Thursday, June 29, 2006


Jeff - Allagash WhiteI'm currently searching for the perfect summer beer: something easy to drink with a nice bite of flavor, but nothing too heavy, spicy or complex, must taste good cold and have a relatively low %ABV (lower than 7). So I decided to buy a few different types of beers to see how they hold up to my criteria: a couple of India Pale Ales, a Belgian wheat beer (or witbeer, for you beer queers out there), an ale, and a lager. It doesn't have to have "summer" in the name, but it sure makes my decision making in the beer store much easier.

I was hashing this review out while chatting with Kris earlier, and I realized that I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to tasting beer. That's not to say my tongue doesn't work properly, it's just that I sometimes can't exactly put what I'm tasting into words. At first, we thought it might be easier to describe what qualities it DOESN'T have, such as:

Me: "No dog shit smell, doesn't taste like toothpaste . . . "
Kris: "no lingering asphalt mouthfeel"
Me: "throat did not burn upon swallowing"
Kris: "slight to no swelling after ingestion"
Me: "skin on roof of mouth did not peel off, like when you eat a really hot slice of pizza and the cheese sticks to it"

But I knew that wouldn't fly. So bear with me, because this might not make any sense whatsoever. Here's my review of Allagash White, "an interpretation of a traditional Belgian wheat beer", by the Allagash Brewing Co. of Portland, Maine. Didn't see the %ABV on label, but Ratebeer says it's 5.5%.

Okay, on to Step 1: take the bottle out of the refrigerator. I poured out the 12 oz. brown bottle into a tapered pilsner glass (which is probably the wrong vessel for a white beer such as this, but screw you--should I spend my money on beer or fancy glassware?). Appearance: straw colored cloudy pale amber color, with virtually no head to speak of (even after following the "pour, swirl, pour yeast" instructions), light carbonation.

At first, it didn't smell or taste like anything. Even more alarming, there was no mouthfeel--I couldn't feel it in my mouth! But as it breathed and warmed slightly, it gave off a yeasty odor, with a hint of lemon. (Maybe the fridge is too cold? No way to know without a calibrated NIST traceable thermometer.)

As for the taste: yeasty/bread-like with a distinct alcohol tinge, not overtly sweet or hoppy. A little lemony, and earthy, like grass. It says "brewed with spices", but I couldn't detect much, unless you consider grass a "spice". Or maybe it's lemongrass? (And what's the difference between an "herb" and a "spice" anyhow? Is one a leaf and the other a seed? That might be a discussion for another day.) There was no appreciable aftertaste, and finished smooth but unexciting.

For a summer beer, I don't think this particular one cuts it, since it doesn't really taste like anything when it's cold. You certainly wouldn't want to drink one of these right after mowing the lawn, because it tastes like, well, the lawn you just mowed. I'll have to look for their summer brew in my travels (uhm, I suppose Maine would be a good place to start). It's a respectable brew, however, well-balanced and easy to drink, I'm just not a huge wheat beer fan. I was going to give it a 6.5, but Salo couldn't figure out how to make a half a thumb in Photoshop. I give it a 6.

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