So we are officially into the chilly months, so some darker, heavier beers are in order. This month there are some sure-fire winners from some first-rate brewers. But don't take my word for it...try them yourself. Remember that I rate beer on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being undrinkable pisswater, and 5 being nectar of Valhalla. So, it stands to reason that a 3 or 4 will still be a solid drinking experience. Support your local breweries and drink indie!
GOOSE ISLAND 312 URBAN WHEAT ALE (Chicago, IL) - 3.0
A pleasant and cloudy gold, this wheat ale boasts of an appealing banana and biscuit scent. First taste is subtle, with a slight citrus hint, though it is fairly subdued. Like most unfiltered wheat beers, this one's rather heavy and solid. It may not be frilly or challenging, but I found this one comfortable and a fine easygoing brew.
SAMUEL ADAMS - CHERRY WHEAT (Boston, MA) - 3.5
This cloudy golden-amber ale came to me highly recommended by this very magazine's illustrious beer expert/managing editor, and he knows his brews. Not to mention the fact that Sam Adams seldom disappoints, so this one's a "can't lose". What we have here is a cloudy golden ale with a strong cherry nose -- instantly appealing and unusual. My initial taste revealed, not surprisingly, tart cherries with a smooth honey undertone. Cherry wheat is balanced on the palate, and not too sweet or artificial-tasting (as are so many fruit-infused beers). Enjoyable.
NEW BELGIUM - 1554 ENLIGHTENED BLACK ALE (Fort Collins, CO) - 4.0
This deep, dark black ale is supposedly based on a 500 year old Belgian recipe, and it's an unusual and tasty ale that doesn't easily fit into a category. I get a roasty chocolate scent, which gives way to a burnt chocolate palate -- not as spicy as a traditional Belgian abbey ale, and more akin to a softer, gentler stout. It's not snappy or hoppy, but subtle, smooth, and quite tasty. This one's a delightful brew with a unique personality.
WIDMER BROTHERS HEFEWEIZEN (Portland, OR) - 4.0
Cloudy gold, and nearly amber in color, this hefe (unfiltered wheat) ale has a fruity nose up front. That's followed by a sharp and toasty tongue and a brisk, hoppy finish. Widmer's hefeweizen is a more complex wheat beer than most, and the strong, assertive personality may not be for beginners. Excellent.