Category Archives: Wheat Beer

Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat

rating_good67 points

Cherries play a significant role in American history. You’ve heard the fable of President George Washington chopping down the cherry tree at the tender age of six.

In 1850, President Zachary Taylor died after ingesting a large quantity of cherries that may have been tainted with cholera.

samadamscherrywheatIn 1912, the People of Japan presented the United States with 3,020 flowering cherry trees, many of which still line the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.

And in 2015, The Basement Beer Tastings sampled Cherry Wheat, a beer brewed by a company named for one of America’s Founding Fathers.

So our patriotism was running high as we tasted Cherry Wheat, but much like anything a Patriot touches, our hopes were slightly…deflated.

Sorry. That joke was sitting on the one yard line, just waiting for someone to carry it into the end zone.

Sam Adams Cherry Wheat was included in the ‘Guilty Pleasures’ tasting theme, because it was one of the beers that introduced co-founder Jon Graney to the world of beer, lo those many (several) years ago.

Cherry Wheat pours a dark amber honey color, slightly cloudy with lively carbonation, though light. The panel did not note much of a head, with only slight residual foam developing on pour.

This beer lives up to its name on aroma. It had a strong smell of sweet cherries, described by the panel as “cherries jubilee” and “cherry popsicle” by our panelists. The scent was balanced by slight notes of malt.

Panelist generally enjoyed the taste of Cherry Wheat, with most of them commenting that oats and malt dominated the taste, with cherries taking a back seat.

While the smell of the beer is sweet, the taste is not. One of our panelists found that disappointing, but most of the panel were pleasantly surprised at the oat-forward character.

The oaty taste trailed into the aftertaste. By this point in its flavor profile, cherry was only a distant memory. Our panel noted that they would have enjoyed a lingering cherry aftertaste, but the oat flavor was deemed pleasant.

Sam Adams Cherry Wheat is a decent beer, and their decision to offer this patriotic fruited wheat beer is admirable.

But if you’re looking for a historic brew, there are better choices out there. We cannot tell a lie.

(Appearance 7.67, Smell 7.67, Taste 20.33, Aftertaste 12.67, Drinkability 19)

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Harpoon UFO White

rating_verygood76 points

We’ve seen enough science-fiction movies to know that when confronted with a UFO, most people run screaming for their lives, or stand transfixed in fear, awaiting their inevitable — and uncomfortable — probing.

Not the panel at The Basement Beer Tastings. When we see a UFO, we are eager to see what’s inside.

ufowhiteThat’s because when it comes to Harpoon Brewery, UFO stands for “UnFiltered Offering” — a beer that has gone through initial filtering, but not the secondary diatomaceous earth fine-sediment filtering that allows you to see clear through the beverage.

Harpoon offers several beers in its “UFO” portfolio, and its UFO White Belgian-style witbeir was included in our “Fruited Beers and Shandies” on account of its purported orange overtones.

But make no mistake. This isn’t a fruity beer. This is a traditional Belgian white. So would it hold muster in the midst of tasting juicier competitors?

The panel rated appearance fairly high, giving it marks for a pleasing cloudy orange-caramel Belgian look. The lack of any notable head was slightly disappointing, but not a detractor.

Smell was decent but unremarkable. While most the panelists picked up hints of orange peel in the aroma, orange took a back seat to the yeasty smell of pizza dough that, again, is common of Belgian-style offerings.

We would have enjoyed a somewhat more pronounced orange scent, since Harpoon touts it in its advertising. But make no mistake about the scent. While it’s light, it definitely has the hallmark of Belgian witbiers.

Taste followed the same characteristics of the aroma — pronounced bready, yeasty flavors with a distant, faint overtone of orange. You know the orange is there, but it’s not predominant. Whether that’s a plus or a minus is a matter of personal preference.

Mouthfeel is thick and coating, then dries your mouth out as the aftertaste comes forward. The aftertaste is dominated again by bready flavors and a slight metallic note.

This combination makes you want to quench your thirst with yet another sip — an effect deemed “refreshing” to our panelists. As a result, drinkability as rated high.

The bottom line? If you crack into a UFO White thinking you’re getting a juicy orange shandy, you’re probably going to be underwhelmed. But if you’re looking for a solid Belgian white summer wheat beer, you’ll find this offering a very good choice.

And, if you’re confronted with enough of these UFOs, you may even find yourself up for some probing.

(Appearance 7, Smell 6.8, Taste 23.2, Aftertaste 14.8, Drinkability 24.6)

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Westfield River Red, White and Raz

rating_excellent84 points

As of late, our panelist Rick has been on a roll introducing new and conversation starting beers.  So, when he informed the panel that he would be picking up a selection from an unfamiliar local brewery in  Massachusetts, we were all left wondering what he would bring.

Rick stumbled upon Westfield River Brewing Company while he was visiting colleges in the Berkshires with his son (cue Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin).  After his visit, he came back very excited and was planning on featuring their brews at his May Wild Card tasting.

westfieldrazUnfortunately, that plan fell through (not unexpectedly if you know Rick); but for our fruited beers them, he was able to procure a growler of Westfield River’s Red, White, and Raz.

Let’s just say, good things do indeed come to those who wait.

The appearance of the beer was slightly cloudy and, as to be expected, had a reddish tint.  The raspberry smell on the aroma was pleasant but rather faint.  Some panelists detected hints of caramel as well.  Things were looking pretty good for Red, White, and Raz; and, to the benefit of the panel, it only got better upon tasting.

This brew truly shines on taste, aftertaste, and drinkability.  The raspberry flavor was easily identifiable but not overpowering. Panelists were reminded of “fresh, ripe raspberries” and “raspberry seeds.”

There’s no need to worry that Red, White, and Raz will be overly sweet.   The subtlety of the raspberry flavor complemented a delicious beer taste.

The raspberry flavor lingered well on the aftertaste and didn’t sour in the least bit.  Drinkabililty scores were very high with one panelist giving the beer a “perfect” drinkability rating.  Such a superb taste and aftertaste left the panel wanting to continue enjoying Red, White, and Raz beyond the end of their tasting glasses.

Westfield River Brewing Company has truly created a delicious beer.  Interests here at The Basement Beer Tastings have certainly been piqued in tasting more of their offerings.

And who knows, maybe their brews will provide Rick some solace as he watches his boy head off to college…

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you coming home son, I don’t know when,
 But we’ll get together then, Dad
You know we’ll have a good time then.

Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin

(Appearance 8., Smell 7.4, Taste 26.2, Aftertaste 16., Drinkability 26.6)

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Shock Top Honeycrisp Apple Wheat

rating_basement26 points

Congratulations Anheuser-Busch. As of this posting, Shock Top Honeycrisp Apple Wheat has become the basement of The Basement Beer Tastings.

With an average score of 26 points, the only category that received a positive score was the appearance (and even that rated only 6 points out of 10).

shocktopappleSo what makes a beer receive such a low score from the panel?  A beer that’s taste is strikingly similar to a Jolly Rancher candy.

Maybe we came into this tasting a little prejudiced.  No one on the panel could recall a great experience with any of Shock Tops’ offerings.   Hopefully we’ve earned your trust and you believe us when we declare how much our panel disliked this beverage.

Pouring the beer reveals nothing to warn the drinker about what’s in store for them.  It had a cloudy appearance but generally looked like an average beer.

There’s no getting around the cloying aroma, though.  Immediately panelists compared the smell to a sour apple candy — way too sweet for a beer.

Taste didn’t make the experience any better, as the harshness of the syrupy, sour apple flavor was deemed overpowering to the majority of the panel.  Little-to-no beer essence was found in Honeycrisp Apple Wheat.  Aftertaste was deemed to be bland at best.

As far as drinkability, Honeycrisp Apple Wheat was almost unanimously found to be…well…undrinkable.  Only one panelist said that the beer was palatable, but even he admitted that Shock Top should not be marketing this as a beer.  Also, it should be noted that he has been known to drink Jolly Rancher Sour Apple soda.

Oh you didn’t know that even existed? Well obviously you’ve never shopped at K-Mart.

If you have a sweet tooth and enjoy frequent trips to the dentist, then Shock Top Honeycrisp Apple Wheat is probably the beverage for you.  If you’re looking for a beer though, we’d recommend anything that’s rated above this offering on our master list (yes, even Hennepin).

(Appearance 6, Smell 4.4, Taste 6, Aftertaste 6, Drinkability 3.8)

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Tasting Notes – Semi-Blind Wild Card


The second tasting of each month is a “wild card” tasting.  A panelist volunteers to supply all the beer, and has free reign to determine the beers, a theme, or any other idea.

For the March wild card, Jon decided to supply an eclectic mix of beers, connected by an interesting theme: the other panelists had to rate the beers before learning what they were tasting.  Welcome to The Basement Beer Tastings’ first semi-blind tasting.
(Panelists: Jon Graney, Mike Festi, Rick Czapla)

Tasting Notes

rating_verygoodSamuel Adams Harvest Saison . . . 73 points
The panel found this Belgian style pale ale to have good aromas of spice and orange with overtones of caramel. Carbonation was lively with an appealing color than was slightly more amber than a typical saison. While the flavor didn’t “wow” the panelists, they found it solid and tasty, with notes of clove and slight hoppiness. On panelist noted a similarity to Hoegaarden white ale. Aftertaste was dry and hoppy with notes of grapefruit, though a bit metallic. It’s light body and good carbonation makes it very drinkable.
(Appearance 7, Smell 8, Taste 22.67, Aftertaste 14, Drinkability 21.67)

rating_verygoodNight Shift Morph Rotating IPA . . . 72 points
Night Shift Brewing of Everett, Massachusetts offers a unique take on the American IPA. The recipe for its Morph Rotating IPA changes each time Night Shift brews it. The panel rated the Feb. 20, 2015 batch a mere seven days after canning. This fresh beer impressed most the panel with huge hops balanced with citrus overtones. As one panelist noted, “Welcome to Hoptown. Population? This beer.” The aroma begs you to drink it, and it’s light and tight carbonation is attractive as well. The notable hoppy aftertaste was smooth, but a bit grassy. The taste fades a bit the more you drink it, which affected overall drinkability to a degree.
(Appearance 7.67, Smell 9, Taste 21.67, Aftertaste 13.67, Drinkability 20.33)

rating_verygoodWeihenstephaner Hefeweissbier . . . 72 points
Hefeweissbier, or Hefeweizen, is a Bavarian unfiltered white beer, about as far from the Morph IPA as you can get. But, as you see, the panel enjoyed this smooth wheat beer nearly as much. Weihenstephaner traces its roots back to 768 and was licensed in 1040, which allows it to boast its claim of being the oldest brewery in the world. That much practice pays off, because the panel overall found the brew to be enjoyable. Pale in color and in an unremarkable bottle, the beer offered a citrusy, yeasty aroma. The beer was soft and velvety with hints of grapefruit and pear. While it was light and drinkable with a smooth, oaky aftertaste, the light body also caused the taste to fade a bit too quickly.
(Appearance 6.33, Smell 6.67, Taste 21.67, Aftertaste 13.33, Drinkability 23.67)

rating_goodStone Smoked Porter . . . 67 points
Luckily, the panel saved the Stone Brewing Company’s smoky concoction for last in the Wild Card tasting, because this beer had intense smokiness, like a campfire in a bottle. The light scent of smoke and coffee belies the intense flavor this porter dishes out. Pouring a deep reddish-black with a good head from a screen-printed bottle, the brew impressed. But “light smokiness” is an understatement on this beer. The panel noted that the charcoal bite and smoked intensity were prominent, but the panelists agreed they wanted to see a more balanced flavor. Drinkability was impacted as well, because the panel agreed that this is a one-and-done type beer…and one that would probably pair nicely with barbecue.
(Appearance 9.67, Smell 6, Taste 19, Aftertaste 16, Drinkability 16)

rating_goodLong Trail Stand Out . . . 65 points
New this season from Long Trail is an American pale ale they call Stand Out. It has an inviting night sky label and a foamy, soapy head when poured. It also features light cloudiness, a pale orange-brown color, and an a hoppy nose. But while it’s light and drinkable, the taste falls flat fast. The panel noted a burst of citrus flavor on first taste, but it seemed to lose taste quickly, leaving a bland aftertaste. The panelists agreed that it wasn’t a bad beer, it just didn’t live up to its namesake. One panelist noted, “If I was in a bar, I’d be looking for something else for my next round…though I wouldn’t be against having another.”
(Appearance 6, Smell 7.67, Taste 18.67, Aftertaste 11.67, Drinkability 21)

rating_goodBallast Point Sculpin . . . 60 points
Jon chose this West Coast IPA for his Wild Card, because it has been receiving a good deal of hype in the trade news. Winning a gold medal in competition, Sculpin is hopped at five separate stages of brewing. It garnered attention, so the panel gave it a shot in semi-blind tasting. The panel enjoyed its slightly cloudy amber color and nice head. The aroma was faint with light hoppiness and definite orange notes. The orange overtones were pronounced further on first taste, with a slight hop bite. But the panel expected a deeper taste for an IPA. It seemed to get less enjoyable as the panel drank it, which put drinkability at average. One panelist noted that previous experience with the same beer was enjoyable, so while the overall score is average, it might still be worth trying.

(Appearance 8, Smell 5.67, Taste 18, Aftertaste 13, Drinkability 15.67)

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Tasting Notes – Winter Beers


The panel, for its January theme Basement Beer Tasting, tackled six winter seasonals. Caramel and smoke dominate taste among brews released for winter — with one notable exception.
Panelists: Jon Graney, Mike Festi, Rick Czapla, Bob Bowden

Tasting Notes

rating_excellentCaptain Lawrence Frost Monster . . . 83 points
This imperial stout from Elmsford, NY, boasts a ton of malt and a whopping 12% ABV. The panel thought it was a spectacular brew, with a gorgeous appearance and a sweet, smooth, smoky taste. But the consensus was also this was a one-and-done “showcase” beer  — a beer you could use to impress friends; not a beer you could drink all night. The label itself is worth a trip to the package store.
Appearance 9.75, Smell 7.75, Taste 26, Aftertaste 18.25, Drinkability 20.75

Brooklyn Winter Ale . . . 79 points
Another New York offering, this time a Scottish ale. This underrated beer impressed the panel with a light, toasty caramel taste and outstanding drinkability. Its aroma was light, being malty and not hoppy. But the panelists agreed this was a winter beer that could be enjoyed, one after another.
Appearance 8.75, Smell 5, Taste 24, Aftertaste 16, Drinkability 25

Traveler Jolly Shandy . . . 76 points
The Traveler Beer Co. is headquartered in Vermont, but contract brews through a famous company in Boston. This identity crisis extends also to its Jolly Shandy. The panel loved this wheat ale, but agreed that this should be offered as a summer beer — not in the dead of winter. The juicy, fizzy ale is a refreshing blend of orange and pomegranate, and with a low 4.4% ABV, it’s a drinker.
Appearance 7, Smell 6.75, Taste 23.25, Aftertaste 15.75, Drinkability 23

Berkshire Brewing Co. Cabin Fever Ale . . . 73 points
This English pale ale was rich with caramel and smoky taste. But the panel was divided on whether they would want to drink it all night long. Some found the aftertaste bitter, while others judged it as light and rich with caramel. But overall, Cabin Fever was judged to be a smooth and enjoyable winter seasonal.
Appearance 8.5, Smell 5.5, Taste 22.25, Aftertaste 15, Drinkability 21

Anchor Winter Wheat . . . 68 points
Wheat beers are traditionally light, so when the panel poured this black brew into a glass, appearance marks shot through the roof. But the overwhelming sweet taste of malt and wheat took over. The panel noted bread-like toasty, chocolaty and slightly smoky taste. Anchor Brewing released this as a new beer in 2014, and while it certainly wasn’t bad, it needs taming.
Appearance 7.75, Smell 6, Taste 19.25, Aftertaste 15, Drinkability 20.25

Harpoon UFO Gingerland . . . 61 points
The panelists approached this unfiltered wheat beer with intrigue, but quickly found that it was a rare swing-and-a-miss from Harpoon Brewery. While it definitely had strong gingerbread overtones, the panel felt that it needed a sweetener to balance the ginger bite. It certainly wasn’t offensive, but it’s a beer you’ll get sick of before you even finish the bottle. This was another new offering for 2014, so perhaps Harpoon can tame it for next year…or shelf it.
Appearance 6.5, Smell 7.25, Taste 15.75, Aftertaste 13, Drinkability 18

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