Mr. Bluesky

Maker: Griffin Claw, Birmingham, Michigan, USA20160425_131117-1.jpg

Style: Wheat beer with grapefruit peel and coriander seed

ABV: 4.5%

Appearance: Cloudy gold with a lasting foamy head.

Nose: Wheat bread dough, citrus peel.

Palate: Citrusy, slightly sour, with a little spice.

Finish: Sour and a little bitter.

Parting words: Griffin Claw is located in Birmingham, Michigan, the affluent suburb just north of Royal Oak, location of Sipology Blog HQ. Birmingham is a women with big hats and little dogs kinda place. Which makes the quote that appears at the top a little #problematic. It’s a quote from Elmore Leonard: “There are cities that get by on their good looks. Detroit has to work for a living.” I’m sure Leonard meant it as a tribute of sorts, but coming from a brewery in one of the wealthiest, whitest cities in the metro area, it sounds more like a dig than a compliment.

That aside, there’s nothing wrong with this beer. It’s something I would order at the brewpub or someone else if I was in the mood for a spiced wheat beer. This is Michigan, though, and the competition here is fierce. If a brewery is going to make a beer in the style of the most popular beer from the most popular brewery in the state, it needs to stand out. Bluesky doesn’t. It’s not worth seeking out if unavailable near you. Mildly recommended.

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Sunspot

Maker: Green Bush, Sawyer, Michigan, USAwpid-20150601_140654.jpg

Style: hefeweizen

ABV: 6%

Purchased for $12/6 pack

Appearance: Hazy burnt orange with a frothy head.

Nose: Cut hay, apricot.

Palate: Full bodied but not heavy. More bitter than I expected. A slightly fruity background.

Finish: Very good. Chewy hops and stone fruit with a touch of citrus.

Parting words: I’ve long been a fan of wheat beers so when I saw this one on the shelf I grabbed it immediately. Around these parts, the big dog in summertime wheat beers is Bell’s Oberon, of course. It stands out because of its bitterness, a rare feature in wheats. Although Sunspot has an average number of IBUs (international bittering units) compared to other hefeweizen, its bitterness stood out very strongly to me. This may have been a function of my palate at the time, but I found it surprising. I prefer wheat beers with more fruit than this, but I’m not a style stickler either. The price is high for a beer billed as a refresher, but it is tasty. Sunspot is recommended.

Atwater Summer Time Ale

Maker: Atwater, Detroit, Michigan, USAwpid-20140804_170659.jpg

Style: Wheat ale brewed with lemon peel & grains of paradise.

ABV: 5%

Purchased for $9/6 pack

Appearance: Dark copper with a light foamy head. Slighly cloudy.

Nose: Malt, mandarin orange, peach.

Palate: Medium bodied and effervescent. Lightly roasted malt, hint of yeast, balanced by some acidity.

Finish: Fruit then a bit hit of bitterness. Lingers for a long time with a bit of stickiness on the lips.

Parting words: This Atwater’s take on the summer wheat ales that Michigan brewers have made popular (we can all name at least one).

This one is different than its cousins, though, because of its bitterness and much more subtle fruit flavors. If I hadn’t read the label, I would never have known that lemon peel was used in the brewing of this beer. That’s not a knock, though. Some of these types of beers can be too fruity and ham-fisted in their use of fruit and spice. If anything this is a little too far on the other side of the spectrum. There’s a little too much bitterness and richness for a summer ale. Seems more fitting for fall.

Still, it’s enjoyable and the price is typical for microbrews. Atwater’s Summer Time Ale is recommended.

Traverse City Cherry Wheat

Maker: Atwater, Detroit, Michigan, USAAtwater Traverse City Cherry

Style: Wheat beer with brewed with cherry.

ABV: 6%

Appearance: Light auburn with a short-lived, foamy head.

Nose: Malt, sourness, fruit.

Palate: Medium bodied. Slightly sour with sweet malt and a splash of tart cherry juice.

Finish: Cherry flavor, some malt and a little hoppy bitterness.

Parting words: Not to be confused with Atwater’s Cherry Stout. This beer is also included in Atwater’s summer party twelve pack. It’s an easy drinking, lightly fruity and sour wheat beer. Nothing earth- shattering but tasty on a hot and sticky summer evening. Traverse City Cherry Wheat is recommended.

White Hatter

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USAWhite Hatter

Style: Spiced wheat pale ale

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 5.5%

Appearance: Golden with a bit of froth at the top, not much in the way of head.

Nose: Subdued. Some malt and hops with a touch of tropical fruit.

On the palate: Full bodied and hoppy. On first sip tastes like an IPA but then shifts into a mildly fruity wheat flavor.

Finish: The bitterness and the fruit fade into a lingering soapy taste.

Parting words: I’ve been a fan of New Holland for quite some time and a search of the archives will reveal numerous positive reviews of their beers and spirits. I just can’t do it with this one. It’s a part of their vintage series of riffs on their very successful Mad Hatter IPA. I have enjoyed all I have had until this one. It could be spoiled, but one would expect a beer that is vintage dated (and kept in a fridge) to be capable of aging for at least a year with positive results. At any rate, it pains me to say this, but White Hatter is not recommended.

Sno White Ale

Maker: MillKing It Productions, Royal Oak, Michigan, USA

Style: Wheat ale

ABV: 4.8%

Appeance: Cloudy gold.

Nose: Light with dried flowers and a bit of fruit.

On the palate: Full-bodied and fruity. Fried plantains with cracked black pepper, mango, a hint of hoppy bitterness and spice to add balance.

Finish: More bitter than fruity, but works well with the flavors on the palate. Well composed from beginning to end.

Parting words: Like everything MiP does, this a is flavorful but very drinkable. Comes in pint cans like the rest. Sno is a bit pricier, though, $8 (if I recall correctly) for a four pack. Lots of wheat character without being a banana bomb. Sno White is recommended.

Nicie Spicie

Maker: Short’s, Elk Rapids, Michigan, USA

Style: Spiced wheat ale

ABV: 4.5%

Appearance: Dark straw, cloudy and foamy.

Nose: Moroccan spicy. Coriander, Meyer lemon, hint of white pepper.

On the palate: Light bodied with lots of spice tempered with a little wheat character. Coriander, faint hints of citrus. Maybe even a little creamy.

Finish: Sweet and slightly fruity. Fades fairly quickly.

Parting words: This is a summer limited release from shorts in the vein of spiced wheat ales like Whitsun. The spice dries out (in a good way) the normally fruity wheat beer profile. It’s a fun drink, especially in late summer when thoughts of pumpkin ale are in the air. Another good solid offering from Short’s. If I have a criticism it’s that the coriander is a little too strong. I would have appreciated more citrus and pepper. At any rate, Nicie Spicie is recommended.

Archangel Summer Wheat

Maker: North Peak Brewing, Traverse City, Michigan.

Style: Wheat Ale with cherry juice and other natural flavors

ABV: 5%

Appearance: Copper with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Tangy but slightly bitter.

On the palate: Light-bodied. Little wheat character or even ale character. A bit of bitterness followed by a lot of sweet cherry flavor.

Finish: Cherry juice, cherry coke, Twizzlers, cough syrup

Parting Words: Another disappointing beer from North Peak. What little character this wheat ale might have had is completely overwhelmed by the cherry juice. Makes me wonder if covering over a poorly brewed product was the intention to begin with. I don’t think the concept of wheat ale sweetened with cherry juice is inherently a bad one, but there is more subtlety and complexity in a Cherry Coke from Steak & Shake than in this. Maybe it’s time for North Peak to spend some of the time and effort they invest in snappy labels into making better beer. Not recommended.

Oberon

Maker: Bell’s, Comstock/Kalamazoo, Michigan

Style: Wheat Ale

ABV: 5.8%

Appearance: Cloudy gold with moderate head.

Nose: Sweet, floral.

On the palate: Medium bodied. Rounded and light, a little sweet and a little fruity but dry for a wheat ale overall. A nice hit of bitter hops on the back end.

Finish: the hops persist in the finish for a long time but eventually fade.

Parting Words: Oberon is Michigan’s best known and most celebrated beer. What makes it successful as a summer ale is that it does not have some of the off-putting (to some) aspects of wheat beers. It avoids being a “banana bomb”, like many wheat beers, with deft use of hops. The sweet fruitiness wheat brings to beer is present but kept in check. Oberon is old news to many Michigan microbrew enthusiasts but it remains one of America’s finest ales. Recommended. Summer wouldn’t taste like summer without it!