Monday, March 26, 2012

FoolBrew Witbier Available at Grizzly Peak, Blue Tractor, Jolly Pumpkin

L to R: Blue Tractor, Grizzly Peak, Jolly Pumpkin

Yesterday I had a chance to try all three versions of FoolBrew Spiced Belgian Witbier, created as a collaboration amongst brewers at Grizzly Peak, Blue Tractor, and Jolly Pumpkin. I picked up my commemorative glass at Jolly Pumpkin, but it should be noted for the collector types among us that there are also three different versions of the glass as well, though each brewery will refill any of them for $3.

But you're probably wondering what it tastes like. Read on for some notes from my unsophisticated palate.

Grizzly Peak
The beer was served rather cold compared to my other two stops. As a result, my initial impression of the nose was a whiff of green tea and coriander, but as the beer warmed I detected hints of the pink peppercorn. The appearance was classic witbier, cloudy and light whitish-gold in color. The head was moderately foamy and stuck around for quite a while. The body was medium-heavy, the mouthfeel mildly creamy. And finally, again perhaps due to the cold temperature, the taste was primarily a bit citrusy, yeasty, and green tea-ish to my tongue. Initially I could not detect peppercorn at all, but it became more apparent as the beer warmed. Also detected a little "heat" from the 7%+ ABV. Final impression: seemed a bit "muddled" and maybe too young?  Not bad by any means, but did not wow me.

Jolly Pumpkin
It's hard to compare the Grizzly version, served at a cold temperature inside, to the Jolly Pumpkin version, served outside in 70-degree, sunny weather. But with weather like that, I just couldn't sit inside. At any rate, the first thing I noticed was the head was significantly smaller than Grizzly's and what little there was dissipated quickly; otherwise, it had the same appearance. The peppercorn aroma in the nose was much more apparent to my nose, again likely due to the beer being warmer. The flavor impression was much the same, though the green tea element receded with the subtle sweet spiciness of the peppercorn being more readily apparent. I had heard Jolly Pumpkin had aged their version of FoolBrew in oak barrels, but if they did, I couldn't really tell. Final impression: Not radically different, but the lower carbonation, warmer temperature, and the more pronounced pepper finish gave it a more "delicate" taste and mouthfeel.

Blue Tractor
Appearance again the same, though also with less foam and head retention than Grizzly's. The nose imparted more of a citrusy, "lemon Pledge" aroma, mixed with coriander and pepper. Flavorwise, it seemed to be the "pepperiest" of the bunch, though in saying this I should point out this flavor is not dominant. The "green tea" flavor, which was obvious to me in the Grizzly Peak version and less so in the Jolly Pumpkin version, wasn't really apparent to me at all, despite the dry-hop addition of said tea. but like I said, my palate is unsophisticated. At 7.4% ABV, a slight warming alcohol presence was also detectable. Final impression: Being a fan of peppercorn in beer, thanks to my Cicerone®™ homebrewing brother's Rye Peppercorn Pale Ale, this may have been my favorite of the three versions because for whatever reason, I got the most pepper taste out of it, though again it was overall fairly subtle compared to the benchmark set by my bro's beer!

All three versions are worth trying, of course, especially since proceeds from sales help support the upcoming FoolMoon and FestiFools events, which to my mind are classic Ann Arbor-type doings we should all continue to encourage. Especially if all you have to do to provide said encouragement is to drink good local beer! (Also the keepsake glasses are cool, and $3 pints work for me!)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting about this in last week’s “The Week in Beer.” I probably wouldn’t have heard about it until too late. I visited all the breweries Friday night and gave in to my inner collector by purchasing a glass from each (it's for a good cause, right?). My favorite of the night was the Jolly Pumpkin version, but that was also my first beer of the night, so a bias might exist. Also, I'm sure your palate is much better than mine, so I’d guess your take on the beers is much more accurate.

    My first stop was Jolly Pumpkin. I felt their version conveyed a nice balance between all the ingredients, especially the green tea (might steal that idea for a Wit of my own this summer). I definitely tasted what you were describing as delicate (I noted it as “mellow”) and I also did not pick up any oak aging. Next I tried the Grizzly Peak version, and got A LOT more peppercorn in the taste. It was an interesting, peppery take on a Wit. The beer wasn't served super cold, which might explain the more dramatic peppercorn presence. Finally, the Blue Tractor version seemed more mild mannered and traditional to the Wit style, although I could not taste coriander. Full disclosure, this was my last beer of the night after having several at the previous two stops, so my taste buds could’ve been shot.

    All in all, I thought it was a really fun event for a great cause. I hope those three brewers consider collaborating more in the future. Maybe one per season? I’d definitely be in line to try all three and toss out my amateur tasting thoughts.