What would you think if you heard about a brewery releasing a new wheat beer brewed with honey, spices and aged with bourbon barrel staves? Yet another craft brewer pushing the envelope, you might think. Now what if I told you this was a new beer released by Shock Top, a product of mega-brewer A-B InBev. You might dismiss it as a craft beer poser or a gimmick from a desperate corporation eager to win back lost market share. Or you might instead conclude the A-B InBev has seen the errors of the bland, macro-lager ways and is trying to something novel and distinctive.
Before you dismiss Shock Top too quickly, don’t forget nearly a year ago, Shock Top wowed a bunch of BJCP judges with their experimental Campfire Wheat. The stunned judges found it tasted just like s’mores in beer form. So I was intrigued after recently an e-mail from Shock Top asking me if I was interested in giving Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat a try, which I accepted.
So how does it taste? Well, it was interesting, and I genuinely mean that in a good way. I found it a little heavy, sweet and little floral from the honey with light woody bourbon flavors. I didn’t dislike it, but can’t say I really liked it either. It takes a very deft hand to balance strong flavors like bourbon in a wheat beer and the beer seems to sag a bit under the weight of its honey and bourbon additions. I must admit Shock Top carries a lot of baggage as an A-B InBev product which makes it hard for me to really judge objectively, but I give them a lot of credit for trying something new. All things considered, I’d have another one.