Beer Review 0151: 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon

Yeah, I squished my nose up at the thought of watermelon in beer like I suspect the greater majority of you who might read this just did. Watermelon is definitely not one of my favorite fruits in flavor or texture, and the idea of it in a beer seems a little farfetched. But San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery are doing it, and they’re doing it with gusto, using fresh watermelon in their appropriately named summer seasonal beer Hell or High Watermelon, a wheat ale that uses the fruit in a traditional secondary fermentation.

21st Amendment began operations in the year 2000 and are located just two blocks from where the San Francisco Giants play baseball. Both principal founders — Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan — took a brewing science course at UC Davis, trading their successful careers to follow the passion of brewing beer.

And as you might suspect, 21st Amendment is named after the actual 21st Amendment of the United States, which repealed Prohibition.

I recently reviewed their Monk’s Blood, which scored 91 points. I was amazed how much flavor came from the can; all of 21st Amendment’s offerings are canned.

Hell or High Watermelon is available April-September, and is meant to be a refreshing summer drink, coming in at just 4.9% ABV (alcohol by volume). There’s only one hop used (Magnum) and the malt bill contains Two-Row Pale and White Wheat.

The pour produced a beer with a fairly small head, soapy in texture, and quickly disappearing. The liquid itself was a bright golden yellow, very cloudy (it is unfiltered) and with a light suspension of particles and sediment. Lacing was completely absent.

On the nose, there was a nice big wheat aroma, coupled with a yeast funk — earthy and doughy. There’s hints of fruit, which is obviously from the watermelon and not the hops, and some general sweetness. It’s nice, but there’s just not much going on here, and the story is fairly basic…

Taste-wise, the palate is greeted with plenty of wheat with a melon twist. But the melon here sort of borders a fine line between watermelon and cantaloupe, which is fine if you like cantaloupe. The mouthfeel on this one totally suits the season it’s meant for; crisp and incredibly refreshing, light and thin. This rounds itself out with a touch of bitterness before more of the melon comes through, ending things on a pleasant sweet note and then totally fading away.

Is this beer nice for summer? Yes. Is this beer a good change of pace? Totally. But does it rock your world? No, it doesn’t. But I think any adventuresome beer lover ought to try it, for the simple fact it uses a fruit the majority would scratch their heads at when it comes to liquid bread.

21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon, 80 points. Price: $9.99 US for a six pack.

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