Continuing the run of great Wisconsin winter beers is this week’s Common Room Beer of the Week, Fat Squirrel, from New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, Wisconsin. New Glarus Brewing Company has carved itself out quite a following, not only in Wisconsin, but all across the country. However, New Glarus brews are only available for purchase in Wisconsin–in fact, a bar in Maple Grove, Minnesota was caught illegally selling Spotted Cow, the New Glarus flagship label, in a 2015 undercover sting operation. New Glarus beer was distributed in Illinois in the early 2000s, but the brewery actually had to stop distribution to meet demand in Wisconsin (though that hasn’t stopped a thriving black market from continuing in Chicago). It’s just that good. My wife and I made sure to order two kegs of Spotted Cow for our wedding in Madison this past summer, and none of it was left at the end of the night.
New Glarus Brewing Company was founded in 1993 by Deb Carey as a gift to her husband, Dan. Deb, a native of Wisconsin, raised the start-up capital for the brewery, and by establishing it, became the first woman to found and operate a brewery in the United States. She and Dan run it to this day, with Dan serving as the Brewmaster and Deb as President. From humble beginnings in an old warehouse brewing with used equipment, New Glarus has grown to arguably Wisconsin’s most popular craft brewery, and in 2008 opened a new facility on a hilltop overlooking the beautiful town of New Glarus and the central Wisconsin countryside. The brewery is a popular destination in the summer and fall (as I can attest), with an outdoor patio and beer garden providing the perfect place to sample a New Glarus brew, including their Thumbprint series, a lineup of experimental, limited edition beers.
Even though Spotted Cow is New Glarus’ most well-known and best-selling brand, Fat Squirrel, one of New Glarus’ winter seasonals, gives it a run for its money. Fat Squirrel is a nut brown ale, and got its unique name from Dan, who remarked one winter day about the number of fat squirrels running around the expansive New Glarus property. This beer, which balances the sweet flavor of six varieties of Wisconsin malt with hops from Slovenia, Bavaria, and the Pacific Northwest, has a toasty flavor with notes of hazelnut, making it perfect for a cold winter day. The aftertaste is pleasant and stays with you for the right amount of time. The beer has a great color, with a dark, reddish-brown body complimented by a light tan head.
Next time you find yourself in Wisconsin in the winter, do yourself a favor and grab a Fat Squirrel. Or, if you don’t have the privilege of living in the Badger State, it’s worth making a friend who does. I speak from experience–any time I drive to visit my parents in Chicago or extended family in Iowa, the expectation is that I bring (at least) a case of New Glarus with me. Try one and thank the Common Room later.
Aroma – 9/10
Appearance – 9/10
Taste – 8/10
Palate – 9/10
Overall – 35/40
Beer Stats – 5.8% ABV