Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Product Review: Dogfish Head Tweason'ale
In late January 2012, the beer-drinking gluten-free world was abuzz with the news of a new brew coming to market: Tweason'ale from Dogfish Head. Dogfish is a highly respected Delaware-based craft brewery known not only for their "standard" styles, but also for their unique brews, such as a chicha, based on traditional Andean corn beer, and Midas Touch, based on the ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels found in the tomb of King Midas. Pretty cool, huh?
Now, they're adding a gluten-free offering to their lineup. Since it was first brewed and released in between traditional beer seasons, it was named "Tweason'ale" (as opposed to being a seasonal). Dogfish plans to brew it four times per year.
Since its initial release in late January, we've patiently been waiting for it to arrive in our neck of the woods here in the Hudson Valley. Every two weeks, or so it seemed, we'd stop in at our local beer distributor and check, only to walk out empty-handed. Until this past weekend. Tweason'ale was in stock!
It's sold in four packs of 12-ounce bottles. For us, the base cost of the four pack, plus state taxes and bottle deposits, resulted in a price tag of just over $12. Very steep for a four pack of beer. We just hoped Tweason'ale would be worth it, lest it become an occasional tweasonal indulgence at best.
First, major kudos to Dogfish Head for earning GFCO gluten-free certification. It's not cheap or easy to do, but I know that the trusted seal of approval will put many gluten-free minds to rest who'd otherwise be concerned about drinking a gluten-free beer from a brewery that also brews traditional barley-based suds.
Tweason'ale is brewed from water, sorghum syrup, strawberries, buckwheat honey, hops, and yeast. As you can see from the pics, it has a beautiful amber color. Unfortunately, it also has approximately zero head retention.
There are gentle hops in the nose, and it has a subtle but distinct beer-like aroma.
As for taste, with the use of strawberries and honey, we worried that the beer would taste too sweet or fruity. It is in fact somewhat sweet, though not overly so, and the strawberries—while present—were surprisingly subtle. Unfortunately, it lacks any hint of malted barley character when you actually drink it. (Yes, I know it contains no actual malted barley, but that still tends to be the flavor profile against which all beers, including GF offerings, are based...) At 6% alcohol by volume, it's stiffer than many other GF beers, and you feel it ever so slightly in the back of the palate, but it's well within an acceptable range for craft beers.
The lack of barley-like beer taste in the mouth was disappointing because the nose was so inviting. That said, it's still a refreshing beer that would taste especially good cold on a hot day.
We love the simple, straightforward ingredients, not to mention the GF certification, and we had high expectations for this new beer from Dogfish Head. Though we were initially underwhelmed by the taste (especially compared to the beer's inviting nose) and somewhat put off by the expensive price, this is a worthy addition to the GF beer market. After taking careful notes while tasting the first two bottles, we quite happily knocked back the remaining two bottles with no trouble.
In the end, I'd put Tweason'ale in the same lineup as New Planet's Tread Lightly Ale and 3R Raspberry Ale. If you like lighter, sweeter beers, Tweason'ale will be right up your alley. But if you're looking for more malted character, look to a brew such as Bard's, and if you're looking for more hops, look to New Planet's Off Grid Pale Ale.