The "explosive" flavor of New Belgium's coconut curry hefeweizen | Bleader

The "explosive" flavor of New Belgium's coconut curry hefeweizen

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The first time I tasted New Belgium's coconut curry hefeweizen—this summer at the Oak Park Microbrew Review—I heard the guy pouring the beer describe its flavor as "explosive." It turned out to be a prescient comment: just as I got to the front of the line the keg kicked and he had to tap another one, which immediately exploded, spattering my face and arms with beer. My first impression of the brew, licking it off my arm, was of coconut and spice. I'm pretty sure that's not a beer-nerd-approved tasting method, but fortunately, after that small explosion the beer poured just fine, and I was able to taste it from a glass.

It was good that way too. In fact, my friend and I were so impressed with the hefeweizen that we went back for seconds before we left—and at a beer festival with hundreds of options, that's saying something (it was the only beer we tasted twice). I can't find my notes from this summer, but what I remember about the beer is how well-balanced it was. The coconut and curry flavors were strong but not overwhelming, the beer wasn't overly sweet, and the heat was so subtle that it only began to kick in after three or four sips of beer. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for the beer's release in Illinois.

About a month ago, I saw it at the Beer Temple while I was buying pumpkin beer (for reviewing purposes) and picked up a couple bottles. Part of New Belgium's Lips of Faith series—limited-edition experimental beers with unusual flavors like yuzu, pluot, and feijoa (the website asks, "Do you trust us?")—the hefeweizen is brewed with cinnamon, coriander, fenugreek, ginger, kaffir lime, and cayenne pepper. We didn't know that when tasting it; the bottle says only, "The list of spices in this coconut curry hefeweizen is almost as long as the list of awards bestowed on homebrewer Remi Bonnart." (Bonnart collaborated with New Belgium to brew the beer.) But even unprompted, we picked up quite a few of those flavors in the beer, especially the cinnamon, coriander, kaffir lime, and cayenne (I have no idea what fenugreek tastes like). I also got turmeric, cumin, clove, hints of orange peel, and, of course, coconut.

There's a lot going on with this beer: the creamy coconut and intense spices come through first, and initially mask the distinct hefeweizen flavor. It's there, though: after several seconds I began to taste a little bit of fruitiness, followed by ripe banana, which together with the spices creates a banana-bread flavor on the finish. As before, it took a minute for the heat to build, but after a few sips I started to feel a prickly heat at the front of my mouth.

Beer floaties
Both the bottles of beer I got had white flakes floating in them, which looked a little creepy after I'd poured the beer and the head had dissipated. I thought at first that they might be yeast, but after tasting them, I'm pretty sure that it's congealed coconut oil; the spice flavor is especially concentrated there, particularly the ginger and citrus. (I know the bottles I got weren't an anomaly because I've read other reviews that mention floaties, though this doesn't seem to be an issue when the beer is served on tap.) The flakes aren't as off-putting as they sound, and the bursts of flavor they offer are kind of fun.

Still, if there's one thing this beer doesn't need, it's more flavor. I still really like it and would order it again, but even a half (bomber) bottle of it was a lot to drink in one sitting, and I'd prefer to share it with two or three people, not one. As my friend—the same one who'd tried the hefeweizen with me in Oak Park this summer—said after tasting it from the bottle, "it's not the best beer ever anymore." If you end up with extra, though, I bet it would work great as a chicken marinade.

Julia Thiel writes about booze every Wednesday.

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