Beer: Mr. Pineapple Wheat Brewery: SanTan Brewing Co. Style: Fruit wheat beer ABV: 5 percent
Last week, I bought a pineapple. It was an impulse buy, driven in part by its alien appearance and by the realization that I rarely eat the fruit. I bet I can make some interesting stuff with that, I thought to myself. Why not? I'll tell you why not: The tropical fruit's rock-hard exoskeleton can basically only be cut with a hacksaw, and once you spend the half hour it takes to chop through it, you're left with about two ounces of actual, edible fruit. Fuck pineapples.
Out for vengeance on the fruit that wronged me, I traveled to SanTan Brewing Co.'s Chandler brewpub for a taste of their new seasonal, Mr. Pineapple Wheat. What better way to punish an ornery fruit than by drinking a beer made from his blood?
Mr. Pineapple Wheat was originally cooked up for SanTan's annual luau party in downtown Chandler last year. After the event, the brewers found they had a little left over, so they decided to send it to Denver for judging in the Great American Beer Festival. What seems like a whim had a nice payoff -- Mr. Pineapple came home with a silver medal in the fruit wheat category, beating out nearly 50 other entries. Since then, the beer has been SanTan's most anticipated release.
To make the brew, says Anthony Canecchia, SanTan's owner and brewmaster, about 130 ounces of pure pineapple juice are added to every barrel during primary fermentation. "The yeast is still active and will metabolize a majority of the fermentable sugars, leaving the longer polysaccharide chains intact without driving off all of the volatiles and aromatics," he says. Translation: the yeast eats away most of the fruit's sweetness, but leaves behind some characters of its distinctive flavor and aroma.
In a weizen glass, Mr. Pineapple is a soft mango-orange, with just a little wheaty haze. The head is frothy and white -- like whipped cream -- giving the brew an overall look like some mixed drink you could pick up in the tropics. The aroma is smooth and subdued like a good hefeweizen: wheat, apple, pear, banana, white bread, clove. There isn't much pineapple to be found here, however.
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That's because it's in the flavor, adding a zesty tang to the subtle sweetness of wheat. In the front, apples and pears mingle in the complex wheat flavor; upon the swallow, the finish dries things out just a bit. The body, while soft like a pillow, is also packed with spritzy carbonation, making every gulp sweet, tangy and refreshing. I can see myself thoroughly enjoying it on a blistering summer day, poolside, sipping out of a can. I shouldn't have to wait long -- Canecchia says there are plans to get the brew into cans by next spring,
There is a tendency in those who make fruit ales to let the fruit run amok, overpowering the base brew to the point of unrecognizability. Not so with Mr. Pineapple -- the very solid wheat ale below contains just enough fruit flavor to create interest. I can see how it won GABF hardware. It's available on tap around town now, so go get some and do your part to teach those bastard pineapples a lesson.
Food pairing suggestions: On April 24, SanTan will host a beer pairing dinner at Rita's Kitchen. The pairing arranged for Mr. Pineapple is a dessert: fried, coconut-crusted banana cheesecake with mint and bitter chocolate sorbet. Sounds good to me.