And Union Summer Wheat AleAnd Union Summer Wheat Ale (500ml, 5.5% ABV)

Modernism, eh? James Joyce and T S Eliot. Picasso and Stravinsky. Modernism is difficult.

And Union brew modernist Bavarian craft beer. I know this because it says so on their web site. Putting my artistic hat on (which is very fetching, I assure you) it might be more accurate to call them mimimalist. The bottle labels are as simple as it gets – some text on a coloured oval. This is a brewery so minimalist they appear to have thrown away the first word of their own name.

So, what crazy artistic creation might a modernist brewery present us with? A rainbow stout? Something brewed with dodo’s eggs and plutonium? No, it’s a wheat beer, a style brewed in Germany for hundreds of years. Turns out there’s a whole heap of tradition at And Union.

While Belgian style wheat beers (Hoegaarden, for example) make use of orange peel and coriander for their taste, the Bavarian style is much simpler, using only barley, wheat, hops, water and yeast. This is in line with the German Reinheitsgebot (purity law) which for centuries has limited what ingredients can be used by brewers. German quality control didn’t start with BMW.

Although this style of beer is inherently hazy, it pays to stop pouring when the darker slug of sediment begins to rise up the bottle.

In the glass Summer has a big, fluffy head, like most wheat beers, but it quickly settles to a bit of lacing, more akin to an English ale. The colour is a luminescent yellow-orange, like an amber traffic light seen through thick fog. An inviting waft of lemon, cloves and vanilla rises from the surface.

On the tongue it’s creamy, almost champagne-like, as if that short-lived head had sunk back into the beer and re-carbonated it. The taste is fresh and zesty, as a good wheat beer should be, but there’s a surprise in the aftertaste – a big throb of alcohol that comes out of nowhere. A modernist twist.

Written by Richard Salsbury

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