Hefeweizen is one of those beers that makes beer worth drinking. So it's a good thing that Ska and Avery Brewing are set to release Wheelsucker Wheat Ale on Friday.
Wheelsucker is a collaboration beer from Ska in Durango and Avery in Boulder, two of Colorado's best breweries.
Ska tends to keep it simple, brewing classic American-meets-English beers like Modus Hoperandi IPA and Pinstripe Red Ale.
While Avery brews a solid lineup of typical beers - a stout, an IPA, etc., - it is perhaps best known for brewing huge, weird beers. Avery's Brabant barrel-aged ale (8.7 percent ABV, 25 IBUs) and Salvation Belgian-style ale (9 percent ABV, 25 IBUs), exemplify talented, risk-tasking brewing that sometimes pushes the limits of what beer can be. Soggy Coaster visited the Avery brewhouse last month, and seeing 108 wooden barrels aging various beers was a sight to behold.
Avery Brewing founder Adam Avery visited Durango with a small crew July 1 to brew Wheelsucker. He and the Ska boys, led by Head Brewer Thomas Larsen, came up with an imperial hefeweizen (the bottle label calls it a "Mountain Hefe"). It approximates the style of traditional German hefes, but Avery, Larsen and co. pimped it out to about 6.6 percent ABV. (The brewers were aiming for higher, but the yeast crapped out).
By comparison, Widmer Hefeweizen, a phenomenally popular American hefe brewed in Portland, comes in at 4.9 percent ABV.
Hefes pour a cloudy, golden color, and taste light and refreshing. They're often served with an orange slice, but good hefes do fine without fruit adornment.
"When we were discussing a beer style, we wanted something strong, but also refreshing and would mix with lemon-lime soda to make a Radler, a staple of European bike tours for many years," Larsen says in an e-mail to Beer at 6512. "We decided on a hefe partly because Adam (Avery) was always a big fan of Tabernash Weiss, I have always enjoyed Bavarian wheat beers, and what's more refreshing than Hefeweizen, especially if you mix it with Sprite or orange juice?"
This must be one of the first commercial experimental brewing projects for Larsen since he came to Ska from Wynkoop Brewing in Denver. Wynkoop, as one might expect from the German name, brews a bunch of German styles, including a hefeweizen named Wixa Weiss. Larsen is certainly no stranger to hefeweizens.
To wit (pun intended), the brewers used Hallertau Hersbrucker and Mittlefrue hops for Wheelsucker. The yeast is originally from the Hopf Weissbier Brewery in Meisbock, Germany, south of Munich.
Ska and Avery brewed only 25 barrels of Wheelsucker, which comes out to 775 gallons - not a lot. Last time Soggy Coaster talked to President Thibodeau, Wheelsucker was to be bottled in bomber bottles and distributed, at least locally and possibly around Denver.
Sometimes, strong beers ruin the well-balanced character of their more standard cousins. Just as most IPAs, I feel, lack the balance found in many good pale ales, some double reds sacrifice the drinkability found in standard reds. We'll see how Ska and Avery did with Wheelsucker Wheat, but the provenance is promising.
The release party begins at 5 p.m., Fri., July 24, at Ska HQ in Bodo Industrial Park, 225 Girard St. See you there.