After some time off (hey, editors have vacation time, too!), we’re back rummaging around our cellar. With so many lively, shiny summer beers starting to pour, we took one look at our patiently waiting bottle of Widmer Bros. Reserve Lemongrass Wheat Ale and felt inspired to pop its top.
Our bottle was the first vintage (fall 2011) of this special release, though Widmer’s website now says it’s a year-round offering. Based on a wheat beer, the recipe uses Muscat grape juice as an additional fermentable, as well as a combo of ale and Champagne yeasts. Those ingredients, coupled with its 9% ABV, made it a candidate for our cellar.
As far as we know, there are no rules on how to age a grape-juice-lemongrass-Champagne-yeast wheat beer. But without the heft of barley malt and a higher ABV, we weren’t taking any chances; nine months in our cellar was gonna have to be enough.
And, my oh my, what nine months did! What was originally an Eastern-minded celebration of lemongrass and citrus has turned incredibly, delightfully sour. If you’re a sour hound, you’ll adore this; if you’re not… well, give your bottle to someone who will.
WHAT WE TASTED: Blindfolded, you’d swear this was white wine. The nose is all white grape juice with just a breath of lemongrass; on the tongue, tartness smacks you first, followed by sharp grape skin. Somehow, hints of lemongrass and wheat sneak through the all of the tang.
WHAT AGING (PROBABLY) DID TO THE BEER: The beer’s sourness is its biggest change; fresh, this beer shows wheat’s signature tartness, but it wouldn’t be classified as a sour beer—the sourness is all due to age. Citrus was much more prominent in the fresh version; now, some grapefruit remains, but it’s mostly overshadowed by grape skin bite. Hops and alcohol are both gone, too. And even though it pours bubbly, there’s practically zero head, and effervescence on the tongue is nonexistent.
This is the biggest flavor surprise we’ve gotten from our cellar thus far; if you like your beers of the cheek-pinching variety, you’ll find a winner in this aged Widmer bottle.
Have you aged this suddenly sour beauty? Let us know!