(This is the second part of a three-part series. Part one can be found here.)
To put it simply beer night was a success. We may not have discovered much good beer but we had a helluva time trying.
With 19 beers to get through (plus extras for insurance) and a lovely potluck spread, we were all set for a completely unbiased and measured review. We decided to start off with the fruity wheat beers followed by the regular wheat beers and lagers and finish up with some of the darker ales.
First up was the Wittekerke Rosé (250 mL, 4.3% ABV, $.2.40), an incredibly girly beer from Belgium’s Brouwerij Bavik. When I picked up this beer at the LCBO, I was repelled by pretty much everything it represented; the casual, joined font of the title (which I’m guessing is supposed to appeal to non-beer drinkers), the tagline “The Fruity Pink Beer”, the long-legged silhouette of the lady and the inclusion of aspartame in the recipe.
Now, I’m not one of those guys who dismisses beers that look or taste “girly”. I like Pink Killer, Früli and Apricot Wheat Ale amongst others and I’ll never turn down a beer I haven’t tried. Still, I was prepared to hate Wittekerke Rosé and my prejudice didn’t change with the first sip.
For all intents and purposes, it tasted like a cooler to me. The Lush thought it tasted like rosy gingerale but not as effervescent. The Connoisseur was amazed that there wasn’t a law somewhere against calling this beer (try Germany). The Alcoholic compared it to white zinfandel and finished it but somewhat grudgingly. She thought it would be a good mixer and I had to agree although only in the spirit of finding anything good to say about this beer. For the next minute or so, recipes for beer punch were floated around but having to buy a bunch of bottles just to make it was an issue with pretty much everyone. The Pothead wanted to know why the fuck the brewery would put aspartame in this beer and I have to say I’m wondering the same thing.
The incredibly-pronounced aspartame aftertaste was what really killed this “beer” for me. It was like drinking a really shitty soda; the fake sweetness kills whatever other flavors might wanna come through. Stay away from this one at all costs. It’s an overpriced cooler and it’ll probably give you cancer.
We tried a personal favorite of mine next; Van Diest Früli Strawberry Beer (250 mL, 4.1% ABV, $2.35), another fruity beer from Belgium. I’d enjoyed this one when I had it on tap at Smokeless Joe a couple of years ago and it’s one I still pick up a couple bottles every now and then.
Maybe the aftertaste from the first beer was plugging my tongue because this Früli didn’t do it for me. It was far too sweet and reminded me of a strawberry daquiri. I still dug the strong aroma of strawberry but everyone else gave it a thumbs down.
The Alcholic was convinced it tasted like Dimetapp mixed with soda water and while the Pothead wondered if it might have the makings of a good smoothie in it. Nearly everyone thought it was way sweeter than the Rosé and I’d have to agree; this is definitely a different beast from what you can get on tap.
Try it at Smokeless Joe or wherever else you might see it but I’d avoid buying a bottle. Make yourself a Strawberry Basil Balsalmic Mojito instead, produce your own strawberry liqueur or even buy a bottle of Fragoli (500 mL, 24% ABV, $23.45).
Trust me, it’ll be better than this.
After overdosing on the sugar, we decided to tart it up a bit and opened Chapeau’s Lemon Lambic (250 mL, 3.5% ABV, $1.80) which is produced through “spontaneous fermentation” using wild yeasts that are only available in the area. I find ‘em far too sour for my liking and even though fruit lambics are generally a bit sweeter, that damn sour aftertaste comes in swinging before the beer hits the back of your throat.
We all hated this beer. I poured the rest of mine down the drain and keep in mind this is a 250 mL bottle split in six. None of us could imagine drinking an entire bottle of this.
The Connoisseur compared the smell to an unholy combination of puke and Alka-Seltzer while the Lush branded it “skunky” and refused to have anything more to do with it. The Pothead said he’d drink anything but and the Alcoholic issued perhaps the most damning statement when she said that if this was the last bit of alcohol on Earth, she’d rather be sober.
Personally, I don’t get it. I’d rather make some lemonade and spike it or have any kind of ale. Hell, I’d rather drink Mike’s Hard Lemonade! I don’t like lambics and I don’t think an overly-artificial lemon taste makes them more palatable.
It was with a fair bit of trepidation that we approached the next beer on the list, the Exotic Lambic (250 mL, 3.5 % ABV, $2.40) from the very same brewery. The exotic on the label referred to pineapple which is one of my favorite flavors, especially where cocktails are concerned, but it was still a lambic and I didn’t think this would be any better than the Lemon.
Surprisingly, we all found it quite pleasant in comparison to the previous beer. The aroma was cloyingly sweet and artificial (think cleaning product) but the taste was acceptable from what we could make out with the same flavor you might get if you drank one of those pineapple sodas they import from the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the nose almost completely overwhelmed any pleasant effects although it did lessen the naturally-sour aftertaste of the lambic.
I really don’t understand why anyone would want to drink this. If you like pineapples, go buy one or get some juice and throw some dark rum in there. Hell, make it a sour and you’re still better off. Beer-wise, there are so many good products coming out of Belgium that it’s almost a crime to waste your time on something like this.
Next up was a beer that’s been around for awhile: Amsterdam’s Framboise (4x341mL, 6.5 % ABV, $11.95). I’ve it on tap at a variety of bars and I don’t mind it all that much but I take issue with Amsterdam on one issue and it’s a biggie.
Back in 2003, they purchased Kawartha Lakes Brewery which had been producing a Raspberry Wheat. While they continued to produce most of the KLB line, it’s been widely discussed how the flavors seemed to change, especially with the Raspberry Wheat which was pretty much a competitor to Amsterdam’s Framboise.
While my memory’s been doused in suds one too many times, I remember the Raspberry Wheat being particularly good and I’ve always enjoyed the odd pint at C’est What?. With this in mind, I wanted to do a direct comparison to the Framboise and see how they stacked up or (worse) if they’d become indistinguishable from each other.
The Pothead thought it smelt and tasted like weed and while it might be argued that he’s a bit biased, we all agreed there was definitely an aroma of marijuana emanating from our glasses. The Connoisseur dismissed it as Benilyn (why do so many fruit beers have a medicinal quality?) in an otherwise-decent beer but thought it had a good mouth-feel. The Alcoholic said it reminded her of why she doesn’t like beer with berries. The Lush thought it would be a good Christmas beer.
I liked the tart finish and while it’s not a beer I’m particularly devoted to, I wouldn’t turn away the odd bottle either. It’s got a nice level of carbonation and none of that fake sugary sweetness that dominated the other fruit beers we tried but it still tastes more like a raspberry concentrate flavor than anything fresh (but then again, I’m not quite sure how it could taste any fresher).
Of course, KLB Raspberry Wheat (500 mL, 4.5 % ABV, $2.75) had to come next. The Connoisseur was pleased that it looked and smelt like actual beer. The Pothead liked how subtle the fruit flavor was but the Lush swore she detected notes of apricot and apple amongst the raspberry.The Alcoholic was happy that she’d finally found a fruit beer she could actually drink and thought it would make a good caeser chaser.
I must admit to wondering why they called it a raspberry wheat when there’s nothing in the makeup of this beer that would suggest it; no spices, unfiltered sediment, crispy graininess or effervescence. The carbonation was quite low and it had a smooth mouth-feel and a bitter finish.
I enjoy this one but it loses points for not being wheaty enough; I’d almost go so far as to add half-an-ounce of whatever fruit liqueur you enjoy to a pint of your favorite wheat beer for an arguably tastier beverage. Chambord would work pretty well…
So which beer is better? I like Framboise well enough for it’s high ABV and a better raspberry flavour but the KLB is a better beer overall, especially at C’est What?
Our next beer was the Raspberry’s sister, Amsterdam’s Pomegranate Wheat (500 mL, 4.5 % ABV, $2.75) which was a considerable letdown after the KLB. Opinions varied considerably with the aroma being compared to everything from a “christmas tree” to “cat piss” to “rather nice with a bit of citrus”. I dunno, it smelt like fruity gum with a bit of malt to me…
One thing we could agree on was that it was weak and watery. Any presence of beer almost seemed like an afterthought with this artificial pommy taste dominating a small bit of hops. The carbonation was definitely higher than in the KLB and closer to the Framboise.
Again, much like the KLB, Amsterdam’s stretching the definition of “wheat beer” by quite a margin. I don’t really get why they thought pomegranate would be a good idea unless, like Greg Clow pointed out on Taste T.O., they probably figured it was an easy marketing point. In the end I can’t say I really care because so far, the only way I like my pomegranates is in a syrup (otherwise known as Grenadine); keep it out of my beer!
Look for part three next week where I finish up the wheat beers and delve into darker territory.