The half-German in me is ecstatic to see American breweries take a stab at the Purity Law of 1516, aka the deliciously named Reinheitsgebot! This series of German rules were codified in Bavaria, basically limiting the ingredients in German beers to only water, barley, and hops. As disastrous as this sounds to our privileged palates, the Germans had several hundred years to get this recipe right (cue obligatory Schnitzengiggles and “fourth best bier in all zie Deutschland!” jokes). And believe me, it shows. It comes down not to what you can add to your beer, but what you do with those three ingredients that matters. In one word: execution. On this side of the pond we haven’t had quite so long at the whole craft side of brewing, but that’s why it’s so fun to see our brewers take on their much aged brethren. I see a lot of this in St. Louis when I go there on business, and here in Virginia we do see a variety of Pilsners, Märzens, and especially recently, Kölschs…but where the heck are my Weizens and Bocks? So let me give an early kudos to Lost Rhino for making a Hefeweizen a part of their flagship lineup. But how does it stack up to the Weihenstephaners and Franziskaners of the world??
Final Glide, Lost Rhino Brewing Company (Ashburn, VA)
Hefeweizen, ABV 5.4%, IBU 14
Presentation: Keg pour into a Weizen-style half-liter glass. I couldn’t live with myself if I got this part wrong. Lost Rhino suggests a Pilsner glass, but if you’ve been to das Vaterland (or a random Hard Rock like my wife) use the real deal. It does make a difference in opening up the flavors in this kind of beer.
Appearance: Earlier in the keg, you could almost say you were pouring out pure banana smoothie. I actually thought something was horrifically wrong until some BEER SCIENCE informed me that due to kegs drawing from the bottom, all the sediment and yeasts you’ll find in these unfiltered beers are going to come out in your first few pours. While that definitely impacted the taste, after about a half-dozen beers it started to resemble what you’d find in the tap room or bottle. Basically, cloudy with mild carbonation and flecks of yellow and white from the sediment. Interestingly, the picture you see here is somewhere after 30-35 beers from this sixtel; while it’s clearly still carrying some sediment, we’re almost approaching Pale Ale territory in all but the most direct light. It’s still vibrant and yellow, but in a dim taproom from afar it’s not quite as recognizable. The head was moderate but dissipated in under a minute.
Taste: Bananas…in pajamas…are coming down the stairs! The nose is fruity and sweet with some yeasty/bready overtones, but you can easily identify banana in the body. This is very indicative of the style but it’s not always so pronounced in American Hefes, so that’s some major points to Lost Rhino. That earthy zest that most identify as cloves is also present in the finish, but I typically attribute this to carbonation or, in this case, the Pilsner malts. If there’s one thing that doesn’t stand out, it’s that one could pseudonymously (is that a word?) describe Hefes as Heavies, and you honestly don’t get that here as much. It scores higher on the drinkability scale as a result, even if that does detract from the, ahem, purity of the beer.
Mouth Feel: I did mention this is a drinkable beer, right? Zesty but not overly bitter, and the medium ABV means you can treat this with just a bit more caution than a Session or Adjunct style beer. Not everyone will be fans of the way it plucks at your tongue when you let it sit forward, but that is very much emblematic of Weizens in particular.
Overall: There’s nothing final about this beer. It’s light enough to be a summer beer, and flavorful enough to survive into the colder months. On a recent Friday afternoon I had a day off from work (and no baby duty), so after doing some yard work I trekked out to Lost Rhino to pick up this very keg and have lunch. In near 90-degree heat and after working up a sweat, this beer absolutely destroyed my thirst and about put me to sleep in that same first sip. That was pure magic. Moving away from anecdotes, I can compare this beer quite favorably with a Brauerei that has been tinkering with near-perfection for quite some time. It doesn’t quite lend itself to a hearty meal, but that feels intentional given the American market. I have a hard time ever having just one glass of Final Glide, and the only reason it lacks a semi-permanent spot in my beer fridge is the lack of production/distribution. I don’t just recommend this beer as a fan of German styles – when Hamilton sampled it at the VA Craft Brewers Festival the other week, he turned to glare at me before all but frothing from the mouth, saying, “when ya gonna review this?!” It’s damn good, pure and simple.