It’s that magical time of year when we start delving into some wonderful fruit beers that truly help to welcome in the fall season. I refer of course to pumpkin, yam, and gourd beers. Heck, I suppose a few folks are even releasing some cranberry beers, but as I am not a fan of cranberries I will continue to ignore them. With all these new fruit beers (Yes, guy who knows everything, pumpkins are considered a fruit) being released I figured it was only appropriate to consume my last vestige of summer fruit beers. Today’s review is for 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon. Besides having a clever name and great can art (as always), I cannot say that I’ve ever had a watermelon beer before. Nor have I ever fruited a beer with watermelon. It just seems weird, which is why it’s perfect. New weird ingredient? Count me in. Neat talking point with fellow beer geeks? Sign me up. Answering questions with brief affirmations that end in prepositions? Right on. Let’s pour!
Aroma 7/12: There are no bad smells coming from this beer. Unfortunately, there are not much for good smells coming from this beer either. It just sort of… exists. At first, I got some aromas almost like a distant sour/wild ale and touches of the grain and lemon given by the wheat in the malt beer, but even as the beer warms it never opens. I smell only the minuscule wheat and none of the sugary sweet watermelon that I expected.
Appearance 1/3: This poured with virtually no head and what did appear hissed away completely in well under ten seconds. Unacceptable. It pours a pale, straw yellow color and plenty of sediment has ended up at the bottom of my glass. It is an unfortunate, drab shade of yellow and this beers sole redeeming visual quality is that any edge of the beer seems to have a slight pinkish tinge to it, as if the glass were outlined with this rosy hue. It’s a good thing we don’t drink beer for how it looks.
Flavor 13/20: It starts out with a citrus hint, but is ultimately rather creamy in its initial flavor. From there we are given a mouthful of the same light citrus and some very faint bitter before the beer settles in a very neutral way in the mouth. Not too exciting. Even a wine taster’s slurp only manages to bring forward a slightly invigorated version of the light citrus with some grainy malts. Overall, the citrus, the ever-so-slight bitter, and the yet-to-be-described carbonation combine for a pretty crisp beer, even if it isn’t laden with flavor. Oddly, the flavor picks up slightly in the finish. We go from a grainy, mild, citrus splashed backbone, to a finish that begins with a very light candy-like sweetness courtesy of the watermelon. It lingers into the finish before fading away slowly and leaving the mouth with the wheat’s grain flavor. Initially the finish is quenching, but somehow manages to leave the tongue dry as it continues.
Note: The beer almost has to be room temperature before the watermelon enters the main flavor profile in any significant fashion. I know it’s supposed to be drank in the summer when it’s warm out, but sheesh…
Mouthfeel 4/5: This is probably the most sound area of the beer. It’s light in body, well-populated with lively carbonation that dies down appropriately in the mouth, crisp at times, and drying in the finish. This is one part of the recipe that could be a foundation for them to build up the other areas of the beer. The mouthfeel has a lot going for it as a summer ale.
Overall Impression 4/10: Ultimately, this beer is average, but if one considers the potential involved having been brewed by 21A plus the fact that there was a cool new flavor involved, it ends up being more disappointing that if one had just been reviewing an average beer to begin with. Everything save for the mouthfeel seemed to fall far from expectations. The fruit barely contributes at all, the aroma is bland, and the flavor is grainy and muted. As mentioned earlier, the mouthfeel shows promise and hopefully 21A continues to build on that cornerstone and surround it with a better base beer, perhaps some citrusy hops to strengthen the citrus of the wheat and the drying characteristic, and a watermelon flavor that is present in more than just the finish.
Total 24/50: Ouch. To date, I believe this is my lowest score given. Normally, I have in my mind that even a beer with no faults would score no lower than a 25/50, and that beers with faults (off flavors, off aromas, major style deficiencies) would be scored lower as necessary. This beer is making me reconsider all of that. Certainly, it is an average beer. People who cling firmly to their adjunct lagers would have no problem drinking this beer. However, my disappointment got the better of me and I had to score it low. This is 21st Amendment after all! I think it goes without saying that we expect some pretty premium stuff to flow from their camp (Monk’s Blood, anyone?). For them to put out this offering just seems like they’re not trying. Yes, I’m aware that 400 lbs of watermelon go into each batch. Yes, I’m aware that this is a light, sessionable brew suitable for summer drinking. There ARE things going for this beer, they are just grossly outweighed by what doesn’t. I feel like a jerk handing down such a negative review without much constructive criticism, but this beer could really benefit by scrapping it and starting anew.
Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!