Episode 11 of Drew’s Brews Reviews is here! The beer review show you never knew you wanted and no one needs. The IPA train keeps on rolling and here comes Chillwave, a beer released in February, that I drank in April, and I’m finally finishing the review in practically June. Sigh… Anyway, even though this is not a beer readily available at this time, I thought it is one worth talking about. People are probably a little sick of the West Coast IPAs at this point, but there is room to discuss at least one more before we slip into the summer months, which is of course Coors country. Thank you for existing Coors Light Summer Brew…thank you.
Quick Take: Wulver strikes me as a classic version of the Wee Heavy style that has been expertly aged in bourbon barrels. What it does is take on a difficult style and nail a fantastic beer. It actually makes a bolder statement by brewing this in a conventional way and barrel aging it into a straightforward success that demands your attention rather than getting overly playful and trying to distract with gimmicks.
Quick Take: If you, like me, enjoy Old Rasputin, you will absolutely enjoy the bourbon barrel-aged version. There is no question of that, but the cost versus quality is way out of whack. Without needing to justify the expense, I can easily declare this to be worth no where near the cost. If cost is not a factor or you can find this for less than $15 (I did see a forum post where someone paid $13.99), it’s definitely worth a try. While I find the experience to be lacking given the chalky finish and less than luxurious mouth feel, plenty of people will find this to be an enjoyable and very drinkable bourbon stout.
Quick Take: This is an incredibly smooth beer that avoids sweet, boozy heat for a blended experience that can actually satisfy you on a summer day. If you are looking for deep complexity or a holy crap moment, it doesn’t happen. In a way, it’s what this beer avoids that makes it such a confident and expertly brewed beer. You may end up looking at a Wee Heavy a bit differently after seeing what an expert brewer can do with it, just don’t expect the quintessential example of the style.
Smell that? It’s a hop shortage! According to the BBC, the surge of craft beer in the U.S. and abroad is leading to a shortage of hops, specifically aromatic varieties. The high-yield hops used for bittering, alpha rich hops, are not as in vogue (that’s what the kids say these days, right?) as the citrusy, beta heavy ones, which you need more of to reach the appropriate IBU levels. The main take away: hoppy craft beers are hoppy, thus use more hops (surprise!) and smaller brewers are going to be hit hardest for 2014.
For this reason and just because we’ve wanted to do it, my awesome sister-in-law is growing some hops in her backyard. We are starting with Centennial, Chinook, Willamette and a pocket full of rainbows and wide-eyed optimism. Having never tried to grow hops, we hope to have at least a tiny harvest by the end of summer. I don’t know if the yield will even be enough to bitter a batch of beer, but it’s an exciting step towards a beery future. I’m sure this experience will be full of frustration and fraught with more complications then we ever thought possible. Just like homebrewing! Bring it on.