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BeerRevue: Smuttynose Wheat Wine

Smuttynose Brewing Company has always been one of my favorite breweries, since our first visit to Portsmouth, New Hampshire 7 or 8 years ago.  What a beautiful little New England port town – lots of shopping and restaurants.   But I want to talk about Smuttynose’s  2010 Wheat Wine Ale.

As a long time Smuttynose fan, I’m ashamed to say that until this year I’d never heard of this 2005 Great American Beer Festival gold medal winner (GABF); but then that’s how Smuttynose seems to fly in this industry – under the radar, doing their New England thing, and making consistently great beer.

Having already tried a number of their specialty beers, including Gravitation, MaiBock, S’muttonator – all instant favorites – this one had me at the name.  Wheat Wine – could be a wheat beer, could be a barleywine, could be malt liquor. Not a clue, but it sounded different, and I’m a sucker for originality.

Wheat Wine Ale is actually a barleywine and wheat ale hybrid.  A style that is, in fact, recognized by the American Beer Association.  The color is a beautiful dark pink amber, and the aroma is deliciously rich. As for taste, this beer captures the full flavor of a barleywine, but the wheat ale seems to cut the thick sweetness of a traditional barleywine.  Considering the Wheat Wine Ale’s alcohol falls around 11-12% ABVs, I found it surprisingly smoother, maybe a little lighter, with lots of caramel and fruitiness.

I personally didn’t notice any stand out qualities from the wheat ale, except its mellowing, and somewhat drying impact on the heavy sweetness of the barleywine, and it brings a bright crispness to the overall quality of the beer; plus it has a clean filtered look and finish of a fine imperial ale.

If you’re a craft beer adventurer, then there’s really nothing to think about; but if you do need further convincing, then here are three very valid reasons to try this beer:  1) It’s a unique hard-to-find style, 2) it’s a GBAF gold medal winner, and 3) it’s brewed by Smuttynose – so seriously, what are you waiting for?

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Top 5 Valentine’s Day Brew Picks

Over a decade ago, the idea of pairing beer with chocolate was unheard of.  Today, the choices are endless – imperial stouts,  dessert IPAs, belgian quads bursting with candy sugars.  So this Valentine’s day, forget the wine and pair your Valentine’s sweets with a specially selected Valentine’s beer.  With so many to choose from, perhaps a few suggestions are in order.  Here are my top 5 Valentine’s Day brew picks.

5. 120 IPA by Dogfish Head

This is a rich, thick, sweet, decadent beer that pushes the ABV envelope.  Enjoy it like a fine cognac, sip slowly – it’s a powerful fruity, malty brew balanced with a generous hoppy bite.  Pull out the brandy snifters for this one, it’s dessert for hopheads.

4. Curieux by Allagash

Besides looking like an expensive bottle of liqueur, Curieux lives up to its opulent appearance.  This is Allagash’s belgian tripel aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels.  This beer is clean, sweet,  fruity, full of character and laced with bourbon and vanilla.  Not your ordinary tripel, Curieux is special and deserves to be enjoyed on upscale occasions.

3. Chokolat by Southern Tier

Just buy a bottle of Southern Tier’s Chokolat and a box of strawberries (maybe some whipped cream) and you are set.  This beer is thick, smooth, creamy, sweet, and packed with unbelievable high quality belgian chocolate flavor.  Need I say more?

2. Gravitation by Smuttynose

My first experience with this beer was at SAVOR in DC.  It was paired with dark chocolate cups filled with a tangy sweet mango cream.  It had to be the most amazing beer/food pairing I’ve ever had, and for that, Gravitation has earned a permanent spot on my top 5 list.  Gravitation is a belgian quad, sweet with belgian candy sugars and dried fruit flavors, but in true Smuttynose style, its a strong beer that isn’t overwhelming.  Just unique and complex and absolutely outstanding when served with fruit and chocolate.  It’s also a seasonal that doesn’t hang around long once released.  So if you find it, grab a few bottles to keep around for special occasions like Valentine’s day.

1. Riserva by Weyerbacher

I realize sour ales aren’t everyone’s favorite, but I LOVE sour beers, so for me this is number one.  Weyerbacher’s Riserva is a rich, sweet, malty sour ale brimming with raspberry aroma and flavor.  Regardless of the wild yeast, I don’t consider this a funky beer – there’s no horse blanket here.  The sourness is well balanced with the malty sweetness and the fruit.  It’s just a delicious unique beer that’s worth exploring with your significant beer loving partner.

Any of these east coast beers are sure to win some hearts, but if all else fails, then go for the 90 proof raspberry whipped cream, available in the refrigerator section at your local liquor store!

Happy Valentines Day and Cheers Beers!

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