Positive Jam Lavender and Coriander Wheat Ale

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’m a big fan of collaboration beers. Whether they’re with two breweries or they’re done with a brewery and a band, the end result is usually a pretty unique offering. You’ve got two different brains coming together to put their own spin on something that could easily be boring as all hell, but with the right amount of creativity, you can get something that’s utterly fascinating. Such is the case with Champion Brewing from Charlottesville, VA. From my bare bones research on them, I’ve gathered that they’re big fans of collaborations and particularly collaborations with bands. They brewed a Rye IPA with the band NOFX called Stickin’ In My IPA that’s mad decent. What I’m here to talk about though is something that caught my attention from the moment I read the title. The Hold Steady, a band who gladly accepts the title “America’s Bar Rock Band,” came together with the Virginia brewery to develop something that’s clearly worth writing about. Much like their quirky, storytelling style of music, this beer is nothing ordinary and everything unique. Here are my thoughts:
A wheat beer is not something I normally jump for, because well, it’s a wheat beer. It’s not that good to me. There’s a huge lack of flavor in most and the style as a whole lacks to be desired. However, my feelings and tastes have drastically changed since discovering and drinking and enjoying this brew.
As far as color, it’s pretty run of the mill. A pale golden color fills the glass with about a finger’s width of bright white foam sitting on top. All seems pretty normal so far, but once you take a whiff of what’s coming out of the top of this glass, the tables turn and the game is changed. Huge notes of lavender and earthy coriander hit your nostrils and you’re suddenly unsure about what’s going on. These flavors shouldn’t be in beer, yet they seem so fitting, because of the medley that’s created with the hops, grain, and spices. It’s truly a symphony of aromas that leads directly to the tastebuds.
I’ll be honest, after the first sip I had similar feelings about this beer that I had when I heard The Hold Steady for the first time. I thought “this is a pretty weird, but in a good way. No, the best way.” There’s so much going on and so many flavors playing off of each other, it’s hard to pin down what to analyze first. Champion has created a strong base wheat beer, and I believe it would be good all on its own. There’s a creamy character to it that makes it delicate and smooth, but then the lavender and coriander come racing in and you’ve suddenly got this bouquet of flavors resting on your tongue. After a few sips, you can start to taste more and more of the lavender while the coriander takes a back seat, but it’s definitely still there. As the beer warms up, you start to get more of that base beer flavor again and the creamy aspect is resurrected. I think the herb flavors are so strong because of the base beer. It’s very open to… we’ll call them enhancements. It’s something that I don’t think can be replicated by just anyone, and I’m sure Champion knows that.
Mouthfeel is on par with some of the best beers I’ve ever had. Like I said before, the creaminess adds to the beer and makes it smooth and sessionable. The carbonation level is moderate to high and makes the beer crisp and suitable for a hot day. Even after a few I don’t think this would get too heavy in your stomach, and believe me, you’ll want a few.
Overall, this one brew may have changed my outlook on most wheat beers and there’s not many that can do that. I can only think of 2-3 other breweries that make wheat beers that I’m going to be eager to drink, and this one can now be added. The complex flavors, the story behind it, and really everything else about this brew make it something that can get any beer fan or music fan excited. If you have the opportunity to grab a six pack or even just a couple of cans, I highly suggest doing so, because this is something that will surprise you.

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