| Delicious on a 90-degree day. Photo: 21st Amendment Brewery
With summer spiking thermometers, few frigid beverages satisfy quite like unfiltered wheat beers, mellow and flavorful thirst-quenchers that drink as easy as fresh-squeezed lemonade.
But a great beer style is just a springboard for innovation, a belief held by Nico Freccia. About a decade ago, the founder of San Francisco's 21st Amendment Brewery was fooling around with home-brewed wheats. Since it was summertime, he tossed ripe red watermelon chunks into his fermenting suds. "I didn't think the flavor would come through very well because watermelon is mostly, well, water," Freccia said.
To his surprise, the experiment was a triumph. Within the cloudy wheat beer, the watermelon shone as bright as a klieg light in a foggy night, without mimicking a Jolly Rancher run amok. "It still tasted like beer," marvels Freccia. "I could drink several without feeling like I was drinking a Slurpee."
These experimental beginnings led to the creation of 21st Amendment's biggest seller, Hell or High Watermelon.
Finally arriving on the East Coast in 21st's trademark aluminum cans (and also available -- rarely -- on draft), HOHW is pure summertime pleasure. Pop a tab, and the brew pours a hazy straw-blonde, possessing a broad head as bright white as a brand-new T-shirt. The fruity aroma is restrained, but the flavor is Fourth of July fireworks: tart and crisp, with a hint of lemony hops and just enough gently sweet watermelon to make you wonder where the seeds are hiding.
Forget wheat beer's traditional lemon garnish: this deserves a juicy melon slice. Got any fruit beers you hold dear? Spill 'em.