Beer Profile: Widmer Lemongrass Wheat Ale

Profiled by Tom Becham for Professor Goodales

Widmer Brothers is one of the more widely-known, and one of the earliest participants in the craft brewing game.  Their Hefeweizen (which is actually an American Wheat Ale and not a true Hefeweizen) almost singularly popularized wheat beers in America.  Lately, their efforts have seemed somewhat bland and lifeless compared to a lot of the extreme brewing going on in the craft community.

Hence, Widmer recently introduced the Brothers’ Reserve series.  These are limited edition beers with unusual ingredients, higher alcohol levels, and/or stronger tastes.  They have been somewhat hit-and-miss for me.

So, upon first seeing Widmer’s Brothers’ Reserve Lemongrass Wheat Ale, I was intrigued enough to pick up a bottle.

My wife and I split the bomber into Belgian chalice glasses after lunch one afternoon.

The first thing noticeable about this beer is the bright orange-yellow color, almost like a Saison.  The head is somewhat small for a wheat beer, probably due to the high alcohol content (9% ABV).

The aroma is pretty much as expected.  Lemongrass dominates the nose, with small hints of graininess, some grape, and a tiny bit of bubble-gum phenol.  Upon discovering the grape aroma, I looked at the bottle again, and discovered that the beer is also made with muscat grape juice.  Hmmm.  This was going to be interesting…

One of the unique things about lemongrass is that it not only has a citrusy taste, it also has an aromatic quality, akin to eucalyptus, that can be felt in the sinuses.  So, I expected to be almost overpowered by the lemongrass, and anticipated that it would be used much like hops would be in other brews.

Well, it turns out that the grapes are the most prominent taste.  In fact, most of the flavor profile – vinous sweetness, a slight touch of graininess – is very reminiscent of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch (see my review of that: http://professorgoodales.net/archives/4104), but with a slight difference.  The lemongrass puts in an appearance to balance the sweetness with a slightly herbal, hoppy note, and it also lends the eucalyptus-like quality of lemongrass to give the beer a quality almost like a Hall’s cough drop.
This is actually rather better than it sounds.

In all, the beer achieves an odd sort of balance, and is certainly drinkable enough, especially for its strength.  I’m glad I tried it, and give my compliments to Widmer for doing something this out-of-mainstream.  Still, once was enough for me.