Delicious Science I taught us that beer snobbery is good and right. Delicious Science II taught us that good beer is good. Delicious Science III taught us to care about the health of our beer. Also to read labels.
We initially set out to do a wheat beer test, not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into. There isn’t just “wheat beer.” There is dark wheat and light wheat. There are German, Belgian, and American varieties (among others). If you list out ones you can think of that you like, you have a really long list really fast.
Anyway, after an initial research period learning just how much we didn’t know about wheat beer, we discussed doing a test that would include a sample of each variety – such as two American wheats vs. two hefeweizens vs. two witbiers (Belgian style white). Ultimately, though, we realized the ones we were most interested were almost all witbiers, so we decided to focus on that.
We had a small group of friends join the tasting this time, and after some discussion came up with a list of competitors:
- Natty Greene Wildflower Wit (local to The NC)
- Mother Earth Weeping Willow Wit (local to The NC)
- Big Boss Blanco Diablo (local to The NC)
- Unibroue Blanche de Chambly
- Allagash White
- New Belgium Mothership Wit Sam Adams Imperial White
Mothership Wit had to be omitted because…it doesn’t exist anymore. K and I remember enjoying this one and wanted to include it in the test, but learned it’s been retired. So we included a Sam Adams entry out of respect for the brand’s win in Delicious Science I.
Two of the entrants ended up being written off immediately, for different reasons.
Beer #3 was, without mincing words, horrible. One nice taster said, “I don’t know if I like this.” I was mean and said it was like drinking beer out of an ashtray. I wasn’t being silly. It really did taste like I’d accidentally sipped from the bottle in which people have been putting their cigarettes out. Some of us finished our sample, some didn’t, but everyone said it was pretty poor.
On the other end of the spectrum, everyone liked Beer #6, but it was way darker, way stronger, and had a much different complexion than any of the others. Here’s where I learned an important lesson about reading labels. Or I guess more accurately, about understanding labels. I didn’t really know what “Imperial” meant, but as our expert taster (the guy who Knows Stuff about beer) pointed out, it means some pretty significant things. Like, that it makes a beer darker, stronger, and gives it a different complexion. So he couldn’t help but out it as the Sam Adams.
So, the remaining four comprised the crux of the test.
Our consensus winner ended up being Mother Earth Weeping Willow, a local favorite. Five of the six tasters rated it the best. There wasn’t a huge variety in tastes among the four, it was mostly a matter of degrees. They all tasted good and had similar flavors, this one just had more. The remaining top vote–not incidentally, from the expert among us–went to Allagash White.
Opinions were mixed with regard to the ordering of the others. I personally put Allagash second, but there was a contingent of votes for Natty Greene Wildflower Wit as runner-up. I found it a bit watery, but others liked that aspect of it, feeling like it was a good, straightforward beer that was just doing what it was supposed to, without fancying up the joint.
#3 ended up being Big Boss Blanco Diablo. BUT, as a group we’d all had this one and felt that something was simply wrong with our sample. We bought a couple of single bottles from Total Wine, and there’s a good chance we just bought some old ones or Total Wine hadn’t exercised particularly good care in monitoring their well-being. Whatever the reasons, this test doesn’t really reflect on Blanco Diablo. (It probably reflects more on Total Wine, actually.) K and I will probably pick up some fresher samples and test them independently against at least Weeping Willow, just to round out the testing.
- If you’re in The NC and haven’t had any Mother Earth beer, it’s worth your time. We’ve been fans, but this was some nice confirmation. All of their varieties are good.
- Elsewhere, Allagash is a good pickup but I’m not sure how easy it is to find. I don’t know that there’s a good national witbier, which reinforces the sad loss of Mothership Wit.
- Six samples was the upper limit we established with the brown ale test, but it has another benefit, too. If a few samples go awry for some reason, you still have good sample for testing. So it’s probably an ideal number to establish both high and low limits.
- I have a lot to learn about wheat beers.