During winter, beer stores are brimming with barley wines—intensely flavored, super strong, and sometimes barrel-aged ales—but barley wine’s younger cousin, wheat wine, is a bit tougher to find. A wheat wine ale is kind of like a barley wine, only brewers use a massive amount of wheat malt. The result is typically lighter and less sweet than barley wine, but with just as much of an alcohol kick.
As a style, wheat wine is still gaining traction among craft brewers. Magic Hat’s Graupel wheat wine is part of their Humdinger Series, a collection of smaller batch, limited releases. Maybe I’ve been watching too many Disney movies, but “Graupel” sounds like the name you’d give a villainous creature who lives deep inside a forbidden forest. I’m happy to report there’s nothing villainous about this beer, except maybe its high ABV.
Graupel pours a deep orange that borders on red. The nose is dominated by sour notes and strong orange zest, followed by a bit of alcohol. The more you dig your nose into it, the more fragrant the beer becomes, until you’re sniffing a bouquet of oranges soaked in whiskey. It’s a good indication of what’s to come.
There’s nothing particularly sweet or sour about the first sip of Graupel. It’s a little bit tart with a bittering aftertaste. The high alcohol content gives the beer a lingering tingle on the tongue, almost like sucking on an orange piece of candy but without the sweetness. The alcohol is evident throughout the sip, from the nose to the aftertaste, but the most defining characteristic of Graupel is the incredibly soft, rich body. The mouth feel is full, mellow, and incredibly satisfying.
Graupel isn’t like other winter beers that play with sweetness and malty notes and holiday spices. If it weren’t for the smooth, rich texture and high gravity, it could be a summer beer. At one point, I had the urge to find a piece of fruit to stick into it.
I recommend pouring the beer then walking away for 10 minutes, allowing it to warm in the glass, which softens some of the sharper edges and brings the understated malt to the forefront.
Brewery: Magic Hat
City: South Burlington, Vermont
Style: Wheat Wine Ale
IBU : 55