This weekend the North Dakota State Fair is wrapping up and like thousands of other Manitobans, I made my way down to Minot to take in the festivities, sample some food (and eat American poutine), see some concerts and shop (for beer) till I drop!
One thing that excites me most about visiting Minot is picking up new beers that aren’t available in Manitoba, if not all of Canada.
Luckily for me and other beer geek friends, sometimes the beer gods and goddesses out there do the impossible and bring previously impossible-to-find beers to Canada.
Several years back, Sam Adams returned thanks to a partnership with Moosehead, allowing them to not only sell their staple Boston Lager to the masses in the Great White North, but also bring in seasonal craft beers and even one of the strongest beers by alcohol content on the planet — Utopia.
Another such story is New Belgium Brewing out of Fort Collins, Colorado. A few years back when I was starting to get into blogging and reviewing beers, I got an email from the head of quality control at New Belgium urging me to try out a few of their beers. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to try their beer as I’ve heard about the brewery before, but I was just not familiar with their products at all.
Now New Belgium has two products available in Manitoba — their Fat Tire Amber Ale, a light, yet hoppy, caramelly ale that’s a great introduction beer for those who want to try new beers but don’t want anything too heavy; and Snapshot Wheat Ale, an unfiltered wheat ale brewed especially for the hot summer days of patio-hopping and chilling at the camp fire.
I’ve reviewed innumerable wheat ales in the past few months as it’s the ‘style of the season,’ but when you live in the Wheat City, sometimes you have to celebrate all things related to summer — sans mosquitos, floodwater, black flies, and torrential rains, of course.
It was hard to find Snapshot Wheat Ale as it wasn’t as available in Brandon as it was in the rest of Manitoba — which surprises me as generally Brandon gets new beers before even some Winnipeg stores. So when I did manage to find a bottle, I picked up a few as I knew I would need more than one to do a proper review.
The thing I love about New Belgium’s 355mL bottles is how they remind me of the bottles of the delicious Belgian beers Orval and Westvleteren 12. Like most American beers, or most beers that aren’t in your standard 341mL longneck bottle, you need a bottle opener or bottle-opening apparatus to remove the pry-off cap.
Snapshot pours a light lemon yellow, and is quite cloudy as your standard unfiltered Belgian-style witbier should be. It’s a little lighter in colour than a Rickard’s White, but on par with a Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc, and it’s a bit more mellow for a wheat ale than I’d expect.
There’s a decent amount of carbonation and a light amount of fizzing as I’m pouring it — in fact, the snow white foam on top is barely moving at all as I sip on it. There are notes of lemongrass, a bit of coriander, fresh cut straw and an overall refreshing and light aroma that is on par with most Belgian witbiers I’ve tried over the years.
The flavour isn’t as yeasty as I’d like, but that isn’t a bad thing. New Belgium is a brewery that encourages beer drinkers to try something new, yet doesn’t alienate others by going over the top or coming out with strange flavours. (Note: Their one-off 650mL Lips of Faith series of beer DOES go over the top and was too experimental, but that’s another story for another day!)
It has flavours of lemon, a bit of straw, a bit of a breadiness and a hint of tartiness coming from the lemongrass notes. Personally I wish there was more coming from the sweet malt but seeing that it’s incredibly smooth and tastes like summer in a bottle when it’s right out of a cooler full of ice, it’s really refreshing.
Snapshot is a great name as it seems like the kind of beer you would see a bunch of friends drinking around a bonfire on a nice summer evening — on an evening where the mosquitos and black flies aren’t going nuts — an evening that simply makes the summer worth waiting for.
Smoother than one would expect at five per cent ABV, it is reminiscent of a session ale in my opinion, as it’s incredibly too easy to drink. But at only $2.95 per 355mL bottle, it’s worth the effort — especially since you don’t have to travel all the way down to Minot to try it anymore.
Availability is still pretty spotty. You can get it at the Liquor Mart in Virden and the Corral Centre and south end marts in Brandon, but for some reason the MLCC website doesn’t even list availability for Brandon right now.
If you don’t happen to find any, request it — or check out New Belgium’s other beer, Fat Tire. Lemon zest, light sweet maltiness and a hint of a tarty background make this one of my favourite American beers I’ve had in 2014 ... so far.