Weather in Indiana is crazy. A few days ago the high was in the teens, today is was 60. For whatever reason, maybe something to do with sunshine and "warmer" temperatures, I opted to deviate from what is my normal Friday beer purchase and seek out something more "summerish". I frequent a small liquor store that carries an amazing assortment of beers, they also have great prices. In the winter months we tend to drink more Weisse beer, don't ask me why, but we do. Our standby is the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse. It's a great all around beer and we can buy it for less than $2 a bottle at my little store. It comes in 16 oz bottles. I love this video review of Franziskaner:
He is very accurate as to the flavors of the beer, plus he just loves to drink it. No pretense and the guy has hundreds of beer review videos.
Summer, warm weather, Caribbean...that means Corona. But not just any Corona, no. I mean Corona Familiar. From what I can find, the Corona Extra and the Corona Familiar contain the same beer, but the taste is different. The lady that runs my favorite little liquor store turned me onto this brown quart bottle of Corona, Corona Familiar. She said they started carrying it because the local Mexican folks requested it and said it was the only true Corona. No lime for this Corona, that would ruin it. The reason most come up with for the taste difference in the two is the bottle coloring, which may prevent the Familiar from being "light struck". We notice a significant difference in the taste and much prefer the Corona Familiar. Familiar means "family" in Spanish.
Here's a pretty good primer on "light struck" beer, courtesy of Beer Advocate:
Whoa! This beer is skunked! is probably something you've heard before, uttered by someone who was probably drinking a green-bottled Heineken. And from the guy who thinks he knows something about beer: That's because it's in a green bottle, dood.
Not quite, junior beer guru. That so-called skunked character has nothing to do with green bottles, or any color bottles. True, some beer bottle colors are more susceptible to being what's called light-struck, however, the whole idea that the color is the cause is completely wrong.
What does light-struck mean?
This is when the beer has been exposed to ultraviolet light for a period of time. Hop-derived molecules, called isohumulones, are basically ripped apart. Some of these parts bind with sulfur atoms to create that skunk character, which is similar in character to a skunk's natural defense and is such a potent compound that parts-per-trillion can be detected and even ruin a beer. Although brown bottles aid in protecting beer from being light-struck, it hardly makes the beer invincible. Green or clear bottles provide little to no protection. And it's been said that bottled beer can become light-struck in less than one minute in bright sun, after a few hours in diffuse daylight, and in a few days under normal fluorescent lighting.
This light-struck condition is often to blame for a skunked beer. Many popular imports are distributed in green bottles. Pair the two, mix with misinformation and an inexperienced palate, and the common belief becomes that if beer is in a green bottle, it has to be skunked.
Yeah, but everything I drink from (a green bottled, imported beer) tastes skunked.
Well, it's not like there's an international conspiracy by the brewery to expose all of its beer to being light-struck before being sold. Breweries are not in the business to sell spoiled beer. And did you ever consider that that's the how the beer was intended to smell and taste? The natural and often times wanted sulfur character produced by certain strains of lager yeast, under certain beer style brewing conditions, does not make a skunked beer. Nor does a pungent hop character that you might not be used to. Don't confuse these characteristics with being skunked, as it's not always the case.
Yeah, but it's always skunky in the bottle and not the keg.
Drinking from the bottle is a more concentrated experience. Drinking from a glass allows the beer's characters to become more volatile, thus a less concentrated experience. It doesn't necessarily mean that the beer in the bottle is skunked.
How can I avoid skunked beers?
Simple. Don't buy beer on display, don't buy beer in a cooler that is brightly lit and don't leave your beer exposed to light.
So there you have it. Just remember that before you give up on a beer and write it off as being skunked, keep in mind that there's a lot more that could be going on, and that perception of characters is highly subjective. What you might call skunked due to lack of knowledge could be a tasty German-style Pils to another.
I love this video review of the two beers, make sure to watch the whole thing.
Which brings me to the title of this post. What I ended up buying, thanks to a super helpful lady that always seems to take pity on me as I'm standing in front of the coolers, gazing at all the different imports and mico-brews, was something not even on display. She went into the back and brought out a six pack of it.
I was taken back at first with the packing and the name. I ask Patty "what's it taste like?" I mean, with a name like Gumballhead I was thinking something sweet and candy like. Patty told me it tastes like beer, with a coy laugh. She also told me it was really hard for them to get hold of and they only get about a case every 6 months. They limit customers to one six pack. If her plan was to make me feel like a special customer, her mission was accomplished.
Here's a video review of the Three Floyds Gumballhead:
After a little research I've since learned that the Three Floyds is based in Indiana. How kewl is that! It was started by two brothers and their father in 1996. These are craft beers and are a breath of fresh air in this sea of canned "light" beer that I live in. Lorrie and I both tried the beer. It's different, for sure. Lorrie doesn't care for it and knowing that would probably be the case, I bought her a 6 pack of Leinenkugel Berry Weiss as a back up. It's sweet, almost like a berry lemonade.
No where close summer yet, but it sure tasted like it.