Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Fireside Nut Brown

Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company
Chippewa Falls, WI

Style: Brown Ale
ABV: 4.9%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

It’s Election Day in America, and Nigel has been drinkin’ all day…

Nigel had some free time this Election Day, casting his ballot bright and early, then spent a quiet afternoon doing some casual cleaning, laundry, and recreational drugs. With the evening hours upon us and the election results rolling in, I thought I’d whip up a couple of reviews for you, the loyal reader, before my drug induced haze wears off (for those of you who can’t sense sarcasm, that was it) and I’m forced to watch CNN until 3 in the morning.

I’ve made it known in my own unique way (read: loud and obnoxious) on a number of occasions that I hate the fact that Leinenkugel’s, a Wisconsin tradition, is part of the SABMillerCoors family (doesn’t that make you feel warm and fuzzy?). Over the years, Leinie’s has become more and more influenced by their corporate parents in Milwaukee/London/Denver/Chicago/Wherever and lost touch with their small town Chippewa Falls roots. This has been cemented in the past few years with the national rollout of the bland Sunset Wheat, the creation of niche “brews” like Summer Shandy and Apple Spice, disgusting concoctions created specifically for beer drinkers that hate beer, the discontinued production of Northwoods Lager (recently brought back) and limited distribution of other decent brews like Big Butt Doppelbock and Creamy Dark. As you can guess, I wasn’t terribly excited when I heard this summer that Apple Spice was being shelved in favor of a new seasonal release, Fireside Nut Brown.

My first run-in with Fireside came a couple of weeks ago, when Danish Princess and I had lunch at our favorite Saturday stop, a sports bar with great game day specials for college and NFL games. With fantastic jumbo wings and $2.50 pints of micros and imports, you can’t go wrong, can you? Well … yes, you can when you realize that this is the typical small town sports bar whose idea of micros and imports consists exclusively of Leinenkugel’s, Heineken, Becks, Beach Bum Blonde, et al. I ended up ordering Fireside after asking the server the simplest of questions, “What micros do you have on tap?” She paused, then politely said “I don’t know what that means, so I’ll just tell you everything we have on tap.” To top it of, she said it was Sprecher Nut Brown, but it was in fact the new Leinie’s, and I figured I’d give it a shot. These are the games we play when dining in a small town with the beer I.Q. of a chimpanzee.

The verdict was a shock to Nigel, especially considering his usual anti-Leinie’s stance; Fireside Nut Brown was actually … GASP … GOOD! It had flavor, lacked many of the watered-down, chemical elements that often plague macro-brews (whether they admit it or not, that’s what Leinie’s has become), and it was actually a refreshing brew on an unseasonably mild autumn afternoon that was tasty enough to be enjoyed on a chilly evening by the, uh … fireside.

Fireside pours a wonderful coppery hue, with a mild white head of just under a half inch that quickly dissipates, leaving a nominal lace throughout. Filtered to death as you’d expect given its MillerCoors roots, it’s nonetheless the most beer-looking beer that I’ve seen from Leinie’s in a long time. Initial aromas try desperately to be pleasing, but are quickly overwhelmed by the stale, chemically stench of macro-brewed swill. Some hints of vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel do make their presence felt on occasion, but ultimately it’s a beer that looks good and smells pretty bad.

The taste falls right in between those two extremes; it’s decent, but far from great. While the flavor avoids the depth of staleness that plagued the aroma, there are still some hints that prevent Fireside from anything approaching greatness. Initial flavors of hazelnut, vanilla, and light caramel hit the tongue, giving it a pleasant yet mild roasted nuttiness, sort of a coffee with lots of creamer-type flavor. Other hints of maple syrup, vanilla, and a slight kiss of American hops add to the flavor, all of which are quite agreeable to Nigel. However, in true MillerCoors fashion, the potential for a nice, somewhat thick, flavorful brew is ruined with an inexplicable need to water things down. While ABV is by no means an accurate measure of taste and body, the measly 4.9 percent ABV in a brew that should be thick and full bodied says a lot: while still tasty, this, like all things MillerCoors, is watered-down beyond to the point of ruining a good thing. It has the potential to be so much more, yet it falls flat, and I’m blaming Big Brother. Whoever came up with this recipe the right idea, but something was lost in the execution, and that’s a shame; Fireside Nut Brown, while still tasty, really had the potential to awaken a sleeping giant in Leinenkugel’s. Medium bodied and very smooth, Fireside goes down easily and is a prime candidate for a late autumn session beer.

I’m impressed and disappointed at the same time. Fireside Nut Brown is actually a good beer, something I haven’t experienced from Leinenkugel’s in many years. However, its potential is wasted due to the unfortunate fact that it’s brewed right alongside Miller Lite in the corporate cluster fuck that is SABMiller/MillerCoors. Check it out should you see it at your local retailer, as it’s good enough for a taste test. However, as I’ve stated in the past, I’d recommend saving your money for a brewery that actually cares about the quality of their product rather than the quality of their marketing campaign.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on November 17, 2008.
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