Aside from baseball and apple pie, there’s not much more iconically American than beer and bowling. But amidst the dull thud of urethane balls hitting the maple deck of the lanes, Bryant Lake Bowl in Uptown pushed the usual macro lager boundaries Monday night at the Bell’s Oberon release party by bringing a little citrusy wheat ale into the mix.
“Oberon is a breath of what’s to come, it’s the summer that’s upon us,” said Sarah Burt, loyal Bell’s enthusiast.
Wishful thinking, considering the impending spring blizzard settling in on portions of the state. You wouldn’t know it, however, as not a seat in the pub was available as the event steamed ahead into the wee hours with what usually resembles a relatively tame Monday night bar crowd.
Depending on who you ask, Oberon is arguably one of the more sophisticated wheat beers hailing from the Upper Midwest, presumably named for the Shakespearean fairy god from A Midsummer Night’s Dream whose arguments with his powerful fairy wife impact the weather. One has to assume Oberon wins most of the marital disagreements, as this American pale wheat ale (formerly called Solsun, for you beer geeks out there) beckons for warmer days ahead, one of the first summer seasonals to come out of the gates each year.
Oberon sports a light Saaz hop nose and playful orange and tangerine flavor, complemented by a nice level of carbonation that paves the way for a relatively creamy mouthfeel. Some peppery spice notes from the yeast, but also a bit of a medicinal and solvent-like quality in the finish that puts a small damper on the tippling experience. At 5.8 percent ABV, it’s certainly within the upper bounds of the session spectrum, as numerous patrons at the event enjoyed round after round of the cloudy, straw-colored brew. “Sunshine in a glass,” as one passing bar-goer put it.
Like several other wheat beers out there, Oberon is a decent, crisp selection for those lazy summer afternoons at the cabin watching the waves break on the rocks or playing the addictive bean bag toss game in the backyard with friends. It seems a bit one-dimensional in some respects with its dominating citrus flavor. But then again, the style generally lacks the complexity of its seasonal siblings including yeast-forward Belgian witbiers and robust malty German bocks.
Take it with a grain of salt, or wheat, as it were.
Aaron Masterson is the author of local craft beer and homebrew blog, The Captain’s Chair