Reviewed: Wild Barrel Vice POG (Passion Fruit, Orange, Guava)
Official description: Berliner Weisse style beer with Passion Fruit, Oranges, & Pink Guava added. 5.2% ABV
Wild Barrel Brewing Co. – Wild Barrel Vice POG – 16oz can served in stemless snifter – 5.2% ABV
Wild Barrel (San Marcos, CA) is the brainchild of “Dr.” Bill Sysak, previously of Stone Brewing fame. Though the brewery opened in 2018, I just visited the brewery tasting room for the first time and was absolutely floored by the quality of beer on tap. Without a doubt, Wild Barrel is my pick for best “new” brewery in San Diego County.
Although Wild Barrel absolutely nailed several beer styles ranging from imperial coffee stouts to New England-style IPAs, Wild Barrel’s fruited Berliner Weisses (called San Diego Vice) stood out as the most impressive. I should mention that although I decided to do a full write-up on Vice POG, each version of Vice I tried on tap was shockingly good. Just to put things in perspective, there were at least seven different Vice versions on tap including papaya & mulberry, cranberry & orange, blackcurrant, apricot & peach, nectarine & cherry, strawberry & guava, and passion fruit/orange/guava (POG). Fortunately for my wallet, not every version was available in cans to-go when I visited.
I’m sampling this from a 4-pack of 16oz cans picked from the brewery tasting room. There’s an easy-to-read packaging date on the bottom of each can with this batch reading 2/20/19. Into my glass, Vice POG is slightly hazy and deeper gold in color with thick, off-white foam that sticks around for about a minute before collapsing completely.
Shortly after snapping the photo above, I swapped out glassware to wine stemware to accentuate the aroma. The nose begins with an incredible mix of sweeter Muscato wine, fresh brioche, and pineapple Dole Whip. There’s very little of that lactic funkiness I associate with kettle sours. As it breathes and warms, you’re left with an uncanny fruit juice aroma that is closer to a kid’s juice box than any recognizable beer.
Diving in, Vice POG is a revelation. I’ve tried so many fruited Berliners over the years and few, if any, punch with this level of juiciness. Fruit juice dominates the experience but Wild Barrel has perfected the vehicle to appreciate it. The base Berliner Weisse is barely sour by American craft brewery standards peaking at maybe a 4 out of 10 with a tight focus on milky lactic acidity. Sweetness is also around a 4/10, which allows the fruit juices to burst forth at full power. Though this isn’t billed as a gose (a German kettle sour cousin of Berliner Weisse made with salt), Vice POG has a salty edge that really brightens things up.
The mouthfeel on this beer continues to impress with a rich fattiness and biscuity maltiness usually reserved for Helles lagers and such. There’s so much base beer to appreciate underneath all that acidity and fruit juice. And it isn’t so much buttery like I find in other wheat ales and Berliners as it is oily and savory with an umami level of fattiness. There’s a mix of flavors here that I have not seen come together so well in a beer before.
Wild Barrel bursts out of the gates with several world-class level beers in a variety of styles. The San Diego Vice series of fruited Berliners is my pick for most impressive compared to the competition giving even J. Wakefield Brewing a run for their money, the brewery credited for introducing the substyle. In terms of what fruit addition to seek out, each one I tried was excellent with perhaps a slight edge to the inkier berry flavors found in Vice with papaya & mulberry. The takeaway is that you can’t go wrong.
Wild Barrel has developed an incredible vehicle to appreciate these fruit additions in a way that few breweries can. The mix of salt, fat, acid, and sugar is exceptional and truly raises the bar for this beloved substyle. Side effects of the quick and dirty kettle sour technique are well-mitigated here, so drinkers don’t need to prepare themselves for the inevitable funk and stinkiness common to Berliner Weisse.
If you love fruit sours, I urge you to seek these out.
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