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Belt’s Beer Garden: Wheat of the Moment

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Two wheat beers to cool you down this summer - Modern Times’ Fortunate Islands & Golden Road’s Tart Mango Cart

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Wheat beers are perfect for summer...they’re refreshing, easy to drink, and (usually) don’t have super high ABVs. Today I bring you two wheat beers from southern California, where it’s summer all year round.

First up, a hoppy wheat Modern Times.

Modern Times is nestled in sunny San Diego, California and has been crafting “aroma-driven, complex, flavorful, sessionish beers” since their inception in early 2012. They make a lot of one-off and special releases to go with their few mainstay beers. Sadly, for now you can only find them around southern California.

While visiting my sister a few weeks ago, I picked up one of their year-round beers, Fortunate Islands, which they call a hoppy citrusy wheat. The website claims this is almost a mash up of an IPA, pale ale, and a wheat.

Fortunate Islands uses three malts (wheat, two row, and caravienna) and two hop varieties (Amarillo and Citra). A four-pack of 16-ounce cans runs you about $13, so it’s not too cheap, with each can containing a modest 5% ABV and 46 IBU.

When I poured the can into my glass, they weren’t kidding about it being a citrusy, hop forward wheat. There were huge mango, orange, and tangerine aromas emitted by the golden straw colored beer. The wheat malt provided a light sweet backing. The description said it would smell more IPA than wheat…and they were right.

As the glass filled with beer some head began to build but not nearly as much as I thought would. There was just about a finger and a half of small, pure white bubbles that eventually fizzled down into a dusting.

My first sip began with some very mild carbonation before the flavors really took off. And, despite the hoppy aroma, the beer was much lighter than I thought it would be. All the citrus fruits from the smell made their way across my tongue in a semi-bitter blend of hops, with the orange and tangerine standing out most.

As the hoppy flavors began to fade out, the malt showcased themselves on the backend with a slightly bready/doughy flavor. The hops added a mild dankness to the beer that didn’t quite blend as well with that bready malt as I thought it would; leaving a lingering funky sweetness to it at the end.

There was quite a bit of lacing around my glass – as the beer disappeared the bubbles decided they didn’t want to follow suit and clung to the edges instead, leaving nice cloud formations around the sides.

Overall, Fortunate Islands certainly was a mash up of styles but, in the end, seemed to be way more like a sessionable IPA than anything else. I really like the aroma and citrus flavors up front. However, the high wheat content mixed with the dankness of those hops left a really funky flavor at the end that I didn’t care too much for. Not bad but I’ve definitely had better from them.

Next up, a short drive up the coast will bring you to Golden Road.

Los Angeles, California is home to lots of people…two of which (Meg Gill and Tony Yanow) started Golden Road Brewing back in 2011. They currently offer seven year round beers (four of which are IPAs) and can only be found throughout SoCal and, apparently, in parts of Ohio.

Shockingly I did not pick up one of their four IPAs…instead I opted for a seasonal brew: Tart Mango Cart.

Tart Mango Cart is a mango wheat ale according to the can but, strangely, I’ve also seen it listed as a Berliner Weisse though…so not too sure what to tell you there.

Anyway, a six-pack will run you about a dollar more than usual, at $11.99. The sad part is that each can only contains a 3.2% ABV…so it’s quite light (like a full percent lower than Bud Light…that’s light).

When opened, this mango ale poured a hazy, muddled golden yellow color with just under two fingers of bright white head building up. The bubbles, however, did not stick around long and, within a few seconds, there was just a small ring around my glass remaining. And soon there would be none at all.

On the nose there was a copious amount of sweet mango and some light sour notes. I was surprised at how subtle the aroma was outside of the mango…there were no hints of malt. No hop presence. It was just pure juicy mango. And I was excited to dive in to it.

Just as I had hoped, this beer followed its scent perfectly…well almost perfectly.

There was a tiny rush of carbonation up front that lasted for just a second or two before fizzling out and allowing the flavor to emerge with full force. And it was all mango…juicy, sweet mango that covered my taste buds.

The only thing that didn’t match from the smell (or name) was the tartness. Those few sour notes from the aroma were hidden too well behind the fruity flavor, which made this beer possibly even more delicious.

On the backend of the sip, the wheat added some extra sweetness to the beer which really didn’t need any more sweetening…but it still tasted just as good.

At the end of each taste the mango juice, in addition to the hops, create a sticky, dry tongue but with no real lingering aftertastes…just the dryness – which, luckily, another sip will cure!

This brew had no lacing to speak of what-so-ever and hid the alcohol completely (which, with its minimal amount, doesn’t really surprise me at all).

Overall, Tart Mango Cart was a delicious wheat ale/Berliner Weisse/hybrid that was super juicy but lacked any of the advertised tartness. I only wish there was a higher ABV content…but that might mess up the flavors, which would also be terrible.

It’s a great beer for those insanely hot days we’re about to start having. Light, sessionable, and tasty as hell. The perfect beer for a day on the boat or lounging around the water. If you can find it, and like mango, do yourself a favor and buy it!