Vermont Beer: Harpoon Brewery Wheat Beer & More
Yesterday Kris and I got up early to walk the dogs around Lake Shaftsbury. We do that nearly every Saturday from Labor Day through Memorial Day unless the weather is particularly bad. It’s a nice way to break up the usual walks around downtown and it gives Knuckles a chance to be off leash. Knuckles is our younger dog. An ASD (American Shelter Dog) we rescued him when we lived in Ann Arbor. He’s dog reactive to the extreme but we didn’t know this at first. Knuckles was likely a bait dog in a fighting dog training operation based on his injuries when we got him and how absolutely terrified he is of every dog except Mugsy, our 14 1/2 year old. He can’t be off leash when there are dogs around so hitting Lake Shaftsbury super early in the morning means he gets a chance to stretch his legs and run around like a maniac.
We’ve had a bit of a glum week between the anniversary of 9/11 and saying goodbye to our 17 1/2 year old cat. Kris suggested, as we were leaving the lake for home, a drive to Harpoon. It was a gorgeous day and we both needed the distraction, plus we live in a house of geriatric animals who would be snoozing all day after the lake.
Wheat Beer Extravaganza
Generally speaking, I do not like wheat beers. That said, my palate is expanding and just like I used to hate sours but now love them, I’m starting the transition toward appreciation and able to find ones that I really like. Harpoon puts out a series called “UFO” and it was one of a few flights on the menu so we started with that.
The flight is comprised of the following, in the order I’ve listed them. My notes are not quite as useful as usual because I’m still learning to identify some of the notes in wheat beers (other than: “Wow, this really smells like a wheat beer.” and “Oh, I’ll probably like this because it doesn’t smell like a wheat beer.” Baby steps.)
All beers in the flight had an ABV of 4.8%.
I generally do not like hefeweizen. Beyond my waning dislike of wheat beers, I have a life long hatred of banana (I used to spit them out at my mother as a baby. I’d still spit them out at her if she fed me one today, And I’m 40). That said, this one didn’t have that overwhelming banana/bubblegum/clove combo that makes me want to punch someone. Instead, it was actually pretty good.
Appearance: Medium straw, hazy but no sediment. No visible carbonation and very little foam. What there was was loose and white made with tiny bubbles. The foam was not creamy at all.
Nose: On the nose it was malty and had a little earthy spice. There was an overwhelming smell of lemon from the lemon wedge on the glass. It came from a mutant lemon. Seriously. But it worked beautifully so who cares.
Taste: The taste was light and malty and very true to style except I didn’t get banana or bubblegum. Nice flavors from the yeast.
Finish: Crisp finish.
UFO White Ale
This was my least favorite of the flight and the only one I didn’t finish. That is saying a lot about these wheat beers considering my usual aversion. I expected this one to be lighter in color but the color was similar to the Hefeweizen. True to form, though, this one was definitely more herbal tasting.
Appearance: Medium straw to gold. Hazy but no sediment. No carbonation visible and again, low foam. What was there was loose and white, small bubbles.
Nose: Punch in the face of deep wheat.
Taste: Sweeter than the hefe but I can’t really tell you much more than it tasted like a Belgian wit. Very malty/wheaty.
Finish: Lingering and soft.
UFO Raspberry. Raspberry is the key to unlocking my heart to styles I usually avoid. Because I loved this damn thing. And it’s also what got me starting to taste sours. I liked this one so much (how much did you like it, Nancy?) that I nearly ordered a pint of it after we tasted the flight.
Appearance: Deep pink grapefruit. Hazy but no sediment/floaty bits.
Nose: When I was in late elementary school, those round tins of raspberry french candies were super popular. They appeared, or we discovered them, what seemed like overnight and the obsession was huge. When I sniffed this beer that was exactly what it was. Like zero question. It’s funny because I joke that I am incredible at identifying odors in all beer except wheat beer but this is the exception to the rule. I nailed this one. I asked Kris, “Do you remember those raspberry candies in the tin? Raspberry Pastilles, maybe?” Color me impressed that I was right about the name.
Taste: Light, sweet, big time raspberry.
Finish: Long and malty.
Where the raspberry was full of raspberry, the cranberry flavor was not quite as pronounced but showed in other ways. Like how dry and crisp and tart the beer was. It was bigger on cranberry feel than cranberry flavor.
Appearance: Medium pink grapefruit, hazy again with no floaty bits. No visible carbonation and the head was again barely there but loose and white.\
Taste: Very lite all around. A little cranberry and you know you’re drinking a wheat beer with fruit but I’m not sure you’d know it was cranberry unless you really took the time to think about it. But the wheat + cranberry combo really works. Dry.
Finish: Dry and crisp.
Beyond The Flight
In addition to the flight we had some other Harpoon Beer. I don’t have tasting notes for the Oktoberfest (Märzen) because I didn’t try it. I’d ask Kris about it but the saints are on and not doing well.
Appearance: Black black. Like practically opaque. No visible carbonation. Tight white/ pale cream creamy foam.
Nose: Bittersweet chocolate and coffee grounds.
Taste: Super smooth, chocolate and coffee. Slight bitter bite from the hops which perfects the mouthfeel. Dry and complex.
Finish: A slight linger but pretty crisp.
I was thrilled that this beer was served at the correct temperature. It’s the time of year when I start ordering stouts and so many places serve them way too cold or way too warm. Harpoon got it juuuuuuuuust right.
In some ways I wish I had been wearing the one flannel shirt I own but alas, it was My Morning Jacket Saturday (it’s always My Morning Jacket day in our house) and I was wearing my newest tee. Luckily, Harpoon rocks at glassware.
Appearance: Amber. Super clear – like what nice clarity! No visible carbonation. Pale tan foam with small-medium bubbles.
Nose: Complex af. Some pine and citrus, malt and sweetness. Tasting notes from the brewery say tropical fruit but that wasn’t what hit me. I’ll have to think about that one next time I taste this.
Taste: Perfect interplay of malts and hops keep it crisp on the tongue while being smooth.
Finish: Slight malty linger into a crisp, clean finish.
Harpoon has a hefty food menu and we needed to eat. Kris had the pretzel with caramelized onion dip and the black bean burger (comes with dijonnaise sauce). He liked it all but ate half of each there and brought the rest home. The portions are BIG.
I had the Korean bbq tacos. Deeeeelish! They had scallons and lime sour cream plus some sort of vinegary slaw.
Do yourself a favor and get fries.
We brought home a few bottles and I’m looking forward to trying them once the weather decides to calm down. For now it’s still summer beers and warm weather. I didn’t think we’d have an Indian summer but this last week threw us a curveball.