Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Spike's Ale

O'so Brewing Co.
Plover, WI

Style: Golden Ale
ABV: 6.7%

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

Little did I realize a few months ago, but O’so Brewing Co. has come to represent the enigma that is Nigel. It has very little to do with the beer itself … it’s the sequence of events.

Let me explain, which I hope will clarify a few things about yours truly. Always with an ear to the ground, a year or so ago Nigel heard of a new microbrewery in tiny Plover, Wisconsin, about 3 hours from his home in Milwaukee. While I didn’t know much in the way of details, I’m always on the lookout for any new Midwestern craft brews on the shelves at my favorite area retailers, as well as when I travel outside of the metro. Early this year, I finally saw my first sign of O’so: Night Train Porter. Without hesitation I purchased a sixer, despite the fact that I’m not a huge porter guy.

Months later, Night Train remains quietly tucked in the corner of my closet, which is ample enough in size that I have a very large beer stock that has been accumulating for nearly two years. In the meantime, I’m about to review my second O’so brew, because, as anyone who knows me already is aware, I have a tendency to see something shiny and bolt. That’s right, Nigel is easily distracted. The pattern with O’so is the same pattern I follow with a number of things: hear or see something that piques the curiosity, wait for a discovery, jump hastily at the first sign, experience some second-guessing, bolt for something bigger and better, and let the original sit and wait. Perhaps that’s why Nigel isn’t married yet, although I blame that more on the fact that women can’t handle my overwhelming masculine aura.

Now that I’ve awkwardly tried to base my entire persona on a random series of events, let’s explore Spike’s Ale, my second O’so offering. Like the first selection, Dank Imperial Red, Spike’s Ale is a special edition release that is found in bomber form. Apparently O’so is planning an annual Spike’s Ale release, with a different recipe each time. Based on what I’ve read, last year’s version was a milder ale, while this year’s is sort of an “imperial” amber … a relatively basic ale that has some of the characteristics jacked up. Spike’s Ale is available on tap in some places as well; I saw it a few weeks ago at Dexter’s in Madison, and this week at the Sugar Maple in Bay View.

To clarify this year’s style, O’so describes it as “a golden amber ale crafted in the farmhouse tradition using German dark wheat, oats, and Vienna malts.” An interesting twist … “boasts a strong earthy note from the use of 100 percent maple sap in place of water and fermentation using English ale yeast.” Maple sap? Now I’m intrigued.

Spike’s Ale pours like you’d expect any standard amber/red/golden ale: a frothy white head of just over an inch that dissipates, leaving a creamy lace on top throughout. It is in fact a “golden amber ale”: a cloudy, golden/copper hue with a slight fiery tinge. A fine looking brew, I must say.

The aromas are disappointing. Mainly an earthy scent, with some roasted barley and wheat malt, light sugary notes (caramel and brown sugar), and a very slight tinge of hops. No hint of maple, which I was (perhaps foolishly) hoping for. Unfortunately, it all comes out a bit stale in the end.

The flavor is solid, but there’s nothing in it that gives me the impression that it’s anything other than another tasty craft beer. Being good is, well … good, but it only gets you an average three mug rating. Much like the aroma, the flavor is an initial rush of grainy, earthy malt that has a mild roasted undertone to it. The oats give it a creaminess that’s quite pleasant and tempers the relatively high ABV. Sugars come through next, mainly in the form of caramel and toffee; not too sweet, but sugary nonetheless. There’s very little in the way of light fruit or hops, which is a detriment in my opinion; Spike’s Ale ends up being exactly as advertised, but a more complex flavor would give it the potential to elevate to the four mug level. What I’m sensing is that O’so had a good recipe for a basic golden/amber ale, and amped it up a notch to give us the special edition ale. Granted, that’s a guess on my part (and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it), but the lack of unique characteristics leads me to that conclusion. The most disappointing fact: if they hadn’t said they used maple sap, I’d have no clue. There’s absolutely no hint of maple in the aroma or flavor. Medium bodied and smooth on the palate, Spike’s Ale is a touch too strong (6.7 percent) to be considered a session brew and leaves a slight aftertaste of toasted grain.

Overall, I’m satisfied, but not impressed. It’s a solid beer, one that I’d certainly suggest trying given the reasonable price (I paid $3.49 for a bomber) and the fact that it’s a new, still somewhat obscure brewery. There are a number of better options out there, but Spike’s Ale did enough for me to continue my O’so journey. Perhaps one of these days I’ll actually get to that porter.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on June 25, 2009.
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