Spotted Cow is a beer so good that it makes people desperate.
Minnesotans have been known to smuggle kegs of the New Glarus elixir across the border, and coasters lust over the thought of getting their hands on a bottle of the Wisconsin-exclusive farmhouse ale. It’s basically the Heady Topper of the Midwest. New Glarus Spotted Cow accounts for about 40% of New Glarus’ total production at about 45,000 barrels a year — or quintuple the annual production of Heady Topper — but the beer is still just as coveted as its spiritual sibling from Vermont.
And yet, at the risk of sounding like a heretic, Spotted Cow is not the best beer New Glarus makes. It’s absolutely the first beer you should drink from their roster, but where do you turn after that? Well here you go. The top five beers from New Glarus, after you’ve had Spotted Cow.
With the prevalence of pale ales in the American craft scene, it’s a wonder that Moon Man, New Glarus’ expertly styled No Coast Pale Ale, hasn’t usurped Spotted Cow as their most revered beer. Moon Man’s huge, fruity aroma and clean copper body make it a rarity among APAs. Available year-round, Moon Man comes alongside Spotted Cow in New Glarus variety packs, so it’s an easy pivot from the brewery’s flagship.
Aside from cheese and serial killers, Wisconsin is most famous for producing cranberries. They grow more cranberries in the Badger State than anywhere else in the U.S. They also grow apples and cherries. The story behind Serendipity — New Glarus’ insanely fruity sour ale — is that a supply glut of all three forced New Glarus to get creative. In desperation, brewmaster Dan Carey threw all three into a beer just to see what would happen. With the help of some serendipitous wild fermentation, Serendipity came to be one of New Glarus’ finest offerings.
If there’s such a thing as a November seasonal, this is it. Amongst the New Glarus winter offerings, Fat Squirrel ranks neck-and-neck with Uff-da Wisconsin Bock, but there’s a brilliant autumnal charm to Fat Squirrel that gives the English brown ale an edge. The roasty hazelnut body and mahogany aroma don’t get in the way of the crisp finish, and the 100% Wisconsin-grown malts layer on the flavor for the notoriously frigid Wisco winter.
Part of New Glarus’ Thumbprint series of small-batch wonders, Scream IIPA pays homage to the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, a Civil War regiment out of Madison. Still, don’t expect this double IPA to catch on as a Wisconsin tradition — New Glarus “[makes] no promises to ever brew this style again.” The employee-owned brewhouse makes a uniquely daring IIPA, so hopefully future incarnations retain the bright, reverberant feel that gives Scream its gorgeous finish and conquerable 9% ABV.
Door County cherries are known for being sublime, and there’s over a pound of the world-famous fruits in each bottle of Wisconsin Belgian Red. It shows before you even take a sip. A jam-like scent leaps out of the wax-top bottle, and a pour unleashes the full farmhouse aroma of the beer. It goes down like fresh juice with the carbonated backbone of a good ale. It’s an extremely fine beer — one that’s pretty far removed from the blue collar approachability of Spotted Cow — but it’s undoubtedly the cream of New Glarus’ crop.