Wheat ales are among the most thirst-quenching beers of summer. The style is light, with a bubbly body and a bright golden color. They are commonly unfiltered, so they look somewhat hazy, if not cloudy, and while that actually gives them the appearance of being thick and full-bodied, they are nearly the opposite, due to their fruity hints of lemon, apricot, banana and crisp spices like cloves. Stevens Point Brewery makes a beer with many of these qualities: Nude Beach.
What is it? Nude Beach Summer Wheat by Stevens Point Brewery.
Style: Unfiltered American wheat ales are usually straw-golden to light amber and hazy to cloudy. Their mouth feel is light- to medium-bodied. Yeast flavor and aroma should be low to medium and not overpower the malt and hops. Some fruity-estery aroma and flavor are common, but unlike the Bavarian Hefeweizen, the characteristics of clove should not be assertive. Hop characters are light in flavor and aroma. ABV ranges from 3.5% to 5.5% ABV.
Background: Nude Beach is made with unmalted white wheat -- it could be called raw and naked (a subtle reference to the name). The beer also gets softness from additions of malted red wheat and barley malts. Mount Hood hops from the Pacific Northwest provide a mild amount of bitterness, but overall the hops are far in the background. It ends up around 5% ABV.
The beer's label depicts a nude beach scene, and when the beer was introduced in 2008 it became an instant favorite of the American Association for Nude Recreation, which wanted it for its annual convention beer. The gathering was to be held in Michigan that year, but the state's Liquor Control Commission considered the label obscene and banned it except for draft sales, as keg labeling does feature the beach scene. The Association for Nude Recreation continues to unveil it every year for its annual conference each August. This year it's being held in Worley, Idaho, and Stevens Point Brewery spokeswoman Julie Birrenkott says she shipped out a couple of complimentary cases just for the event.
Nude Beach won a silver medal from the Beverage Testing Institute's World Beer Championships in 2008, and a gold medal from the North American Brewers' Association in 2009.
Nude Beach is the biggest-selling seasonal beer for Stevens Point Brewery. Expect it to be on shelves through the end of summer, and sells for $7-$8/six-pack. The brewery just started distributing it in cans, making it even more attractive for the summertime beach.
- Aroma: Malty with a light graininess.
- Appearance: Hazy golden with a medium soft tan head.
- Texture: Medium bodied and bubbly. Overall softness to the mouthfeel.
- Taste: Malty and grainy with a light fruity background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Hints of banana with a yeasty ending.
Glassware: The weizen glass is tall and shapely, and designed to really show off the beer's colorful body with its soft foamy head. The inward taper near the lip helps to concentrate and hold the head while focusing the aromas.
Pairs well with: The light, crisp qualities of the wheat beer go well with salads and picnic fare. It's also great with cooked vegetables and even quiche.
Rating: Two Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Nude Beach is "au naturel," with nothing to hide. For my taste, it is just a little too plain for an American wheat. However, it still meets style expectations with its hazy golden color, yeasty body and crisp citrus background and finish. There is a mild undertone of malty-graininess that distracts a little from the sharpness that one hopes for in a wheat. Still, it's a nicely balanced summer beer with fruity tones that make it refreshing and thirst-quenching.