There is a lot of talk in the local craft beer world about bergamot. Not to be confused with Monarda fistulosa, the wild mint plant often seen locally, this is Citrus bergamia, a fruit often found in Italy.

The orange accent has been turning up in everything from IPAs to saisons. “Bergamot is one of those beautiful aromas, and after a first smell you just can’t stop smelling it. It’s sweeter than [other] citrus, with more layers,” says Alex Wenzel of Lion’s Tail Brewing in Neenah, who used it to make a spring saison.

Bergamot can be added to beer like orange zest (fresh or dried peel); however, much of the excitement is about a new hop varietal, also called Bergamot, that lends an intense orange aroma and flavor. Those hops blend very well with juicy-tropical IPAs like a new release from Vintage Brewing simply called Bergamot IPA. It’s part of Vintage’s Hop S’Mitten series of single-hop beers ($6.50/glass, $10.50/crowler) and features assertive orange character.

Saisons are another good style for bergamot. While what’s classified as a saison these days varies, they tend to be effervescent, with spicy, yeasty qualities. Lion’s Tail and Milwaukee’s 1840 Brewing Company recently teamed up to make a saison called Early Times that includes bergamot. It has a strong orange aroma, citrus flavor and a dry spicy finish with a hint of pepper. Wenzel uses bergamot zest along with buckwheat honey and black tea from Rishi Tea and Botanicals of Milwaukee. This is a limited release, so if you see it, better buy it quickly ($14/four-pack).

Another saison featuring Bergamot hops will hit the taps of Starkweather Brewing in mid- to late-May. Brewmaster Peter Schroder has come up with a recipe that makes best use of the orangey hops. Starkweather is already becoming a home to saisons, Schroder having made two since the brewery opened (in the former Next Door space) in February. This latest will be called “A Friend’s Request” (a nod to my recent inquiries for this column!). Starkweather is expected to open a kitchen, serving light appetizers, by June.

If you’re looking for IPAs, Milwaukee’s Gathering Place Brewing Company’s spring seasonal is Yeah, We’ve Got Beaches, which combines the fruitiness of hazy IPAs with the typical pine of a West Coast version. Gathering Place’s Joe Yeado calls his beer a Midwest IPA for its Wisconsin-grown Mackinac hops. It has lots of soft, sweet notes of mango and papaya and a firm, bready, malty backbone. There is also some subtle warmth from the 7 percent ABV.

Another Gathering Place seasonal standout is Spezial, a rustic Franconian lager based on small town lagers from the Franconia region of Germany. This is a great beer. It is a clean, balanced, copper lager with earthy maltiness and finishes at 5.4 percent ABV. Both the IPA and the lager are packaged in four-packs of 16-ounce cans for $11.

If you’re a fan of the brewery’s Spezial, or lagers overall, Gathering Place’s fourth annual Lager and Friends festival will be held at Milwaukee’s Heidelberg Park on June 4. This year’s festival features more than 30 breweries, many of which are out of state and do not distribute in Wisconsin. 

Among the Wisconsin breweries that keep turning out one-offs is O’So Brewing. The Plover beer maker has been offering a lot of small batches lately that are showing up in 12- and 16-ounce cans. Many are available in the brewery’s Madhouse on East Washington Avenue.

Owner-brewmaster Marc Buttera says he expects to make nearly 30 different beers in 2022. Buttera has been gradually working toward a new year-round, 6.2 percent ABV IPA that will debut in early June. The beer is yet to be named. Its recipe evolved out of drinker feedback to recent releases like Dirty Little Secrets double IPA, Greatest Day Ever IPA and Dinky Juice light IPA. 

Also, in time for Memorial Day, O’So has teamed up with 2 Doors Down Brewing of Wisconsin Rapids to make “Never Forgotten,” a classic lager presented in a red, white and blue 12-ounce can. O’So Brewing is giving $2 from the sale of every case to the Honor Flight program that takes veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials to their respective wars.

For those into fruited sours, consider Making Love at Midnight (think the song “Escape,” by Rupert Holmes). It is from Young Blood Brewing in Madison and it is loaded with orange and pineapple flavors with a bit of lactose for body; toasted coconut is also added. This beer has all the tropical vibe of a pina colada. I’ve been sipping quite a few of these lately.

Finally, sad news: Sun Prairie’s Right Bauer Brewing will close May 22. In a Facebook post, owner Martin McNally said he wanted to spend more time with family and had accepted an offer on the building. McNally opened the brewpub in 2018.

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