Westbrook Brewing Co.
Mt. Pleasant, SC
Grätzer Smokey Wheat Ale
I’ve always loved and been impressed with the experimentation Westbrook puts into its beers. But aside from concocting their own unique brews, they’ve made it a point to delve into beer’s history and bring to light some original styles that have either diminished in popularity or are foreign to a lot of craft beer fans.
Their Gose is a great example of that: A style that all but disappeared generations ago that, thanks to a few adventurous brewers, was brought back into the conversation. That trend continues with Grätzer, a highly sessionable German-style smoked wheat beer. (Wrecking Bar and Wild Heaven had an excellent example of the style with Wrecking Heaven.) It’s a style so unique and unknown to the stateside beer drinkers that it’s simply listed as a “Speciality Beer” under BJCP style guidelines. Westbrook’s attempt is brewed with a variety of hops 90% oak-smoked wheat malt. And clocking in at 3.4% means drinking glass after glass of the stuff – which I could do easily – won’t leave you hurting. Too much.
While the lighter almost Kölsh-ish color of the beer would lead you to believe the nose would be just as light, it’s deceptive. At first blush, the sticky sweet campfire smell of the smoked malts is overpowering, flooding out of the glass in waves of an almost maple-covered bacon odor. But behind that, the sweetness of the wheat pokes through slightly. It’s certainly masked well by the abundant smokiness of the malt, but the yeasty sweetness provides a nice backbone.
The flavor starts with just a slight tart bitterness on the tip of the tongue with a slight lemon character. The carbonation is mild throughout the mouth and the body, as the color would entail, is pretty light. But that all disappears toward the finish when those epic campfire notes explode over your tastebuds. The sweetness of the nose is tempered a bit by the citrus flavors from the hops, which give the beer almost a tart finish and aftertaste. There’s a little bit of a peppery spice in the flavor and a really smooth, sweet yeast flavor. It’s an understatement to say how INSANELY drinkable this beer is (if you like smoked beers). At just north of 3%, you could drink glass after glass and still keep your wits about you.
This is certainly a beer that won’t suit everyone. I, for one, love smoked beers, and this had the heavy, sweet smoked flavors I really like with a lighter base beer to keep it balanced. The style itself is incredibly unique, drinkable and enjoyable.