It was a good and lucky thing that Ska Brewing Co. joined forces with their brothers to the north at Avery Brewing Co. to brew a collaboration beer.
Some of the best beers in the country have resulted from collaborations - Collaboration Not Litigation (Avery and Russian River Brewing) is a notable Colorado example. And Ska and Avery are both excellent breweries.
The brewers settled on a wheat ale, a good choice for a summer release. Wheat beers easily take flavors, most often orange peel or coriander, but one of the best I've had recently was a prickly pear-flavored hefeweizen from Santa Fe Brewing.
There was never any question that Wheelsucker Wheat Ale would be more than a typical wheat. Avery's involvement ensured that. The brewery's special releases are almost always amped-up, or "imperial," beers containing at least 7 percent alcohol, and sometimes more than twice that.
Adam Avery and his crew came to Durango July 1 to brew Wheelsucker along with Ska head brewer Thomas Larsen. Wheelsucker was released July 24 in 22-oz. bomber bottles. It is also available on tap at Ska and, I hear, Lady Falconburgh's Barley Exchange.
Wheelsucker pours triumphantly, a cascade of bubbles rising to form a substantial creamy white head. It quickly settles down, an indication of the beer's strong alcohol content (around 6.6 percent).
The mouthfeel is very full; it's almost a little bready. It reminds me somewhat of an orange smoothie.
Flavor comes in waves, first a full wheat taste, and then a moderate orange note. It goes down exceptionally easy. This is a beer one could drink in substantial quantity if not for the assertive presence of alcohol.
In short, I loved it. Wheelsucker tastes great and mixes easily with Sprite or syrups to create a Radler, a traditional German drink. It's a refreshing summer ale and a notable accomplishment for two breweries that, despite their excellent lineups, have little experience with German styles.
Soggy Coaster would also like to make note of the price. Wheelsucker is available around Durango for about $4 plus sales tax per 22-oz. bomber bottle. That's cheaper than most of Ska and Avery's own bombers, not to mention expensive out-of-state breweries. It's as good or better than beers more than twice its price. Get it while you can.
Wheelsucker is the best wheat beer I have ever drank. Nevertheless, the style lacks the complexity of say, the best saisons, abbey ales and imperial stouts. Even the best wheat ale cannot measure up to the very best beers in the world. Yet Wheelsucker accomplishes all a wheat ale can be, and Soggy Coaster heartily recommends it. A-