Friday, July 24, 2009

Beer Of The Week (Vol XVI)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the fine folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits in Minnetonka, your one-stop shop for the cause and solution to all of life's problems.

When it comes to the beers of summer my personal preference is for the German wheat style known as hefeweizen. It's not necessarily the beer you want to pound down right after mowing the grass. While they certainly are refreshing in their own right, hefeweizens also have more complex taste and flavor than most summer beers. They're perfect beers for kicking back and savoring the season, whether on the beach, in a hammock, at on outdoor restaurant, or while grilling in your backyard.

For me the gold standard for hefeweizen is Paulaner. The Bavarian brewery produces a classic beer that looks beautiful in the glass and tastes wonderful in the mouth. For some reason, very few American brewers seem to have mastered the style and with the notable exception of Widmer and Two Brother's, I've been generally been unimpressed with the American hefeweizens that I've tried.

So it was with modest expectations that I approached Flying Dog Brewery's In-Heat Wheat Hefeweizen. Flying Dog is based out of Denver, but I noticed that the six-pack I picked up said that the company brewed beer in Denver and "by special agreement" in Frederick, Maryland. Not that there's anything wrong with outsourcing some of your production to a contract brewer, especially if demands dictate it. (See UPDATE at end of post)

The simple brown bottle has a yellow/orange label featuring a crazed-looking dog and Gonzo font. Which is appropriate given the Hunter S. Thompson quote "Good people drink good beer" that also appears on the label.

Beer Style: Hefeweizen

Alcohol by Volume: 4.7%

COLOR (0-2): Nicely clouded yellow gold 2

AROMA (0-2): Banana and clove 2

HEAD (0-2): White and full. Good lacing in the glass 2

TASTE (0-5): Full flavored refreshing wheat with citrus edges. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Deep and lasting. 2

OVERALL (0-6): A great example of hefeweizen. Very close to the German style in all respects. One of the best--possibly the best--American hefewiezen I've had so far. While taste testing over the last week, I often followed up a Flying Dog with a Paulaner and the Dog Hefe did not suffer by comparison. Pretty high praise in my book.

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

UPDATE-- An e-mail clarification from Josh (Creative Manager at Flying Dog):

Just making a clarification about your blog entry about our beer. We do 100% of our brewing in Frederick, Maryland at our Flying Dog Brewery facility. We don't contract brew any of our beer, but that verbiage on the label was something the Government had us put on there as we used to have two breweries.

Thanks for sampling our beer and thanks for blogging about it. We'll take a 16/19 any day!

UPDATE II-- Further clarification from Josh on Flying Dog's operations:

We did used to brew in Denver. We started in Aspen in 1990 as a small brewpub and it just blew up from there. We had two breweries for about 2 years, and the economics of brewing changed in that short time. We ended up having to shut a brewery down, and Denver got the ax. But our facility in Maryland is beautiful and much more efficient than our old warehouse-turned-brewery in Denver. Denver is still a main focus for us, and we have 10 employees here still (me included).

UPDATE III-- I neglected to add that while adding a lemon wedge to a hefeweizen is optional (Flying Dog thinks it the act of a poseur--I'm more open to the notion), properly pouring it is not. You should always drink hefeweizen from a glass and if at all possible one designed for the beer. I personally prefer the design of this Erdinger glass, but there are many acceptable variations. But even more critical than this glass is the pour.

Again, there are some variations on exactly how to pour a hefeweizen. The important thing to remember is to not empty the bottle on the initial pour. Keep about 1/4 of the beer in the bottle and swirl it around vigorously for ten seconds. Then add every last drop of it to the glass and watch the head and color of the beer grow richer. The swirling loosens the settled yeast and gives the beer the complex character and flavor that make hefeweizens so darn good.


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