Review: Weihenstephaner Kristallweizenbock

The Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan has revived an old beer brand from the 1950s as a one-time release. This Kristallweizenbock (aka Kristall Weizenbock) is now hitting the market in limited fashion.

Johannes Weiss, Weihenstephan’s Sales Manager Export, discovered the label digging through the brewery’s nearly one thousand-year-old archives. “I thought, as a brewery world-acclaimed for wheat beer specialties, brewing one wheat beer style that is hardly available is something very special.” When Weiss discovered the 1950’s Kristallweizenbock label, it sparked an idea. “I suggested using hops with ‘crystal’ names,” said Weiss, “smaragd (emerald) and opal. [These hops] add fruity flavors to the beer and complement the name.” From there, Brewmaster Tobias Zollo continued to develop Weiss’ idea, building out the malt bill and other flavor profiles. Kristallweizenbock differs from Weihenstephan’s traditional weizenbock, Vitus, as it is filtered and has a stronger focus on hops, without being too “hoppy.”

It’s a mission fairly well accomplished. While heavily malty — and quite sweet, particularly as it warms up — the hops do give the beer a bit more nuance, tempering the higher alcohol and malt with notes of apricot jam, applesauce, and some bitter roots. Carrot notes, maybe? Fans of German style brews will find more to like here than, say, your typical IPA fanatic, but as it stands it’s approachable from just about every angle.

7.5% abv.

B / $11 per six-pack /

Review: Stone/Maine DaySlayer India Pale Lager

This Stone collaboration with Maine Beer Company, based in Freeport, is an India Pale Lager — a hybrid brew that takes the form of a heavily malted beer that’s loaded with tons of hops. The India Pale side of the equation definitely rules the roost here, the hops giving it an almost crushing bitterness — to which the malt really can’t hold a candle.

The bummer is that rather than piney and/or citrus-forward, DaySlayer’s hops are tough and overbearing, building a generalized pungency that isn’t nearly as refreshing as the devil skull on the label might have you believe. The sweet malt gets lost in this mix, too, and when the finish comes it’s a bit muddy. Drinkable in the way that many ultra-bitter brews are, but muddy.

7.5% abv.

B / $8 per 22 oz bottle /

Review: Bear Republic Fastback Racer Double IPA

Bear Republic’s Fastback Racer (nee Fastback Racer X3) is a monumental beer — the brewery describes it thusly: “Massive hop additions of Citra and Ekuanot are revved to the limit on a chassis of Rye, Munich, and light caramel malts.” Revved to the limit is about right. The beer comes across as almost syrupy in composition, dosed with notes of coffee grounds, dates, figs, and molasses. The bitterness on the back end is just as monstrous, a foil to the sweet-and-savory combo that comes up front. Almost too much to manage, and a beer that pushes back heavily on the very definition of IPA.

10.4% abv.

B /  $14 per six pack /

Review: Chimay Gold, Red, White, and Blue

The monks at Belgium’s Scourmont Abbey have been making Chimay beers since 1862. Today, Chimay is perhaps the most famous of all authentic Trappist ales, which are sold to support the monastery’s operations and charitable functions. Today we look at the four core beers in the Chimay lineup, all of which are also available in larger formats (sometimes much larger).

Chimay Gold Dorée – A Belgian pale ale “brewed with spices,” and one of the lighter expressions of Chimay. Lots of fruit here, with the coriander-driven spice giving the beer a summery character with notes of of orange peel and crusty brown bread. There’s plenty of sweet malt, but the beer never becomes gummy or cloying, remaining brisk and refreshing on to the finish. 4.8% abv. B+ / $6 per 330ml bottle

Chimay Red Premiere – The original Chimay bottling (hence the name), this is a brown double/dubbel, made with twice the usual amount of malt. Loaded with brown sugar sweetness and a smattering of spice, it’s got a kick of bitterness on the back end that provides more balance than the first rush of flavor would have you expect. That aside, some relatively lifeless vegetal notes here and there mar an otherwise perfectly acceptable brew. 7% abv. B+ / $5 per 330ml bottle

Chimay White Cinq Cents – Formerly known as Chimay Tripel, made with triple the amount of malt of a standard Trappist ale. It’s a burly and bold beer, rounded and mouth-filling and a great example of the style, loaded to the gills with apple and pear fruit and with a long and lingering finish that echoes malty cereal, touched with sweetness. The finish offers ripe banana, some baking spice, and lingering vanilla cream. A favorite Belgian. 8% abv. A- / $6 per 330ml bottle

Chimay Blue Grande Reserve – The top of the line of the standard-release Chimay bottlings, this is a strong dark ale loaded with notes of nuts, dates, and some pruny raisin character. The finish offers notes of old wine, sauteed mushrooms, and toasty barley. A real brooding beer, though the very high alcohol content is barely noticeable. 9% abv. A / $6 per 330ml bottle

Review: Breckenridge Brewery Barrel Aged Imperial Cherry Stout

This second entry in Colorado-based Breckenridge Brewery’s Brewery Lane Series is a cherry stout — “aged 50% in whiskey barrels and 50% in Port wine barrels, Imperial Cherry Stout features sweet-sour Montmorency tart cherries which play on the dark fruit flavors prevalent in a traditional Imperial Stout.”

This is a huge beer but quite an enchanting aged stout, offering a richly coffee-laced and heavily nutty approach that quickly winds its way down a rabbit hole of flavors. Chocolate-covered cherries emerge immediately, followed by more of a mocha coffee character. After a moment, the initially sweeter attack fades and lets in an herbal note punctuated by a red wine character — the Port at work — and some lingering bitterness. Quite a complex monster, though it’s so bold on the palate that I recommend enjoying it in small doses. Bring a few friends.

9.5% abv.

A- / $12 per 25.4 oz bottle /

Review: Guinness Irish Wheat

Guinness’s latest addition to its ever-expanding lineup of novelty brews is, per the company, a first for any brewer: A beer made with 100% Irish wheat malt.

No big surprises then with Guinness Irish Wheat. It’s a Hefeweizen fermented with Guinness’s custom yeast. That makes for a curious combination — malty, fruity with orange peel, and herbal with notes of caraway seed. But most of all it’s got those big, toasty bread overtones. The funny part is that there’s a slightly sour edge to it. Nothing overbearing, just a hint of tart cherry that comes along a bit unexpectedly.

The finish is bready and a bit pungent at times, which makes for a more powerful wheat beer than you might be used to, with a funkier punch than that bottle of Blue Moon.

5.3% abv.

B / $8 per six pack of 11.2 oz bottles /

Review: Blue Moon White IPA and Mango Wheat

Blue Moon is nearly ubiquitous in American bars — and it’s about to get even more of a presence via these two new expressions, arriving just in time for summer.

Blue Moon White IPA – Summer beers often prove a challenge to breweries. The humidity and high heat in much of the country preclude people from drinking heavy, high alcohol beers and instead they look for beers that are refreshing, light and ones that can be enjoyed in multiple at a picnic or the beach. This beer deserves a permanent place in your cooler.

Even though it is brewed year round, this White IPA from Blue Moon Brewing certainly fits the bill as a great summer beer. Pale gold in color, the initial nose is citrus and spice, with little of the bitter aroma sometimes associated with an IPA. The first taste is citrus, and as it continues there is a very nice taste of honeydew, present because of the use of Huell Melon hops. The beer finishes with a hint of very pleasant bitterness, and then lingers with a slight taste of honeydew with no bitterness remaining. This IPA is approachable, friendly, and very enjoyable.

This is an excellent beer that really stretches the definition of what the style can be. A style combination of American IPA and Belgian Wit, this beer is free of much of the bitterness often associated with IPAs, and will appeal to drinkers who usually don’t reach for an IPA. Its perfect balance and crisp, citrus flavor make this beer an excellent accompaniment to nearly any cuisine, but is particularly well suited for the food of China and Japan. 5.9% abv. A / $9

Blue Moon Mango Wheat – A seasonal release from Blue Moon, this summer-centric mango wheat beer can easily find a place in your cooler if you’re headed out for a day at the beach. At a very low 19 IBUs, this beer drinks like a soda despite its 5.4% abv. The pale amber color evokes the fruit the beer is made with, even though the beer is slightly cloudy, as it’s still a wheater. The scent of mango is is present even from a distance. At first nosing it deeply, mango is all you sense and this continues through the first taste. There is very little carbonation, and the beer is very sweet with very little bitterness. Because of the low carbonation, the beer feels a little heavy on the tongue and is slightly cloying. The beer finishes with mango and honey; the sweetness lingering without the balance of any bitterness. The lack of balance in this beer is a little surprising, as many other fruit beers seem to balance the sweetness a little more evenly. Despite its faults, this beer could go very well with anything spicy you might be enjoying.

It’s also very sweet and would function as an excellent mixer for shandies and other summer beer focused cocktails. Mango Wheat would also make a great marinade base for fish or poultry, as the sweetness combined with the wheat should develop into a beautiful flavor when grilled. Just be sure to add citrus for balance. 5.4% abv. B- / $NA