Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Quaff Review #19: Eel River Açaí Berry Wheat Ale

It seems like all this açaí berry stuff came out of nowhere in the last five or so years; I certainly never heard of it while I was in university, but now it's got to the point where the net is full of scams pumping the supposed healing and energy-giving qualities of the berry, scams that give your decidedly non-açaí berry-related workplace telephone number as the cancellation line. They come from the South American açaí palm and are a key food source in the Amazon region, to the extent that açaí palm groves are starting to rebuild damaged portions of the rainforest.

So it should come as no surprise that someone's taken this Brazilian "wonder fruit" and mixed it into a beer. Specifically, it's the Eel River Brewing Company in Fortuna, California - well, technically Scotia, California, a nearby census-designated place - that's done it. Their Açaí Berry Wheat Ale is the first product of theirs I've seen on any shelves in British Columbia, but that's all right, since it's also the first beer I've encountered that contains açaí. I'm pretty sure that that, in itself, was a major component of the marketing for this particular beer - allowing it to sell itself through people doing a doubletake at the label. It's something you expect in health juice drinks that cost $10 per bottle and go on and on about how much of an antioxidant it is, not a $3.50 bottle of beer.

In fact, the label doesn't give much space to anything else. Aside from the government warning that comes standard on American beer labels, there's just the basic refund notes and beer information - 12 fl. oz., 4.0% alcohol by volume, and its organic certifications. That last one isn't exactly surprising, though - the bottlecap is given over to a USDA Organic logo, and it appears that every last beer in Eel River's lineup is organic. No notes about the beer itself, why they made it this way, and so on; their website isn't much more helpful, and spares only a sentence describing it as "a light-bodied wheat ale... a flavorful mix of pomegranate and berries" before launching into what foods it's best paired with and what awards it's won.

I didn't look up the website until I started writing this, and so when I drank it I was coming in with no preconceived notions to the extent that I couldn't even remember if I'd tasted açaí berries before. I picked it up to ring in 2012, and yet I didn't get around to drinking it until January was at least a week old.

The first thing I noticed was that for all of its ingredients, the scent of this beer is dominated by it being a wheat beer; I found the smell very similar to KLB Raspberry Wheat Beer and generally unlike most other beers. The wheat likewise dominated the taste at first though was quickly overwhelmed by the açaí which, to my tastebuds, seemed rather like blueberries. While strong, the fruit taste didn't take over the beer but merely supplemented the wheat.

In body, this was a smooth, non-viscous, somewhat watery beer, though no less flavorful because of that and by no means weak. Still, with 4% alcohol content it's not particularly strong either; call it welterweight. It's the sort of beer to be enjoyed rather than simply consumed - go with something cheap like Rainier or Lucky Lager if that's all you're looking for. It's a good beer to accompany a good relax.

And if you've been wondering, it's pronounced "ah-SIGH-ee." Portuguese, you see.


Previous Quaff Reviews


  1. Hm. I tend to enjoy fruity beers like Unibroue's Ephemere and McAuslan's apricot wheat ale. I'll have to try this one!

  2. I haven't actually got around to those ones myself; more things to keep in mind. In that case, though, I will note that I found this one in the walk-in cooler at Firefly at Cambie and 12th.