Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bayou Teche - LA-31 Boucanèe Smoked Wheat Beer Review

Bayou Teche LA-31 Boucanee Smoked Wheat Beer

Brewery: Bayou Teche (LA)
Style: Smoked Beer
ABV: 4.5%
Grade: B+

After posting the recipe and tasting notes for my own smoked wheat beer last Thursday, the very next day I found this bottle from Bayou Teche — a brand new entry into the New York market. While the bottle neither mentions or alludes to the German style of Grätzer, it seems to be the style this "smoked wheat beer" was modeled after — Bayou Teche has probably been brewing it before people would have even recognized the term "Grätzer" as having any significance. Rather than oat-smoked wheat, Bayou Teche uses their own cherry-wood smoked wheat. (They also don't say whether there's just a small percentage of smoked malt, or if the entire grain bill is smoked wheat malt).

The aroma is mild and English-y, with some fruit esters and the first hint of cherry. Smoke is undetectable, until your first sip — and at that point, you'll hopefully accept that this is a session smoked beer, meant to be quaffable, rather than intense. LA-31 Boucanee is mild, malty and smooth, with a smoke character that is far more timid than almost any other smoked beer I've had. (It's much less smoky than my Grätzer, instead reminding me mostly of Three Head's Bromigo Smoked Maple Amber). The cherrywood seems to bring a hint of sweetness that finishes out the clean malty profile, and actually makes for an extremely drinkable beer, clean and crisp rather than lingering and abrasive. Sure, it's subtle, and if you're looking for campfire and bacon levels of smokiness, maybe put this back on the shelf and step away from Beer Advocate. Smoke plays an important role, bringing uniqueness and depth to what would otherwise be a fairly simple beer, but it's only a small component, not the focus. 

While I don't want to make too many guesses, Boucanee strikes me as surprisingly English-inspired, with a body and flavor profile that could pass for an English mild ale. I guess it's a combination of those clean malts, fruity esters and cherrywood nuances — and the fact that I could throw back a number of these in a pub, easy. There's no cloying crystal malt to slow me down, but the maltiness is firm and present, with wheat adding to the crisp finish, underscoring notes of candy-fruit, toasted caramel and toffee. Boucanee seems to get knocked on the review sites as "average," but I think it's a case of drinkers expecting fireworks when the show is a low-key, slow burn (pun intended). I'd happily toss a sixpack of LA-31 in my fridge any day.

Availability: 12 ounce bottles, rotating release.

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