Summer Weizen

Smuttynose’s summer seasonal is a solid wheat ale, on par with what you expect from Smutty.  Technically this is an American pale wheat ale, and while not as outstanding as others that fit the style, it does offer something a little different.  To me, Summer Weizen is in between a wheat ale and a hefeweizen, and it works just fine. In the beginning Summer Weizen tastes more like a traditional wheat ale, with a subtle sweetness that isn’t bitter.  As the sip progresses, hefeweizen qualities emerge with more fruity flavors and a hint of banana.  All the while a wheat backbone links the two together, making the transition nice and seamless, and the finish smooth and uplifting.  This beer is very simple, yet it works.  The flavors aren’t robust, which makes it refreshing and easy to drink, which works hand-in-hand with it’s lightness.  Overall, this is a nice summer beer.  It’s never too heavy or bitter and is refreshing, ending each sip with calm hefeweizen qualities.  If you’re looking for a full-blown hefeweizen, though, this isn’t for you.

Overall                 7/10
Color                    3
Thickness            4
Hops/Malt          7
ABV                       5.5%

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Blackbeary Wheat

My old roommate used to bring Long Trail’s Blackbeary Wheat back to Syracuse after going home to Vermont for breaks.  It was always something to look forward to and was a nice beer to help change the season from dreary and cold to sunny and warm.  I really liked it, but it did have a novelty to it because we could only get it after breaks.  I was anxious to give it a go many years removed from the original tasting, so I picked up a six-pack last weekend.  While not outstanding nor terrible, Blackbeary Wheat is a very respectable fruit beer.

Upon pouring into a glass, you first notice two things: the aroma and color.  The first thing that strikes you is the bouquet.  It’s not overwhelmingly sweet as to turn you off, but enough to make you thirsty.  Dark berry notes are less intense than lighter ones, and thus more inviting.  The second thing is the extremely light, completely clear color, which is as light as an American light beer (the head is also reminiscent).  Above the curiously light color, though, the aroma is what grabs you most.  Upon drinking, you’re met with a remarkably light mouthfeel that feels like you’re drinking a light beer.  The weight, or lack thereof, is consistent through the finish and crisp the whole way. The blackberry flavor meets you immediately and offers a different type of fruit not commonly found in fruit beers. It’s very nice and has a subdued sweetness compared to other berry mixtures that are more common.  The fruit sweetness starts lighter and builds slightly as the sip progresses, reaching it’s peak at the finish, although it’s not too high of a summit.  The end of the sip has just a bit more sweetness than the rest of the sip, and the fruit flavor finishes off nicely without much aftertaste.

While not an outstanding beer, Blackbeary Wheat is one of my top choices for fruit beers.  One reason I prefer Blackbeary Wheat to others is that it’s a beer first and the fruit comes second.  Far too often fruit beers hit you too hard with sweetness, leaving you with a beer that tastes like it’s half juice-half beer.  In this case, the beer is a vehicle for the fruit, not the reverse.  Another quality this beer boasts is the sweetness doesn’t accumulate to the point that it makes you full. Because it’s so light and the sweetness isn’t overpowering, you’re not left with a strong aftertaste that will turn you off to having another.  It’s also very refreshing, and with 4.0% ABV, is very sessionable (although I dislike the term).  Compared with other American fruit styles, Blackbeary Wheat more closely resembles a lambic, the Belgian farmhouse style.  Despite it’s attributes, for a wheat beer it’s not very wheat-like.  There’s no cloudiness or creaminess to it, and a little extra from the wheat would fill this beer out nicely.

If you really like fruit beers, or are still searching for the right one, you’ll like Blackbeary Wheat.

Overall                 7/10
Color                    2
Thickness            3
Hops/Malt          5
ABV                       4.0%

Pomegranate Wheat

When I first saw this several years ago I was intrigued because pomegranate is not a flavor typically found in beer.  It sounded good because pomegranates are good, but how would it blend with wheat?  Of course I bought it, and with that I found one of the best fruit beers I’ve ever had.  But it’s not just the fruit component that sets this summer specialty apart, but the wheat.  I often talk about how, if not done well, wheat beers can taste terrible.  The wheat flavor can be bitter, bready, stale and leave a lingering aftertaste.  Pomegranate Wheat is nothing like that, instead using wheat how wheat should be: creamy, slightly sweet and refreshing. It’s almost like a good hefeweizen, with a creamy and subtle flavor that, in this case, is a great base and complement for the pomegranate.  Very cloudy in appearance, this beer tastes like it looks, which is refreshing and soothing.  The pomegranate juice hits you from the start and continues smoothly through the finish.  Even though the wheat flavor wasn’t weighty to begin with, the pomegranate lifts the body and flavor more.  It’s rarely too sweet and never hits you with a over-sugared flavor, instead blending very well with the sweetness from the wheat and jumping out from there.  At different times of each sip the fruit juice hits you in different increments, and at some times it’s almost unnoticeable, although you know it’s there.

Even though I really like this beer, it was tough deciding on a final rating.  This beer shows how well wheat and fruit ales can be, and makes you wonder why some summer ales fall so short of what they could be.  Many times you buy a summer ale that promises to be smooth, fruity and a have a wheaty creaminess, but it doesn’t live up to expectations, and you wish it had the qualities of Pomegranate Wheat.  The fruit was never too strong and was in great balance with the wheat.  But in the end, it wasn’t mind-blowing.  At times you get a front end that is full of fruit, almost too much, and sometimes you don’t get enough. Sometimes it seems watery and other times has just the right creaminess.  The inconsistencies can be frustrating.  In the end, though, this is a very good beer and a great example of what a good summer beer should be.  Just enough fruit to get you by and everything in pretty good balance, if I had to choose a fruit beer to drink, this would be it.

Overall                 8/10
Color                    4, very cloudy
Thickness            3
Hops/Malt          6
ABV                       4.7%

"Good people drink good beer." - Hunter S. Thompson