Saturday, July 12, 2008

Saturday Beer Review: Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy and Berryweiss

If you're anything like The Common Man (and let's face it, you are), you are a fan of beer. Not just any beer though. No, Bud Light may do in a pinch, but a real beer it is not. And so, on select Saturdays, The Common Man will pick one or two beer-like substances to review, hoping to extend your palate and to wave you off when necessary.

"Why on Saturdays?" you ask. Because Saturdays are the perfect day of the week for beer. It is a day either of hard yard work or relaxation, and both activities demand a frosty, carbonated malt beverage. It is a day for tailgating at college football games, the only acceptable situation to drink before 11 AM. It is a day for grilling and for pizza (but not for grilled pizza). It is a day, usually, with time enough to sit on the deck and taste the delicious beeriness (get used to that word, you'll read it a lot) of the beer. There is nothing like it.

The Common Man would also point out that he, in no way, is an expert on beer. Just like you, he can't tell anything about carbonation volume or appropriate rations of hops to grain or whatever. That job will fall to The Deacon, The Common Man's private brewmaster. But The Common Man can tell you what he likes and why he likes it. And dammit, that should be enough for you.

So, to kick off his beer reviews, The Common Man thought it would be appropriate to review a couple of the local brews from his boyhood in the Upper Midwest. Various versions of Miller are brewed in Milwaukee, of course, which would count for these purposes; and although the locals seem to swear by them they simply aren't that interesting. Think Budweiser with an Upper Midwest accent. For a first review, The Common Man wanted to do something a little off the beaten path, and to introduce all who are not from the Upper Midwest to something new and different. So, for your amusement and education, The Common Man tested out two summer brews by Leinenkugel's, their Summer Shandy and Berryweiss.

It was a split decision.

First, the better of the two, the Shandy. Leinie's promotes their shandy as a "lemonade flavored beer, a European favorite during the summer months. And the light crisp flavor makes it a great summer refresher. Each batch is carefully brewed using the finest wheat, malted barley, and just a hint of real Wisconsin honey. Then, our brewmasters mix in fresh lemonade and citrus flavors to create an adventurous taste that's perfect for those lazy days of summer."

Indeed, as advertised, the beer tastes very lemony. In fact, it tastes far more like lemonade than beer. And the lemonade cuts the alcohol content some (making The Common Man wonder how beer and hard lemonade would mingle), down to 4.2% by volume. So, it's easy to drink a ton and not feel terribly buzzed. Depending on your goals for the afternoon/evening, you've received fair warning.

Though the beeriness is dominated by the lemonade, it still is a refreshing drink on a hot day. The Common Man doesn't know about "an adventurous taste," though. More like "pleasant to take sips from the bottle, while pushing The Boy on his swingset." It's not like it makes The Common Man want to go skydiving or anything.

One final warning: Do not, under any circumstances, pour this beer into a glass or get it from a tap. It looks suspiciously like cloudy urine. Like some brewmaster had had asparagus last night.

The Berryweiss was a total disappointment. The Common Man is used to having various fruits and berries inserted into his beer by The Deacon, The Common Man's private brewmaster. But this is different. First, The Deacon's Cherry Porter, Cherry Wheat Ale, and the Triple Berry thing are delicious. Leinenkugel's, on the other hand, suggests putting ice in the beer or mixing it with Honeyweiss, which suggests that even they realize that this is a crappy beer to drink on its own. And they're right.

Second, The Deacon's beer both looks and tastes like beer, with the fruit as an afterthought. The Leinie's Berryweiss is plum colored. That's just not right. Now, The Common Man does not discriminate against anyone based on their color, but if some purple guy shows up at his door and the Minnesota Vikings aren't playing, The Common Man is going to ask what the hell happened. Second, there is no beeriness to the beer. Instead, it tastes like carbonated fruit juice concentrate, strong and sweet and tart and overwhelming. It is, pardon me ladies, the ultimate chick beer. Men, and women with good sense, stay away. Far, far away.

And so, there you go. Two beers, neither of which quite match up with The Common Man's definition of good beer. That said, the shandy is quite drinkable and a nice compliment to a salad or salmon or to just being outside. The less said about the Berryweiss the better. Next time out, The Common Man will try to profile some beers with a little more beeriness to them. And he welcomes suggestions to try from the peanut gallery.

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