21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon

1-DSC_0902I’ve had a bad run of fruit beers lately.   You’re probably thinking “well duh, you could have just looked them up and seen that they all got reviewed poorly.”  But the thing is, I don’t really care about that.  There have been plenty of beers I have enjoyed that get reviewed poorly, and on the other side there are 100pt beers that I thought were mediocre at best.  It’s not always about finding something world-renowned, that everyone loves.  Sometimes it is about trial and error, and new experiences, and finding something that makes you happy, even if no one else agrees.

I don’t know where this beer stands in the court of public opinion.  If I had to guess, I’d imagine it got reviewed poorly, as most all fruit beers do.  Perhaps the average reviewer is not as open minded as I am.

I’m hoping for the best with this one, let’s get started.

Style: Fruit Beer

Produced by: 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco, CA, USA

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From 21st Amendment:

A classic American wheat beer using fresh watermelon. Straw-colored and refreshing with a kiss of watermelon aroma and flavor.

ABV: 4.9%

Appearance – 3

An inch of pure white foam- frothy like you would see in a stream- builds as you pour.  Bubble size is quite large (extra large by my calibrated eyeball).  Just as quickly as it builds, it disappears, leaving the thinnest of layers, and a bunch of popping bubbles on the surface.  The quantity of carbonation is huge- more so than anything I can recall as of late.  Bubbles stuck to the sides, to the bottom, and flying to the surface.

Other than the intense carbonation, there’s not much else visually here.  In fact, this could be easily mistaken for a lite beer unless someone was paying very close attention.  Color is basically pilsner yellow, and totally clear.  I must admit…even though I didn’t expect it…I was a bit disappointed when it didn’t pour a reddish or pinkish hue, suggestive of the watermelon it was brewed with…

Although I don’t normally put too much time into discussing the packaging, there are two things that are notable.  As with all (or perhaps many) 21st Amendment brews, this comes in a can, which I love.  Can’s are smaller, lighter, aren’t breakable.  What’s not to love?  Second, the can’s artwork is worth a look.  It depicts the lady of liberty laying down her torch, crown, and big stone tablet thingy, relaxing on the Golden Gate Bridge, dipping her feet in the water, and picking car-size watermelons up off of a barge.  I like it, and I will probably bump up the appearance a bit because of it, because…I can.

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Aroma – 3

If the visual gives you no clues as to the true nature of this brew, the aroma instantly will.  I wouldn’t say that watermelon is the first thing that comes to mind- more like a fruity tartness, mixed with the clean graininess of a lighter beer.  It’s almost more citrus(y) than watermelon(y), owing to the hops I would guess.

I try to imagine: if I didn’t know this was made with watermelon, would I be able to identify it in the aroma?  I close my eyes.  Sweet fruit.  Lemon.  Cotton candy.  Jolly Rancher.  I think the answer is no- from as objective as I can get aside from a blind taste test, I’d say that this is way more sweet and generally fruity than it is watermelon.  It’s not entirely unexpected…watermelon is a pretty mild fruit.  Let’s face it, watermelon itself doesn’t smell like much.  It does have an intense (and sweet) flavor though…lets hope this follows suit.

1-DSC_0904Taste – 7

The first impression is a good one.  Instantly the melon flavor is there.  I breathe a sigh of relief…I was hoping not to run across another bad fruit beer after several disappointments.  The flavor is as follows: primarily melon, a touch of grain, a bit of tart, and a bit of bitter.  The finish is just a tad spicy and sweet.  If I had to peg the exact melon flavor, I’d say it is just as close to honeydew as it is to watermelon…I guess it just has that sort of “green”  less sweet feeling, more-so than the straight sweetness of watermelon.

I would not describe this as hoppy.  They are surely there, and serve to balance out the sweetness with a perfect amount of bitter.  In the background, but not strong enough to be identified on their own.  Alcohol flavor is nearly non-existant at 4.9%…this is no vodka filled watermelon here…

The flavor is not wheat(y) to me.  I don’t think I would have identified it as a wheat beer if not for it being on the can.

Palate – 4

Light in both color, texture, and alcohol, heavy on carb.  It’s refreshing.  It works.  Nothing negative to say here.

Overall

I had not done any research on this prior to buying or reviewing.  I still have no clue if this is generally reviewed well or not.  For my part, I am a fan.  This is what fruit beer should be- unique, uncomplicated, and fun…and it should be in-line with the natural flavor balance of the subject fruit, which this mostly does.

I don’t often finish my reviewing subjects before the review, but with this it was no contest.  I think I was caught off guard by how well balanced and easy to drink this was.  I’m very glad I found a unique fruit beer that I enjoyed, as negative reviews are not as much fun for anyone as positive ones are.

Yes, it’s a novelty beer, and no, it’s not going to be your new favorite, or get rated all that highly by the masses, but I think it’s definitely worth picking up a can (or a 4 pack) if you can find it.  It bet it will have you smiling,  images of a warm summer day dancing in your head before you know it.

PS

After posting a picture of this review in progress on my Instagram, I got a like from 21stAmendment themselves.  Taking a look at their Instagram, and wouldn’t you know it…lots of pictures of Hell or High Watermelon in the wild.  The coolest part…they serve it in the SF Giants ballpark.  WITH A SLICE OF WATERMELON.  Tell me, how does watching a ballgame eating and drinking watermelon sound to you?  Pretty darn good in my opinion.

Or, you know, you could just stick with your lite beer…that’s fun right?

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Score (out of 5): 3.4

Terrapin Maggie’s Peach Farmhouse Ale

1-DSC_0875Let’s get this out of the way- fruit beers can be very hit or miss.  They are not a style known for having many long running champions, and wouldn’t make the top 5 or 10 lists of many beer enthusiasts.  And yet, experimentation of new flavors in beer can be fun both from the brewer and the consumer’s standpoint.  I for one enjoy trying new beers, and new flavor combinations, and will try just about anything once regardless of other people’s opinions of the particular brew.

With respect to today’s subject- I know nothing about it.  I may have had one or two beers made by Terrapin before, but I can’t recall exactly what they were.  I can also say that I don’t think I’ve ever had a peach flavored beer before…except maybe many years ago at Pub Dog in Baltimore?  Maybe.  I did recently have an apricot beer during a family trip- Ithaca Brewing Companies Apricot Wheat.  I see that it doesn’t get reviewed very highly, but I thought it was excellent (full disclosure, I did have it after climbing the 830 some steps in Watkin’s Glen, carrying a 3yr old for much of the way, so pretty much anything cold and liquid-y would have likely hit the spot…).  I am hopeful that the flavor of today’s review will live up to that one in some fashion.

Style: Fruit Beer

Produced by: Terrapin Beer Company, Athens, GA, USA

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From Terrapin:

Maggie’s Peach Farmhouse Ale delivers a wholesome host of peach flavor and a refreshing spiciness that will get your juices flowing. Brewed with Georgia grown peaches and a lot of love, this Old World style of beer will take you back to a simpler time. “Just like Granny used to brew”

ABV: 5.3%

Appearance – 2

Glassware: Speiglau Tulip

There is a discrepancy on how this beer should be categorized- one site lists it as a Fruit Beer, while the other lists it as a Saison/Farmhouse Ale.  Based on first impressions, this looks like a fruit beer to me.  It is light in color- pale golden yellow.  Unlike saisons I have had, this is totally clear.  Also unlike saisons, the carbonation seems quite low…the head was hard to coax out during the pour, and even so the .5 inch of it was only there for a moment before it looked like this:1-DSC_0874

Bubble size looks small, and I see a moderate amount of these small bubbles rising slowly to the surface- similar to what you might see in a light beer. The bubbles stack up on the edge of the surface, maintaining a thin ring, but nothing more.  This has every indication of a light fruit beer, and looks nothing like a Saison or Farmhouse Ale.  Perhaps the whole “Farmhouse” name was just a naming thing, as in the peaches came from a farm…  We’ll know in the taste.  Visually, this is doing nothing for me, let’s hope this review moves in the right direction as we continue.

Aroma – 4

From 6″ away I can already smell a sweet, perfumey, candy smell.  It once again smells of roses, similar to the last fruit beer that I tried.  Thankfully though, there is much more there.  As you get in closer, the strong peach flavor takes over.  Calling it peach is almost not strong enough…it’s honestly more like candied apricot- that very intense, sugary peach flavor.  I’m trying to find something else in there, but I can’t.  No real hops, or maltiness to speak of.  Sugar caramelized on grilled peaches…that’s about it.  Very nice though.

Taste – 51-DSC_0876

The first thing that comes to mind is that this is not nearly as sweet as I expected (or had hoped).  It’s honestly a similar complaint to what I had with the UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen in the previous post- when I say I expect it to be sweeter, it’s because the fruit is sweeter than this in it’s natural form.  The low amount of tasteable sweetness here is more reminiscent of a peach cut into way too early.  You know…still crunchy…more tart than sweet…almost bitter.

Ok, not sweet enough.  Let’s look past that.  It has an almost white grape juice/watered down white wine flavor…it really is quite watery.  It’s a bit tart, but not overly so.  It’s even less bitter than tart, and it’s a bit grainy in the finish.  There is just a touch of spice in it that prevents it from tasting like a simple light beer with fruit (though very little).

I think we can confirm that this is no Saison/Farmhouse Ale.  I don’t get even a hint of sour flavor, which is disappointing for me, as I had high hopes of what a slightly sour peach ale would taste like.

Palate – 2

In a word, too light, too watery, and too flat (in flavor and in carbonation).  Sure, it’s pretty clean in the finish, and I guess you could say it is refreshing (it even almost pushes being a bit dry), but do we really drink a so called “peach farmhouse ale” to quench thirst on a hot day?  Not me.

1-DSC_0872Overall

This is the second fruit beer I’ve had in the last week that fell way short due to lack of sweetness.  If un-sweet, tart, and some might even say un-ripe fruit flavors are your thing…maybe you’ll love this.  To me, it is just too reminiscent of unripe fruit, as peaches or raspberries or whatever fruit would never occur with this lack of sweetness…at least not good fruit.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not looking for Apricot brandy here, I’d still like it to be refreshing, I just expected a lot more in all aspects of this (besides aroma).  As is somewhat common in fruit beers, this smells better than it tastes.  Much better.  I should clarify- there’s nothing particularly bad about the flavor- nothing here that is really going to turn you off…there’s just not enough of anything here for this to be worthwhile.

I’ve got a few more fruit beers in the fridge, including another raspberry wheat, melon, and even a watermelon one.  I am hopeful that one or more of those will exceed my expectations.

Score (out of 5): 2.6

Thirsty Thoughts – July 2014

Welcome to a new series here on Thirsty Investor.  The goal is to throw out some quick thoughts on beers that didn’t get reviewed in full, for any number of reasons:

  1. I have more to review than I’ll have time to get to before the season changes (pretty much always)
  2. I wasn’t at home when I tried something (not as often)
  3. Because sometimes I’d rather relax instead of engage in a full review (every once in a while).

I guess you could compare Thirsty Thoughts to the kind of review you’d normally see on ratebeer or beeradvocate.  I could post these there also, but in the past, I’ve preferred to focus on my site with my limited amount of time, rather than various others.  I don’t tend to have much non-structured content here, and I’d like to work more of it in for sure for the primary reason that it just doesn’t involve so much prep.  There will of course be one major difference: I won’t be getting bogged down with specific ratings here…I think I’ll go with a simple rating scheme of :-)  :-|  :-(.  Should be straightforward enough.

Of course, it could be more than just simple reviews.  Anything really.  For example:

I’m putting the finishing touches on the July Dividend Champion Stocks post.  Investors (or wannabe investors) stay tuned.

Southern Tier Phin & Matt’s Extraordinary Ale (American Pale Ale)        :-)

Thanks to Greg for the bottle.  While not very highly reviewed on popular sites (currently 67 overall on RB), this has the very pleasant quality of having perfect balance between hops and malts, sweet and bitter.  I’d say it is a bit less hoppy than you might expect in a Pale Ale, and for me that’s quite alright.  It pours golden amber with high powered carbonation of all sizes small to huge, which make a mad dash for the surface from all over the glass.  The bottle lists “3 kinds of hops and 3 kinds of malts,” and you really can taste the depth of flavor imparted by them.  Whether due to the combination of hops and malts or actually from spices added to the mix, Phin & Matt’s has a kind of subtle gingerbread quality to it, and a nearly neutral clean finish.

1-IMG_2491I can see why this beer wouldn’t blow people away on the critical reviewing stage, but for me, this stands out as a solid craft beer that has perfect balance, and would complement an afternoon of summer recreation.  If your looking for a step above the normal mass produced offerings, I’d highly recommend it.

Nectar Ales Red Nectar (Amber Ale)         :-|

Something about the bottle with a mountain scene, flowers, and a hummingbird lead me to believe that this was going to be a simple, light, fruity beer.  In fact I bought it in a (self made) sampler with a bunch of other fruity summer beers sitting next to it.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  In fact, it isn’t fruity at all.  It pours a dark orange-red-brown, with a creamy off-white head.  The flavor is complex, with butter, caramel, toasted malt, and smoky dark malt.  Hop presence is mild, as is bitterness in the aftertaste.  I’d say it is somewhat close to New Belgium’s Fat Tire.

2-IMG_2493This beer apparently has some history to it- having first been brewed in 1987, when the craft beer scene was largely non-existent.  It seems it is now brewed at the Firestone Walker Brewing Company, who made that 100 pt Rye IPA in my fridge that I have been afraid to review…some day.

Overall, I think this beer may surprise you if you base your buys on the bottle (as I sometimes do).  I’m not sure I would reach for it again, as it’s not too unique, although it is plenty complex, and was certainly enjoyable.

Harpoon UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen (Fruit Beer)         :-(

I’m normally a fan of Harpoon’s UFO series…and in general like the range of flavors you get in a unfiltered beer more than a filtered one.  I can remember two other UFO beers that I’ve had within the last year, those being the Pumpkin Ale (which I plan to review this fall) and the Big Squeeze Grapefruit Ale, which was included in our Thirsty Throwdown – Grappling Grapefruits.

3-IMG_2494The Raspberry Hefeweizen pours with little head and a mixture of yellow, orange, and pinkish red color.  The aroma is surprisingly floral, not so much in a hoppy way, but in a rose perfume kind of way…I hope it doesn’t taste like that.  The most recent beer that I could compare this too would be the Schlafly Rasperry Hefeweizen, which I found light, refreshing, and with good balance of raspberry, tart, and sweet.  Unfortunately, this falls short of that, mainly because it has no sweetness at all.  It’s weird that the rasberry flavor is presented with no sweetness.  Can you imagine eating a rasberry that wasn’t sweet at all?  It would just be sour and/or bitter.  The beer on the other hand is just really tart and then grainy in the finish.  It’s odd.

At times like this, I wonder if this is something that I just do not like, or if this opinion is shared by many others.  Checking the reviewing sites, and lo and behold… a rating of 29 on ratebeer!  Much higher 81 on beeradvocate though, which is odd in itself.  Some similar remarks to mine, and many people claiming that they just do not like the style that much (though I wonder if they would have the same opinion if they tried a better one…).  IMO, I’d go for the Schlafly Rasperry Hefeweizen if you can find it over this- it’s a huge cut above.