Redux Review 0017: Dogfish Head Positive Contact Wheat Ale

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I first took a look at Dogfish Head’s Positive Contact back in September 2012; I awarded the beer 94 points, and while I typically wouldn’t recommend aging a beer like this for too long, the format it came in (a six-pack of 750 ml. bottles) meant that I still have a few kicking around. So I thought it would be an interesting experiment to open one up with around a year and a half of age and see what’s happened.

Positive Contact is a collaboration between Dogfish and Dan the Automator of the hip-hop group Deltron 3030. Part of the Dogfish music series of beers that have honored other artists such as Miles Davis, Robert Johnson, Pearl Jam, and The Grateful Dead, this drink is a beer/cider hybrid. Brewed with wood-pressed Fuji apples, wheat, cayenne pepper, and cilantro, the beer is 9% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 26 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). The initial release came with a vinyl record of Deltron songs; since then, Dogfish have brewed this beer again, only making it available in single bottles without any accompanying tunes.

My initial review went as follows:

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Appearance: 14 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 32 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 33 of 35 points

Final Score: 94 points, or outstanding on my rating scale.

While the 9% ABV could stand up to some aging, I’m not sure how the apples, cayenne, and cilantro have held up — only one way to find out, and my bottle opener is ready for the task.

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Pouring kicked up a small, soapy, bright white head that quickly faded away. The beer is yellow-golden in color, with some darker orange highlights. Body seemed hazy if not outright cloudy, but there weren’t any significant particles or sediment floating around. There was a ton of yeast dregs in the bottom of the bottle, but for this review, I let them remain in the bottle. Lacing was quite sparse, only leaving a thin patch here and there.

On the nose, this beer has almost taken on a Brettanomyces yeast-like character, featuring musty and bready yeast up front; that aroma is only enhanced by the, well, bread and straw backing from the malt. This is a fairly strong-smelling wheat beer that has hints of tart apple, orange peel and oranges, and the typical clove and bubblegum. There’s no alcohol present, and the aroma really reminds me of a day at the beach, which isn’t a bad thing, no sir. There’s nothing here that gives away this beer has been aged; no oxidation — perhaps the apple was less tart the first time, but it doesn’t detract.

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Tasting, and we’ve got a hit of tart apple up front, which quickly gives way to wheat and wheat and lots of wheat. Straw, bready flavors, think Imperial Wheat; this continues to the finish, when the subtleties nicely begin to shine; there’s a good kick of clove and bubblegum, and we’ve also got some sneaky cayenne that serves to provide just the right amount (read: just a smidgen) of heat. The tart apple returns at the end, and this is quite a refreshing drink with hidden alcohol and a very nice, creamy mouthfeel. I’d classify Positive Contact as being medium-bodied; be careful, or you’ll find yourself in trouble. Very easy drinking.

What has the 1.5 years of age done? Well, it definitely subtracted the cilantro, which was a big part of this brew when I sampled it fresh. It has also turned the once sweet and cider-like apples into a lightly tart, dry experience. It’s sort of like two different beers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The best part about the brew is the subtle use of cayenne. I’d say I preferred it fresh, but it’s nothing to sneeze at should you still have a 2012 bottle. But, nudge, nudge…might want to sip on this one soon.

In redux:

Appearance: 12 of 15 points
Aroma: 13 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 32 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 31 of 35 points

Dogfish Head Positive Contact Wheat Ale, 88 points. Price: $9.99 US for one 750 ml. bottle.

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