Wheat wines: what is there to say about them? As the underrated, under-produced little brother of the barley wine, it’s tough to get a grasp on the style. Including New Holland Pilgrim’s Dole, Snuttynose’s Wheat Wine, and the long-but-not-forgotten 2009 version of Founders Nemesis, I can count the number of locally available examples of the style on one hand.
With this in mind, it doesn’t surprise me much that the Quaff Bros decided to cook up an under the radar style. As was noted in an earlier post, they are putting out some really great beers, both in terms of the creativity of the concepts and the quality of the finished product. This offering was brewed at Listermann, home of the delicious Cincinnatus.
What the Wheat?, like all of Quaff Bros offerings, is barrel aged. In keeping with the theme, the barrels used to age originally hosted Bernheim Wheat Whiskey. The difference between a wheat whiskey and a bourbon is simple: rather than 51% of the grain bill consisting of corn, it must be made up of wheat. I haven’t tried Bernheim itself, so I can’t speak to it at the moment. As for What the Wheat?, however, here we go…
What the Wheat? pours a touch hazy not-too-light-not-too-dark amber, with a slightly off-white head that dissipated quickly. It went so quickly that I wasn’t able to get a picture of much more than the aftermath of it. The color is lighter than most barley wines I’ve seen, which makes sense considering the wheat content.
The first thing I get from the nose is caramel sweetness, both from the base beer and the barrel treatment. In regards to this, it’s tough to tell where the characteristics of the base ends effect of the barrel begins. Outside of this, though, you get the typical barrel characteristics of vanilla and oak. The smell of this beer overall is amazingly balanced; the whiskey integrates perfectly, with neither the base or the barrel hogging the stage.
The taste largely mirrors the smell: sweet, light caramel (think of an imperial American wheat), with a touch of vanilla, oak, and whiskey. the effects of the barrel on it is much more restrained that on the smell. I would prefer it be a bit more spirit-forward, but that’s just my personal preference. The body is a tad higher than medium, with soft, moderately low carbonation. There is a bit of heat from the alcohol in it, which isn’t surprising considering that a) it was just released when I tried my bottle and b) it is somewhat a bruiser of a beer, clocking in at over 10% ABV. I have another bottle put away that I’m going to try to revisit in a year or so.
The verdict? It’s tough to say, considering the lack of comparable beers out there, but based out of the enjoyment I got out drinking it, ultimately this is a success. It’s commendable that Quaff Bros continues to experiment, in this case with both an under the radar beer style and spirit style. In many ways, the wheat wine is a lighter bodied, slightly less complex little brother of the barley wine. It is by all means still a sipper, but it is a sipper that is a tad bit more accessible than its brawnier brother. I wish What the Wheat? would have spent more time in the barrel, but that’s a judgement call by the brewer and I know that barrel space is precious. Not only is What the Wheat? a very good example of a hard to find style, but it is a tremendous value. At $7.99 for a 22oz bottle at The Party Source, there’s no reason you shouldn’t go out and grab a bottle to sample.