As spring rears its overdue head around Boston's horrendously long winter, I've resumed drinking white ales quite regularly in order to distract myself from mother nature's icy grip. Hofer recently made it out to Boston for a second New England reunion of SCU ex-pats, and of course we had to sample and argue beer. One of these sessions was held at the Sunset Bar and Grill here in Allston (it's like the Yardhouse in California, but with a more developed selection, if you can imagine that). The other landmark event was our trip to the Sam Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain, with Jeff and Galen.
After about a half hour of Sam Adams corporate propaganda and brewing information, we were finally entitled to our free 21oz of beer. Our guide offered us three different beers; the first being Boston Lager, and the second being the White Ale. Our guide tried to excite us with the third beer on tap, explaining that it was usually "experimental" or not usually found in stores. Unfortunately, it was the 'tussin-tasting Cherry Wheat, which is readily available at package stores and bodegas alike, throughout the Boston area. Ugh. Anyways, this report is really about the White Ale, so I'll focus on that.
Sam Adams' attempt at a bottled witbier is a far cry from other witbiers, microbrews and imports alike. The label around the bottle claims that it is an American version of the classic Blegian white white ale, and it's definitely American; it's bland, lacking strong flavor, and despite its high alcohol content (5.2% abv). More particularly, it's really missing the delicate citrus flavor I expect from white beers. I taste maybe a hint of lemon, but the flavor washes away far too quickly. Additionally, you really get a sticky taste in your mouth after drinking a pair of pints, similar to what I'd expect from a soda, not a beer.
On the positive side, it's definitely drinkable if you're feeling something mildly citrusy. Don't expect an explosion of flavor unless you get it from the brewery (or on tap?), where it's far more strong. Just watch out for drinking more than a few, because it does get quite sticky. It also has a mild hop flavor, good for those who aren't too keen on hops but don't mind a slight hint of it.
Witbiers traditionally are thirst quenchers for a spring day. This is something else. While it's decent to have once in a while at a pub if you're feeling something fresh, you're better off going for something traditional, like a Hoegaarden or an Allagash. I laud the Boston Brewing Company's attempt to bring something like this to a big market, but it's definitely an American beer, and lacks the charms that make white ales so special.