A member of Sierra Nevada’s High Altitude series, Dunkelweizen Bock is a traditional dunkelweizen, a dark wheat German beer style. A classic style that you don’t see that often these days. The head is heavy and sticky and hangs around. The nose is malty and bready with some banana. The middle is sweet with molasses and has oodles of the characteristic cloves, and the finish is sweet banana bread. The body is medium to heavy, and the alcohol is a reasonable 7.2% ABV. This is a really nice heavy winter beer for those inclined to indulge in sweeter styles.
“Inspired by the flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine” is what South Carolina’s Westbrook Brewing Co. says about White Thai, a wheat based ale with lemongrass and ginger instead of the traditional witbier’s coriander and orange peel. It’s a mild drinking ale, as appropriate for a wheat ale, with lemongrass and a bit of yeast in the nose, some orange and ginger in the middle, and a hint of pepper in the finish. There’s a slight buttery undertone, but overall the character is relatively light and summery. The body is medium, and the alcohol is a reasonably low 5% ABV.
Continuing with beers from right here in Charlotte, Fake Plastic Trees is a hoppy wheat ale (think wheat IPA) from our friends at Birdsong Brewing Co. To start, the head is heavy and creamy, as befits a wheat ale, and the unfiltered golden hue is hazy. The nose has orange, lemon, and lemongrass scents. The middle is hop-forward with an American IPA profile (lemon and hint of pine) but served on a bed of wheat toast. This fades to bit more lemon and some grapefruit in the finish with the wheat continuing to balance things out and soften on the tongue. The body is medium and the alcohol is moderate at 6.4% ABV. This is a fun mash-up between a wheat ale and an IPA that will probably be best enjoyed by IPA fans.
Scattered Sun is a Belgian-style Witbier from Southbound Brewing Co. of Savannah, Georgia. The head is foamy and voluminous, dissipating fairly quickly but leaving an inch or so that lasts for quite awhile. The nose is fruity and yeasty and definitely Belgian. The middle has tart lemon, sweet orange, and a bit of coriander. The orange strengthens in the finish along with a nice dry wheat flour and a bit of breadiness. A very pleasant and refreshing brew, and a relatively light 5.2% ABV makes this a perfect summer drink. I’m enjoying it quite a lot.
Allagash Odyssey is a dark wheat beer in the Belgian Strong Dark Ale style, brewed with Belgian candi sugar and aged in oak. Another way to describe it would be “brilliant.” The nose holds promises of raisins, figs, and ginger. The middle is mellow and muted due to the wheat, with clear and refined flavors of raisins, plums, dates, and a bit of coffee. While the middle is sweet, the finish is dry and flavors that come forward are vanilla, cocoa and tobacco. The body is heavy and the alcohol is an age-able 10.4% ABV. The suggested drinking window is two years, and the example I’m drinking in February 2015 was bottled in January 2014, and it’s clearly still in its prime. My bottom line is that this beer is another long home run from Allagash.
Firewater IPA is a product of local North Carolina brewer, Catawba Brewing Company. It is what they call an “East Coast IPA” which is their interpretation of a an IPA using six varieties of British hops, and six different malts, including wheat and five barley malts. This all leads to a relatively mild, balanced IPA that has the appropriate hoppy characteristics but that is also still relatively understated. The nose is floral and slightly bready. The middle has a bit of very mild lemon citrus and a dry wheat backbone. There isn’t much new in the finish. A bit more lemon, but it’s pretty simple. The alcohol is fairly average as well, at 6.0% ABV. All in all, this is a nice interpretation of an milder IPA, but nothing particularly stands out.
Whiplash is a spring winter* seasonal from SweetWater Brewing Company in Georgia that starts with a Belgian White Ale using Belgian yeast and wheat, then adds oats to further smooth out the malt flavor and loads of American hops to create a unique twist on an IPA. The nose is grassy, with a little bit of lemon. The middle has a generic citrus flavor that leans toward grapefruit and some sweetness from the oats. The finish has a good bit of orange, some pine, and is slightly metallic right at the end. The body is medium, with a nice weight added by the oats, and the alcohol is moderate at 6.2% ABV. This is a fun combination of a couple of really tasty styles, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit.
I give it a 4.4 out of 5.
* I was informed via Twitter by the fine folks from SweetWater that this is actually a winter, not spring seasonal. I thought I was done with the winter seasonals. I was wrong. Again.
It’s bitterly cold here in Charlotte (read, below freezing) and so what better time to try a winter seasonal White IPA from New Belgium Brewing? Accumulation is crisp and cold, and pretty spot on for what I expect of a white IPA. It’s very hop forward since there’s not a lot of maltiness from the wheat base to balance it out. The nose has pine and orange, the middle has more pine and lemon, and there’s a smooth breadiness to the finish with some strong citrus and herbal notes that remind me of thyme and rosemary. The body is fairly light, and the alcohol level is a fairly-standard-for-an-IPA 6.2% ABV. This is definitely hoppier and lighter than your average winter fare, but it’s a nice change of pace for those of us starting to go into hop withdrawal this time of year, and it’s quite well executed.
Positive Contact is another of Dogfish Head’s occasional musically inspired collaborations, this one with Dan the Automator of Deltron 3030. It’s a hybrid wheat ale and cider with spices that aren’t typical with either, such as cayenne pepper and fresh cilantro. With that variety of inputs, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but the result is excellent. All the components show well, and none are overpowering. The nose is distinctly Belgian yeast, with some apple notes in there. The middle is bready with quite pronounced wheat characteristics that are balanced by strong apple flavors that are moderately, but not excessively sweet, and also not quite as complex as they might be. The wheat comes back powerfully to give it a drying finish, and this is where the spices start to come though as well, adding peppery and herbal notes before fading back to apple. This reminds me most of a pre-hop spice beer, and is refreshingly unusual. It’s a medium bodied beer, and pretty big on the alcohol at 9.0% ABV, but you’d never know it because it hides it well. My bottom line is that this is an excellent off-centered ale.
I’ve previously reviewed Unibroue’s Apple variant of Éphémère, but tonight’s bottle is brewed with Black Current juice, Coriander, and orange peel. The result is a fruity beer that’s delightfully unsweet. The frothy champaign-ish head gives it a fizzy, carbonated texture, and there’s not much of a nose. The middle is spicy and heavily current flavored, but there’s an unusual lack of sugar that pegs the profile of this beer solidly in the “spiced ale” camp. It’s a medium bodied ale, and quite dry. The finish rounds out with some notes of plum, but again, without sweetness. Éphémère Cassis is a very unusual and enchanting brew.