Abita Brewing just released their newest seasonal, Lemon Wheat, which replaces their Wheat Ale of past years. Abita describes this one as “a crisp, refreshing beer made with lemon peel for a fresh citrus taste and aroma. This unfiltered brew has a hazy, golden color and is made with lager and wheat malts, Centennial hops and Biere de Garde yeast.” This one weighs in at 4.4% ABV.
I’ve been able to sample the Lemon Wheat on three different occasions now. The first was last week at The Barley Oak just before the Chafunkta Brewing release party. The second was yesterday while recording a craft beer episode of the Bite and Booze radio show with Jay Ducote, Eric Ducote of BR Beer Scene and Chuck P of the Me & My Big Mouth Podcast. And the third try was this evening at home.
I hate to say it, but this one was a huge miss with me. The small taste I had at The Barley Oak left me unimpressed, but it was such a tiny sample that I felt I’d be doing it a disservice to judge on that alone. So we decided it would be a good idea to review it for the Bite and Booze radio show yesterday, and we were able to take our time to give it a proper tasting. Unfortunately, the second time around was much of the same. This one scored poorly with all of the judges. It pours a hazy light yellow with a bubbly head that dissapates rather quickly. The smell is sour with some sweetness to it. Jay Ducote was getting an asparagus aroma from it. That’s not a good thing. The taste is, well, disgusting. It starts with dry sweetness, then overwhelming lemon juice flavor follows. Mouthfeel is zilch. It’s just a bad beer. It’s baffling how this got out of testing and into production. Maybe if I had just cut the grass in 90 degree weather, I could find it thirst quenching. But to try to sip on it while sitting around the house? No way.
Again, I tried it tonight in the comfort of my own home. Same thing. I then let my wife have a bit of it from the tulip glass without telling her what it was. Her only reply was, “meh.” She’s a big fan of Parish Canebrake, so she does like wheat beers. Personally, I don’t see how anyone in south Louisiana would ever pick the Abita Lemon Wheat over Parish Canebrake if given the choice.
Abita is the 14th largest US craft brewing company, so they must be doing something right. But their approach seems to be to brew uninteresting mild beers and somehow it works. Abita has the resources to make really good and interesting beers. But they choose to take the opposite direction. It’s frustrating for a craft beer lover to see them continue to put out such unimaginative brews. Just when I thought they may be going in a newer and more interesting direction with their Spring IPA, they go back to their old ways with yet another fruit beer. Where’s the stout? How about a double IPA? Maybe a porter? Black IPA? No, instead we get Strawberry Lager, Raspberry Golden (Purple Haze), Satsuma Wit and Lemon Wheat. Anybody see a theme here? Any guesses on the next fruit infused abomination from them?
I hate to say it, but I hope that New Belgium’s entrance into Louisiana gives Abita the kick in the ass that they need. People are flocking to Fat Tire right now, grabbing Ranger IPA and trying the Sunshine Wheat (which honestly, isn’t a whole lot better than Lemon Wheat). But New Belgium does the Lips of Faith series, which is what Abita needs to do with their Select lineup. They need to bottle the Selects in 22 ounce bombers on a limited basis, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. They’d earn a whole lot more respect from people like me if I saw an effort to make interesting beers and make them accessible.
But hey, don’t take my word alone about Lemon Wheat. There are some people out there who do like it. Check out The Beer Buddha’s Abita Lemon Wheat review as well as this one from Stephen Beaumont. So, go give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments below. Or better yet, come take the 3 remaining bottles out of my fridge. I’m happy to give them away.