Beer Review 0430: Mother Earth Windowpane Series Blackberries 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 Blackberries is the first release of the series, and is aged in both Pinot Noir barrels for three months. The base beer is a Double Wheat Ale. Blackberries comes in at 7% ABV (alcohol by volume). Each Windowpane release is limited to a run of just 20 barrels, which is 620 gallons. Mother Earth started the Windowpane beers in 2012; they are producing them again in 2013. (Other Windowpane Series beers: Raspberries, 90 points; Fig & Raisin, 91 points.)

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After removing the stubborn cork, this beer produced a small, fizzy head that faded away quickly like soda. The color was orange with lighter golden highlights; the body was cloudy, and became even more clouded when the yeast dregs were poured in. Although this had a significant yeast cake at the bottom of the bottle, it never made any visible particles or sediment. Lacing did not happen.

On the nose, we’ve got a lot of berries, but I wouldn’t specifically call them blackberries. It’s just a fresh berry scent, and its mixed with a very prominent wine character. And although this beer is aged in Pinot Noir barrels, it’s more of a tart white wine than a more fuller bodied red. The aroma is quite complex with typical notes of clove, bubblegum, and a very background banana, and that all mixes with doughy yeast and a touch of alcohol. The barrel contributes just a peep of oak, and there are some fleshy grapes and hits of wheat.

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The berries show themselves first on the flavor; initially, they are quite tart and mix with grain. Then they turn juicy and ripe, bringing out the wine character, which is — again — more of a white wine than Pinot Noir. It’s dry grape and berry mixed with both tart and sweet berries. Lingering in the background are your traditional notes of clove and bubblegum, and a very small dash of vanilla and oak. This finishes pretty clean despite the complexity of flavors, leaving behind a dry tartness with just an edge of sweetness and a blend of berries and grapes. This version of the Windowpane series is medium-bodied, with a light, foamy mouthfeel.

Believe it or not, I know it sounds like a complex palate, given all the flavors I have described — but, compared to the other beers in this series, I found Blackberries to be a little bland. It’s like the beer had all of these flavors it wanted to show, but they just never fully burst out of the package. I was expecting more, considering this is an “imperial wheat” AND is aged in wine barrels. I’m disappointed, especially for the price tag this bottle commands.

Mother Earth Windowpane Series Blackberries Wheat Ale, 86 points. Price: $15.99 US for one 750 ml corked & caged bottle.

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