Post Your Notes
Before getting to my own tasting notes, I want to take a minute to encourage all of you to share your tasting notes, too. I’d like to see people who have decided to open their own bottle of Cellar Reserve share their own tasting notes with the rest of us. By collaborating with each other, all of us can improve our own tasting skills, and learn a little more about these beers. Just add a comment at the bottom of the post for whichever beer you’ve got tasting notes for. Now on to the beer!
Howling Wolf Weizenbock Turns One
Today we have a tasting of our Howling Wolf Weizenbock, bottled 1 year ago. Most wheat beers are not good candidates for aging, but weizenbocks are one exception to that rule. Howling Wolf is an example of a pale-colored weizenbock. Many examples of American-made weizenbocks are dark in color, and are very similar to a doppelbock. However, pale weizenbocks are popular in Germany; a couple of examples include Weihenstephan Vitus and Ayinger Weizenbock. These beers can almost be described as imperial hefeweizens, as the flavor characteristics of both hefeweizens and weizenbocks are very similar. You can expect the same mix of banana and clove flavors in both beers, only intensified in the weizenbock.
Howling Wolf Weizenbock
8% Alcohol by Volume
Bottled May 2009
Original Description: Howling Wolf Weizenbock was crafted with 40% wheat malt, including German dark wheat and caramel wheat malts, and minimally spiced with Liberty hops, an American version of the famous German Hallertau Mittelfruh.
Like all Bavarian weizen beers, the yeast is the star of the show. We used an authentic Bavarian top-fermenting ale yeast that naturally produces flavors of cloves, bananas, bubblegum, green apples, smoke, and even vanilla. When this yeast ferments a very strong beer, the resultant weizenbock is a wonderfully complex brew hiding its 8% wallop under swirls of fruit and spice aroma–raisins, dates, prunes, bananas, cloves–and fruity, bready, chocolaty, caramel grain flavors.
Tasting Notes from May 2010:
A loud pssssht escapes from the cap as I open the bottle. A small gush of foam spills over the lip, telling me the high level of carbonation has kept well over the past year, and I set the bottle in the sink for a minute to settle down. The sudden burst of excitement has upset the sediment at the bottom of the bottle, so there are a few particles floating around my glass once I finally fill it. The color is a deep, burnished gold and the beer is hazy, topped by a rocky white head that leaves thick lacing around the edge of the glass.
There’s a light caramel aroma–not that the aroma is light, just the caramel. It’s more like a sweet, butter caramel than a burnt sugar flavor. That same richness carries over into the flavor, which is both full-bodied and effervescent, leading to a beer that really fills the mouth. The flavors are surprisingly delicate for such a massive beer. The clearest flavor is that of banana, but not the one-note banana you find in most weissbiers. Imagine a perfectly yellow banana with no brown spots and a green stem and you can imagine what this beer tastes like–a banana that’s ripe but not sugary. It’s a unique combination, and something I’ve never tasted in a beer before.
There is a lingering sweetness here, but a dry, bubbly finish sweeps it away, making that second and third sip just as enjoyable as the first. A hint of white pepper presents itself for a moment, then fades. Vanilla does the same. More and more I taste the just-barely-ripe banana, with brief glances of other flavors every couple of sips. It strikes me that this would be the perfect beer with flan, creme brulee, or any other custard-based dessert.
Cellar Master Says: Well, I can honestly say I’ve never had a beer quite like this before. I can’t make any definitive statements, but I would guess that Howling Wolf is just about hitting its peak. Try to find an occasion to drink this in the next few months. I have a hunch the complexity will start to fade soon and you’ll be left with a simple, sweet, caramel-flavored beer.