Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Craft Beer Review: Fat Monk’s Raspberry Wheat Beer

This week we’re going to take on a wheat beer. It’s been a few years since I’ve had a wheat beer, I think a Hoegaarden from memory, and it was absolutely disgusting! Basically beer + wheat-bix + coriander + grapefruit/banana all blended together. Houston we have a problem! Now, it could have just been that particular beer or it could be that there is something in that particular flavour profile that just doesn’t suit my taste buds, I’m not sure. Either way, terrible stuff and it put me off. But maybe now, a little older and wiser, it might be worth having another go. After all, wheat beer is pretty popular.

Wheat beer is a traditionally European style beer. The German edition is a white beer and is traditionally brewed with a 50/50 wheat and malt mix. The Belgium edition includes extras like coriander and orange peel (Hoegaarden is Belgium). Because they are brewed with wheat and a lot less malt and than brown ales, IPA's or even pilsners, they really end up being a whole different genre of drink. They often smell like banana and spice and usually have don't have much hops and so tend not to be bitter. Sometimes they are mixed with cola, or served as a radler (half wheat beer and half lemonade). So I guess if this raspberry wheat version is no good I can at least try and adding some lemonade.

Fat Monk is a Hawke's Bay brewery. About 15 minutes down the road from where our family was holidaying a couple of weeks ago (Havelock North), and also the reason why I thought I’d try the beer. Better give something local a whirl. I also grabbed a couple of beers from The Hawke's Bay Brewing Company about 10 minutes in the other direction.  Locally there is also Zeelandt Brewery and Giant Brewing Company. Bored with mass produced largers, Fat Monk started out as a brew-pub and a part of Abbey Cellars (a local winery). They started their experimental brewing in 2012 and then serving and selling in 2013, thus they are pretty new to the craft beer scene.

Price: $7.49 500mils

Alcohol content: 4.7%

Colour: A pale watermelon red with the raspberry in the beer giving it the red hue. It looks very similar to a berry cider but is cloudy. There are stings of tiny bubbles but not much fizz.  

Aroma: Smells of mashed bananas and raspberry. It also smells a bit like cough medicine, but not in an overpowering or unpleasant way. 

Palate: Swirls around in your mouth, a bit like a sour cider. No malty flavours and no hoppy flavours. It really is a whole different kind of drink; something entirely “other” than beer. The wheat profile hits first and then sour raspberry comes through afterwards.   

Finish: It’s a pretty dry finish, as overall the beer isn't particularly sweet. Here the wheat profile sticks to the back of your mouth and is probably the most pleasant part of the drink. 

On the Chart: Here the chart doesn’t work. Wheat beer isn’t really regarded as malty nor hoppy and so a chart setting malt against hops is basically pointless. I’ll put it slightly to the left of centre because the sour notes work like a type of bitterness (kind of). In terms of complexity, well, it lacks body but still has a little bit going on, so it doesn't bottom out on the chart. 

Conclusion: Its perhaps not fair to make the first wheat beer reviewed a raspberry infused one, but hey, it is what it is. I asked my wife what she thought; “Well, I don’t like beer, but this tastes quite nice.” I think this pretty clearly points to the reality that this brew is more in the cider family than the beer family. It is beer, but it isn't beer. Ultimately this was, to me, a sour kind of cider and to be honest, not really that enjoyable. I better make sure that next time I review a wheat beer that it is a more traditional variety, like a Hoegaarden. I wouldn't go out of my way to track down another bottle of this, but if you like sour ciders and wheat beer, this would probably be a 10/10 for you. If that’s the case you’ll be all over Fat Monk’s Raspberry Wheat Beer.  

Next week we'll review Tuatara's Indian Pale Ale. I know I've already reviewed two of Tuatara's beers and there are so many other breweries doing cool things in NZ, but their IPA is one of my all time favourites and pretty much the beer I measure other beers against. Ciao. 

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