Six to Seek: The Best Beers of the WeekJuly 20, 2018
WICKED WEED UNCLE RICK’S PILSNER
Wicked Weed Brewing
Asheville, North Carolina
5.1% | Pilsner
While Wicked Weed Brewing made its name off of wild and sour ales, visitors to the brewpub in Asheville will have no doubt encountered a variety of “clean” beers there as well. Uncle Rick’s Pilsner, now year-round and in cans, is one such beer. It’s crisp and clean, with barely-toasted bread giving way to a light bitterness and lemony character from the Noble hops. The brewery deserves the credit it gets for its sour ales, but beers like this require just as much skill to make.
EXHIBIT ‘A’ DEMO TAPE EIGHTEEN
Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Co.
4.5% | Farmhouse Ale
Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Co. wasn’t kidding when they dubbed this one a “multigrain farmhouse ale.” Beneath the red barn on the label is the following list of specialty grains: “chitted wheat, kvass, oats, warthog wheat, buckwheat, honey malt, spelt, triticale, and sunflower seeds all malted at Valley Malt in Hadley, MA.” Though the number of grains used is high, the ABV is low at 4.5%.
So what is the sum of all of these grains? The nose is all honey and toasted white bread, but more of that traditional wheat flavor comes through on the palate. Further sips reveal cracker and bread crust. As the beer warms, clove and the lightest touch of vanilla comes through. It’s difficult to pull out every single grain when tasting, and yet they all combine to form one truly distinctive, refreshing farmhouse ale that has qualities of saison, grisette and witbier.
CRUX IN THE POCKET
Crux Fermentation Project
9.9% | Blended, Red-Wine-Barrel-Aged Saison w/ Brettanomyces
One of Crux Fermentation Project’s [BANISHED] Series of barrel-aged beers, In The Pocket is a blend of young and old saisons—both fermented with Brettanomyces—with the aged saison having spent nearly a year in red wine barrels. This beer made DRAFT Magazine’s Top 25 Beers of the Year in 2017, and we’re happy to report that this year’s is just as impressive.
The nose offers up an appealing blend of clove, strawberry and red wine, with the slightest touch of vinegar. The red wine comes through prominently on the palate with tart cherry and subtle citrus, but the imperial saison base is big enough that the barrel character doesn’t overpower it. The Brettanomyces adds additional fruit notes in the form of sweet pineapple and green apple, and there’s a little vanilla from the oak. It’s lightly acidic and tart, with warmth from the alcohol but no harshness. While it’s all too easy to drink by oneself, this one would be best served with food and friends.
BARREL + BEAM GOLDEN PARTAGER
Barrel + Beam
7.5% | Oak-Aged Wild Ale
Barrel + Beam opened earlier this year in a building that was once home to the Northwoods Supper Club, a restaurant with a storied history spanning from 1934 to 2007. After breathing new life into the cabin through a $2-million renovation, founders Marina Dupler and Nick VanCourt opened their brewery this past January with a focus on farmhouse styles and barrel-aged beers.
Golden Partager pours with the effervescence you would want and expect out of a bottle-conditioned beer. Fermented with Brettanomyces bruxellensis, the wild yeast contributes a pleasant funkiness in the aroma. On the palate there’s bright lemon, subtle candied orange, sweet tropical fruit and a light tartness, with a bit of dill on the finish. That profile, along with the high carbonation and a dry finish, give this new offering something of a classic character.
SOUTHERN PROHIBITION DEVIL’S HARVEST BREAKFAST IPA
Southern Prohibition Brewing
4.9% | New-England-Style IPA
The name had us wondering if this beer was brewed with coffee, but when it poured a cloudy gold we realized it’s more akin to juice. At 4.9% ABV, it’s probably as good a choice as any if you’re looking to get the day started with a sessionable IPA. Big notes of pineapple waft from the glass, but there’s an herbal component that calls to mind oregano. On the palate, Citra and Mosaic hops bring more pineapple, plus grapefruit and tangerine. There’s a decent bitterness, too, though it fades quickly. Despite the use of oats, the beer maintains a light body and is quite refreshing.
SWEETWATER 420 STRAIN: G13 IPA
SweetWater Brewing Co.
6% | IPA w/ Terpenes & Hemp Flavor
Cannabis-inspired beers are trending right now, especially in states that have legalized the sale of marijuana. Though Georgia isn’t one of them, that hasn’t stopped SweetWater—long a proponent of pot puns—from introducing its own take on the burgeoning style. After months in the lab, they’ve unveiled 420 Strain: G13 IPA. It’s a draft-only beer for now, with packaged product coming this fall (and for the record, it shares nothing in common with the brewery’s similarly-named 420 Extra Pale Ale).
The IPA is brewed with Columbus and Simcoe hops and a couple of dry-hop additions, but then the brewery amplified the dankness by “blending in strain specific terpenes and a proprietary hemp flavor blend to mimic the aroma of a cannabis strain.” And they nailed it. The hazy pour, not unlike New Belgium’s The Hemperor, smells overwhelmingly of weed. The beer strikes a nice balance between herbal and citrus notes, with rosemary, grapefruit and orange.
SweetWater plans to introduce additional beers through the new 420 Strain line. There will eventually be a robust portfolio of cannabis-inspired beers across the industry, using many different varietals and methods to incorporate hemp or cannabis flavors, and we’ll be doing a disservice to simply remark that these beers taste like weed.
But for now? This is an IPA that tastes like weed, but one that pulls it off exceptionally well.