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Monday, August 26, 2013

Bell's Brewery's Oberon

  • Style: American Pale Wheat  Ale
  • ABV: 5.80%
  • Season: Yearly Summer release March through September
  • Ease to locate: Bell's is located in Michigan and distributes to 18 states covering most of the Eastern half of the country.  And Arizona.  I can only suppose that the brewery executives just want a reason to visit someplace sunny come January.  Here's their beer finder
  • Color: Cloudy golden yellow with light brown undertones.  Sediment floating and visible carbonation
  • Head: White, 1 finger head with nice lacing creeping up the sides and dissipates to a thin layer after a few minutes
  • Aroma: Citrusy with orange and lemon notes.  A slight sour element of fermented wheat, as well as a dry cracker scent.  Yeasty with a bit of funk.
  • Mouthfeel: Light & smooth with lots of carbonation, but not dry.  Slightly oily.
  • Finish: Medium with the bitter spiciness of hops on the tail.  
  • Food friendly: Yes.  Most wheat beers pair well with food.  Try it with delicate dishes such as crab cakes, grilled trout or berry themed salads.  Serve it with goat cheeses like chevre or gouda

Are you seriously trying to tell me that it's really the last week of August?  Already? It seems that we all impatiently wait for Summer to come.  We dream of long, sunny afternoons cat napping in a backyard hammock.  Or cool evenings spent lingering with good friends at an outdoor patio restaurant.  It doesn't matter if you live in Florida or Minnesota, everyone's thoughts turn to the summer months once January hits.  The problem is that if you blink, half the season is gone before you know it.  That's why you need to grab each precious, slippery moment and make the most of it.  Hence the mini keg of Bell's  Oberon pictured above. 

                                                           I'm pretty sure that Shakespeare would be writing for TV if he was around nowadays.  Probably for Family Guy on Fox but dreaming about Game of Thrones on HBO

In mid evil stories (as well as in Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream)  Oberon is the king of the fairies.  In Willy Boy's play (and yes, it's a little known fact that all former English Majors get to cal him Willy Boy), Oberon is having a bit of a martial spat with his queen over how to raise kid of a dead servant.   Imagine Different Strokes if Mr. Drummond was a burly wood elf who wanted to make Arnold his no neck henchman and Mrs. Garret as the lady of the house who wanted to make him a hippie nancy boy.   Don't worry, Arnold would still say "What you talking about, Willis?"  One doesn't want to stray too far from the text in classics.  Bell's Brewery named their very popular summer seasonal after this legendary fairy king.  It's a wheat ale, which is perfect for the summer months, and fermented with Bell's personal, ultra secret, stop asking Lagunitas because we ain't telling no matter how much you beg, house yeast.  But the nicest thing about Oberon in my opinion?  The mini keg.  Not many beers release their brews in these portable, yet still easily accessible, containers.  I mean, once you're past the college years of having 100 people at your house party, but haven't quite reached the point of alienating everyone else in your life so you are forced to drink alone, a mini keg is the perfect summer get together solution.  I really wish that other breweries would embrace this concept.  Can you imagine a mini keg of Revolution's Anti Hero or of Great Lakes' Commodore Perry?  Or (if I'm dreaming, why not dream big) a mini keg of Pipeworks Unicorn vs Ninja ?  On the other hand, that might turn into one of those 100+ people parties where I only know 3 of them (and actually only one by name.) 

Ode to a summer's beer.
My Oberon poured a hazy, cloudy, golden brew.  There were hints of light brown along the edging, giving the liquid a bit of character.  A healthy one finger head formed, thick with fluffy foam and decent lacing creeping up the pint's sides.  The head settled to a thin layer on the surface for most of the drink.   There was visible carbonation and lots of sediment floaties swirling around inside this brew.  The citrusy scent of oranges and lemons were easily detected when taking a quick whiff.  There was a dry cracker note just underneath the citrus profile.  I could smell a slightly sour note (which I assume was of fermented wheat), but not enough to make you think it was a sour beer.  I felt that this sour tang gave the aroma some needed depth.  As it warmed, a yeasty, bready, funky quality emerged as well.  None of these scents were particularly powerful on their own.  The dry cracker wheat grain profile dominated the taste over the orange and lemon notes, which were defiantly present, but much less so than they were on the nose.  The ever so slight sourness came in towards the back of the sip, as did a very light spicy hop note.  The taste was easy and yet still interesting because of the tang and funk elements.  After a summer of drinking a lot, and by a lot I mean A LOT of IPAs (and DIPAS, Super Duper DIPAS, This Beer Has So Many Hops In It That If We Told You The Quantity We'd Have To Kill You DIPAs.  You get the picture) that a lower IBU beer with a unique taste profile is actually quite refreshing to the palate.  The mouthfeel was light, but a bit oily in texture.  There was an abundance of carbonation (thank you well sealed mini keg gods!) that helped smooth out the rougher edges of the swallow.  The finish was medium and fairly unexciting.  A bit of spicy bitterness from the hops lingered a bit, but certainly wasn't in any danger of wearing out it's welcome by any means.        

I'm pretty sure that Kenneth Branagh's doing a one man play about this pint glass.  In iambic pentameter.

Because of it's lower IBU, lighter mouthfeel and citrus forward aroma, I would serve Bell's Oberon with a wide variety of dishes.  Try it with delicate meals such as crab cakes with lemon sauce  or a simply prepared whole trout on the gill.  But on a really hot and humid day, pair this beer with a salad of assorted greens, fresh berries and goat cheese.   The wheat and citrus elements will happily commingle with the fruitiness of the berries and the tanginess of the cheese.  Summer bliss. The photos used here and the tasting notes I jotted down were of a pour from the mini keg's second day of use.  But I've drunk enough Oberon in my adult life to tell you that I didn't notice any real difference in taste or appearance between this beer poured from the bottle or one poured from the mini keg.  It did keep the beer fresh and I didn't notice a drop off of carbonation from the first day to the second.  Could I have written the same post opening a bottle of Oberon?  I assume so.  But it certainly wouldn't have been as much fun.  And isn't summer fun exactly what we all dream about in January anyway?