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Beer Reviews

Oscura

Furthermore Beer
Spring Green, WI
USA
http://www.furthermorebeer.com

Style: American Dark Lager
ABV: 5.3%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)


Comments:
A few months back, Nigel wrote his first review for Furthermore Beer, the upstart brewery based in Spring Green, Wisconsin and contract brewed at Sand Creek in Black River Falls. Despite my research background (I have a degree in History and pride myself on learning as much as I can about every beer and brewery I review in order to provide as much accurate information as possible), I speculated a bit on Furthermore’s origins. Unbeknownst to Nigel, Madison’s Capital Times had just done an article exploring Furthermore in great detail, a fact that I was made aware of in a very nice, detailed e-mail from Furthermore’s sales and marketing guru. While I was a tad bit embarrassed that my story was slightly distorted, I was able to learn more about the origins and ethos of Furthermore and was very impressed (to see that story and learn more about the brewery, check out their web site).

Since that first review, I’ve sampled all of Furthermore’s offerings, with the exception of Fatty Boombalatty (it’s patiently waiting in storage) and Fallen Apple. Eddie Glick seems to have the monopoly on Furthermore reviews, and he’s picked up on what I think is the key theme of this brewery: different is good. Furthermore isn’t afraid to think outside the box, and some of their concoctions are decidedly unique. Do they brew an American pale ale? Sure … and it’s loaded with cracked black pepper (Knot Stock), making it insanely spicy. How about a stout? Sure … but it’s a rare Irish dry stout (Three Feet Deep), noticeably different from many of the craft stouts currently on the market. On top of that, there’s the “ecumenical mash-up” that is the powerful Makeweight, a brew that defies any specific classification, as well as the whacked-out take on the pale Belgian ale, Fatty Boombalatty. Throw in Fallen Apple, a cream ale brewed with fresh apple cider from a local orchard, and you can clearly see that the boring ol’ rules of brewing are thrown out the window at Furthermore.

Not only are Furthermore’s brews unique, they are also very, very tasty. The only one I had a problem with was Knot Stock, and it wasn’t that it was a bad beer; on the contrary, it was a unique taste sensation, but the black pepper got to me after a short time. The brewing community in southeastern Wisconsin isn’t exactly lacking, so a new, twisted take on brewing is necessary in order to stand out in the crowd.

I’d love to describe Oscura, the latest Furthermore creation, in my own words, but I failed miserably the last time, so I’ll provide the official description (in summation, at least):

“… start with a brown Mexican lager to compliment the coffee of choice, ‘Nicaragua’ … include flaked maize for added creaminess … extra warm fermentation lets the yeast create more interesting flavors … hop bitterness is increased to offset the sweet flavor of un-brewed coffee … whole beans are soaked in beer during cold maturation … 15° Plato, 37 IBUs, 5.3 percent ABV”.

Oh my. It’s basically a dark lager brewed with fresh coffee (100 percent fair trade Nicaraguan beans roasted by Just Coffee of Madison) that checks in with a tolerable ABV, making it different from other coffee-based brews. Those brews are typically the ultra-thick, ultra-dark stouts and porters that coat the tongue and pack a punch, while this is meant to be a refreshing lager, albeit a dark one.

Oscura pours a picturesque mahogany/copper color, with a mild head of just under an inch that recedes into a resilient creamy lace, with some stickiness on the sides. As a lager, it’s largely clear of sediment, but maintains lively carbonation from bottom to top throughout. Initial aromas are very pleasant: fresh roasted coffee at the outset followed by sweet caramel malt and roasted cashews; it smells like a liquid desert. While many coffee-based brews tend to let the beans overwhelm, the aroma in Oscura is balanced, giving it more of a mild mocha scent rather than the stench of burnt coffee.

The taste is great. I’m not sure that I’d call it an iced coffee, but it is certainly a light, refreshing brew with noticeable coffee notes. Based on appearance and aroma, you wouldn’t think for a second that this is an ideal summer brew; one sip, and you’ll realize that first impressions sometimes prove false. The coffee plays perfectly, as it makes its presence felt but is muted enough to let a number of other flavors come through. As the official description stated, there is a noticeable hoppy bite, giving it a touch of spice that isn’t typically found in brews made with coffee. It certainly helps that the malt isn’t exclusively coffee; there’s a huge amount of sweet, sugary notes, mainly caramel, molasses, and light brown sugar, which at times remind you of a light Caribbean liqueur. I was intrigued when I read the “flaked maize for added creaminess” part of the description. While you wouldn’t know that corn is utilized were it not for that description, there is a definite creaminess to this. It reminds me of Three Feet Deep from the standpoint that there is a dry, roasted malt profile, but Oscura has enough other characteristics that keep it light and refreshing. It’s one of those beers that is hard to describe accurately, as it’s very complex and doesn’t necessarily fall into any of the specific parameters set up for various beer styles. It’s something you need to try for yourself, as each individual drinker will likely have a slightly different experience. Medium bodied and very smooth on the palate, Oscura is in fact a good summer session brew, despite its dark color and coffee undertones.

This is indeed a “cerveza oscura” as Furthermore claims (Nigel knows some Spanish, but I don’t know of the word “oscura” … I do know “obscura”, meaning “obscure”). This isn’t a brew that will appeal to only dark beer lovers; rather, it’s a crisp, refreshing brew that can appeal to all shapes and sizes. Check it out for sure, as it’s yet another unique, tasty creation from the evil geniuses at Furthermore.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on August 20, 2008.
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