Beer Review #36 – American Wheat Ales (Pt. 2)

Smuttynose’s ‘Wheat Wine Ale’

Before you read this review, take a look at part 1 if you haven’t already. I’ve slowly learned that even though the American wheat ale isn’t always the most rewarding style for a craft beer lover, there are quite a few excellent ones out there if you look hard enough. I’m not entirely sure what makes it so hard to pull off, but as usual, Smuttynose Brewing Company steps in and shows us how to really get the most out of the ingredients.

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WHEAT WINE ALE – SMUTTYNOSE (2012) – Wheatwine – 10.70% ABV (Eye Choir’s Top Choice)

AppearancePoured a moderate amber-orange with a one-finger, eggshell head. There is a moderate amount of fine haziness as well as a few bits of particulate sediment, though it is still somewhat easy to see the mild to moderate carbonation present. 4.5/5

Smell: Quite boozy with a predominant malt presence which features strong aromas of toasted and caramelized grains. A fair amount of fermented plum and fig notes peek through, as well as an undertone of oxidation similar to old sherry. In addition, there are mild strains of vanilla and spicy oak which go well with the alcohol-centric subtext of this drink. Very rich and powerful, though not at all without subtlety. 5/5

Taste: Begins with a restrained moderate sweetness which is surprising given the volume of malt present in the nose. A mild to moderate tartness also bleeds in, giving a rounded combination of whole grain wheat bread, dulce de leche, and a splash of nuttiness as well. This is complemented by a boozy raisin character, though this is not as dark as that of some other ales such as Belgian dubbels. The mildly bitter finish brings in a heaping dose of boozy oxidation which brings along a little wine-barrel spice which goes well with a touch of earthy and herbal hops. Incredibly detailed and dynamic despite what is undoubtedly a heavy handed flavor profile. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium to heavy body, with an extremely smooth and creamy mouthfeel which complements the grainy malt profile and the tamps down the strong, long-lasting alcoholic heat. A mild bite of carbonation helps offset this heaviness at times, re-introducing the fruitier components of the beer. 5/5

Overall: Thick, intricate, and delectable, much like a dessert in a glass, though the relatively austere sweetness is well within balance of every other flavor. A very slow sipper for sure, but this experience absolutely deserves to be lengthened in order to discover every detail therein. 5/5

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‘HELL OR HIGH WATERMELON’ – 21st AMENDMENT – American Pale Wheat Ale brewed with watermelon – 4.90% ABV

Appearance: Poured a very pale gold with highlights of silver with a two-finger, off-white head. Very minor particulate sediment can be seen, though virtually without any carbonation. 3/5

Smell: Strong aroma of pale malted wheat which is balanced by mild, slightly funky yeast notes, along with a grassy fruit aroma redolent of melon or cucumber with faint notes of coriander or citrus. Not very strong but unusual and interesting, without the fruit flavors being too cloying. 4/5

Taste: Mild to moderate sweetness that brings some touches of grain, balanced with some mild to tartness that highlights some under-ripe melon rind notes. The beer becomes dry very quickly, with a long, faintly bitter finish that displays notes of herbal mint. Interesting idea, but a little too mild, and needs more traditional wheat beer notes to not come off so thin. 2.5/5

Mouthfeel: Very light bodied, with enough carbonation to feel a little seltzery. Arguably, a watery mouthfeel should complement the watermelon flavor, but the lack of substance throughout the beer makes this feel sort of empty. Typical wheat creaminess is nigh absent. 2.5/5

Overall: Interesting ideas, but poor execution. If the watermelon and herbaceous flavors had been incorporated into a more hearty American wheat beer format, this could have been quite excellent. 3/5

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‘SUMMER ALE’ – SAM ADAMS – American Pale Wheat Ale brewed with lemon peel and grains of paradise – 5.30% ABV

Appearance: Poured a moderate tawny golden color with a two-finger, off-white head. There is some fine sediment present in the body, yet generous carbonation can still be seen. 3.5/5

Smell: Fairly fruity, featuring a sharp, juicy lemon scent, partly from the added lemon peel and partly from the hops. Hop character has some fresh grassy, herbal aromas as well. This is balanced by a soft malt character reminiscent of challah bread; wheat and honey. A faint flowery pepper note also arises eventually. Some interesting features but in some places a little flat. 3/5

Taste: Mild to moderate tartness brings out a depth of flavor from the fruit notes, including clementine and cherry, which coalesces with a mild to moderate sweetness. This additionally helps highlight a light toasted grain character in the malt, which persists into the off-dry finish. There is only a mild bitterness, though in combination from the slight, almost clove-like piquancy of the grains of paradise, it helps keep the finish fresh and a little dynamic. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Light body, with a sizeable bite of carbonation which is an appropriate pairing for the fruit profile. Mouthfeel is a little thin and watery, yet the resultant generous drinkability of this beer helps accumulate the spicy and leafy characteristics on the palate. 3/5

Overall: Easy to drink and somewhat interesting, though not especially deep, and the balance between the various components could be improved. Still the synergy between the grains of paradise and the slightly drier finish is nice. 3.5/5

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APRICOT WHEAT ALE – ST. AMBROISE – American Pale Wheat Ale brewed with apricot – 5.00% ABV

Appearance: Poured a light rusty orange with a one finger, eggshell head. The beer is fairly clear, surprising for a wheat beer, with not that much carbonation to be seen either. 3.5/5

Smell: Musty fruit aroma is prominent, with the obvious apricot as well as some lighter notes of strawberries and cream; odd, but surprisingly not artificial smelling at all. There is also some mild cereal-grain wheat as well as a faint, grassy pollen note that could be due to either hops or yeast or both. Simple but unique and well-balanced. 4/5

Taste: Mild to moderate tartness keeps the fruit flavors at the forefront, and also allows the yeast to imbue a certain undercooked sourdough nature to the wheat malt. There is only a mild sweetness, but it is enough to maintain a good balance of flavor into the fairly dry finish, where a faint fresh hop aroma accompanies a mild bitterness. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, with an extremely smooth and creamy texture that perfectly complements the wholesomeness of the wheat, conjuring a certain vanilla-like spiciness from it. Moderate carbonation also adds to the fullness of the body, without overstating the fruit character or becoming cloying. Very refreshing without coming anywhere near being thin or uninteresting. 4.5/5

Overall: Fairly good balance of flavors, if a little bit straightforward, but manages to pull out enough subtlety, especially in the mouthfeel, to set itself from the stereotypically uninspired fruit-oriented wheat beers. 4/5

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