Lion’s Tail Brewing Co, Neenah

A tale of two years…and two visits one year apart to a fantastic brewery in the clutch of historic Neenah, Wisconsin.

With 20 tours at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual pilot-fest, AirVenture, under my belt, the cancellation of the aviation pilgrimage in 2020 stung hard. And I still had an airline ticket to use–and as an aviation editor in my day job, I needed to get out and report on how our world is evolving to meet the current challenges. So I found myself picking up a rental car in a nearly-empty Appleton airport, and spending the week seeking out grass-roots flying around Wisconsin.

In 2019, I stopped by Lion’s Tail Brewing Company on my way to the airport after an actively busy week careening through happy crowds from one press conference to another, seeking out stories and visiting long-time friends. A flight at this highly recommended brewery seemed just the antidote to my weary yet satisfied state.

I chose the Strawberry Milkshake Pale Ale, at 5,9% abv, to start off. Brewed with lactose, local berries, and vanilla beans, it featured ripe strawberry aromas, and a creamy smooth palate.

Next up: the Radioactive IPA, at 8.3% abv, with its amber color and more carbonation than its predecessor in the flight. It showed a hint of funk on the nose, almost roasty in nature. With multilayered citrus, the tangerine pushed through on the palate for a good blend.

Third on the lineup: Sup Bro, a session IPA at 4,9% abv. Light in color, with an expected haze, I found lemons and white flowers on the nose and palate, with a light body and low carbonation.

Last, the 2018 Bourbon Trail barrel-aged stout, at 9,2% abv. With a deep, dark brown color and caramel aromas, this stout ran to maple on the palate, but also showed browned butter and roasted plum. A fine flight!

So when 2020 rolled around, and I once again found myself cruising back up to Appleton after a socially distant and highly sanitized swing through Wisconsin–I needed to stop and see how Lion’s Tail was faring. I saw the open tables snaking around the side of the historic building in which the taproom lives, and I was encouraged. I talked with the waiter who was cleaning a table as I walked up, and found that all were spoken for–and you needed to sit at an outside table in order to partake of their beer on site.

However, they offered beer to go, in a variety of ways. I homed in on the 4-pack sampler, as I’d not had any of the brews featured–and I could take it with me back to Maryland. Success!

At my leisure, I cruised through the four beers on a summertime theme–all well chosen, juicy, and refreshing–and well made. The first three were pale ales brewed with various fruits, and the last, their flagship NEIPA.

Kicking off the list, I popped open Orange Riot, at 5,8% abv. A pale wheat ale, brewed with oranges, it’s pale golden color echoed the fruit to come. It featured mild orange peel aromas and flavors.

Next up, a tropical slide into Kula Wheat, also at 5,8% abv. Another wheat ale brewed with 65 pineapples, Kula’s golden amber color cued the straight-up Malibu rum aromas. On the palate: mild fresh pineapple flavors. Definitely juicy!

Third in the trio of fruity wheat ales: Charged, at 4,6% abv. “Charged” with watermelon purée, the subtle melon aromas and clean, slightly sweet watermelon flavors came through nicely.

Rounding out the 4-pack was Lion’s Tail’s Juicy Cloud New England IPA, a great example of the style at 6,7% abv. Its deeply cloudy golden color spoke of that touch of dank on the palate, with a sparkly effervescence to balance it out. Guava and grapefruit aromas soar over the top with rose petal and a whiff of smoke underneath. In its flavor it reminded me of a shiny cut grapefruit with a touch of crunchy sugar on top. Delish.

I’m so pleased to see the crew at Lion’s Tail hanging in there–and if you get a chance to stop by and lend your own support by raising a glass or caching your own 4-pack, I highly recommend it!