Tapping into Brookings’ top brews

SELENA YAKABE Lifestyles Editor

Editor’s note: This week the “Five of” series was continued with some of the best locally-brewed craft beers. 

There are a lot of bars with craft brews in town, so to narrow it down, I decided to focus on the brews that are super, extra local. As most people have probably already guessed, Wooden Legs Brewing Company was my destination.

First, I want to preface this with the fact that I am definitely not a beer connoisseur, and I basically have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to different tastes. Don’t get me wrong, I love my beer, but I am not a professional beer taste-tester (though that would be awesome). In the spirit of trying to be a taste-tester though, I attempted to also determine what the beers smelled like. Let me put a little more emphasis on that — I attempted.

So, instead of leaving this article to be filled solely by my witty remarks, I sat down with Derek Schmidt, an assistant brewer at Wooden Legs, to learn a little bit more about the beers currently on tap and what makes them special.

I also want to note that there really wasn’t a particular beer that I did not like because, well, I just love beer. The only beers I’m really not a fan of are India Pale Ales (IPAs), but I even had an Imperial India Pale Ale (a.k.a a double IPA or IIPA) at Wooden Legs that wasn’t bad.

Tea 6 Ways: Pale Ale, 5.5% alcohol

What Schmidt had to say: That’s an interesting beer because it’s part of a larger project. It’s called that because we made that beer and then used six different kinds of tea. The one on the menu is just the base beer that we use to add teas into. 

Unfortunately, we are out of tea varieties, but they can still get the base variety. It’s a simple pale ale … we’re not trying to make it the focus of the project, it’s just a nice solid base. The clean flavor translates well with the other ingredients, just a solid drinkable pale ale, no special ingredients. 

What we did was made it out of 1:3 ratio of tea to beer, so we would make about five gallons of a certain tea, put it in a keg and blend with beer. Roll around and blend it and it would be tea beer. 

My take: Before I talked with Schmidt, I didn’t realize there wasn’t any tea in there at the time, so I was pretty confused when the beer tasted more like drinking water to me than anything. According to their handy-dandy board hanging up behind the bar, it’s 5.5 percent, but it doesn’t taste like beer to me at all. It doesn’t even really have a smell, but I don’t really have a sense of smell…so, there’s that.

St. Isidore: Belgian Strong Ale, 8.7% alcohol

What Schmidt had to say: A strong ale is quite a bit stronger than the normal ale that we provide, it 

usually rides around 10.8 percent, but this time it turned out a little lighter. We tweak it every time we brew. 

It has a fruity taste too, and you might taste some citrus in this one. Despite its high alcohol, you won’t get the taste of alcohol, so it’s fun to have it in moderation. Once you have two or three, I’d call for a ride home. We serve it in smaller glasses, as most higher alcohol beers are.

My take: When I smelled it, it smelled almost sour. I was trying to figure out what the flavor was, and apparently it’s citrus. 

My companions did not like this beer, but I really enjoyed the flavor. It was probably my favorite. Leave it to me to have the beer with the highest alcohol content as my favorite.

Wild Hare: Cream Ale, 5.8% alcohol

What Schmidt had to say: This has to be the flagship beer. We brew it more and sell more of it than any other beer. 

We use some corn in there … very simple and easy, but full of flavor. It’s a good gateway beer for domestic beer drinkers because it has a familiar taste — sort of light, not obnoxious or upfront about flavor and there’s not too much hops so there’s not too much bitterness either. It has a bit of sweetness mostly due to the corn. We don’t add any other flavors.

My take: It kind of tastes like honey and smells like it, too. It even has the color of honey. There might not be honey in this beer, but that’s what it tastes like to me. This was also one of my favorites, but I hear it’s most people’s favorites, so I’m not very original in my thinking.

Shandy: Shandy, 5.8% alcohol

What Schmidt had to say: That is basically Wild Hare mixed with lemonade. It’s easy to drink and very refreshing, very light for people with lighter palates or that want something with a sweet kick. This is our second most popular beer we sell.

My take: This beer definitely smells lemony (as any shandy should) and tastes lemony as well, not surprisingly. But it’s not overly sweet. It definitely seems like it would be good for people who aren’t crazy for the taste of beer.

#Drink Local Fresh-hopped Pale Ale: Pale Ale, 6.6% alcohol

What Schmidt had to say: The drink local, both amber and pale ale, are sort of a yearly fun thing at the pub. 

It’s a wet hop beer where we take actual hop flowers and farm fresh, straight from a vine, and add them after the beer has been sitting in the fermenter for a week. Usually you use hops in pellet form because you usually have, at most, a week to use the hops in a beer when fresh … with fresh you get lots of unique flavors, bitterness and grassy notes to local varieties. It’s unique because it only gets offered one time a year. 

It’s a whimsical beer, so you may see them only once or twice a year, or once ever.

My take: For some reason, it sort of tasted like pickle juice mixed with beer, or maybe that was just the fresh hops coming out, which is funny because hops don’t really smell or taste pickle-like. 

There is a very large possibility that my taste buds had started going a little numb at this point.  But this one would probably be my second favorite. There was also an amber version of this #Drink Local, which was pretty tasty as well.

Some people like their vodka, tequila or other hard alcohols, but I am an avid beer drinker. I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and try a few of these brews. If you can find a good sour beer, those are pretty tasty. There are also good craft brews around town in other bars, they just aren’t quite as local.