October 1, 2016. Walker’s Point, Milwaukee
I knew this afternoon was off to a felicitous beginning when my brother and I found an open spot in the angle parking just outside Mobcraft’s front doors. Opened all across the front of Mobcraft’s huge taproom, these doors invited us in from the rather gray, drizzly day outside. Our luck continued as we found two open seats at the bar, surrounded by a crown from which lifted the occasional cheer as the Wisconsin-Michigan game played out on a projection screen.
Though I didn’t get a chance to shake his hand and thank him for the beer, seeing one of Mobcraft’s brewers and owners, Henry Schwartz, behind the bar reminded me of what I love about Milwaukee’s beer scene: real, honest people who love beer. What’s more, I know everyone at Mobcraft has been working twelve-hour days for months, so seeing them enjoying the fruits of their labor was awesome. Ladies and Gantleman, that’s a beer very well deserved. Cheers.
Now, the best thing about wet autumn days is how much better they make beer taste. Is it that the increased humidity enhances the aroma and flavor of beer? Or maybe it’s sense of raising a glass in the homey atmosphere of a crowded taproom filled with like-minded drinkers? Maybe, like a fire on the hearth, a beer in the glass just has a way of warming your heart.
Well all that sounds very romantic, this was one event I attended with a mission: to try as many beers as I could and still stay sober enough to drive home safely.
For such a young brewery, Mobcraft’s menu (pictured below in all it’s worn, crinkled glory) was an embarrassment of riches. It defied the cursory glance, demanded to be examined and planned around.A wiser drinker than I would have spent several minuted thinking through a course of beers. But I am not always a wise person.
Though logic would suggest that we start with lighter fare, say the Strawberry Kolsch or maybe the seasonally appropriate Helles Ginger Bock, we opened with a sample of Mobcraft’s 2015 Noctis: a Russian Imperial aged in bourbon barrels. This beer epitomizes what I love most about Mobcraft. Their spirit of experimentation and exploration. I often see beers from them that don’t quite seem like they should work, but then totally surprise me and open my mind to new possibilities in a beer. In Noctis, the cranberrie gave a tart edge that rounded out into beautiful chocolate coffee tones which then gave way to the rich bourbon-y finish that just kept going into this lovely, dry, cinnamon finish. What I especially liked about this beer was that it’s body didn’t feel cloying or overwhelming.While I only drank the 5oz sampler, I felt I could have drank a 10 or 12 oz glass quite pleasantly.
Next was the Barrel Agred Laughing Clown. A keystone of Mobcraft’s Grand Opening, the BA Laughing Clown was released in bottles the same day we tried it. Laughing Clown opened and closed with a totally unexpected, soft, sourness. Presumably picked up from its time in the barrel, I really enjoyed the sour character. Chocolate stout can take whatever you throw at it in terms of adjuncts, so it wasn’t wholly surprising to find this fitting in so well. I picked up a 22 oz bottle, which I will enjoy sitting on the hearth this weekend.
Mystique DH with Pekko — a barrel aged Double IPA — gave me a chance to see how the barrel would play with an DIPA. This was a super cool beer. With anything barrel aged, I look to see where the barrel fits in, what elements it highlights. Here, I thought the dry-hop lent tons of tropical fruit that rounded out the barrel tannins. Behind it all was the bitter backbone of hops. I increasingly find myself drawn to IPAs, so this was a really pleasant find because I got to experience a new variation on something I love. One question: when can I get this in bottles?
After sampling Senor Bob (a tequila-barrel aged Imperial Cream Ale that totally elevates a workaday style) and Crimson Commander (an wonderfully piney Imperial IPA), it was time for us to head our for dinner. On the way out, I picked up another 22 oz of Helles Ginger Bock to try the next day.
This was an afternoon spent as well as I can imagine: sampling an array of styles only to find unexpected twists and turns at every sip. Those unexpected delights, and variety of beers and styles that it could take weeks to taste, mean I’ll be returning to Mobcraft’s taproom very, very soon.