Friday, September 18, 2009

A Few Words About Gumballhead Wheat

I'm revisiting this old favorite for a couple of reasons. I recently did a beer trade with a Jay in California. I'm not sure if he's ever had the Gumballhead Wheat, and second, this just may be THE "Gateway" beer that I use to convert people to buying craft beer.

Over at, this beer gets a 96/100. That is pretty damn good for a "wheat" beer.

I first had this beer in April of 2007 when I attended Dark Lord Day. At the time, it was a summer seasonal beer brewed by Three Floyds. Now I can get it at my local Jewel grocery store year-round. I remember another guy in line tasting the beer and speaking as though he was reading my mind with the first taste: "Wow, this almost tastes like an IPA, although it is a bit lemony." Later (about halfway through the beer): "Wow, that really mellowed."

Yes, I do believe still that it is a sensational beer, even though the surprise has somehow worn down. This is one of my favorite smelling beers. I could walk around the house all day with this under my nose. It's loaded with Amarillo hops, which give it a really big hop nose, along with the wheat yeast, which gives it a nice bubblegum background aroma.

I have a friend at work who I would get to try hoppy beers just to see him pucker up and watch his nose freak out. One Friday after work, we stopped by a local liquor store in Michigan City, King Richard's (which we refer to as "Little Richard's") to check out their beer selection. He wanted some help.

I told him to get a sixer of the Gumballhead.

I said, "Take this home and make sure it is nice and cold. Then, seriously, pour it in a glass. Look at how great it looks. Then stick your nose in it. You will want to walk around the house all day smelling this (yeah, I know, I'm redundant). When you drink it, it's going to knock you down with the hoppiness. Stick with it, when you get about halfway, it's going to mellow. You're gonna like it."

He called me about 3 hours later and said, "It's just like you said it would be!" About two months later, he was drinking high-hopped ales like Three Floyd's Alpha King and Bell's Two Hearted Ale. Dude really likes Imperial Stouts and Double/Imperial IPAs now.

Gateway, I'm telling you. Gateway beer.

Friday, September 11, 2009

White Orchard is Pretty Thinned Out

Beer #2 that I tried from my man, Jay, over at HEDONIST BEER JIVE, was The Bruery's White Orchard. I've always been a fan of White Ales. In fact, as craptastic as it may sound, I think both Blue Moon and Sam Adam's White Ale really got me interested in the whole craft beer movement.

White Ales are pretty simple. Usually, they are made with some pilsner malt, wheat malt, and a bit of oats. They are hopped with central European hops most of the time(known as Noble hops), and then there are usually some spices thrown in at the end of the boil. This is where the originality comes in. Orange peel or Curacao orange peel is common. I've seen lime and lemon peel used in others as well. Coriander is sometimes added, or other spices. I put an ounce of cloves in my first-ever brewed wit bier and it was overbearing. Drinkable, but really, really clovey.

The Bruery puts lavender in theirs, and they do it right - you should be able to get a hint of the spice, but it shouldn't overtake the aroma or the flavor of the beer. I spilled a drop of this beer on my finger while pouring it and picked up the lavender. It was nice. After that, I couldn't really smell or taste it any more.

This was truly one of the most non-offensive beers I've ever had. I don't necessarily think that is a good thing. At times, I describe Belgian beers as "stinky" or having a "hint of monk basement". While these terms are not necessarily pleasant on a day-to-day conversational basis, this is what I expect from Belgian beers. They need to have character.

This wasn't a bad beer, by any means, but it wasn't really a good beer, either. It was just sort of...there. I could pick up a little hint of the yeast. There were banana flavors there, but it wasn't as ester-y as I would have liked. Overall, it was sort of like drinking a seltzer-water with a bit of a yeasty flavor.

This might be a good jumping-off point for those of you interested in trying out Belgian-style beers, but for me, it wasn't all that exciting enough to put into a 750 ml bottle, when a 12 ounce bottle of this would suffice.

Friday, September 4, 2009

New Holland Night Tripper - Not a Big Deal

I first had a sample of the New Holland Night Tripper on Dark Lord Day, back in April. A friend of a friend cracked a year-old bottle at the tent. I thought it was quite good. After brewing my own Imperial Stout, I saw this at my local Wise Way grocery store for $5.99. I thought it was a pretty good deal. So I stashed it in my fridge in May.

I decided to give this a try, even though it had not aged a year. Nothing says that it had to age a year, I just knew that the sample I tasted was aged that long, and I remembered it being good.

Actually, though, I think it's a pretty average Imperial Stout. Sort of along the same lines as Stone's Imperial Stout. It's not a bad beer, but it just doesn't jump out at you. All the flavors are subdued - you get a little chocolate, a little coffee-ness from the roasted malt, but there's no dark fruit here like I've had in some Imperial Stouts.

For the price, it's not bad. Who knows, that whole Dark Lord Day kind of imparts a euphoria on a person, so it's likely that my mood was different, which can make all the difference when you're trying something new. I just remember the beer being a bit more complex than this.