This segment of Tasting Notes continues the collaboration theme by taking a look at the Partner Ships Rye Wit collaboration from Heavy Seas Beer (Baltimore, Maryland) and Terrapin Beer Co. (Athens, Georgia).
Not only is Rye Wit the current installment in The Partner Ships Series, a lineup of limited releases from Heavy Seas Beer “produced in collaboration with other regionally and nationally recognized brewers in the spirit of friendship, creativity, and adventure,” but it might also be one of the most stealthily clever beer names of the year. How so? Well . . . Rye Wit sounds a little like “pirate”, an obvious part of the Heavy Seas schtick; it is a homophone for “wry wit”; and it has been said that pirates can indeed have a wry wit. Savvy?
Alright, let’s move beyond the word play and get back on track with information on this beer. For this release, Heavy Seas Beer collaborated with the brewers at Terrapin Beer Co. on a recipe that combines the proficiencies for which each brewery is known: the barrel-aging practices of Heavy Seas and Terrapin’s love/obsession with rye. They ultimately decided to brew up a Witbier boasting the distinct characteristics of rye malts, and then aged it for sixteen weeks in Chardonnay barrels. Once completed, the 6% ABV Partner Ships Rye Wit was packaged in 22 oz. bottles and released as a limited offering available within the distribution area of Heavy Seas. This offering is nearing the end of its availability to make room for the next release within the Partner Ships series (click here to read up on that one), but you still stand a pretty good chance of coming across a bottle or two at your favorite craft beer retailer. That should just about cover the particulars, so let’s put this sweet Witbier glass to some good use and get to the Tasting Notes!
Tasting Notes for Partner Ships Rye Wit from Heavy Seas Beer and Terrapin Beer Co.
Appearance: Rye Wit flows into the glass to produce a body that is a sunburst orange in color. When held to direct light, golds radiate near the top and bottom of the glass while the orange center deepens and intensifies. The body has a good amount of haze and cloudiness to it, but a lazy carbonation presence can be seen meandering about in the form of bubbles that intermittently surface. The pour generated 3+ fingers of fluffy, snow-white foam. Head retention is quite good, eventually falling slowly to a lasting finger of a top cap. This foam displays an other-worldly level of stick, leaving globs of pillow-like lace all over the glass. Spot on, textbook example of what a Witbier should look like.
Aroma: An alluring white wine character greets the nose to start. A fruity sweetness presents itself in the form of Chardonnay grapes and melon, and the barrel lends a touch of creamy vanilla as well. While savoring this quality, the spicy rye begins to gently bloom. Wheat then lends an earthy grain note and a touch of banana that mingles easily with light, citrusy hop tones. One word comes to mind here: Exquisite.
Taste: Rye is so unmistakable as an ingredient, so it is no surprise that it hits the taste buds first. With that said, those spicy, black pepper tones are tempered as a gentle grain sweetness builds and the banana-like qualities of the wheat come forward. Also, a touch of coriander arrives to complement the rye even further. The hops then slide into the frame to provide balance with notes of orange, lemon and peach. The Chardonnay barrels then embrace the entire experience by rounding and smoothing it all out with a snappy white grape character, a bit of tropical fruit, some earthiness, and the faintest of vanilla sweetness. This may seem like a lot to take in – and it is -, but it all coalesces with an impeccable level of balance that allows you to fully enjoy and distinguish every aspect of this beer’s flavor. Incredibly impressive.
Mouthfeel: Rye Wit is medium in body with a medium level of carbonation. This brew is crisp and dry, so much so that it further reminds the drinker of a tannin-like, white wine experience. Aspects of sweetness, bitterness and spice are all allowed to play on the palate, but all of this cleans up and out with remarkable quickness. At just 6% ABV, the alcohol presence is incredibly light to non-existent. Delicate Chardonnay notes linger as the only trace of an aftertaste.
Final Thoughts: Like I mentioned above, we all know that Terrapin Beer Co. is a huge fan of using rye as an ingredient in their beers. Knowing this and seeing that this beer’s name starts with “Rye”, I was initially a bit worried that Partner Ships Rye Wit might take the gracefully nuanced Witbier style to a level of spice overload that just translates as a brutish rye bomb. The reality is that I was unfairly pessimistic because the intricate level of balance achieved by Heavy Seas and Terrapin in the creation of this beer is simply stunning. Sure, that spicy rye is showcased, but it is done in such a way that it is reserved and knows its place. Notes of citrusy hops, a sweet and earthy wheat presence, and sophisticated fruity and vanilla tones from the Chardonnay barrels interlace with the rye to create an elaborate experience that is completely devoid of any aggression or harshness. Each corner of this beer is softly rounded, allowing every quality of Rye Wit to glide and dance freely across the palate. This beer is ridiculously complex, but it has been presented in a manner that is approachable and familiar. Oh, and if you have been looking for that perfect offering to introduce the white wine drinker in your life to world of craft beer, this is it right here. Prost!