Breweries give back to their community in a variety of ways. They donate products, open their tasting rooms for special groups, and sponsor philanthropic events. Owners and brewmasters often look for a cause that is close to their heart. That's certainly the case with Marc Buttera at O'so Brewing.
Last year, O'so debuted Memory Lane, a German pilsner made to honor Buttera's grandfather and support the fight against Alzheimer's in Wisconsin. As November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, it's a good time to try this fine lager, or as Buttera calls it, "a beer for a cure."
What is it? Memory Lane from O'so Brewing Company of Plover, Wisconsin.
Style: The German pilsner will range from a light yellow (straw) to deep golden color, and remain very clear. It's a light-bodied, well-balanced and clean beer made with German hop varieties. While crisp and dry, the bitterness is low. Pilsners range in alcohol from 4% to 5%.
The style can be designated further by national variations such as the traditional Bohemian or classic American pilsner, with each differing through subtleties in the brewing process and/or ingredients. Those who really enjoy such distinctions look for German pilsners like Memory Lane to be lighter, crisper and drier than the Bohemian variant. The classic American version tends to have a little more emphasis on malt, and may also have a slight grainy sweetness from the use of corn or rice in the grist.
Background: Memory Lane is a tribute to O'so owner and brewmaster Marc Buttera's grandfather, Eugene Hartel, who died about 10 years ago after a battle with Alzheimer's disease. Buttera says the beer is a way to help an important cause while also paying respects to a relative who had such a positive influence in his life.
After years working as an engineer for Waupaca Foundry in Wisconsin and Tennessee, Buttera found himself running a homebrewing supply store part-time in the Stevens Point area. That led to his opening O'so Brewing in 2007. By November 2011, it's growth spurred an expansion to a location just off I-39 in Plover.
Buttera feels that Memory Lane is a way for him to involve his grandfather in his success. "He was always encouraging me to go to school and do something with my life," he said last fall when unveiling Memory Lane as a new year-round brew for O'so.
Memory Lane features German Magnum and Hallertau Mittelfruh hops. It's an all-malt lager with no adjuncts, as it's made with Pilsen, Vienna and Munich malts. It's not easy to make, notes Buttera. The beer finishes at 5.2% ABV and 32 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
O'so partners with the Alzheimer's Association, and donates 5% of sales of Memory Lane to the group's Greater Wisconsin Chapter to support research into the disease. Over the last year, the brewery has raised nearly $7,000. Six-packs of bottles, which sell for around $9, are branded with the purple colors of the Alzheimer's awareness campaign, and the bottom of the cartons are printed with a list of facts and figures about the disease.
O'so Brewing is marking its sixth anniversary with a party on Saturday, Nov. 9. Festivities get under way at 4 p.m. at the brewery's taphouse in Plover. Over 40 different beers will be tapped at the celebration. Admission is a $15/person donation that goes to Toys for Tots and the Rotary Club of Greater Portage County. Last year, O'so Brewing raised over $5,000 in a similar effort in support of their charitable campaign.
- Aroma: A very light touch of hops in the nose.
- Appearance: Bright yellow-golden color, and a medium-soft white head.
- Texture: Light- to medium-bodied, round and bubbly mouthfeel.
- Taste: A mild but firm crisp hoppy body with a light malty background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Light hoppiness, a slight dryness, but very clean.
Glassware: The classic pilsner glass is great for appreciating Memory Lane's color and effervescence. It's best served cold, at below 40° F, to bring out its clean, crisp but light hoppy qualities.
Pairs well with: With its clean, straightforward flavor profile, the German pilsner goes well with fish and seafood. In fact, it's a great meal beer for just about anything, except very sweet entrees.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: The German hops, especially the bitterness of the Magnum, are what stand out in Memory Lane. They give the beer a light, firm, non-assertive bitterness that lends balance and a crisp finish. There isn't much aroma from those hops, but they do provide flavor and a subtle dryness. Recently, Buttera tweaked the hops to slightly lower the IBUs, but the change really isn't noticeable. The beer's versatility with food combines with the palate-cleansing qualities, so it works well at the dinner table.
I've had Memory Lane a half-dozen times or more over the last year, both in six-packs and at the brewery's taproom, and each time it has offered a consistent flavor profile that is pleasant and easy-drinking. It's a little high in alcohol to be a true session beer, but it certainly offers sessionable qualities with its light hoppiness. Overall, Memory Lane is a light-bodied lager with more taste than many other (and more average) pilsners. Buttera has achieved his goal of a crisp, clean beer with flavor.