I’m back! Happy New Year! Wait, is that right? Have I actually not reviewed a beer this year? Well, certainly I have drunk a ton of them, and that may be a part of why I am somewhat hazy on the question of my recent review history. I am sure you have all been very entertained by the NFL Playoffs, The Golden Globes, and ABC’s Working It.
I, too, have been busy. On January 15th, my wife and I (yes, I’m married– sorry, sir) welcomed our first child, Gwynn Abbott Milstead. While parenthood is wonderful, as they said it is, and the sleep deprivation terrible as they say it is, I must say I am so happy to report that my drinking has not been curbed nearly as much as I feared. And, so, as is my fortune, I continue to taste and test the best of the world of beer.
On that front, I am happy to announce another new arrival. This one is perhaps more anticipated than mine, at least amongst non-family circles. ‘Tis the birth of Golden Road Brewing‘s Hefeweizen cans.
If you are not familiar with Golden Road, than perhaps being hit over the head with them has rendered you temporarily stricken with amnesia, as they are everywhere. I say this not as a criticism, as full disclosure, I am both friends and colleagues of the folks at Golden Road. No, I say this because it is true. Golden Road has made a remarkable splash as what they say is the largest debut in craft history. Throughout Los Angeles, you can see their handles popping up in places tucked away, crafty, popular, and/or hip. Translation: everywhere.
Great, so they are popular. We all know popularity does not equal quality. See the 9 years of According to Jim as proof. Is this a case of Emperor’s new clothes, or does Golden Road got the goods. Gotta say, they have the goods.
Put it in a can
The newest good they have is their canned offerings. Hitting the market not even two weeks ago yet, GRB has become the first Southern California brewer to put craft beer in cans. Their Point the Way IPA and Golden Road Hefeweizen have both been thrust onto the market. Sold in 6 pack 16oz. cans, this is a pretty rare package to find. Given my tremendous importance in the beer game, not to mention my close possible relationship with the company, I was able to be one of the first to taste these. Translation: I stole one from the brewery when they weren’t looking.
I am quite glad I did. Cans are an amazing package, and it is so important to continue to change people’s perception of what canned beer is. I don’t want to bang the drum too much, but cans keep beer fresher longer, are easier to cool down, and are fun to smash against your head like Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds. And, while they say you cannot judge a book by its cover, I do think it would be somewhat short sighted to think that the vessel a beer is served in is immaterial. So, kudos on the cans.
Ah, but as I said to every girl I ever approached in middle school, who seemed to recoil at my mere occupying of space on their same plane, it is what’s inside that counts. Certainly you’ll not be disappointed here.
Pouring into my Golden Road Hefeweizen glass (also stolen!), a rollicking, turbulent stream of hazy orange deliciousness streams down the center. The light bouncing off the beer, it almost seems to glow. Originally called weiss beers, meaning “white” in German, wheat beers exemplify their name as their cloudy visage, dotted with suspended yeast, reflects flints of illumination, giving off the appearance of a whitish hue. Where ‘clear’, golden’, and ‘light’ are adjectives dropped incessantly as demarcation of where the beer of the people must remain, GRB’s Hef defies what can now be seen as a session beer.
At 4.6%, one cannot deny this beer is light drinking. But, where one might assume to be light, a beer must be simple; there is evidence here that begs to differ. Yes, Hefeweizen is palatable and approachable, with thirst quenching appeal and familiar fruit flavors, layered and complex, yet delicate.
First whiff of this beer brings to mind fruit salad. Not the kind with the silly marshmallows in it, and the random half maraschino cherry, but the real thing- melons, citrus, apples, pears and bananas – with banana and citrus taking center stage. Much as the yeast does so much to visually entice, so too does its intoxicating esters and phenols serve here to tempt you with aromas.
Paid off in the flavor, one is greeted with the banana and the citrus. Not as much do I catch in the way of the spicy clove one might get from more traditional Bavarian Hefs, I don’t miss it here. For, while the yeast and the recipe are almost completely of the Bavarian order, this is firmly a California take on it.
Using local dried citrus, orange and lemon, Golden Road has taken tradition and matched it with the terroir of California’s groves. The citrus element adds much to the beer. Low in bitterness, the typical hef has very little bite, the contrast is largely absent. Perhaps that is why some add a lemon to their hef at their local watering hole. That, and because they like to make me cry. Here, the dried fruit adds that element, but fully enmeshed and layered through the beer. Much like eating a slice of the fruit, you are given each layer here, and each adds their own accent.
The zest from the peel gives way to the bitter, earthy flavor of the pith, and saves room for the slightly sweet but equally acidic and bitter flesh of the dried fruit. All this, along with a full mouthfeel, which never feels chewy or heavy. In addition, I detect something else in the background. This is where my supposed “good” palate betrays me.
I ask friends what the flavor is in the background, and I am greeted with a repeated chiding that I should, “…figure it out, Cicerone.” Sadly, I am not sure I have it nailed. Is it vanilla? Is it a creamy suggestion given by the silkiness of the wheat? Is it the tell tale sign of a tumor I have developed? Why can’t it be all of them?
I drank this the first time (my practice run) with a huge bowlful of pistachios (fatherhood has made me gluttonous). Seemingly an odd combination, though beer and nuts have long gone together, I found the confluence magical. I was reminded of eating a peanut butter banana sandwich. I highly recommend.
I also highly recommend this beer.
Well, I see my daughter is making the sour lemon face, which means it’s time for daddy to stop with the “drinking the beer” and start “warming the bottle.” Until next time, drink well, eat well, and get some sleep while you can …