On my resent trip to the Saint Louise area I scheduled a visit to Highlands Brewing Company in Kirkwood, a suburb to Saint Louise. My wife insisted on that I had been there before but I couldn’t find anything in my notes and I couldn’t recall that I had ever been there. As I arrived my memory caught up and I started to recognize it. When I did my research on-line I found multiple names of the place. Allandale Brewing Co., Highlands Brewing Co., and Kirkwood Station Restaurant & Brewing Company. Inside I could see both Highlands and Kirkwood Station so I asked about what the name actually is. The waitress told me that they just two months ago needed to change from Highlands Brewing to Kirkwood Station Restaurant & Brewing Company. Highland Brewery in Asheville, NC had asked them to change, as they are the older of the two breweries.
Mid-West brewers seem to have chosen another route than their fellow brewers on the West Coast. Hoppy and citrusy beers have become the signature flavors of the West Coast breweries. In the Mid-West they seem to let the malty flavors take a more predominant place than on the West Coast. I don’t mind that at all. Not that I don’t like hoppy beers, on the contrary. I just think there are to many of them that lack balance. Kirkwood Station’s English Pale Ale is a good example of a well-balanced beer. It’s 5% ABV and 35 IBU with a good balance between hops and malt in the aroma and a hint of caramel. The body is lightly fruity with a medium bitterness that is not overpowering the malty base.
You can of course find an IPA at Kirkwood station. The aroma has some citrus with a hint a cat-pee. The body has a medium hopyness that mellows in to some citrus. The malt flavors are low. The finish is dry and bitter. The IPA has and alcohol content of 6.3% and 65 IBU, which is fairly low, compared to West Coast IPA’s. My two favorite beers at Kirkwood Station is the Vienna Lager and Scottish Ale. Both balanced and true to their style but still with interesting flavor combinations.
In the latest issue of All About Beer Magazine on the What’s Brewing page there is a peace on the “boring” beer in the Midwest. Jeffrey Glazer editor of Madison Beer Review said that “the Midwest is often dismissed as the ‘red-headed stepchild‘ of the industry – good, occasionally great, but often boring”. He continues saying that “our ‘boring’ beer is far better, on the average, than “boring” beer made by every brewery known in the know universe”. I have visited the Midwest a few time the past years and always try new local beers there. Yes, the Midwest beer is boring if you only drink West Coast beer. But the flavor in a beer is so much more than barrel aged and over hopped. To me the Midwest beers can be characterized in one word, balance. Instead of “good, occasionally great, but often boring” I would say “occasionally good, but often great and with balance”.