I decided to try something a little different this past weekend when I paired up two imperial wheat beers in a head to head match up. I have tried both Sam Adams Imperial Wheat and Fort Collins Imperial India Wheat Ale on two separate occasions and I thought they were unique, fantastic beers. They needed to be compared against each other.
When ever a beer has the word imperial in the name it usually means it’s a more extreme style of beer. For example, a beer that is an Imperial IPA it will most likely have more hops than a normal IPA or an Imperial Stout will contain more roasted malts than a traditional stout. Plus imperial beers usually have a higher ABV (Alcohol By Volume) than most beers, which is nice. Both brands I tried are 10.3% and 9.6% respectively. With that in mind, I poured each bottle noting the color, aroma, and flavors of each but with the higher alcohol content it only took a few minutes to get that “first beer buzz” on. I thought it would be funny to sit back for a minute and write about the first things that came to my mind before I rated them. So this is what came to me:
“I am the last barman poet.I see America drinking the fabulous cocktails I make. Americans getting stinky on something I stir or shake. The sex on the beach. The schnapps made from peach. The velvet hammer. The Alabama slammer. I make things with juice and froth. The pink squirrel. The three-toed sloth. I make drinks so sweet and snazzy. The iced tea. The kamikaze. The orgasm. The death spasm. The Singapore sling. The dingaling. America you’ve just been devoted to every flavor I got. But if you want to get loaded. Why don’t you just order a shot? Bar is open.”
That’s right, I just quoted a scene from the movie Cocktail. I’m going to admit something that most people will not be truthful about. I love that movie. As a matter of fact, if it wasn’t for that movie I probably would have chosen a different career field because that movie got me into bartending. I only attempted some of the flair tricks a few times in my time behind the bar but I never looked that cool doing them. However, I did steal a few moves that I used on a regular basis. The one where Tom puts the straw in the pitcher of a frozen drink so it pours into the glass with the rest of the drink. Used that all the time. And lighting one match from a pack of matches while throwing it down the bar. Stole that one too, but it only worked half the time so I ended up looking like an idiot which is why I always carried a lighter as back up. Sometimes you have to take risks to be awesome though and when it worked it was so good. It is funny where your mind will go if you let it and all I did was sit back and enjoy two great beers. The next thing I know I’m quoting old Tom Cruise movies. I think the high ABV got me thinking of the line in that poem “if you really want to get loaded. Why don’t you just order a shot?”
Witbier or wheat ales are a Belgian style beer that means “white beer” and has been brewed in Belgium for the past 400 years. White beers died out in the 1950′s but has recently made a comeback due to brewers at Hoegaarden and has been getting more and more popular each year, especially as a summer time beer. Most wheat ales have a pale, cloudy appearance which is due to unfiltered wheat and suspended yeast and have a common ABV of 4.5%-5.5%. Since the Sam Adams and Fort Collins brands are both Imperial beers, they are almost double the ABV.
The first thing you notice when comparing these brews side by side is the color. The Sam Adams Imperial White is a cloudy amber color while the Fort Collins White is a light straw color and has no cloudiness what so ever. I lifted the Sam Adams to my nose and got some very noticeable orange zest and spice. I would love to say I could identify the spice, but I’m not quite there yet. However, from the reviews I read after my tasting on the Sam Adams website it says coriander is the spice so I took some mental notes on that one. The Fort Collins White had some fruit on the nose but it was more of an earthy citrus aroma with some fresh lemon rind.
The biggest difference with these beers was the mouth feel. Just so you know mouth feel is best described as how the beer feels in your mouth. Meaning is it light and crisp (think Bud Light) or is it thick and heavy (Guinness). The Sam Adams White had a very heavy mouth feel with a relatively quick finish and the orange and spice was there the whole time. On the other hand the Fort Collins was much lighter with some subtle wheat flavor in the background then an overwhelming hop bitterness during the finish.
Overall I thought both brands, although completely different, were great. I would recommend picking up a few bottles of the Sam Adams to enjoy as the weather gets cooler and stick to the Fort Collins for the last few hot days left this year. Just lookout for the high alcohol in them.