I’m not entirely sure, but I think this new Solace beer from Firestone Walker is breaking new ground for the Paso Robles brewery. (Recall they sent me two bottles to try.) The announcement on their website is calling it a “Summertime Fusion Wheat Beer” and there’s an interesting pull from the press release:
While Solace is somewhat devoid of style, Brewmaster Matt Brynildson said it will be a sort of unfiltered fusion of a Hefeweizen and a Belgian Saison. Subtle hints of banana and clove aroma will merge with sweet fruit flavor, a medium body and tangy finish. This combination will result in drinkable spring/summer beer with about 6% alcohol by volume.
“Style guidelines are definitely being stretched and exaggerated with the rise of craft beers in the U.S.,” Brynildson said. “I call it a Summertime Belgo-Bavarian Zwickle Saison,” he added jokingly.
However you want to define it (I’m going with “unfiltered wheat beer” for now), it sounds fairly ambitious and by and large, I’m pleased with the results.
Appearance: Hazy spun gold in color with a finely-bubbled, dense white head.
Smell: Spicy and wheaty; that sour-fruity note of a weizen with a touch of banana. “Spice” is more of a peppercorn than clove.
Taste: Fresh bread with toasty crust; hints of mango and apple with a peppery presence on the tongue and back of the mouth. Crisp and bright, and there’s a note of floral hops—I think—that comes off more as heather tips or something. Earthy.
Mouthfeel: Crisp and just light enough to be refreshing but nice bite from the yeast.
Overall: A touch nutty (sunflower seeds) as it warms; good beer and a little unusual for a wheat (for my expectations), but that’s what they’re shooting for.
Interestingly, RateBeer is calling the style a “Wheat Ale” while BeerAdvocate is going with “Saison / Farmhouse Ale.” I think they’re both right.