Smuttynose Brewing Co. (New Hampshire beer maker and unofficial contender for best-named microbrewery in the country) debuted its Wheat Wine Ale in 2005, following an eight-month tussle with federal regulators over what the hell, exactly, “wheat wine” was. Think of it as a foamy hybrid, formed of two distinctly different beers: a hedonistic barleywine (a British-brewed strong ale with wine-like alcohol levels) and a peppy American wheat ale. It was the first commercial bottling of the style, which Smuttynose has since distributed annually as part of its limited-release Big Beer program (accurately described on their website as “big beers in big bottles.”) This 2010 vintage, released in December—when we were downing Belgium Christmas ales—is further notable for the fact that it’s gonna be the last one. For a year, anyway. So what’s does a wheat wine taste like?  Well, this one, aged for 36 days on dry hops and oak, is deliciously gluttonous—a beer sundae of vanilla and banana, drizzled with caramel, topped with crisp, expressive hops. With an 11.9% alcohol kicker. Smuttynose currently distributes to 19 states (most on the East Coast) and D.C. If yours isn’t one of them, an online specialty retailer should have the hookup. If you do manage to score a few bottles, put one or two into hibernation (a cool dark place) for the interim. A brew this expressive should age in interesting ways.

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