Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Bonfire Dunkle Weiss

Two Brothers Brewing Company
Warrenville, IL

Style: Dunkelweizen
ABV: 6.2%

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

It’s the dead of winter here in the Midwest, and what better way to warm up than with a nice, roaring Bonfire. Fortunately for Nigel, this particular Bonfire comes in a bottle as an Artisan Series release from Two Brothers, which allows Nigel to drink it in the comfort of his own home rather than outside, desperately trying to huddle by an actual bonfire for warmth.

I thought it appropriate given the events that transpired recently to drink a beer honoring the state of Illinois, despite my typical anti-Illini stance as a lifelong Wisconsinite. Tuesday, January 20th marked Inauguration Day 2009, with the ascension of former Illinois Senator Barack Obama to the Oval Office, officially ending, as Borat would put it, the “reign of Premier Bush.” Nigel is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, but rather a staunch political independent who is very optimistic (though a tad bit apprehensive) about the future and absolutely ecstatic to see the last President finally vacate the office. Its not a political statement (ok … yes, it is), but Nigel celebrated heavily with millions of Americans on the 20th, and as one who typically buckles to marketing gimmicks, enjoyed an Avery Ale To The Chief to mark the occasion.

Therefore, with President Obama comfortably settling into his new role as Commander-In-Chief, a brew from suburban Chicago’s Two Brothers Brewing Co. seemed appropriate. It’s not often we can honor an Illinois politician, as most of them fall under the Blagojevich/Daly/Ryan category rather than the Lincoln/Obama category. Come to think of it, the only thing dirtier than Illinois politics is the vile stench that permeates from the concrete refuse heap on the north side known as Wrigley Field, where drunken “fans” blindly follow their beloved baseball team for what will be their 101st straight season of complete ineptitude. But I digress … Obama good, yay Illinois.

Bonfire is a dunkelweizen (or dunkle weiss, for the Germanly-challenged), which, for Nigel, is one of the most underrated and underappreciated styles out there. Basically, it’s the manly version of the wussy (though often tasty) hefeweizen, a German wheat beer that is both light and tangy. Dunkel’s retain the hefe’s wheat malt and spicy notes, as well as that patented hint of banana. However, unlike the hefe, the dunkel uses a darker malt, which is a bit more syrupy with touches of roasted nuttiness and chocolate. I’ve rarely had a dunkel that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, though for some reason it remains a relatively obscure style in the world of American craft beer.

Bonfire Dunkle Weiss pours surprisingly flat, with a mild creamy head of about half an inch that quickly dissipates, leaving virtually no lacing and hardly any carbonation to speak of. While I wasn’t expecting an overly frothy brew, the complete lack of aesthetics shocked me … it looks dark, flat and boring. The aroma is pleasant, though a touch weaker than some of the better dunkels I’ve had. There’s something about the dunkel aroma that gets to me, that hint of wheat, sugar, fruit, and spice that sends me into a tizzy, much like watching a Carrie Underwood video on mute. This had many of those qualities, including a surprising shot of chocolate, though there was an underlying, unidentified foul aroma that came through at times that distracted me and put a bit of a damper on the experience.

The taste was very good but not great, making Bonfire a brew that fully emulates its creators (at least in my not-so-humble opinion). The lack of carbonation is surprising, though that doesn’t translate into a lack of bite. Still tangy with that banana-bread quality, Bonfire has more roasted and chocolate notes than I’m used to in a dunkel, making it a bit thicker than I was expecting, though not overwhelmingly so. The spicy notes of citrus zest, nutmeg, allspice, and black pepper assure that the zip will permeate throughout, though many of the better malty tones, including semi-sweet cocoa, light caramel, and a touch of roasted peat fade as the session progresses, leaving the beer a bit thin at the end. I was also hoping to sense even the slightest addition of hops, which is not unusual for the style, but I didn’t notice much in either the aroma or flavor. Medium bodied and slightly rough on the palate due to some spiciness, Bonfire packs a mild aftertaste and could qualify as a session beer at 6.2 percent ABV, but it does only come in bomber form.

All in all, this was tasty and had the qualities one would expect for a semi-complex, unique style, but it has plenty of room for improvement. When compared to the other fine craft dunkelweizens, it’s average; as a beer regardless of class, it’s very close to hitting the four-mug threshold. An autumn seasonal, Bonfire may be in short supply by now, so if you want to give it a shot, be sure to do so soon. If not, don’t feel bad … you can certainly do better.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on January 28, 2009.
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