27 May 2007

Stunning wheat: Three Floyds Gumballhead

I've been told that as you age, your sense of taste tends to diminish. I'm not sure of the validity of this claim, but I do know that as I've gotten older, I have gravitated toward beers with stronger flavors. I suppose that's why I joined the Knights of the Beer Roundtable--to share my love of distinctive-tasting beer with like-minded folks.

So it might not surprise you to learn that American wheat ales normally aren't my thing. It's not that beers falling into this category taste unpleasant to me. In fact, I quite like Bell's Oberon, as I've noted previously. But American wheats are a bit on the mild side for my preference. When I sit down for a pint, I want something that grabs the tongue (in a good way, of course).

So when I learned that our feature beer, Three Floyds Gumballhead, is a wheat beer, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I'd heard that the stuff was loaded with hops, which is atypical for an American wheat. I'd also heard that Gumballhead is awesomely good, but I tried not to let the word on the street among other beer geeks predispose me toward giving a favorable review to this beer.

So to see how Gumballhead truly measures up to the greats of the beer world, I warmed up with the mighty Hopslam from Bell's, which is a KOTBR favorite. To BW3's credit, they had the Hopslam as a cask conditioned beer, so it was served at a warmer temperature. This enhanced the already heavenly flavor of the beer even more. I eagerly await Bell's release of the next batch of this outstanding ale.

Then it was on to the Gumballhead. This wheat beer poured fairly clearly with a color that was between straw and amber. When the server brought my pint to the table, the beer had just the faintest remnant of a head. Gumballhead is made with Amarillo hops, which gave the beer a boat-load of character. The nose on this beer is unbelievable. On first sniff, I got smacked in the face with a lovely citrus overload. Upon a second sniff, I smelled, interestingly enough, bubble-gum. I wondered whether the name of the beer was coloring my perception of the beer's aroma (the beer is actually named for a bizarre comic character), but a third sniff confirmed the bubble-gum smell. I pictured the Dubble Bubble that, as a kid, I found in my candy bag on Halloween after a good night of trick-or-treating.

While not on par with the Hopslam's flavor, Gumballhead's taste is nonetheless formidable. It's sweet on the front of the tongue and dry and bitter on the back. The flavor is heavy on those Amarillo hops, which lends the taste a striking combination of citrus and evergreen. As weird as this may sound, Gumballhead's flavor made me think of what a Douglas fir might taste like if it were soaked in lemon and grapefruit juice. That might come across as an unpleasant image, but it's not meant to be negative as Gumballhead's flavor was excellent.

This is a 4.5 mug beer for me; it's certainly one of the best that we've reviewed.

One last note--I have to give our server a thumbs-up for the Fred Sanford t-shirt she was wearing:

She also wanted to pass on a tip about this piece of apparel--if you happen to teach special education, don't wear it to class.

I also wish to give a huge thumbs up to Buffalo Wild Wings for their outstanding beer menu. I'm looking forward to visiting the establishment when it soon becomes BadaBoomz.

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