I absolutely love Belgian-style beers.
I love them to the point that I will go out of my way to plan a trip to Montreal and bug my friend to drive me to the town of Chambly — home to some of the world’s best tasting Belgian-style ales on the planet.
With spring arriving at some point in this day and age, Labatt is finally trying to get into the patio beer market by bringing a new (to Canada) beer line called Shock Top.
Shock Top is essentially Labatt’s take on Molson’s Rickards brand, whose White is essentially a beer influenced by the American Blue Moon Wheat Ale.
I’ve seen Shock Top on tap at local pubs and restaurants for the past few months now, but now I’m seeing it actually replacing Rickard’s White on tap.
But to me, Unibroue’s Blanche de Chambly is the superior wheat ale of the three.
One beer that Labatt’s Shock Top portfolio has brought to consumers from the States is a Raspberry White, a wheat ale with a hint of raspberry to give it a touch of summertime freshness.
I picked up a can at the 10th and Victoria Liquor Mart for just over $3 per 473mL can. I’m not expecting much but I did recently sample Bud Lime Straw-ber-rita product and it made my insides feel like mush for an entire evening ... so I’m aiming pretty low so far.
Shock Top Raspberry White doesn’t look like a cherry red cooler like the Straw-ber-rita did. Instead, it pours like a standard Belgian-style witbier — a very murky golden beer, as thick as the Assiniboine.
As I pour the Assiniboine ... uh ... I mean the Raspberry Wheat Ale, it’s fizzing up like a can of ginger ale, which isn’t normal for most wheat ales but seeing that this likely has a fruit syrup concentrate, it makes more sense.
The aroma of the Raspberry White is reminiscent of store-bought raspberry jam — overly sweet, sugary, but the kind of raspberry jam that brings back memories. There’s a vague malty sweetness coming from the wheat ... and honestly, that’s all I’m really noticing.
For flavour, it is a fairly pale Belgianesque wheat ale with notes of raspberry. The flavour of raspberry honestly doesn’t do it for me — it reminds me of the fake raspberry flavour you taste in gum and candy, a bit syrupy and overly sweet.
There is a bit of bitterness coming off the wheat used, giving it a nice dense breadiness. But it’s mostly powered by the raspberry sweetness.
It’s not a bad beer, it’s certainly drinkable. But my problem with it is that the flavour starts and ends the very second the beer touches your tongue. You taste the sweet raspberry flavour, but then it just goes away completely. Now, if there was a hint of coriander in here, it would be the hit of the summer, an alternative to Rickards White or Original Shock Top ale.
In a sense, this reminds me of an old Unibroue beer from yesteryear, Unibroue Éphémère Framboise — a yeasty Belgian ale with a light sweetness of raspberry. But in Unibroue’s case, the raspberry tasted like it came straight out of someone’s garden.
I’m not one for fruity beers but I do have a big sweet tooth. I may or may not drink this again, depending on whether it gets hot this summer.
This will certainly become a patio favourite in Westman over Bud Light Lime and its successors as beer drinkers are constantly searching for something new.
However, for me, I’m waiting for Fort Garry’s take on the summertime fruit beers as they are bringing out a raspberry wheat ale this summer called the Raspberry Quencher.
Seeing as both Shock Top Raspberry White and Raspberry Quencher are available in 473mL cans and will be available in time for summer, I’m intrigued to see which one will be the top choice of Westman beer drinkers who want a lightly fruity ale.
I vote Fort Garry.
Innis and Gunn Lager — One of Scotland’s most popular beer lines now has a lager. This Helles style lager uses naked golden oats to give it a very sweet flavour during the brewing process. It has notes of lemon, macadamia nuts and a bit of a bready goodness. $2.99/473mL can at the Killarney and 10th and Victoria Liquor Marts.
Palm Rodenbach Ale — Not a fan of raspberry wheat ales but you want something a bit fruity? How about something a bit sour? Rodenbach is a Flemish sour that’s guaranteed to make you cringe ever so slightly. It is also aged in 150-year-old oak casks to give it a bit of a light woodiness. It’s available at the 10th and Victoria Liquor Mart for $3.69/330mL bottle. I’m glad to see Belgian sours finally popping up at local liquor stores.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 17, 2014