Bellingham Beer Week may be over for another 50 weeks, but tasty treats from BBW ‘16 remain to be captured in the wild. A certain large Seattle brewery made a BBW beer that has to see the light of day outside their tasting room. Wander and Kulshan teamed up to produce a brew that proved so popular, rationing measures had to be enacted to ensure that some would remain until the actual 10 day week (and, to be fair, I personally was likely responsible for a lot of the shortage. I crushed a lot of that Raspberry Lager over the summer.). Hopefully the logical minds on Kentucky Street and Dean Avenue already have plans for next years larger production run. In short, all of our breweries put out some special treats for us during BBW, including the newest members of the Whatcom Zymurgy Team, Gruff.
Gruff teamed up with local pinball lounge The Racket to brew a collaboration beer that was released during our annual beer bacchanalia, Wish Rock Wit. Wit is a style that had gone fairly much extinct until being revived by a native of Hoegaarden in the Flanders region of Belgium, Pierre Celis. Mr. Celis named his beer after his hometown, and you’ve likely had it, or seen it around, as the brand is now owned by a large multi-national company. The word “Wit” in this case means both “white” and “wheat”, and generally you can expect to get those things when you order one of the many fine examples being brewed by craft brewers these days. Often brewed with orange peel and coriander as flavor points, Wits are usually light, crisp, and refreshing.
What we have before us today, however, is not a Wit that would be recognized as such from across a busy room. Served in a shaker pint glass on a calm afternoon at The Racket, our example came clearly not white. It was varying shades of plum, cherry, berry, pink, and dark red, depending on how the light hit it. A quarter-inch cap of pink head that had a moderate amount of retention topped the beer. Raising the glass brought some light berry notes to the nose, along with a bit of a yeast scent, some light grains, and an herbal aroma in the background.
Once washing over the tongue, all those aspects came into clearer focus; a soft malted grain sapidity made for a nice foundation, the berries popped more brightly, the yeast and herb tones combined for a pleasant spice note, and, while there wasn’t a big hop presence, there was enough of a tang on the finish to suggest a judicious amount of hopping had occurred. All these points combined to create a flavor profile that remained interesting throughout the glass. Often, after the first few sips, you know what that beer is going to be throughout its time with you. With this beer, different points kept popping up at various times, and each quaff became a pleasant surprise as a different thing would appear.
The body was fuller than you expect to find in an average take on the style, but I think we’ve already learned that this beer is anything but typical. The beer was a bit sweet on the front of the palate, dried out a wee bit across the middle, and finished semi-dry, allowing the flavors to linger a bit before dissipating. There was a light amount of carbonation that helped the flavors and body expand across the tongue, but I felt that a bit more would have helped the effervescence effect increase enjoyment.
Drinkability was very good, which I knew already, having had several at Gruff’s tasting room during Beer Week, and you could easily drink several while pumping quarters into your favorite flipper flinging machine upstairs. Overall, I found this to be quite an enjoyable brew, one that’s worth your time while enjoying these fleeting few days of the season. I don’t how big of a batch they made of this, so I suggest you hie on over to either Gruff or The Racket and slide a couple of these down while you can.
Given the atypical nature of Wish Rock, it’s hard to hold it to my standard rating system, I’ll give it a solid 6 on my 1-10 scale, but drink it because it’s a fun, enjoyable, limited brew. BBW ‘16 may be officially over, but you can help it live on!