Wailua Wheat Ale: A Sign of Summer

The Back Story:

Everyone has their own triggers to make them officially recognize when winter ends and spring begins. Maybe it’s the first Sweet William planted in April, gambling against the chance of a late-season frost. Maybe it’s the first time you look outside before work and trade in your khakis for a pair of shorts, even if it’s not quite casual Friday.

Maybe it’s simply the first time you break a sweat while walking around outside and have those first pinings for sand and surf.

Regardless, as seasons change, so do tastes. We spend less time in front of fires, whether real or simulated, with our GSM blends and Chardonnays, and migrate to the porches, pouring Pinot Noirs and Gewurztraminers. Whatever habits we happily indulge in during the winter months are slowly replaced by equally enjoyable and possibly ill-advised vices inspired by the warmer months.

For me, my wine drinking habits are the first to change. I always go through a period of three to four weeks where I just have no compulsion to put red wine to my lips. It literally takes several bottles of even the most disappointing white wine before I want to see a Carignan or Merlot placed before me. All the meanwhile, I’ll happily toss back the most opaque, dark-as-night black ales and mocha stouts. At some point, probably the first time I attempt to engage in an athletic activity while sipping on said beers, I’ll have a change of heart (and stomach) for some lighter fare.

Enter Wailua Wheat. Brewed and bottled in the heart of Hawai’i Island’s Kailua by the Kona Brewing Company, this beer pulls off a feat that few alcoholic beverages achieve. Let’s face it: if you made a Venn Diagram of delicious beers versus refreshing beers, it would look something like this:

Venn diagram of beer

If you’re looking for a beer that strikes a nice balance between being drinkable and being drinkable when you’re actually thirsty, your options are fairly limited. Do I think Wailua Wheat fits the bill? You already know the answer to that question.

The Results:

Wailua Wheat Ale PourThe appearance of the beer is rather pale and golden, similar to a Belgian-style ale, but with a very strong orange cloudiness that becomes apparent as light refracts through. Head retention is fairly minimal, especially for a wheat beer.

The nose of the beer is a sweet and very ripe citrus, reminiscent of its passion fruit along with a note of sours and a malted, nutty scent consistent with American lagers.

The mouth feel of the beer is extremely dry and crisp, not at all full, and it doesn’t coat the mouth like a more substantial beer. Its carbonation is fairly light but still active. It hits the tongue with a very active, citrusy acidity.

The flavor of the wine is not nearly as fruity as you’d expect. There’s a distinct passion fruit, but it doesn’t overwhelm the flavors of the beer. It conveys the flavor and sweetness without being syrupy. The beer itself has a flavor of almonds and puffed wheat cereal (think Super Golden Crisp). The taste is rather understated, almost powdery, very delicate. It’s on the cusp of being too thin. As soon as it starts warming up, the flavors dissipate, and it starts tasting more like a typical wheat ale. This beer is best by far at around 40 degrees.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is a very friendly beer to approach, especially if you’re used to the typical American lager. It’s got a simple flavor, not at all overwhelming, and the passion fruit flavor comes through just enough to give you a taste of complexity. To me, this beer just seems like it would be at home with beads of condensation running down it. Hot and humid would only make this beer taste better. Drink it cold, and don’t dilly-dally!

The Conclusion:

For 8 bucks a six-pack, you’re not priced out of enjoying a delicious and refreshing summer ale. 6/10

Beer is Hopping on the Organic Bandwagon

As much as I hate to admit it, wine is not the only passion in my life. I know, I know, boo, hiss, all that. Please stop firing Champagne corks at me. Today I’m changing my moniker from Wine(Explorer) to Beer(Explorer)… but I’m not changing my logo. Forget that. That thing is set in stone.

The Back Story:

Our beer sampling today is from Peak Organic, a brewing company in the alcohol mecca known as Portland, Maine. Seeing as how I’m a fiend for IPAs (I’ve probably single-handedly paid an executive bonus or two at Dogfish Head), I decided to give theirs a try.

IPA, in case you’re not a craft beer kind of person, means India Pale Ale. Despite its name, it’s darker than the more wide-spread macro beers (Budweiser, Heineken, Corona, etc), usually some shade of amber, though deeper hues of red or brown are often present. The “pale”  originated from the pale malts used to brew this style of beer back in the 17th century, and the “India” is an homage to the East India Company who first spread it throughout the world. The brewing process usually gives it a more bitter and hoppy taste and a higher-than-average alcohol content. The most expensive and high-quality IPAs approach or even exceed 10% alcohol, making them an incredibly rich experience that also packs a punch.

Peak Organic’s IPA is brewed in a similar tradition, except they don’t use any traditional hops. Instead, they use a combination of Simcoe, Amarillo, and Nugget hops, all of which are specialties used to impart certain flavors to certain beers. Simcoe is a fantastic bittering hop that is often used in IPAs. Amarillo is a very aromatic and flavorful hop with fairly high acidity; use of this newer variety results in robust citrus and floral notes. Nugget hops is a hybridized variety that’s typically used in American lagers. Its flavors tend to be more herbal or spicy, and it also has a high acidity.**

**I didn’t know a lot of this hop knowledge, by the way. I definitely have to credit Brew Dudes for researching the hop varieties. There’s a wealth of beer knowledge over there that I will happily explore outside of this blog post.

As you may have gathered from the company name, Peak Organic specializes in organic beers. I’m just going to let them tell the story:

With roots in home brewing back in the 90s, brewer Jon Cadoux set about combining his love for beer with an ethic for sustainability. Whenever possible, he would go out and find ingredients from local organic farmers for his homebrews.  It was a defining day when Jon discovered that you don’t need to sacrifice flavor for sustainability, but that better ingredients actually made the beer more delicious.

Well done, Jon. Well done.

The Results:

The appearance of the beer was a deep gold with a healthy reddish-brown tint, a little paler than I prefer for an IPA, but that’s mostly because I like my beers dark. For an IPA, it’s at a very good level. It formed a thick, enduring head that lasted for several minutes, becoming denser rather than dissipating as it shrank. That is phenomenal head retention, helping to keep the aromas and flavors in the beer better than most.

The nose of the beer was very appealing. It had a strong bouquet of orange zest, fairly sweet, and an herbal undertone that suggests a crisp but not overpowering bitterness.

The mouth feel of the beer would best be described as luxurious. It was very smooth but tangy, with a nice bite that I could feel in my jaw.

The flavor of the beer was extraordinarily complex. It began with a burst of sweet citrus, both lime and grapefruit, more sour than the orange nose suggested. There was definitely a floral taste, though nothing in particular I could nail down. The flavor suggested to me the overall smell of a budding garden, a combination of similar, jostling scents that result in a recognizable but hard to pin down aroma. After the initial flavors faded, the bitterness came forward, accompanied by a vanilla mocha taste, much softer and tamer than the stark coffee flavors of darker ales. The beer had an incredibly long finish that to me tasted of autumn leaves.

For the Casual Drinker:

This beer is much more complex than the widespread lagers and pilsners of the world. Most people find IPAs off-putting if they’ve never had a darker beer. It’s not as light as American macrobrews, and it’s simultaneously more sour, bitter, and sweet, but it’s not as medicinal or spicy as European-style ales. As long as you’re expecting the bitterness and the change of flavor that occurs after the initial sip, you might find this an interesting beer, especially paired with a spicy or otherwise aggressively flavorful meal.

The Conclusion:

This is the first organic beer I believe I’ve ever had, and I’m very glad I decided on it. I think I’ll have to agree with Jon (the founder, in case you skipped the back story): natural ingredients lead to better brews. At $8.99 for a six-pack, it’s a fantastic craft beer for a very reasonable price. 8/10.

You can learn more about Peak Brewing Company and their other beers at their website, www.peakbrewing.com or on Twitter at @PeakBrewing.

This post written entirely to Bright Eyes. What, like you never experienced teenage angst?

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