For me — and others in my small sphere of friends and acquaintances — the Great Dane’s Crop Circle Wheat is recognized as the go-to beer when we’re discussing outstanding brew pub beers.
The cloudy wheat beer is smooth and consistently refreshing, with a tanginess and fresh golden hue that emulates a sunny day.
There are other beers that have risen to a certain level of esteem — Ale Asylum’s Hopalicious, for one, and its Contorter Porter, for another. These beers are warmly welcomed when spotted on the menu at local dining establishments and have been taken home in growlers from time to time. The Crop Circle even has been invited to a kickball game or two in the form of a five-gallon pub keg — which was emptied in record time, if I recall correctly.
Well, favorite brew pub beers, make room for another.
The Weiss-Blau at Vintage Brewing Co., 674 S. Whitney Way (in the former J.T. Whitney’s), is sublime. A rich and velvety appearance in the glass delivers a smooth, crisp, classic wheat-beer brightness on the tongue. Hints of citrus and spice flavors dance on the palate with refreshing clarity. One of the tasters sums it up thusly: “Yummo.”
Vintage isn’t a one-beer pony, though. The other selections — an oatmeal stout, two Belgian abbey-style ales and a red — each brought strengths to the table, and each was a worthy entry into its respective genre.
The Scaredy Cat oatmeal stout is dark and rich, with a nice aroma of chocolate and a good, thick, creamy head. Stouts can sometimes be bitter, but this isn’t overly so; the drinkable brew goes down easy.
But if you’re a fan of bitter beer, go for the Better Off Red, which is made with six types of hops, giving it a complex and layered mix of aromas and tastes. It’s a gentle ruby red color that hides a mad hoppiness inside. In Vintage brewer Scott Manning’s words, “It definitely has that afterglow of hops.” Not my cup of beer, but those of us who like that sort of thing gave it high praise.
The Dedication Belgian abbey-style dubbel ale, served in a chalice, is a lovely color of mellow gold, somewhere between copper and 24-karat baubles. It looked rich, and tasted all of that, with strong, sweet flavors of malt and fruit. The sweetness hides a high alcohol content; this is not a chugging beer but a sipping brew, something over which to linger a bit.
The Trepidation, another Belgian-style, this one a trippel, wasn’t yet on tap for us to try, but Manning describes it as similar to the Dedication but with stronger orange and coriander notes.
Also in the works, Manning said, are an American amber, a golden ale — “we get a lot of requests for a lighter beer” — and a Belgian-style pale ale, brewed with Japanese hops that give it a lemony flavor, Manning said.
Vintage Brewing offers take-home growlers, the half-gallon jugs that can be filled and refilled with your favorites. A one-time cost of $3.50 is for the jug; fill it — or any similar jug from another brew pub — with beer for $10 or $14.
And the place has homemade sodas, too: root beer, ginger beer, cream soda (we tried this one, and it was sweet and refreshing without being cloying) and raspberry now are on tap, with more to rotate in. Manning said he plans to have at least four available at any given time. “I envision a kiddie taster set to go along with the beers for the adults.”
Manning said they plan to keep the beers “in-house,” i.e., available at Vintage Brewing on the west side and Vintage Spirits & Grill downtown, at 529 University Ave.; the two share an owner. The Weiss-Blau and the stout now are available downtown, with more to come.
With just one taste, we kept coming back to that Weiss-Blau. It’s fair to say we will again.