Harpoon, Triticus

Harpoon Brewing Co.
Grade: B+

Don't drink this beer at a party, you'll wake up the next morning with various things written across your face and inexplicable photos of you on Facebook. This is one of those beers where I realize my background and knowledge of other beer types is incomplete. Harpoon calls this beer a "wheat wine," which is essentially a beer made with a very large amount of wheat, and bumped up in alcohol content. I have a feeling this beer has more in common with German and Belgian strong ales like doppelbocks and tripels, than the American styles I'm used to. This is an area of expertise where sadly, I'm not very well versed. I can't make those connections with those styles or draw associations. But what I can do is tell you if this is a good beer.

This is a good beer.

The first thing that surprises me about this beer is the color. I had no idea this was a darker beer, when I hear "wheat" in the description I immediately think of lighter beers, like hefeweizens (color prejudice, I know). The color is a deep brown, almost opaque. The tan head that comes up isn't very thick, and falls to a lacing after a little while. Sweet aromas are in the nose, candy, caramel, some banana and bubblegum are there too. The flavor is like I'm sipping on a completely different beer than the one I was just smelling. Roast, dark chocolate, and some coffee mix in with the sweet sugars and caramel. The more you drink this beer, the more the sweetness drops out and is balanced by the darker roasted flavors. In fact it seems to change them, the sweeter flavors turn more into raisins and dates as you drink. The mouthfeel is medium light, not heavy at all despite the very large alcohol percentage (11.5% ABV). There's no alcohol burn at all in the flavor, only that warming sensation as you drink it. This tastes very much like an imperial stout got it on with a Belgian golden strong ale. The finish is dry, and with some backup bitterness from the hops makes me want another sip.

The problem I have with a lot of "winter warmer" style beers is the alcohol level is almost always accompanied by a huge thick mouthfeel, and overly sweet flavors. I don't want to drink these types of beers, even if I'm only intending to have one pint due to the alcohol content. I see a winter warmer as one of those beers you don't mind having on a cold day in front of a fire. That alcohol warmth is exactly what I'm looking for, but that's it. I want the rest of my beer to be quenching and dry, allowing me to readily take another sip, not brace myself for the onslaught of a hot, fusel-laden booze bomb. I can take another sip of Triticus, and keep sipping it 'til it's gone. Then I'll most likely lay down and fall into a warm and cozy winter nights sleep, hopefully without someone writing something suggestive on my face.