The close of summer in the Midwest means the arrival of the annual cherry harvest. It’s a time of jubilation across the region, and Minneapolis’ Insight Brewing has brought that joy to the beer-drinking class. The brewery mashes 7,500 pounds of cherries per batch of Doe Eyes, meaning that every glass contains around a pound of the iconic fruit. Once a rare, small-batch beer, Insight recently rolled out Doe Eyes in four-packs of 12-oz cans. If you grew up biting Wisconsin cherries off your fingertips, then Doe Eyes will bring you back to those days. If you didn’t, one sip of Doe Eyes is enough make you jealous of the cheeseheads in your life.
A pour of Doe Eyes is deep red. The little bit of amber in the beginning of the pour is subsumed by a cloud of crimson. It’s the kind of beer that could stain your teeth, and with little head or lacing, all you get is Hawaiian Punch right to the rim.
The first sniff is like running nose-first through a candy store.”
The first sniff is like running nose-first through a candy store. Red licorice, Jersey cherries and ribbon candy all come through, igniting a flush of nostalgia. Beneath that, you get some nice, bready esters from the saison yeast. Together, the aromas are reminiscent of a cherry danish.
The danger with cherry beers is that you’ll end up with a mouthful of cough syrup. Doe Eyes sometimes teeters on the precipice, but ultimately avoids that fatal flaw. One sip can be exquisite and sweet, and the next can be acrid and medicinal. This may be a symptom to the move to cans—and the larger distribution—but the base of a very good beer is still here.
New Glarus’ Wisconsin Belgian Red may be the standard-bearer for how to turn cherries into sour beer, but Insight is leading the way to universalizing the Door County cherry beer. But now that Doe Eyes has made the transition from the taproom to the can, it feels less special. It’s more of a commodity—more of a beer-drinker’s beer. But if that’s the way to get sessionable servings of cherry-rich saisons into the palms of more thirsty Americans, then damn it all, it’s worth every concession.