Brett joins me for a back-to-back episode and yet ANOTHER Southern Tier beer - 422, their "Pale Wheat Ale." Compared to all the other Southern Tier beers I've had this one was extremely different.
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3.4AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 14/20
I’d like to coin another phrase when it comes to beer: just because a beer is original doesn’t necessarily make it a great beer. I’m not talking about gimmicky beers, I’m talking about respectable brewers like Southern Tier making what should be a winner like 422 Pale Wheat Ale. This is an American wheat beer at its core, but its superficial elements say otherwise. It’s fairly sweet, but rather earthy, which makes for something of a strange beer that’s not bad.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 12oz bottle in a hefeweizen glass. I was surprised this beer poured so easily, forming very little head even after a vigorous pour. It has a dark golden color and is very hazy and noticeably effervescent, although I don’t see any sediment in the body. The head is white, soapy and leaves little lacing on the glass.
The aroma is rather strange for a wheat: it smells very earthy with notes of straw and soil. I also detect a candy-like scent and maybe what you would call the typical "beer smell." It’s nothing I’d normally associate with a beer of this style, which made me curious about the taste.
I’m still amazed that I’m able to come up with unusual analogies for beers’ palettes even after all these reviews. The best way to describe the taste of this beer would be a sweet blonde ale with an almost adjunct lager-like finish.
Southern Tier is known for making robust brews that delight my palate, but with 422 Pale Wheat Ale I was a little confused. I did enjoy the rich caramel and butterscotch-like candy flavors at the beginning of the drink, but thrown for a loop by the roughage-like finish. The beer is brewed as a tribute to Earth Day (April 22nd or 4/22) and it shows in the taste. The wheat and soil-like aromas combined with the rather grainy finish make this a very organic beer that is intentionally unrefined (at least that’s my theory).
And while I did enjoy the sweet flavors of 422, the grainy, wheaty, dry bitter finish became a little fatiguing. What’s strange is it actually left a slightly sweet aftertaste, if only for a few moments.
The one thing almost all wheat beers have in common regardless of taste is drinkability, and that’s true of 422 Pale Wheat Ale too. The body is noticeably thin as soon it hits the palate. It’s flat and wet in the mouth, making it a good thirst-quencher. It finishes mostly smooth, but there’s a bit of a kick as it goes down.
At 5.8% ABV this is actually rather potent for a wheat beer. It certainly doesn’t taste or feel anything other than light to medium-bodied. Perhaps criticizing its potency is splitting hairs, but it’s still rather curious. This beer would pair well with salad or any kind of summer picnic fare. It probably could be sessioned, but only by drinkers who really enjoy it.
It’s strange and slightly disappointing when a brewery puts out something that takes a little getting used to. I’m not saying 422 Pale Wheat Ale is bad, but it’s just not the type of beer I’d expect to have a Southern Tier label attached to it. Still, I appreciate its uniqueness and I enjoyed it at the time and I think most drinkers would as well.