Northwoods Brewing Birch Wood Ale + Week 2 Recap

Northwoods Birch Wood Ale: This post has nothing to do with bread, although the bread sure tasted better than the beer.

Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods, we’re halfway through! A recap of week 2:

  1. Lagunitas Sucks (Brown Shugga’ Substitute Ale) was a tasty, high-octane hop bomb.
  2. Woodman Popcorn Lager was unfit for human consumption
  3. Upland Oktoberfest Lager was just OK
  4. Flying Dog Wildeman Farmhouse IPA was a righteous mullet among beers.
  5. Central Waters and/or Map Room and/or Paddy Long’s Broken Window American Zwickl remains unresolved. Explanation forthcoming.
  6. Magic Hat Heart of Darkness Stout was far more delicious than the Joseph Conrad novella of the same name.
  7. New Belgium Dig Pale Ale was spring in bottle.

Best of the week: Magic Hat Heart of Darkness, with New Belgium Dig as a close runner-up.

Worst of the week: No surprise here; Woodman Popcorn Lager wins on theatrics alone.

Now for today’s beer. After my last run-in with the handiwork of a western-WI brewpub, I was more than a little apprehensive about this ambiguously labeled selection from Northwoods Brewing. Fortunately, Birch Wood Ale (style unspecified) didn’t result in any floods of foam or glasses of chunky, toxic swill. That said, the experience was not particularly pleasant.

Purporting to be west-central Wisconsin’s first microbrewery and Eau Claire’s first brewpub, Northwoods proudly declares that its “brewmaster has high quality standards, guaranteeing you a great-tasting brew…” After subjecting myself to Birch Wood Ale, I’m interested in taking the brewmaster up on his guarantee.

Birch Wood had an unpleasant sour aroma reminiscent of a homebrew gone a little awry. Predictably, it also tasted like an off-kilter homebrew. While not undrinkable, Birch Wood was relentlessly malty, except for a slightly repulsive sour aftertaste. It was also nearly devoid of carbonation and lacked any evidence of hops.

The most outstanding failing of this beer, however, didn’t become apparent until I visited Northwoods’ website. While the Birch Wood label describes the bottle contents simply as “ale,” with no other qualifications, a description included on the website characterizes the beer as a pale ale. What the what? This stuff could certainly pass as an inexpertly crafted amber, nut brown, or bock, but if it is, indeed, a pale ale, it is one of the most dreadful attempts that I’ve had the misfortune to consume. Either that or the bottle was mislabeled. For Northwoods’ sake, we’ll hope for the latter. The facts:

Northwoods Brewing Birch Wood Ale

Style: American Pale Ale (?!)
Availability: Year-round
ABV: Not Specified
Hops: Not Specified
Notes: Sour aroma; strong malt flavor with an unpleasant sour aftertaste. No evidence of hops and very little carbonation. Doesn’t resemble a pale ale in any way.
More Info:
My Take: Either horrendous or mislabeled.