Milwaukee, Wisconsin is known for its beer brewing. The city prides itself in being the brewing capital of the world. The problem is that most beers brewed in Milwaukee have traditionally been of the Pabst variety: cheap, watery, very bad, and padded with corn fillers. Who among us, for example, would argue that Milwaukee’s Best really is what it claims to be? But just as Milwaukee in times past was known for crappy, watery beer, today it is becoming more and more known for some very good quality craft beer.
Milwaukee Brewing Company was founded by Jim McCabe as a brewpub, and in 1997 the company produced its first official beer. Today, the company puts out an enormous amount of beers — especially seasonals — and it prides itself on green brewing, meaning that the company is environmentally-conscious. The company describes itself as being non-conformist, and using local ingredients and suppliers to make craft beer. One fact that I personally think is great, is that Head Brewer Robert “Bert” Morton is a graduate of the the Culinary Institute of America in Manhattan. As a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan myself, I believe that, the more a brewer knows about gastronomy in general, the better his beer will be.
Milwaukee Brewing “Admiral” Stache (also called “Admiral” Stash on the company’s website) is a seasonal beer with an ABV of 7.0%, which the company names a Baltic porter. A porter beer is traditionally a lager brewed in London with dark malted grains and lots of hops. A Baltic porter is in the style of porter that was traditionally brewed in the Baltic region, using cool-fermenting and bottom-fermenting yeast.
The Milwaukee Brewing Company’s description of this beer is thus: “We use a black malt for the dark rich color and an extra special malt for the dried fruit flavors. Baltic Porters are fermented cold with a lager yeast. That long slow maturation creates a smooth flavor profile. The anticipation of the bourbon barrel aging it the most exciting part of this brew process. We want that oak character with hints of bourbon, we use 3rd run barrels for this result. Each batch has been slightly different from the last.”
As for the beer’s name, I could not find any direct explanation. But the website implies that one of the brewery’s employees has a very large, foresty mustache, and so the name is related to that.
Bottle: The bottle is standard shape for a lager, with dark brown glass. The label has a black background with an offset hexagonal logo and red and black lettering. Overall, the bottle is pleasant enough, but something about the label and logo remind me of Tabasco hot sauce bottles.
Pour: The color is chocolate-brown, dense and dark with a hint of ruby garnet, but it does let light through. The head is delightful: three fingers thick, very pillowy and fluffy, and mocha-brown. It dissipates maddeningly slowly with, oddly, pieces of thick lacing, and pieces of thin to no lacing.
Aroma: As the company itself suggests, there is a strong element of dark fruits, preceded by smoky chocolate and earth, and followed by vanilla, oak, and bourbon whiskey.
Flavor: The predominant flavor is dark-roasted malt, but also present are elements of dark chocolate, bitterness, oak, and vanilla. But while the presence of Bourbon is also evident, it is a slightly-cloying Bourbon, with almost no alcohol element. This strays too close to reminding me of syrup — but when I say that, keep in mind that I am being very picky here; it is not truly like syrup in general terms. The flavor is very strong.
Mouthfeel: The carbonation in this beer seems almost excessive. Although the carbonation is a nice offset to the thick, syrupy flavor, it is still a bit overdone. In fact, I think that the carbonation actually banishes much of the flavor, so that the sensation is that of a mouthful of foam.
Structure: I think that the structure is there in moderate amounts, once you get past the carbonation. But it needs more alcohol elements to make a truly well-structured lager.
Food Pairing: Don’t get me wrong: I am very critical of this beer, but it is still a decent brew. Because of the dark fruit elements, I would pair this with duck, pork, or lamb.
Overall Rating Out of 5 Possible Beer Mugs: