On a recent Thursday afternoon, I headed into Good City Brewing to tap out my latest post while sipping their pilsner — which, as a brief aside, should win an award for Milwaukee’s Best Beer To Drink While Working. If you condone that sort of thing. Which I do. Of course. But only if you’re a blogger who gets paid in shoutouts, shares, and retweets.
So as I came through the Good City’s backdoor, I see Andy Jones and his team running a neat little canning line, cranking out their first bottles of Motto, a mosaic pale ale. It’s also a SMaSH ale, which stands for single malt and single hop, but I’ll get to that in a second.
After a quick “Hello,” I grabbed a seat by the fire, ordered my Pils, and got to work. Within a few moments, one of the best things in life happened: someone came by and handed me a can of beer. It was Good City’s Motto. And it was fresh. The can was still damp from running through the canning line.
I scanned the can and found this printed on the side: “We kept things simple. Brewed using only Mosaic hops for a juicy tropical fruit and resinous pine character, this drinkable and hop forward ale represents what we are about as a brewery. Stand for something. Seek the Good.”
Within moments, I procured a clean glass and cracked the can. A rich golden color with a slight, white head, Motto was positively redolent with hops and perhaps a hint of light malt. But mostly hops. And Mosaic is one of my favorite hops. Juicy is the easiest way to describe it, but that ignores the huge strawberry, melon, pineapple notes, and totally skims over the garlicky, resinous, and oh, so subtle earthiness of the hops.
I was immediately struck by the depth of Motto’s hop character. Even more so because it is a SMaSh ale, so Andy had to create that depth and complexity with only a single hop variety. And that’s a pretty important point. Picking the right hop for the job takes knowledge, but actually creating the depth of hop character is a different story.
Likewise, balancing the huge late-hop addition through malt and mouthfeel was no simple feat for Andy and his team. That’s part of what makes SMaSH ales so cool. They showcase both ingredients and brewing skill. The complexity and interest of the beer comes not from layers of ingredients like a complex malt bill or through five different types of hops, but from the brewer’s craft.
What’s even better is that the supremely drinkable Motto Pale Ale is available in six-packs of cans from Good City itself and, hopefully, wherever great beer is sold. This is one beer I intend to keep on hand and it’s one I’ll be talking about whenever I talk about Milwaukee beer to people from out of town.
As Milwaukee’s craft beer Renaissance moves from the story of new breweries to the story of great beers, we’re going to need a lot more beers like Motto, because ultimately it’s great beer that’s going to grow the scene and raise Milwaukee’s reputation.
So to Andy Jones and his team, I raise my glass and drink to your superb beer. If this is what you guys stand for, then I stand with you.