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.
I give it a 3.9 out of 5.
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 give it 4.5 out of 5.
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.
I give it a 4.5 out of 5.
Little Sumptin’ Sumptin’ is another fun wheat ale, this time, a west-coats IPA-ish version of a wheat beer. The mild wheat base is loaded with hops that give it plenty of orange and pine in the nose, grapefruit and loads of pine in the middle, and orange in the finish. The result is a mildly bitter ale with all of the characteristics of a west-coast style IPA in a lighter, easier to handle form. It’s super cool, and given that the west-coast IPA is one of my favorite styles, I love this twist.
I give it a 4.7 out of 5.
Blanche de Chambly is a Belgian White Ale (wheat beer) from the Canadian masters of all beers Belgian at Unibroue. The head is massive and foamy, as is expected from a wheat beer. Check. The nose is yeasty and floral. Check. The middle is subdued by the wheat, with notes of orange and honey. Check. More citrus is the finish, which is mild, and not bitter at all. Check. Yup, this is a wheat beer, and a marvelous one at that. This is the beer that you can use to teach Blue Moon fans what a wheat beer should actually taste like. Another outstanding beer from Unibroue, and one of the best, if not the best wheat beer I’ve ever had.
I give it a 4.7 out of 5.
Sweetwater Blue is a fairly typical craft wheat ale, but with the addition of blueberries which give a subtle twist. They did a really nice job of adding a fun and different flavor, but without overpowering the beer. The nose is very light, with a bit of grass and yeast. The middle is where the blue berries add some tang to the mild wheat base that turns slightly sweet, and then finishes dry and dusty. There’s a little bit of slate in there as well. This is a nice summer beer, and would be a good alternative for introducing Blue Moon fans to craft beer.
I give it a 3.7 out of 5.
Don de Dieu is a trippel wheat ale from the Belgian masters at Unibroue in Quebec. There isn’t much of a head to this beer. You get a lot of foam early, but it disappears rapidly. The nose is mild, which is pretty standard for a wheat ale, and it has notes of apricots, pears, and orange. The middle is tangy with mandarin, honey, pears, yeast, and a hint of alcohol. The finish adds pear syrup and vanilla to the mix. This is a medium to heavy bodied beer, and relatively high alcohol at 9% ABV. With the signature Belgian fruit and yeast, this is a lot more flavorful than a traditional wheat ale, so it will probably be a bit much for a Blue Moon fan, but it’s right up the alley for those who like big traditional Belgian styles.
I give it a 4.6 out of 5.