05 November 2010

Wheat beat manifesto

Session logoIt's wheat beers on The Session this month, a genre I find it hard to get excited about. Sure, I like the odd Schneider-Weisse or Aventinus, and I'm perfectly content holding a Hoegaarden, but generally speaking I don't go out of my way for wheat beer. It's more of a fallback thing.

In an effort to rekindle my interest, I decided to open something a bit special for this post: Hvedegoop, the "wheat wine" brewed as a collaboration between Three Floyds and Mikkeller. Something about the -goop suffix had me expecting dark beer, maybe along the lines of Haandbryggeriet's Dark Force wheat stout. Instead it's quite a pale cherrywood colour, with a short-lived skim of ivory foam on the surface.

The brewers' renowned love of C-hops is immediately apparent from the aroma on pouring: sticky nectarine fruitiness made extra potent by sweet caramel-candy notes from the malt backbone. That this is a strong sipper (10.4% ABV) is never in doubt.

One expects a certain soft mouthfeel from wheat beers but there's none of that here. Instead the gentle fizz and powerful-yet-subtle booze heat gives it a definite wine vibe, much more like an American barley wine. And that continues into the taste: big big hops, but balanced by lots of sticky malt -- I really can't find anything to indicate we're dealing with wheat malt here rather than plain old barley, and I doubt that any of the yeast strains most commonly used for wheat beers have been employed.

More than anything, it reminds me a lot of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, which brings me on to Mrs Beer Nut's observation. She liked it a lot, but reckons it needs another year or two of maturation to mellow and soften, just like Bigfoot does. Me, I liked the in-your-face double IPA kick and didn't find it remotely harsh or difficult, however I can't help but agree it would be really interesting to find out what happens to it after a couple of years.

As a strong-and-hoppy late-night sipper-to-share I rate Hvedegoop very highly. Whether there was any point in making it with wheat rather than all barley, however, I really couldn't say. But if anyone's using this Session to argue that wheat beers are intrinsically dull or samey, here's the killer argument against.

No comments:

Post a Comment