REVIEW: Elder Betty Weiss by Magic Hat Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Magic Hat Brewing Company
Location: South Burlington, VT
Style: American Weiss Ale
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: 13
Appearance: Hardened Amber, Resembling Over-Brewed Iced Tea
Aroma: Wheaty Bread with Fruity Sweetness
Flavor: Hints of Fruity Sweetness, Light Malt, Elderberry Tart; No Hoppyness
Availability: Summer Seasonal
Pairs With: Elderberries, Crisp Salad, Grilled Fish, Mozzarella

I like fruit in beer if it’s done right. Too often fruit is overused, making the beer more akin to kids fruit soda or punch, then something worthy of more refined subtleties. Finesse and restraint, in my opinion, should be at the forefront of any brewers mind who has the idea of adding fruit to the fermentation formula.

I was intrigued when I saw Magic Hats summer seasonal was a Weiss brewed with Elderberry. I wondered what approach they would take. Would it be the light hand that is, seemingly, rare where fruit meets beer, or the heavy “fruit must be the main player” hand, so much more common in the fruit beers I’ve tried? And then it was Elderberry. I know Elderberry. I’ve brewed a very delicious plum and elderberry mead. Every year I forage elderberry. In fact, I went to my freezer and popped a few in my mouth just to reacquaint my memory with Elder Betty’s offerings. Then there was the way it was presented, a folksy Elder Betty Elderberry tree as the matron of summer, I had to give it a try.

“Tired and thirsty I did come, to an Elderberry under summer sun and found soothing balm within, ancient Betty’s weiss’ened grin.

Magic Hat as one of the most impressive lists of “interesting ales”, and though most are not available any longer. It is worthwhile to stay abreast of future offerings in their Reclusive Rarities; whatever is next in line is sure to be worth a taste if for no other reason than that it will be unique. This one is available and so it called to me like a Siren singing a slightly different tune then all her sisters.

The Pour and Aroma

Elder Betty Weiss Ale

This one pours a hazy light gold, mimicking sunlight through a thin cloud bank. Two fingers of airy suds built then drop back to the beer-line leaving smaller islands of white that where tossed, partially destroyed, then rebuilt by the carbonation venting from below.

The first thing I pick up is the wheaty bread aroma of the malt. A fruity sweetness also pervades, grape-like, and not all that subtle. It’s not overpowering, but present all the same and my heart sinks a little. It’s toeing the line for me and I find myself hopping, the “Too heavy” that springs to mind is overreaction, spurred by too many tastings of over-the-top renditions of an overdown theme. And, for the sake of the review I push on, trying to find some small comfort in the fact that the aroma is toeing the line… and not blatantly pretending there is no line; that the fruit aroma isn’t overpowering, that perhaps, like a character gone halfway bad in the course of a story, there’s a chance at redemption in the final scenes.

Mouthfeel and Taste

I take a sip…. It is not cloyingly sweet or reminiscent of the artificial grapyness of the boxed juice pack. It is a beer with hints of fruity sweetness and speaks fluently of the light handedness of a careful brewer. The mouth-feel is on the low side of medium with a slight grainy feel. At the front of the taste the crisp round presence of light malts shines. There are no detectable hops here, but again this goes with the style. The elderberry gives hint of tartness to the malt backbone and adds a slight grape-like sweetness at the end.

Finishing The Impression

Elderberry is a good choose, as far as light beers go. Even when eaten raw, which should be done sparingly because they can make you sick, the taste is a subtle mixture of tart, sweet, and acidic. Because they are not overly sweet and rather understated they work well as a brewing ingredient, allowing the possibility of creating slight nuances of character without overpowering.

This is a nice summer beer that presents its chosen fruit well. To my mind it could have been even more subtle without losing any of the “good” character, but others will surely say that it could be even sweeter and fruitier, but, for me, such thinking should be relegated to the realm of mixed drinks and childhood juice boxes. Cold, this beer is thirst quenching and refreshing.

Elder Betty Weiss Logo

As it warms, more of the fruity aroma and taste profile appears. So, whether you are searching for just a whispered kiss of fruit, or are yourself a diehard “fruitist,” your satisfaction may simply lay in what condition you decide to drink this beer in, but enjoyment can definitely be had under the spreading limbs of Elder Betty’s Elderberry Tree.

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Nick Carr

Nick Carr

Nicoli Carr has been tinkering with homebrewing for over 10 years and is currently enrolled in the American Brewers Guild (CBA). When he’s not studying or working, he is likely out foraging wild brewing options, writing, or hunting stillness in remote places.

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