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Returning To the Scene of "Ah-ha!"

Josh Augustine, January 08, 2014 -   

I (surprisingly) clearly remember the first time I tried a craft beer. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but here we are, a number of years later that I'm in no mood to count, and I can still picture that moment.

A friend of mine had recently started tending bar at the brewpub in our shared hometown of Columbus, Nebraska. At the time he was, like myself, by no means a craft beer aficionado. At the time he was, like myself, just your regular everyday doofus who had just moved back home after what were a probably almost completely unnecessary couple years of college. He had become a bartender at a brewpub due to his generally well-dispositioned nature and his ability to pour what he was told to pour without thinking too much about it. “Stop in sometime and keep me company,” he implored shortly after he was hired.

So I did.

I wandered in one night while my pal was working and sat down. “Hey buddy, what’s up?” is probably similar to what he actually said, give or take a lighthearted obscenity or two, as I strolled in the door and took a seat at the bar. I sat down at the bar and greeted him in kind whilst he filled a few glasses for some other patrons. When the time came for me to decide what to drink, he leaned over the bar, getting as close to me as the wide plank of wood would allow, and said in a hushed tone, “Get this! These guys are making beer that’s like seven or eight PERCENT!” I didn’t know much, but I knew that seven or eight percent was larger than the percent offered by Busch Lite, and thus I was sold.

“Check this out,” he said as he poured a glass of hazy, dark yellow liquid. “It’s called the ‘Tin Lizzie Hefeweizen.’ It’s a German style wheat beer. And it’s seven point two percent.”

I raised the glass and sipped on it. I noticed a floral aroma that very pleasantly complimented a creamy mouthfeel and notes of banana and clove. “You notice that banana taste?” “Yeah, it’s surprising but good.” “Get this! They don’t even use bananas when they make it! That flavor all comes from the yeast that ferments the beer.” “Really? Huh. That’s weird. Tasty, though.”

It was, as they say, downhill from there. I tried every beer that Gottberg Brewery had available (if not all in that night), and most of them more than once (anytime they put a new beer on tap, that beer was buy one get one for a penny for the first day it was available). Some I didn’t care for so much (I wasn’t ready for IPAs just yet) and some I fell immediately in love with (a Dunkelweizen and Doppelbock are etched into my mind; they did the German stuff well at Gottberg). The Tin Lizzie Hefeweizen, though, was always the one that I’ve thought of as what people refer to as my “Ah-ha!” beer.

During this holiday season, I returned to my hometown and had the opportunity to stop into Gottberg for the first time in quite some time. They’ve had a few different brewmasters come and go since the days where I was stopping in thrice weekly, but the Tin Lizzie Hefeweizen is still on the menu. The recipe may have changed slightly (the ABV is only 6.4 nowadays), but it was still just as enjoyable as I remembered.

Gottberg Brewing Tin Lizzie Hefeweizen:

Appearance: 4.0. Dark golden color and hazy enough to be fully opaque. Pours with about a half-finger worth of medium-dense head.

Smell: 4.2. Smells of cloves and herbs with some floral notes, and almost a farmhousey type of hay-like aroma. Very full, and very pleasant.

Taste: 4.0. Banana notes are very noticeable, and complimented nicely by cloves, plenty of wheaty taste, and very slight anise notes.

Mouthfeel:4.2. Very smooth. Full and creamy mouthfeel, mellow carbonation doesn’t feel overly bubbly/prickly.

Overall: 4.1. When I first tasted this all those years ago, it was easily the best beer that I’d ever tasted. Even still today, it’s easily one of, if not my favorite Hefes that I’ve tasted. It’s refreshing to know that this beer has stood the test of time, and to think that if my palette then loved it, and my palette now still heartily approves, then maybe I wasn’t a complete doofus back then after all.

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