Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sand Creek Brewing Co. - Lilja's Wisconsin Heifer Weizen

Time to honor one of the foundations of craft beer, drinking from a small brewery of which I have never heard.  Now the label of this beer has a lot of jokes/puns on it (Heifer Weizen, "Brewed Behind The Cheddar Curtain," a cow saying "Got beer?", a tiny caption reading "ylnevaeh spoh"), but it is all rather distracting.  Besides the fact that Cheddar is a English cheese in origin (yes, I am aware of Wisconsin's dairy prowess) and that "ylnevaeh spoh" is simply "heavenly hops" spelled backwards (not exactly an inside joke), I had a hard time finding the name of the actual brewer!

At first I thought "Lilja's" would be correct, then I found something that listed "," and THEN I had to read the part of the label way off to the side that read, "Brewed by Sand Creek Brewing Co."  I like a joke on the label (and clever marketing) as much as the next guy, but how are you supposed to promote your brewery when I can barely find the name on the bottle?

Anyway, rant aside, I love a good beer.  Especially hefes and especially good beer from Wisconsin.  This beer has the excellent potential to be both.  Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 6/12
Not what one comes to expect from a hefe.  In fact, the "banana-y" smell is almost nonexistent.  What the aroma does provide is more sour than sweet.  This leads one to believe a high citrus base, but without the sugary goodness that normally accompanies it.  The sour mixes with a grassy hop smell with the wheat showing up from time to time.  It is dominated by sour and grass.  An odd combination which is not to style and makes me a bit wary.

Appearance 2/3
My initial "sniffing pour" (2-3 oz) poured  crystal clear.  This had me very concerned until I poured the rest of the bottle and it clouded up accordingly.  In fact, there was a lot of tasty sediment at the bottom and I made sure to get every last drop.  It pours a cloudy earth-tone yellow with a sound amount of cream white head to top it.  No lacing, but the head stuck around long enough to not let me gripe about it.

Picture is my own.

Flavor 12/20
The first flavor to arrive is that of spice.  Unfortunately, it is not coriander and clove (though those are present), it is a more pepper and clove mix.  This, when combined with the bitter of the hops, give the main palate of this beer a very unusual flavor for the style.  The sweetness is almost completely overpowered and is only shines through in the finish and aftertaste.  When it does, it tastes like a hefe should: sweet, banana, wheat deliciousness.  Until you get to that point, you are in for a bit of a surprise.  The only sweetness I detected in the primary flavor was that of lemon and even that may have been based in coriander and the sweetness of the wheat itself.  Not to style.

Mouthfeel 3/5
Body was adequate and the carbonation was a bit high for the style.  Not exactly the creamy treat one usually hopes for in a hefe, but it also had a hint of warmth.  I am seldom disappointed by warmth when I find it, even if it is only a bit.

Overall Impression 5/10
This particular brew is not appropriate to style in several categories.  The smell is not sweetly inviting and intoxicating, the flavor is spicy, barely sweet, and almost bitter, and the mouthfeel eliminates the creaminess which so often compliments the fruity, estery goodness that is a good hefe.

Total  29/50 (Good)
I appreciate a good variation on a style as much as the next man, but I am not even sure what to call this particular style.  It has all the spiciness of a winter seasonal (though different spices) and the (albeit muted) fruity taste and cloudiness of a hefe.  It is definitely an odd combination and not entirely pleasing.  We drink hefes because they are also everything we want in a life-mate: sweet, smells nice, and goes down easy.  I feel that this brewer tried to make a more balanced version of a hefe (of which I would approve), but overspiced it and got a little to proud of their "heavenly hops."  I sure their hops may just be heavenly, but that does not mean they get to maintain their lofty position in this particular style.

I'll definitely pass on this offering if I found it again, but I'm more than willing to try more brews from a small brewer who is trying to make something different than the norm.  Keep trying, Sand Creek!

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