Beer Review 0464: SweetWater Waterkeeper Hefeweizen

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SweetWater Brewing Company have always had a close connection with water. Founders Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney named the company after SweetWater Creek, which is located near the Atlanta, Georgia brewery.

Of course, the fact isn’t lost that beer is mostly made from water. And in that spirit, SweetWater brews Waterkeeper Hefeweizen as part of their “Save Our Water” campaign, which benefits the Waterkeeper Alliance, an advocacy group located across the United States and Canada that preserves and protects water from polluters. Proceeds from sales of the beer are donated to the Alliance in member cities where it is sold.

Says Mr. Bensch, “What better way to raise awareness and get the community involved in protecting their local waterways than to take our mission to the next level and dedicate a seasonal brew to the cause.”

Waterkeeper is brewed with wheat and two-row barley malt; the beer contains Sterling and Hallertau hops, and is fermented with a Bavarian Hefeweizen yeast strain. The beer tops out at 5.7% ABV (alcohol by volume), and is available in the summer. SweetWater have raised over $550,000 for the Waterkeeper Alliance, and this year are making the Hefeweizen available in six-packs.

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Pouring produced a large collar of rocky, frothy head that had lasting power. Color of the beer was a nice golden-orange; the body was cloudy and it made the beer opaque when held to light. Be forewarned that there is a lot of yeast at the bottom of Waterkeeper, and you’ll want to swirl the last couple of ounces to make sure you get all that goodness in your drink. Although clouded, there aren’t any particles or sediment floating about, and the lacing is fair, leaving a few crusty pods of foam.

On the nose, this is a classic Hefeweizen, with prominent notes of clove and overripe banana leading the charge. There’s a bit of spice from the clove, which lends some crispness to the nose — the backing body has lots of straw and grain, somewhat sweet in nature. And finally, there’s a nice closing whiff of herbal hops. This is a pleasant aroma and does indeed remind you of summer.

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Tasting, we’ve got fruity banana mixing with spicy clove, with a backing beat of wheat that has a lot of body. The above average carbonation makes this a very crisp brew, and the flavors carry to the finish, which has some twangy, earthen yeast, a peppery spice, and a blanket herbal hop note. Waterkeeper is light-bodied, with a medium, creamy and foamy mouthfeel.

I find this beer to be pretty average to slightly above average as far as the Hefeweizen style goes, but this beer really shines in two aspects: it’s much more interesting than your typical nondescript summer ale, and it’s made to benefit a worthy cause. We should all be concerned about the most precious resource going into our beer — water. And not only does this have more flavor than your typical hot weather offering, it’s cheap and highly drinkable. I love it and plan to keep some around while it’s in season.

SweetWater Waterkeeper Hefeweizen, 92 points. Price: $8.99 US for a six-pack.

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