One great thing about the Pearl Street Brewery Winter Ball is that the brewmaster isn’t afraid to go out there. Yes, the atmosphere is fun, the bands are always capable, and this year’s food pairings demonstrated a nice bit of ambition. I could talk all night about what a great party it was, but this is my beer column, and I always come to the Winter Ball for the beer.

This year’s festivities featured the return of the sweet Breakfast Beer and the beloved Raspberry Tambois, as well the unveiling of the "Always In" Saison and the Cocoa Loco Porter. But the beer I anticipated most — and the one I’ve been searching out ever since — is the Wild Wisconsin Lager, a simple beer with an intriguing back story.
   
The secret of the Wild Wisconsin Lager is the Northern Discovery hop, a practically brand-new species that has perhaps never before been used in a mass-produced beer. Despite the mania of the craft brew industry, there are only about 50 known hop varieties. Brewers will blend hops for flavor, and farmers breed for desired traits, but the actual number of hop varieties is finite. Or so we thought. In 2007, a retired University of Wisconsin horticulture professor was strolling through his family farm when he discovered a lone hop plant unlike anything he’d ever seen before. After extensive lab testing, his plant proved to be from a brand-new family of hops. Word spread, and a century after Wisconsin’s commercial hop industry largely faded from prominence, another in-state grower, Silver Farms, began mass production of the Northern Discovery. After expanding its fields, last year marked a bounty harvest, and the Pearl Street Brewery became one of its first commercial buyers of the Northern Discovery. Thus, the tapping of the Wild Wisconsin Lager marked not only the debut of this particular brand, it was practically a coming out party for our new hop.
   
Purchase: Wild Wisconsin Lager, now on tap at the Root Note, $5
   
Style: Industrial-style lager
   
Strength: 5.5 percent ABV
   
Appearance: The Wild Wisconsin pours a cloudy orange-ish brown color, darker than most lagers, with a rich grey head.
   
Aroma: The aroma is faint, but there is a light grain bill and clean grassy hops on the nose.
   
Taste: This has a light, clean, refreshing flavor, with a malty backbone and a clean hop finish.  It’s akin to a Pabst Blue Ribbon, but with quadruple the flavor. The Northern Discovery tastes clean and grassy, and what the Wild Wisconsin Lager may lack in ambition, it makes up for in execution.
   
Mouthfeel: This has a thin, slightly fizzy body, befitting the style.
   
Drinkability: Drinkability is high. If it came in cans, this would be the supreme “lawnmower beer.”
   
Ratings: This beer is not rated anywhere online. So as the official arbiter of taste, I would grade this a 92, and recommend it as my favorite beer from another exemplary Pearl Street Brewery Winter Ball.