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Oliphant Brewing

Somerset, Wisconsin

 

Crusin’ Rating: B+ (Groovy)

Booze Rating: A

 


This review wraps up our tour of Hudson, Wisconsin and although not located in Hudson proper, we thought this brewery warranted inclusion on our trip. The primary motivation for staying in Hudson, other than our wedding attendance, was a second chance at trying this brewery located 20 minutes north of our hotel in Somerset. This week, we are taking a look at the entirely groovy and totally far-out Oliphant Brewing


Perhaps the grooviest spot that we have visited, complete with a beertender of dubious chill level, plenty of tie dye, vibrant murals, and beers named after various cannabis strains. What I have always assumed is a Lord of the Rings reference - the Easterlings ride on huge animals called “Oliphaunts” - it turns out that “O-l-i-p-h-a-n-t” is a wind instrument made of elephant tusks. It’s also a monster in the original edition of Dungeons and Dragons. I think that the name is left intentionally vague, although the logo is decidedly a skull of an Elephant-like creature. It just adds to the mystical charm of this place and definitely gives nerds something to debate while sipping on their beers.



Oliphant is located, on the back side of the Liquor Depot in Somerset. Technically sharing a roof, without a map application, it would be easy to miss the little alcove around the back that Oliphant occupies. With a small parking lot, wooden pergola, and a few picnic tables, Oliphant is definitely one in the category of small, but mighty breweries. There are maybe four picnic tables and a few other eclectic seats on the outside and what looks to be a permanent food truck on the patio that was not up and running during our visit. Inside the space, which is open to the patio via a large garage door and small side door, you find a space made of cinder blocks that has been painted in pink and blue, with funky murals adorning the walls. The hippy vibes are alive and well at Oliphant and make for a very relaxing space, even in the summer heat. Inside there is the main tasting room and a back room (that doubles as a VHS library) that together have 4 high tables and 4 low tables and several stools at the bar.



This isn’t our first trip to Oliphant. Our initial pilgrimage was in the depths of COVID and I distinctly recall being unable to enter the taproom outside of a makeshift countertop that sold 4 packs and merch acting as a barricade to the garage door. Our chill yet bubbly beertender was the same working that day during our initial visit and recalled with apt memory cold weather and a more bleak social space. We intentionally did not review on that trip, hoping that Olpihant made it through the pandemic and that we’d be afforded a chance to take in the experience as a whole. Thankfully, Oliphant was open for business and appeared to be running business as usual on this trip.



With 25 rotating beers on tap, Hannah and I opted for a flight of 6 beers, cautious still of the overbearing heat and keeping in mind that we still had a long drive back to Madison. Oliphant, to our knowledge, only serves beer and water, so those of you looking for cocktails and wine might have to check out the carry-in policy and prices at the liquor store out front! We didn’t learn this until after the fact, but you can actually tell the bartender the password - check their website! - for a discount on your entire tab (check under the "Taproom" page)!


Animals with Human Lips (5.0% ABV) - This passionfruit, pineapple, and mango sour was picked as Oliphant, to us, is synonymous with fruited sours. This beer featured medium clarity, was a pale straw color, and smelled of sour mash with faint mango notes. That sourness hits you right up front and then moves into some generic tropical notes for us. Neither Hannah or I could really pin down specific fruit flavors that jumped out at us and with our backs to the wall I would say that pineapple came to the forefront, but it was really more of an amalgam of those tropical flavors. Almost no hop presence to speak of, Hannah, perhaps unsurprisingly, was quite a fan of this one.


Seis Seis Seis: The Marg of the Beast (5.0% ABV) - This Margarita Sour Ale brewed with lime and sea salt was a must for our resident margarita aficionado, Hannah. Add in a biblical reference and pentagram for good measure in the artwork and you have a quintessential offering from Oliphant - a funky sour that - when we got into the game - was so far out there that you wouldn’t hope to find them anywhere else in the state. Now that sours have become more mainstream, we are seeing breweries try some wild things with beer, but to us, Oliphant is always going to be the pioneer of out-there sours.

Smelling of lime zest and ocean spray (like off an actual wave, not the juice) this sour featured low clarity and was a light yellow in color. I picked up the flavor of lime juice and it was sour, but I did not taste the lime juice itself being acidic, if that makes sense. Like balanced lime juice, and sourness coming from the brewing process rather than lime juice. In my own cocktail making, I would attribute this to using lime zest or a lime syrup, but I am not sure if that was the technique used in this beer, but it was definitely the impression. To me, it vaguely did taste like a margarita, however, again, the cocktail-maker in me questioned - does salt and lime really constitute a margarita? Where’s the tequila? Was this aged in a tequila barrel? To me, it was missing that component.

For Hannah though, she said she wished the salt came through a little more and she didn’t mind the absence of tequila declaring that it was:

“As close to a margarita that beer can get that we’ve tried.”

Needless to say, she was a fan.


Bourbon Barrel-Aged 2Blazed 2BPhased (6.0%) - I am going to applaud the name of this beer for having a name like we used to text in the early 2000s and also for bourbon-barrel aging something that isn’t a stout for once. I had tried a brief sip of the initial 2blazed which was a Peach Sour Ale with Lactose, and this just added the barrel-aging to that. Let me tell you, this beer was all peaches and cream. Smelling of woody caramel and vanilla with just a little bit of fruit behind that, this beer was a depth of flavor. Starting with toasted oak and vanilla and then moving to peaches and aerated cream, this beer had a creamy mouthfeel and a little bit of sour, finishing almost like biting into a peach that isn’t quite ripe. This beer was a solid win for me, and absolutely solidified Oliphant as one of the masters of the Wisconsin Sour beer. Hannah, not being overly fond of bourbon, enjoyed the initial iteration a little more but admitted that this one was good.


Dracula Weed (6.0% ABV) - To ensure that we weren’t just going down the line with sour after sour (sours comprised almost a third of the menu during our visit) we opted to mix it up with an IPA or two. This West Coast IPA with Chinook, Cascade, Simcoe, and Warrior Hops poured a medium gold with high clarity. Smelling of sap-covered, sweet evergreen needles and slightly singed herbs, this beer had an herbal spice up front along with pine sap, a wet-floral finish, and a strong lingering hop sensation on the tongue.


Lumberjack Baes (6.9% ABV) - This New England IPA smelled of citra and mosaic hops while pouring a cloudy gold. Floralness up front and then moving to citrus juice and ending in pine, this was a serviceable, if not remarkable entry into the style.



In sum, we were much more impressed with the sours than the IPAs on the menu, but some of that is most likely attributable to Hannah’s fondness for sours and that I will usually choose a sour over an IPA on a random menu. Hannah and I, much to our wallets detriment, brought home some Seis Seis Seis and Bourbon Barrel-Aged 2Blazed 2BPhased. You know we don’t bring beer home unless we absolutely love it and Hannah and I both found separate beers at the same brewery that we both enjoyed which is not a common occurrence. We came into Oliphant enjoying their beer and this has only served to solidify them as one of our favorites. They, time and again, go out on a limb with some of their sours and succeed more often than not. More importantly, it’s a brewery that consistently delivers enjoyable beer. Our only wish is that they were a little larger in terms of space and a little bit closer. While sours are not for everyone, they do have a rotating taplist that, as of today’s writing, also has a stout, a marzen, and even a lager or two for those not looking for IPAs or sours. While Somerset is going to be a long trip from Madison or Milwaukee, and it probably isn’t going to be justifiable to do a trip just for Oliphant - they can be found throughout the state at Total Wine or Woodmans, if you’re lucky! If you’re making a trip to Hudson, which we highly recommend, it is absolutely worth the short drive to Somerset to try them out. I would even say it’s worth an hour, maybe even two to try them once. I’m sure Hannah and I will return, and until then, we’ve got some sours to enjoy.


Until next time, keep on crusin’, don’t stop boozin’.


To learn more about Oliphant Brewing please visit their website at: oliphantbrewing.com or on Facebook: @OliphantBrewing or on Instagram: @OlipantBrewing






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