Beer Review 0168: Smuttynose Summer Weizen Ale

Most every brewery has a summer offering, and this one comes courtesy of Smuttynose Brewing Company, located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Named after an island, Smuttynose is the third largest of the nine islands that make up the Isles of Shoals, a rocky archipelago that is about seven miles off the coast of both New Hampshire and Maine.

The brewery itself was founded in 1994 — today, they employ 39 full-time workers, and have been consistently rated very good to excellent by this website.

Summer Weizen Ale is a Wheat Ale brewed with North American 2-Row and Wheat Malt. It uses Sterling hops and whole chamomile flowers are also used in the process.

Pouring gave way to a small head, soapy and foamy in texture, and it lasted atop a classically golden yellow beer. Carbonation bubbles zoomed to the top, present in a slightly cloudy liquid that was free of particles and sediment. There was some good lacing on this beer, leaving thin, wispy cloud traces down my glass.

Aromatics on this wheat beer were a thing of delight. This one is lightly hopped, with a floral hop aroma coupled with some general light fruits that never get too specific. The malt bill is especially grainy and straw-like, with perhaps a hint of cereal grain in there, too. Then there’s a light yeast presence, like a Belgian yeast, but toned down without any clove or banana. It’s just earthy and bread-like, and there is even a very faint suggestion of some orange peel. I was very impressed by this aroma; it was light, gentle, but still seemed full strength. Bravo!

Cheers — and right on the first taste, I got more malt than I expected; there’s big grain notes up front, coupled with a dark (verging on burnt) caramel. There’s virtually no hop presence save for just a touch of fruitiness, but again, there’s no specific flavors to be identified. The mouthfeel was quite nice; creamy and foamy, not thin and slick like I expected. The finish continues that light general fruity note and hits you again with more grain, straw, and a fairly bitter tangy twang. This is not your typical wheat beer.

So is that a good thing? Well, I thought this was a decent beer, and it definitely did surprise me; on some fronts it surprised me in good ways, others, not so good. My overall take here was that this beer is missing some spice or a big dose of fruit. I’m thinking orange would work nicely in this beer, perhaps add a bit of sweetness and some complexity, for sure. And maybe kick up the Belgian yeast?

Oh, and those chamomile flowers? You can’t taste them. At all. Remember my review of Dogfish Head’s Ta Henket (71 points)? That beer is also brewed with chamomile, and it tasted very much like a Celestial Seasoning’s tea packet.

Summer Weizen Ale is refreshing, but unfortunately I wouldn’t want more than one at a time. Which, if you’re drinking summer beer…isn’t the goal drinkability AND good flavor?

Smuttynose Summer Weizen Ale, 86 points. Price: $1.99 for one twelve ounce bottle.

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