Gut Check's Swag Bag: Michelob Hop Hound Amber Wheat

click to enlarge Still Life with Hop Hound and Black Cat - Ian Froeb
Ian Froeb
Still Life with Hop Hound and Black Cat
People send Gut Check stuff to try. So we try it.

The typical Monday morning here at Gut Check International Headquarters goes something like this: Stumble into office, clutching thermos of coffee. Check voice mail, bracing self for angry messages from recently reviewed restaurateurs. Open the Morning Brew e-mail account. Remind self, after skimming another half-dozen links to stories about the horror film The Midnight Meat Train, to delete Google News Alert for "meat."

This Monday, I noticed even before I could set my bag down and hang my jacket on the cubicle divider, would be different. On my desk sat two bottles of beer.

The beers were from Michelob: the Honey Wheat and the Hop Hound Amber Wheat (pictured above, with my cat Franklin in the background). These are two of the four seasonal wheat beers Michelob is releasing this spring. I received a colorful sheet with tasting notes for all four beers -- the Shock Top Belgian White and the Dunkel Weisse are the other two -- but only two to try.

I guess the Belgians are still cutting costs.

The temptation to crack open one or both of the beers right then was overwhelming. Not only was it nearly time for our weekly staff meeting -- best experienced buzzed, but usually attended under the influence of nothing but stale bagels -- but a high-school student was shadowing one of my colleagues, and I couldn't think of a better introduction to contemporary journalism than for her to see me guzzling a beer before ten in the morning.

Instead, I waited until yesterday evening to open one.

Not wanting to influence my impressions, I hadn't read the tasting notes provided with the beer. I chose the Hop Hound Amber Wheat because, in general, I prefer hoppy beers. Not that I expected this to be a hop bomb -- this is mass-market Michelob were talking about, even if this is a seasonal craft beer -- but both the name and the Poochie-esque dog on the label suggested an attempt at something with a little more "edge" than usual.

But edge is the last word I'd use to describe the Hop Hound.

It pours a pretty amber color. (Beer snobs will probably object to my glassware, but even if I could afford better beer glasses, I'd almost certainly break them.) I detected some very mild citrus notes on the nose, but there wasn't much evidence of citrus or hops in the flavor. If I detected any fruit flavors, it was something closer to apricot. The sweetness of malt definitely comes through. To my surprise, the Hop Hound struck me as a much milder version of New Belgium's Fat Tire.

This isn't a bad beer. It's light enough in body and flavor to be refreshing, and it has enough distinctive flavor to escape the typical mass-market blandness, but it's certainly nothing special.

In other words, my initial instinct was right: This is the perfect beer with which to ease into Monday morning and another week here in the mines.

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