Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews


BluCreek Brewing
Madison, WI

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Not good.)

Greetings fellow Beer Dorks, Nigel here (remember me?) with my first review in many a week. You may recall from my past reviews that I was embarking on a two week Southwest sabbatical. Well, I'm back, and I'm bad. How'd it go you ask? Great success! I had a blast- the weather was phenomenal, I played some golf, and I saw quite a few ball games (read: sat in the sun and drank beer). Not as much of a success in sampling Western craft brews as I had hoped, but decent nonetheless.

While I did get to experience a few offerings from Western brewers, I was never able to get to a store with a wide selection, so it could have been better. My friend who joined me for most of the trip is still in college, and therefore not a Beer Dork (can anyone say malt liquor?). I did sample a few selections from New Belgium, a Colorado brewery that is as prevelant out West as Leinenkugel's and Goose Island is in the Upper Midwest (much better than Leinie's, not quite as good as GI). Fat Tire, an Amber/Altbier by New Belgium, is the standard-bearer out West, and is quickly becoming popular further east. It's a decent fall-back beer, but nothing special. I did enjoy New Belgium's Abbey Trippel, a powerful (9% abv) take on the Belgian Ale that was quite good, but their 1554 Belgian Black Ale was subpar. I sampled two offerings from small Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe, which were average at best (but I must say, going out in Tempe is AMAZING-- Nigel DEFINITELY recommends!!). I had a few brews from Stone, a fantastic San Diego-area brewery: Pale Ale, IPA, Levitation Ale, and a unique Smoked Porter, all of which were spectacular. And finally, I began St. Patrick's Day in Tempe with a bomber of Rogue's Kells Irish Style Lager, not the best offering from this great Oregon brewer, but certainly a nice way to ring in the only day of the year we English tolerate the Irish. I wish I had more to share with you, but there's always next year.

Anyways, I'm back at my home base, and I was able to enjoy a couple of typical late March Wisconsin days... sunny and 80. I knew it- Al Gore was right after all! While the temps were closer to normal today, I'm sitting here at the computer risking my life as we experience a severe thunderstorm... on March 27... when its 40 degrees out... what the hell??? On the bright side, Nigel is sitting pretty in his NCAA pools. As I've mentioned before, Nigel is a HUGE college basketball fan, so March Madness is my time to shine. Since Final Four weekend is coming up, I can finally reveal my picks: Florida winning it all over Georgetown, with UCLA and... Texas A&M in the Final Four. Not bad, eh? If Acie Law IV, one of the most clutch college ballers I've seen play in years, hadn't missed two layups at the end of a one point loss to Memphis, Nigel would be perfect (they would have KILLED those dirty cheaters from Ohio St. and their 40 year old "Freshman" center, Greg Oden- I'd swear that's Robert Parrish reincarnated). My only other mistake was believing in my Badgers, who played some of the worst basketball I've seen out of them in years down the stretch, thinking they would get it together and make it to the Elite 8, falling to Florida. Whoops! After barely squeeking by a school thats only had basketball for five years, Texas A&M Corpus Christi (honest to God, Nigel had a high school classmate who went to school there), they were humiliated by an average UNLV team. Without those two mistakes, one my fault and one Acie Law's fault, I would have made enough money to buy all sorts of good craft beer. Instead, I got stuck with BluCreek's Zen IPA. Not a good consolation prize. At least I'm not Eddie Glick, who apparently was looking at the Women's NCAA bracket when making his picks.

On to the review. I must admit, I'm a little confused with this BluCreek Brewing. It calls Madison its home base, but is brewed in tiny Black River Falls, WI, two hours to the north. Sand Creek Brewing (note the name similarity), is based AND brewed in Black River Falls. Finally, Harbor City Brewing Co. is based in Port Washington, WI (30 minutes north of Milwaukee), but is brewed in... you guessed it, Black River Falls. Are any of you as confused as I am? Is this the first ever case of contract microbrewing? What, are we all trying to be Leinenkugel's now? Frankly, in Nigel's humble opinion, if you call yourself a microbrewery, you damn well better brew ALL of your beer at your home base. BluCreek is relatively new, and, in true Madison tradition, a little different. They have four beers listed, a German Altbier, a Honey Herbal Ale, a Blueberry brew, and Zen IPA, which is supposedly "an English-style IPA brewed with green tea". Very hippie, very Madison (but not very Black River Falls). Interesting concept, but not so good in the execution.

As a bonafide Hophead, Nigel holds IPA's very dear to his heart. Thus, if you are to call yourself an IPA, regardless of whatever spin you try to put on it, you had damn well better resemble an IPA to get my seal of approval. Let's just say, if I was rating this strictly as an IPA it would get a solid zero out of five mugs. Perhaps feeling generous because I'm still in vacation mode, I rate this one out of five because at least they tried something different-- and some people may actually enjoy it (yours truly is not among them). The beer pours one of the most disgusting colors I've ever seen from a brew- a deep, super cloudy apricot haze. To be gross for a second, it kinda looks like that nasty phlem you caugh up when you've got bronchitis. It is far, far to cloudy to look like an IPA- frankly, its far to cloudy to look like beer, period. It's a Hefe Wiezen gone terribly wrong. There is a very slight head on the pour that quickly subsides, leaving the most boring brew you've ever seen in a glass- it looks like three day old orange juice thats been left sitting out in the summer sun- no bubbles at all. The smell isn't quite as revolting, but certainly not your typical IPA. You can smell the green tea, which surprised me a bit, as well as a mild hint of other indistinguishable fruits, as well as a bit of... is that yeast? This is supposed to be an IPA! The taste is one of two things. If your expecting an IPA, its absolutely awful. No hints of hops, no bitterness, nothing at all that resembles anything even close to an IPA. If your expecting a beer brewed with green tea, then it may not be too bad- but be careful, and drink it in VERY small doses. The green tea flavor is quite strong- it's a bit fruity and very syrupy, overall fairly light bodied. The aftertaste is awful and it lingers. As an Englishman, Nigel loves his tea, and green tea is one of my favorites, particularly with its well known health benefits. Let me tell you friends, this is the worst possible way to get your daily fix of green tea. If you like beer, drink a beer, if you like IPA's, drink a real IPA, and if you like green tea, stick with the real or iced versions. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT make a mistake and try this noble, yet completely unsuccessful attempt to mix all of these elements. Where's a Stone IPA when you need one??

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on March 28, 2007.
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