Monday, August 3, 2015

Behind the Tap Presents: Battle of the Beers Vol. 1 Columbus Hoppy Wheats

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So, this is only our 10th blog post this year. This is very uncharacteristic of us. Yikes. Well, truth be told, life gets in the way of things. I hope we can remember how to properly do this. Jesus, it's been over 2 months since our last post. We hope you loyal readers haven't forgotten about us.

In this (hopefully) continuing saga, we will put two similar beers in a match up against one another. We'll pick them apart in our typical review (read: unstructured banter).

For this first one, we've picked Sideswipe's Pixelated Sun and Zaftig's Hoot-spa Wheat.

Zaftig is a small brewery in Worthington, Ohio that focuses on big beers. We're reviewed one of their beers before (ZBS if you want to backtrack on our reviews). Their facility is based in an industrial complex with a garage feel to it (there are 3 in Columbus I know of like this; Zaftig, Sideswipe, and Actual). 

Sideswipe is a small brewery that's not far from the Grandview circuit. We planned on reviewing their Elegant Hoodlum smoked stout, but ended up drinking it. Twice... oops. Their facility seems like a mirror image of Zaftig's (Zaftig's garage door is on the left of the entry door, Sideswipe's is on the right). Also based in an industrial complex, be warned that your GPS will lie to you trying to get here (sending you past the road you need to turn on, then in a circle, then back to where you actually need to turn). Enjoy the mispronunciations the GPS gives you though (M.C. Kinley road, instead of McKinley and Ski-oat-o Harper instead of Scioto Harper (for those not from the region- it's pronounced 'sy-o-ta') and completely at a loss when it comes to Schrock). M.C. Kinley is an up-and-coming hip-hop artist in my mind.
Now, yes, we know the guys at both breweries. Craig O'Herron at Sideswipe is a hell of a guy and a hell of a brewer who started his operation with just him. A one man show of brewing, bottling, sales, and delivery. He since has a loyal crew of people who have helped him. Zaftig has a similar story, only with 3 guys who started the company. More recently, we've both been volunteering with the guys at Zaftig... yes.... This seems now like this is going to be a biased post, but believe us, it's not. We're keeping all of our personal ties out of this (we are still pretty hardcore into the local craft beer scene, which is rather supportive) in order to justly bring you our unbiased breakdown and hopefully entertaining review of the both.
Sideswipe's Pixelated Sun is available in both 22oz bottles as well as on tap, 6% ABV. Zaftig's Hoot-spa is available on tap only at the moment (Zaftig does have bottles, but Hoot-spa is currently not in bottles), 8.5% ABV (a session beer by Zaftig's standards). If you would like to buy a keg of Hoot Spa, merely call, text, email, or respond to this post to Jennie.
Well, As you can see in the picture, the Sideswipe is a little more golden/straw in color, Zaftig is a little darker, almost a light amber. Both have great clarity and carbonation. It's funny, every time I pour a Hoot-spa in the tap room, I envision it coming out as lightly as the Pixelated Sun is from the bottle. We visited Swideswipe's taproom recently, and the keg had recently kicked, so we have not had it on tap.
Ok, this is where the differences start to come out.
Sideswipe Pixelated Sun: 
Citrus, tropical (Citra) almost caramel like at times. -N-
I requested that Nathan leave mine out of the fridge since he poured his a couple hours ago. What? I like my craft beer at nearly room temperature. I hope that isn't a problem for you. Most good beers should be enjoyed well above fridge temp. But anyway, let's dissect this aroma. I am picking up a ton of Citra in all its lychee and gooseberry and vague grapefruit and lemon glory. A bit of caramel sweetness comes in to play, as well as some lovely wheat characteristics. -j

Zaftig Hoot Spa:
Sweetness, a little dank with grapefruit (Amarillo). -N-
This is more sweet grapefruit, like the bruleed grapefruit my mom used to make on New Year's morning, with a little tropical, stone fruit (July's best plum?) coming through, with a note of winter wheat to make you say to yourself, "Hey self, not only have you forgotten how to type, but you are also forgetting how amazing this smells." Faint notes of my near-and-dear Triscuits appear, as if I had liquified a box and added some hops. This is a beer I can (and often do) drink all day long. And I'm not always a fan of wheat beers. This is like a familiar T-shirt that you forgot about in the back of your closet. That comforting aroma just comes in to remind me how much I enjoy this beer. -j
Pixelated Sun:
Lighter bodied, smooth drinking wheat with tropical tones that make you long for porch drinking or in the pool at your friend's house. The wheat isn't predominant like most wheat beers. Just faint hints in the background to remind you it's summer. The tropical and citrus notes from the hops come into play more toward the middle and back end of the sip, riding off in a juicy blast of awesome as it slides down your throat. This leaves a bit of hop resin on the tongue, like a good pale ale does, but not nearly as much an a IPA. Citra in a wheat, fuck me, why haven't I done this in a home brew?! We would have won last year's wheat beer home brew competition if we would have used Citra instead of El Dorado. Jolly Rancher flavors my ass! Eh, at least we took 4th and our proteges took 3rd  -N-
Shit, that reminds me, we are about to endure a shortage of Citra. I think that is one hop that should not be proprietary but necessary for all brew houses, be they home or professional breweries. Biased as I might be toward this particular hop, it has certainly earned its popularity with both craft beer lovers and home brew lovers alike. 
Let that be your warning. Zombie Dust is likely about to become even harder to obtain than it is currently. I don't know about you, but I have given up on that beer. If I come across some, fine, I'm certainly not going to ever hate on it. If I have to go out of my way for it, though, it's not worth it. I promise you there are better all-Citra hop bomb APAs and IPAs out there. This might not be an all-Citra American Pale Ale, but it is a Citra bomb of deliciousness. . For those of you who aren't complete hop nerds, Citra, as previously mentioned, give off big citrus, lychee, and gooseberry notes. While it's definitely a wheat beer in mouthfeel, the wheat lets the hops shine through beautifully. -j

Hoot Spa:
Medium bodied, yet smooth drinking with sweetness balancing out the hops. Toward... who created that word 'toward,' it's such a weird word... Toward the front there's a whole array of flavors happening where it's hard to pick apart. There are grapefruit, caramel, faint tropical, toffee, and other notes that i can't quite put my finger on that lead you on a flavor adventure that makes you forget you're drinking a wheat. There's some grapefruit that hits toward the back end, leaving you longing for more. This isn't your typical wheat, my friend, no. This is a god damned journey of trying to pull out long forgotten words from your vocabulary to give proper descriptive phrases to convey the flavor sanctuary that is resting upon your taste buds. -N-
Nathan described this so well that I don't know how much I have to add. I did hear one person with a very esteemed palate tell me that the only flaw he found with this was that the alcohol flavor was too predominant. My palate can't even tell that this is as, ahem, sessionable as it is at 8.5%. I really don't pick up a note of the alcohol, but then again, my palate isn't world-class. It's good, but then again, it's also ever-evolving to the point where it is starting to annoy me. But that is a topic for another day, perhaps even another blog. Anyway, go back and re-read Nathan's description again. Because that flavor journey should be yours. -j

Breaking down two different beers and comparing them side by side makes me realize that I've done too many reviews and judging of competitions. These are both fantastic brews that you should check out. They are two different beasts among themselves. There is no clear winner in this category, just because they are each so unique. Go, venture outside of your norm an accept these great examples of hoppy wheat beers into your life. Will it help you find the answers in life? Maybe. Well, maybe not, but you'll have no regrets doing so.After all, it's just beer.  -N and j
Go, taste both and make your own decision. You won't be wrong either way.
Food Pairings: Pluot tart
Cheese Pairings: Humboldt Fog. Maybe with some dried apricots on the side. And I don't even like apricots (j)
Music Pairing:  "The Next Storm" by Frank Turner (describes Ohio's stormy Summer to a T)