Every week in The Man Who Invented Beer, Adam Cowden runs down the latest in craft beer, American and otherwise.
Are visions of Christmas ales dancing in your heads? Be patient — we’ll get there. Only if you’re on your best behavior, of course. Remember: Santa’s watching from his magic crystal beer stein.
For now, enjoy Baaad Boy Black Wheat Ale from 3 Sheeps Brewing Company, a beer interesting (and baaadass) enough to get you through the bitter weeks ahead.
What’s the story?
3 Sheeps is a very young brewery based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin that apparently has little regard for grammatical conventions (sheeps?). Actually, according to their website, the name is a play on the old expression “Three Sheets to the Wind,” which is sailor for “sh*t faced.” The company was founded by Manitowoc native Grant Pauly, whose descent into addiction began where these sorts of stories always begin: at home. Sometime around 2005, Grant’s wife got him a homebrewing kit, and, in Grant’s own words, “the hobby soon turned into an obsession.” Apparently, Grant’s condition was inherited from his grandfather, who helmed Kingsbury Breweries through Prohibition. Today, Grant’s brewery is run by a small (albeit colorful) collection of just four individuals, one of whom is Canadian, and another one of whom sings to his yeast strains.
I hadn’t ever heard of a “black wheat ale” before trying Baaad Boy, but after a little more reflection (and some research), I realized that the style is basically the American counterpart to dunkel weizen. Like dunkel weizens, these ales are brewed with portions of both wheat malt and roasted barley malt, and are usually somewhere between a nut brown ale and a porter in color. Unlike dunkel weizens, they do not typically feature banana/clove esters or wheat-y sourness.
Where can I drink it?
3 Sheeps has one of those handy beer locater tools that are so trendy right now, but unfortunately the tool doesn’ allow you to filter for beer type. The ever-resourceful beermenus.com does the trick just fine, though, and from the looks of it, you won’t have too hard of a time getting your fix if you live in the Chicagoland area.
I enjoyed my Baaad Boy at Uncommon Ground on Clark, a venue that would be a bit too green for my liking if not for the awesome local music that is also served nightly. If free-range beef burgers and organic cocktails are your thing, then by all means check this place out, but if not, you might (like me) be enticed by the healthy portion of local and national musical talent this place attracts. I went for the monthly Tuesday writer’s night and unexpectedly enjoyed myself throughout the entire evening. As anyone who frequents these sorts of events will tell you, this is a rare thing indeed.
What does it taste like?
Baaad Boy Black Wheat Ale pours a decidedly dark-chocolate brown, its name to the contrary. In dim light, it could quite easily pass as “black.” The beer is topped by an medium-sized fluffy khaki head that dissipates unusually quickly (for the style) into a film of root beer-esque bubbles.
The nose is chocolate. Not the dark chocolate or bitter cocoa that you might be accustomed to from imperial stouts and coffee porters, but a lighter, sweeter milk-chocolate. There’s also some roasted malt, dark fruit (I guess), and even a bit of wheat-y funk, but the milk-chocolate and sweet cream aromas really dominate the bouquet. None of these are overwhelming, though, and the beer smells light and clean as opposed to sickly sweet, astringent, or boozy.
I say this often, but in this case it’s especially true — the taste follows the nose. Pretty much to a “T.” Baaad Boy doesn’t taste much like any dunkel weizen I’ve ever had (or any porter, for that matter), but it does taste an awful lot like Left Hand Milk Stout with a bit less milk and a little more chocolate. This is to say that it’s unusually smooth, creamy, and devoid of any of the smokiness or astringency usually present in darker beers. For me, the overwhelming flavor on the front, middle, and finish was milk-chocolate. In fact, Baaad Boy tasted more chocolatey than several “chocolate beers” that I’ve tried. Aside from the chocolate, there was a noticeable amount of wet, earthy grain in the middle as well as a trace amount of licorice at the end. The finish is remarkably clean, and this combined with the beer’s remarkably light body (which we’ll get to in a second) will trick your mouth into forgetting that it just swilled down a mouthful of the stuff a moment ago.
Baaad Boy not only looks and tastes much like a milk/cream stout — it feels much like one as well. The mouthfeel has that same characteristic creamy velvety slipperiness, but this is complemented by an exceptionally airy body that is typical of wheat beers but atypical of most dark beers. It’s a bit heavier and chewier than a hefeweizen, but still thinner and airier than other light or milk/cream stouts. There carbonation is tingly on the tongue (this might also be the wheat talking), but not enough to discourage you from swishing around a mouthful for awhile. All in all, this is probably the most drinkable and lightweight dark beer I’ve ever had (yes, even more than Guinness). I wouldn’t usually slap a caution label on a beer of 5.5% ABV, but you might find yourself putting these back faster than you can say “baaad decision.”
Should I try it?
Don’t be turned off by my awful sheep puns — this is really a good beer. The more seasoned beer drinkers among us might call it a bit boring, and though I wouldn’t entirely disagree with that assessment, I would remind them that simplicity is a virtue. It’s sort of a one-trick chocolate pony, but it presents this trick in a unique way and manages to taste very good while doing so. It’s a trick I would pay to see again.