One Beer to Avoid At All Costs
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, May 17, 2014
Rarely do I encounter something so scathing, so terrible, so atrocious that is worthy of some horrible review; but in this case, I shall make an exception.
Friends, if you are a beer drinker, if you enjoy quaffing the suds, if on occasion you like to try new and different things, or if you are a dedicated palate adventurer (like me), I
encourage WARN you to AVOID AT ALL COSTS this beer.
When I read the label upon which was printed “wheat beer,” it did not indicate anything other than “wheat beer.”
In fact, nothing on the entire label nor the bottle nor the carrier warned me, or informed me.
The description on the carrier read: “Wheat Beer Snap! You’ve just captured an unfiltered wheat beer full of refreshment and a smile-inducing flash of tart at the finish.” On the bottle, these words also appeared: “Wheat beer brewed with spices.”
Normally, I’ve found some wheat beers exceptionally tasty, while others have miles to go before they begin to perfect their craft.
This beer was from a well-known, and highly respected craft brewery, whose offerings I have come to enjoy.
I write of none other than New Belgium Brewing Company and their “Snapshot” beer.
This is how NBB describes it on their website:
“Snap! You just captured an unfiltered wheat beer full of refreshment and a flash of tart at the finish. Smile-inducing aromas of citrus hops jump from the nose, accompanied by the sweetness of coriander and grains of paradise. Brewed with wheat and pale malt, Snapshot pours a hazy, lemon-yellow with bright-white lacing. But the real enticement is the snap of tart. New Belgium’s affinity for sour beers led to the in-process blending of lactobacillus to pucker up Snapshot’s base. An extra step to acidify and beautify and get this beer ready for its close up.“
Visual – Hazy pale straw, light white foam and sticky lacing.
Aroma – Flavor and tartness, like fresh-cut lemons, enhanced by a light floral aroma. Wheat comes through as a fresh bread note.
Flavor – Starts sweet, moves into a tangy sourness that finishes clean.
Mouthfeel – Initially rich and creamy, it ends spritzy and with a refreshing twang.
Body – Medium-light.
ABV – 5.0
IBU – 13
Yeast – Hybrid ale yeast
Calories – 182
Hops – Cascade
Malts – Pale, Wheat
Fruits/Spices – Coriander, grains of paradise
Special Processing – Add Lacto (souring bacteria) to a portion of the overall wort, which produces lactic acid that gives a characteristic sourness and mouthfeel. That acidic portion is then added to other portion of the wort that was fermented with the Ale yeast. So two worts – a sour and a regular – are blended together to make Snapshot.
There you have it.
Let’s describe this another way.
I’ve had plenty of beers in my life, and that means I’ve had my fair share of bad beers. However, I’ve learned along the way to ask first, and then ask some more. And then, try.
For example, thus far, I have found no good beer in Texas.
In my estimation, Texas does not have good beer.
End of conversation.
This is as piss poor as they come. And let me tell you why.
As you might suppose, “sour” beer is exactly what it sounds like… beer that has gone bad, beer that has soured because of infection.
This is not to say that some “soured” foods are bad, because there are many absolutely delightfully tasty foods which are caught in some stage of deterioration by exposure to various germs. Blue cheese is an excellent case in point. Wine, of course, is the fermented juice of grapes, and beer… beer is similarly fermented. Yet fermentation is distinctly different from “sour.”
Wine, when it is said to be “corked” has turned sour. And soured wine is called “vinegar.”
Similarly, “soured” beer has been either accidentally or purposely infected with certain strains of bacteria which have, as they’ve multiplied, consumed certain ingredients in the beer, and produced foul-tasting excreta.
Here’s what a Q&A page on home brew beer making said about “sour” beer:
“Pediococcus is a common spoilage organism in beer and grows best under anaerobic conditions like those found in a bottle. Like other beer-spoilage bacteria, Pediococcus is commonly found in the environment and is often carried into beer through yeast or other ingredients added after the boil.
“In general your problem is most likely a result of insufficient sanitation. This does not necessarily mean that you are using “dirty” brewing practices, rather it simply means that you are contaminating your beer somehow. Good sanitation after the boil requires all implements that touch beer or wort to be cleaned with a detergent and sanitized before use.”
Pediococcus isn’t the only bacteria that’s known to sour beer. Some adventurous brewers may add the bacteria Lactobacillus or Brettanomyces, which is a strain of wild yeast which imparts certain flavors reminiscent of, or similar to cherry, mango and pineapple, including an earthy aroma which some may describe as “funky, horsey or leathery.”
Now, in defense of “sour” beer making, pioneer American sour beer maker, Ron Jeffries in Dexter, Michigan, made some of the first commercial sour beers in 2004 at Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. His “sour” beers – which might be more accurately described as being fermented with naturally occurring bacteria (such as with sourdough bread, exclusively unique to San Francisco, California) – have won numerous national awards, and received widespread critical acclaim.
Describing a bit of history in beer making he said, “There’s wild yeast and bacteria everywhere, especially if there are orchards nearby. When you make a happy home for them in your barrels, they just show up and spontaneously ferment — and sour — a beer. For thousands of years, all beer had sour notes to it. It was refreshing and crisp because people didn’t understand how to keep things clean. Then with pasteurization, refrigeration, and an understanding of how to keep cultures free of bacteria, beers started to become nonsour.”
He added that American beer makers are “taking the beer style in crazy directions, just like they did with IPAs and porters. The reason why you’re seeing sour beers gaining popularity is because they taste great, but also because of the creativity of American brewers.”
Obviously, some American craft breweries are hoping to make sour beers fashionable again.
Concerning my taste, I remain adventurous, and yet, I remain dismayed – extraordinarily so – because New Belgium Brewing, a brewer whose products I have enjoyed heretofore, did not bother to inform the prospective customer about the style or type of beer they’re about to try. It’s almost as if they feel there’s something to hide. Was this some ill-fated effort to salvage a bad batch of beer? One can only wonder.
Again, I’ve had several brands of wheat beers, but never have I ever had such an utterly distasteful, and quite frankly, putrid beer.
New Belgium, if you are reading this, I’d appreciate hearing from you… and frankly, I’d be ashamed to put my name upon something as horrid as “Snapshot.”