The winter beer bonanza continues! This time it’s the second round of local wheat wines (first round here). This time we have the SanktGallen Un angel and the Baird West Coast Wheat Wine.
SanktGallen Un angel
Package: 300mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 55; OG – 1.096; hops – Nugget, HBC 342, Cascade
Pour – Pink grapefruit orange in color, mild carbonation that settles quickly
Aroma – Very faint wheat aroma, caramel and sugar, becomes fruitier as it warms up
Flavor – Slight oak, followed by pepper and bitter finish, very gentle, flavor develops slowly
We’ve been looking at a lot of SanktGallen releases lately, but I suppose that’s natural given that SanktGallen have a pretty solid chunk of holiday releases, with their barley/wheat wines and their chocolate stouts. For the most part they’re of good quality, so we’ve been doing what we can here to keep up.
As far as their wheat wine goes, let’s take a closer look. According to this comparison chart here, the malt bill is 65% wheat. It has far less hops than their barley wine (and is much less bitter IBU-wise), which is to be expected, but other than that has pretty similar specs – aged for about 3 months to a year, and can be further aged in the bottle for 5 years. The most striking thing about this beer, though, is of course the phallus it comes in. The bottle says it is designed by I.M.Y.M.&N., which turns up no search results, but really, it’s just a phallus. The wheat wine is white, and the barley wine purple. The only downside I can see to the bottle is that it is a mere 300mL instead of the standard 330mL, but I suppose at 10% ABV I can’t complain too much.
One other interesting brewing note – one of the hops listed (on the bottle, but not on the product page) is the HBC 342 hop, which I hadn’t heard of before. It turns out that this is a relatively new experimental hop developed by Hop Breeding Company (who also developed Simcoe, Citra, and many other well-known West Coast hops) in 2012. While it’s new enough to where it hasn’t been given a proper name yet and isn’t commercialized to a great degree volume-wise, it already has been used in a few commercial beers, including beers by Stone, Dogfish Head, and even Shonan Beer in Japan. The hop itself is supposed to have melon (lots of people say it smells like watermelon) and citrus notes but also quite mild. Let’s see if it has any impact on the SanktGallen wheat wine.
The SanktGallen Un angel is surprisingly soft and gentle, given its high ABV. The alcohol isn’t too harsh, but it actually doesn’t have very strong flavors either. Oak and bitter hops are probably the two things that stand out the most, and the finish can become a bit sharp as it warms up but overall it’s a very mellow beer. It could probably use more flavor, especially in the way of fruit or malts, something to add a bit of sweetness to it. Some may call it subtle, but it’s far too subtle for me – I like the bitter hops (as always), but it isn’t enough here.
Purchasing notes – this beer is not cheap, with the only price I’ve ever seen it at being 1080 yen. Although it may sell out quickly it’s not all that rare in terms of where you can find it – Liquors Hasegawa and Aeon Liquors have it reliably, and I’ve seen it at Shinanoya as well.
Baird West Coast Wheat Wine (ベアードビール・ウエストコーストウィートワイン)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 80; hops – US Apollo, Warrior, Summit, Centennial, Ahtanum
Pour -Similarly pink grapefruit orange amber, lots of sediment and very cloudy, almost no carbonation
Aroma – Alcohol and sugar, fruit as it warms up
Flavor – Very sweet, grapefruit, sugar, finish is sweet, as it warms up more tropical fruit
Baird’s yearly wheat wine offering is called the West Coast Wheat Wine, paying homage to both the origin myth of the wheat wine (born of a barley wine brew session got wrong at Rubicon in Sacramento) and to the bold creativity that is the calling card of many a West Coast Brewer. The brewing notes don’t point out anything too noteworthy, but similar to the SanktGallen effort I see a hop listed that isn’t all that common – the Ahtanum hop. Ahtanum is an aroma hop that is known for having strong citrus/floral aromas but without having a strong bittering effect. In that sense, it’s a bit similar to the HBC342 hop we saw in the SanktGallen Un angel in that they both will be citrusy but relatively mild from a bitterness perspective.
The Baird West Coast Wheat Wine is, for the most part, very sweet. The sugar is quite prominent from the very start, and it’s also quite boozy, especially on the aroma. As it warms up, though, more fruit comes into play, and that mitigates the sugary aspect of it somewhat. On the whole, however, it’s not balanced very well, and the sugars really dominate. It definitely needs more balance, and while the fruits are promising, it’s not enough to save it. Definitely more hops and bitterness would help, but really they just need to tone down the sweetness.
So today we’ve tried a couple of wheat wines that didn’t quite hit the mark – the SanktGallen Un angel was too mild, and the Baird West Coast Wheat Wine too sweet. The Japanese wheat wine version of Goldilocks then ends, I suppose, with the Daisen G Wheat Wine being just right. The other three we tried so far (in addition to today’s there was also the Shonan Wheat Wine from round 1) are all fatally flawed, but the Daisen G offering is quite nice and well-balanced. As we mentioned in the first round wheat wines aren’t all that common in Japan, and I’m not sure if I can think of any others out there besides the four we’ve reviewed, but certainly as we come across them we’ll review them next year.