NoDa Brewing Co. Cheerwine Ale Review

Drink Reviews craft beer
NoDa Brewing Co. Cheerwine Ale Review

I have a long and well-documented history of not enjoying craft beer collaboration gimmickry. Even more so than most other industries, the callous commercialism of “Brand X Brand” marketing feels particularly out of place in the once idealized world of indie craft beer brewing. But of course, I did just write “once idealized,” as the modern craft beer world rarely invokes that same sort of idealistic fervor it may have in the mid-2000s. These days, craft beer is simply a business, and one that has spent several years contracting and worrying about its future. It needs the help of whatever is hot, and with ready-to-drink cocktails booming across the market, perhaps a dalliance back into the world of “alcopop” can capture the attention of the consumer? Perhaps that’s what Charlotte, North Carolina stalwarts NoDa Brewing Co. were thinking when they conceived of their new Cheerwine Ale collab.

It’s a meeting of two brands that certainly have plenty of visibility in the Carolinas and the Southeast. Since it was founded in 2011, NoDa has been one of the forerunners of the North Carolina craft brewing movement, enshrined by medal-winning classic beers such as flagship IPA Hop Drop ‘N Roll. Cheerwine, on the other hand, is based in Salisbury, North Carolina, and has been making its classic cherry soda since 1917, claiming to be “the oldest continuing soft drink company still operated by the same family.” Fans of Cheerwine have long since built a cult of personality around the brand, finding ways to work it into cocktails, desserts, BBQ sauces and more. Why not beer as well?

The beer itself appears to be a pretty conventional, old school American pale wheat ale, the kind of beer that certainly takes me back to an earlier brewpub era when practically every brewery tended to have a relatively cleanly fermented American wheat ale in its rotation. This style of beer was always popular for additional flavoring or fruit additions, as its greater body and slightly doughy sweetness paired well with flavors such as cherry, raspberry or peach, and the lack of expressive German wheat beer yeast characteristics (banana, clove, etc.) made it a more natural fit for flavorings than true hefeweizen would have been. This particular beer weighs in at 5.2% ABV. The real question: Just how Cheerwine-infused is this thing going to be, and will it be a beer you can drink more than a thimble of at a time? It’s joining NoDa’s year-round beer lineup, so they must believe there’s a future here.

So with that said, let’s get to tasting.

On the nose, Cheerwine Ale is every bit the artificial cherry jamboree you would probably expect it to be. It reminds me of a cherry-flavored Lifesaver or Dum Dum lollipop, the cherry note instantly identifiable but demonstrably artificial. That’s not necessarily a negative, as this accurately reflects the nature of most cherry sodas. You just wouldn’t mistake this for having actual cherries in it. Nor does one really detect anything else of note on the nose.

The palate, however, is a bit more surprising. Here you can actually detect a little bit of crisp wheat graininess, although it of course is playing second fiddle to expressive flavors of cherry candy, with hints of cough syrup. However, Cheerwine Ale mercifully proves to be not nearly as sweet as the nose would probably lead you to believe, which ends up being the product’s saving grace. It has only moderate residual sweetness, in fact, which makes it far easier drinking than I initially expected it would be. There’s not a lot to the flavor profile beyond the cherry flavoring, but that flavoring is at least presented in a way that retains both drinkability and dignity. Heaven help me, I think I could probably handle drinking a small glass of this every now and then, and that itself is far exceeding expectations when we’re talking about a beer flavored as a soda.

As far as gimmick beer collaborations go, that’s about as good as they get. If you’re a Cheerwine fan, this NoDa brew is genuinely one you should check out.

Brewery: NoDa Brewing Co.
City: Charlotte, NC
Style: American pale wheat ale
ABV: 5.2%
Availability: 16 oz cans

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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