Last week, Pyramid's Haywire Hefeweizen proved a tad, shall we say, underwhelming. This week seemed a perfect opportunity to try a couple of macro-brewed attempts at craft-brew styles, just to put things in perspective.
After all, if a relatively small outfit like Pyramid can't get the wheat-beer style right, surely a lowest-common-denominator, masses-pleasing corporate behemoth like Anheuser-Busch couldn't do a better job, could it?
And then there's this new "Rye P.A.," a rye-grain version of an India Pale Ale that Michelob came up with. That couldn't possibly be good, could it?
After trying a couple of free sample bottles sent by Michelob, I have had some serious thinking to do. Despite my very low expectations and, I'll admit, prejudice against anything the company could come up with, I couldn't find much to dislike about either of them. And believe me, I tried.
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The Bavarian Style Wheat is a hefeweizen, though you won't find that word on the bottle. It's a middling example of the style, pouring a golden orange-yellow color, very foggy with yeast and crowned by a big but short-lived head of soapy bubbles. The smell reminded me of my usual hangover breakfast: orange juice and banana. (Note to self: try a hefe during next hangover.) Banana was even more present in the taste, with some citrus aftertaste and some grassy wheat background as well. The body was fairly robust with strong effervescence, though the flavor wasn't as strong as I like wheat beers to be. Still, it wasn't bad at all.
Even more surprising was the Rye P.A. It poured a clear amber color with a big creamy, lasting head. The smell was not promising, without much of the citrusy hops coming through over the caramel malts. But the taste was pretty darned good, especially in light of my abysmal expectations. Citrus and piney hop bitterness and rye graininess were well balanced by a bit of sweet malt flavor. It's not as bitter as Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye, the only other rye IPA I've had, not as full-bodied and generally not as good. But for a macro-brewer's attempt at a relatively ambitious style, it's exceptional.
Now all that said, I can't imagine any situation where one would have to choose this over a craft beer other than maybe a Michelob-sponsored festival, or an event or venue with some kind of exclusive deal with Anheuser-Busch. I would think that most stores or bars with a selection big enough to include such a niche offering from Anheuser-Busch would also carry at least a few microbrews.
Unless, of course, the only microbrews it offered were from Pyramid.