We are getting close. Close to the end of this Craft Beer Advent Calendar. I’m excited to be in the final stretch. That means we are getting closer and closer to my holiday trip with my family. Can’t wait. I’m also excited to see what is left in the calendar. So far there have been some interesting beers. Some hits and misses. So, let’s see what we have today.
Today’s beer comes to us from a common contributor to the Calendar; Big Sky Brewing out of Montana. I’ve had a couple of misses from them in the past and I’m hoping that today’s “Power Wagon” Barrel Aged Wheat Wine will be a hit. This Wheat Wine is a Craft Beer Advent Calendar exclusive, which is cool. So, for those of you who did not get a calendar but are interested in trying a Wheat Wine, I’d really recommend you get the Torque Winter Survival Kit. There is one in there along with 5 other awesome beers.
Neal Leathers started big sky with Bjorn Nabozney, and Brad Robinson. It all began with Brad and Neal, home brewers since the 80s, when they first came together they began producing a series on their local cable access station called “Beer talk”. It was a show about Brad and Neal tasting various beers and commenting on what they liked and did not like. This brought attention to the duo and showed their passion for beer. Sadly, neither of them were business savvy. That’s where Bjorn came in.
Neal started brewing test batches while Bjorn and Brad raised the capital. After about a year and a half, Big Sky Brewing was officially ready to open its doors. They brewed their first batch of beer, Whistle Pig Red Ale, in mid-June of 1995. They started out as a draft only brewery but today they are one of the 50 largest breweries in the U.S. selling a total of over 46,500 barrels (2.5 million 6 packs) of beer a year. They sell in over 24 states so it’s a beer you might be likely to run across.
The style of beer we have today is a Wheat Wine. While many might be familiar with the Barley Wine style (Thor’s Hammer, Burly Wine) a Wheat Wine is not just a wheat version of this boozy brew. Many versions of this beer have fruity and hoppy notes while others develop some interesting complexity through barrel aging (like the beer we have today).
This is a relatively new style of beer that was first brewed at Rubicon Brewing Company (sadly now closed) in 1988. Often this style is brewed as winter seasonal or a one-off and is open to experimentation. The style has less emphasis on hops then say an American Barleywine (in my mind pretty much a triple IPA) and has it’s roots in American Wheat beers rather than German wits. Overall, a rich sipping beer with a signfigant grainy and bready flavour. As it is made with a huge amount (this one about 53%) of wheat malt, the emphasis is on the bready, wheaty flavours with some other interesting characteristics from the hops, yeast, or any aging that has occurred.
I’m excited for this one, so let’s get to it.
Appearance – Pours a clear golden colour with 1” white head.
Smell – Caramel malt, booze, wheat and bready notes.
Taste – Malt forward taste with bready and wheat notes. Caramel malt, booze comes through, some subtle fruit notes and a touch of vanilla and oak.
Mouth feel – Medium full body with an oily mouthfeel, sweet and boozy finish.
Overall – Nice combination of wheat malt character with a warming boozy finish. Brings some interesting fruit notes with a good barrel age character as well. Overall I think this fits well into the wheat wine category and brings a lot of highlights.
Do I like it? – I did. I tend to enjoy barrel aged beers because they bring another layer of flavour to the beer. In the case of this one, they add a subtle enhancement to the already interesting character brought by a wheat wine. This is a style that I haven’t had often and I quite enjoy it.