March 06, 2011

Wheat Wine from Empire Brewing Company

By Guest Reviewer, Jim Walter of Chittenango, NY

I love beer, I love bars and I really love breweries, but for my money, brewpubs are a little slice of heaven.  That’s probably a bit over the top, but as my taste in beer has changed, my appreciation for the entire experience of beer has, too.  Ten years ago, drinking a Yuengling passed as adventurous for me. 

Today, I seek out new beers and new beer experiences on a regular basis.  When invited on a wine tour, I ask if there are there any micro-breweries nearby (cideries work, too).  So it should be no surprise that Empire Brewing Company, in the Armory Square section of Syracuse, is one of my favorite places to eat and grab a pint of something new.  

Why am I telling you this?  My growing love of craft brewing and of brewpubs led me to Empire Brewing where they are on the cutting edge of using local products in their restaurant and their beer.   My February growler fill up just happened to be their Wheat Wine Ale, a special limited release made to answer a locally sourced challenge.

What is wheat wine?  It is very similar to barley wine in the way it is made and is really a combination of barley wine and American wheat ale. This particular ale is made with 50% wheat malt and 50% barley malt.  Empire’s version is 8.5% ABV, lower that most barley wines, but they can go as high as 12 or 13%.  This vintage is special, as it is one of the few beers made with all New York State products.  The wheat and barley malt, the hops and the water are all sourced within 75 miles of the brewpub and everything is organic.

The beer is actually served in a wine glass at the brewpub, so that is how I poured it for an afternoon of enjoyment. It presents with a beautiful orange-amber color and a pours with a nice creamy froth.  Bringing the glass up to the nose a strong fruity aroma is evident.  The aroma is hard to pin down; it is full of fruit from cranberries to raspberries.  The beer drinks very smooth and is better enjoyed by sipping.  The hops, sourced from Foothill Farms in Munnsville, NY, are not real evident until the end, as they linger on the back of the tongue. 

Of course, you can’t find this beer in any store yet.  (Empire has plans to build a brewery and go big time in 2012).  If you are looking to enjoy a wheat wine and find out what it is all about, your best bet would be to head to the nearest beer store and pick up a Smutty Nose Wheat Wine Ale, grab a glass and enjoy.


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