Beer Review 0379: Mother Earth Windowpane Series Raspberry Wheat Ale

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Mother Earth Brewing are located in Kinston, North Carolina. Started by Trent Mooring and Stephen Hill, there’s a family connection here — Trent is married to Stephen’s daughter. Stephen had been a home brewer since the mid-1980’s, and gave Trent a taste of his “Red Eye,” a beer made with tomato juice. “That was it,” said Trent. Love at first taste.

The brewery began production in 2008 in a building repurposed into a brewery. Bottling and kegging kicked off just one year later. Today, they’re still small, but employ fourteen people and are distributed in North Carolina, Georgia, and Washington, DC. Mother Earth are environmentally conscience, using solar panels for power, recycled blue jeans for insulation, and their tap handles are made from bamboo.

The Windowpane series are a group of beers that contain fruit from North Carolina farms; the beers are all barrel aged in either Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or brandy barrels. Windowpane Raspberry is the fourth release of the series, and is aged in both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay barrels for three months. The base beer is a Wheat Ale. Raspberries comes in at 8.3% ABV (alcohol by volume). Each Windowpane release is limited to a run of just 20 barrels, which is 620 gallons.

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Pouring showed an average size and fast diminishing head, which quickly disappeared like fizzling soda. The color of the beer was a couple of clicks beyond golden, with a hazy body, free of particles and sediment. Lacing was good, leaving behind spiderweb trails.

On the nose, I got the raspberries but it’s not a full on blast like you might set yourself up for. Instead, you are presented with a lot of tart, slightly acidic wine character, and a decent slab of vanilla and wood from the barrel aging. It almost reminded me more of a Belgian style beer with a doughy, earthy yeast, rather than a Wheat Ale, but there is a definite grain presence, too. As it warmed, the acidity started to give off an alcohol note.

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Tasting, this is like raspberry wine at first; the raspberries are prominent until a wave of tart white wine overtakes the palate, leaving the tongue puckered, punched by the mild acid and bubbly carbonation. Searching for some sweetness, it’s found with ample vanilla and charred oak barrel. The finish sweeps the mouth with a light raspberry and lots of the barrel, notably a deep vanilla and woodsy oak when clicking your tongue to the roof of your mouth. I found this brew to be medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy mouthfeel that was slightly drying but refreshing. The 8.3% ABV does give off a minor alcohol hit.

If you’re expecting the raspberries to be the star here, think again. It’s the barrel, and what it does to a Wheat Ale is not only tasty but actually kind of remarkable. The wine characteristics add a layer of sophistication, while the vanilla and oak are just damn tasty. The raspberries were an afterthought, but perhaps this gentle fruit is actually what rounded the beer out into a unique and enjoyable offering. But I’m not sure it is worth the steep price.

Mother Earth Windowpane Series Raspberry Wheat Ale, 90 points. Price: $15.99 US for one 750 ml corked & caged bottle.

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