of evergreen. The spice seems to come mostly from a touch of black pepper, and I’m sensing some spiciness typically associated with Belgian yeast (Lakefront calls it “fruity ale yeast”). While it’s far more malty than hoppy, Bridge Burner maintains a delicate balance between the two, all while incorporating some aspects of other supporting flavors. Full bodied but smooth on the palate, Bridge Burner hides the 8 percent ABV very well, but is way too strong in flavor and alcohol to be considered a session beer. A mild aftertaste lingers for a bit, but overall this is an extremely tasty, drinkable ale that is best served mildly chilled (about 50 degrees was perfect for Nigel).

While I know better than to burn bridges, I do plan on having Bridge Burner again. I’m not sure as to the status of this (Seasonal? One time release? Year-round brew?), but I’m hoping it finds a regular spot in the Lakefront lineup. If Lakefront continues to make “extreme” brews of such high quality, I’m very excited for the future. Give this a shot should you find it (I paid $4 for a bomber) and learn a little history in the process.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on June 23, 2008.
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