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.
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REVIEW: Rosée D’Hibiscus from Dieu du Ciel

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Dieu du Ciel!
Location: Montreal, Canada
Style: Hibiscus flower Wit
ABV: 5.9%
IBU: not available
Appearance: Orange-Pinkish, Cloudy
Aroma: Wheat Scent, Tropical Flowers
Flavor: Light-Bodied, Delicate, Sweet Aftertaste
Availability: Year-round — Limited
Pairs With: Caesar Salad, Grilled Salmon, Mozzarella, Key Lime Pie

When you think of Canadian beer, certain images spring to mind. Molson, Labatt, Moosehead, the Bob and Doug MacKenzie. Canada has long been home to strong beers to help give that warming feeling during nasty winters, but until recently, it hasn’t been big on taste. Over the last few years, one thing that they have proven is that a craft beer culture can blossom in cities where they spend months avoiding frostbite.

Montreal-based Dieu du Ciel! microbrewery is leading the way as far as experimental beers go in Canada. Not the largest or oldest craft brewery, Dieu du Ciel concentrates on producing innovative, drinkable brews that push the limits of styles. While many of their beers are darker and heavier, with nods to the Belgian styles and incorporating native ingredients, one of their most impressive brews comes from an entirely different direction.

Appearance

Rosee D’Hibiscus is a bottle conditioned (meaning it is bottled with live yeast) wit beer brewed with hibiscus flowers. The bottle itself is a work of art – literally. All Dieu du Ciel! bottles feature beautiful, funky, stylized labels that grab the eye. On shelves full of shiny, brazen labels, Dieu du Ciel!’s bottles stick out as muted and handsome – Rosee D’Hibiscus features a pale maiden with hibiscus flowers in her hair. When it is poured – preferably into a lager glass or shaker pint – it comes out intriguingly orange-pinkish and cloudy, with a very small head. The head itself is white, but with a light pinkish hue to it, slightly effeminate.

Aroma

Rosée D’Hibiscus

The aroma is very clearly that of a wit beer, with a well-defined yet soft-spoken wheat scent highlighted by notes of berry and florals. This combination creates one of the lightest, most agreeable fragrances of any beer available – that of tropical flowers and wheat fields. The flavor is of a similar profile, albeit on the sweeter side. The hibiscus comes through more in the flavor than it does in the aroma, pushing the berry flavors to the back while providing a tang of acidity and sourness. It is very refreshing, a taste that is welcome on a warm summer’s day.

Flavor

It is also a very light-bodied beer – it will not weigh you down or make you feel full. It has moderate carbonation, just enough to tickle the tongue and stick around throughout the bottle. Rosee D’Hibiscus is not a heavy hitter, either, coming in at 5.9% alcohol by volume, meaning that you can have a couple of them without becoming too inebriated. It finishes dry and leaves a light, sweet aftertaste that fades quickly, no sticky residues left behind.

Tasting Notes

Overall, Rosee D’Hibiscus is an incredibly interesting beer, capable of grabbing the drinker and bringing them back for more. It might not be for everyone – the delicate flavoring might not be strong enough for folks used to heavy-handed flavorings. It is overall an effeminate beer, which may make the big, burly, manly hop-heads feel a bit girly. Their loss, though, as Rosee D’Hibiscus is one of the most enjoyable summertime beers out there.

One of the drawbacks to Rosee D’Hibiscus, and Dieu du Ciel! beers as a whole, is their limited availability and high pricing outside of Montreal. While they are incredibly productive – having produced over 150 beers in the course of 15 years – many of their beers are available only at their brewpub in Montreal, on Avenue Laurier. Only a dozen or so are bottled and shipped worldwide, but thankfully, Rosee D’Hibiscus is one of them. It currently can be found in ten or so countries worldwide, as well as a few dozen American states.

It’s hard not to like Dieu du Ciel! as a whole, as aside from the great beer, the attitude of the company is one that everyone can get behind. On their website, they have posted a Via Dolorosa, or Act of Faith, spelling out their commitment not only to quality beer, but to being quality citizens as well. Masterbrewer and co-founder Jean-Francois Gravel started the brewery after getting his degree in biology, and hasn’t looked back, incubating it from making a few gallons per week through today, where it is available in hundreds of stores in Quebec and has become what many consider to be Canada’s best craft brewery.

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Craft Beer Club: Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale

I’ve always had respect for Lagunitas. Almost everything they brew is gold in my book. They’ve been at the forefront of the less conventional side of craft brewing, and their expertise truly shows through the beer they produce. They are your prototypical West Coast brewery – inducing flavorful and aromatic hops and blasts of wonderful complexities at any chance they get. However, unlike some other reputable West Coast names (Russian River, Ninkasi, 21st Amendment, Firestone Walker, etc.), they’ve managed to maneuver their way through endless amounts of state rules and regulations to establish impressive distribution lines, spreading the wealth across the far reaches of the U.S. And because of this, we are very happy to be able to get our hands on all the delicious beer they bring to the table. One of these treats that’s available year-round is an American pale wheat ale by the name of “A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’.”

A Little Sumpin Sumpin Ale

We can say right off the bat, that this beer always looks delicious. It pours a substantial white head you’d find in a wheat ale and an orange-amberish color and level of clarity more typical of a pale ale. The initial look can leave you with a certain sense of slight confusion, and perhaps a little apprehension, only to be immediately swept away upon first sip. The taste is reminiscent of a delicious West Coast IPA, but with a seemingly fuller body and bready character. Give it a swirl and you’ll release an enormous amount of absolutely amazing aromas. The hops don’t lend much to the piney aspect but rather take you on a trip into a floral and fruit-filled place with an abundance of grapefruit and other various citrus. It’s certainly on the sweeter side, but the hop bitterness provides a balance akin to that of an Olympic gymnast. The mouthfeel is beyond great and the alcohol is there but it’s not boozy at all – definitely a great beer to session, that’ll get the job done any time of year.

The style of A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is obviously unique as it’s not too often that you come across a beer like this. It’s not a pale ale. Not a wheat ale. Nor is it an IPA. It’s just an awesome mixture of wheat and pale malts with loads of floral and fruity hop goodness. There isn’t a single thing about this beer that we would change. If your favorite pale ale and favorite wheat beer were to have a child – this would be it. We tip our hats to Tony Magee and all of Lagunitas Brewing Company for creating and maintaining their own path in the ever-growing jungle of craft brewing.

Craft Beer Club: Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat

The days are only getting hotter here in central Texas – we’re almost at 100 degrees and it’s only May. We pretty much just accept the heat, as we don’t really have a choice. However, we do have choices when picking methods to ease the pain. One of our personal favorites is a nice cold beer. So, in honor of the season, this week we went with a style that’s just got that summery feel – Boulevard Brewing Company’s Unfiltered Wheat Beer.

Boulevard Wheat Beer

Touted as their “most popular offering, and the best-selling craft beer in the Midwest,” we were pretty excited to indulge. While some of us have had this tone before, there’s definitely nothing wrong with taking a stroll down memory lane.

If the color of this beer doesn’t shout “summer,” then I don’t know what does. It’s about as golden as the sun. No real orange or amber hues at all – yellow through and through with a cloudy appearance that you’d expect from an unfiltered wheat beer. Atop sits a nice clean white head that dissipates quickly. Give it a whiff and we’d swear we’re standing in the middle of a Midwest wheat field. America’s amber waves of grain were put to good use here as the aroma comes through with definite prominence. Give it another smell and we can also find some banana and an ever-so-slight breadiness that beg us to drink it.

No need to fight it, so on to the taste test! First impression – wow! This beer is really well-balanced. The wheat-heavy grain bill provides the perfect malt backbone while some of our favorite hops for the style (Simcoe & Summit) bring just a little bitterness to balance it all out. In our opinion, it’s carbonated to provide a refreshing mouthfeel that’ll keep you coming back. Luckily for us, at a relatively low ABV of 4.4%, this thing is dangerously drinkable. No surprise that it took a gold medal in the Session Beer Category at the 2008 Great American Beer Fest.

If you’re in search of the perfect summer quaff, put that iced tea down and pick up a 6-pack of this summertime treat. It’s available year-round, but there’s just something about the warm weather that accentuates this beer’s characteristics.

What do you think of Boulevard’s Unfiltered Wheat?