OF ALL THE heady concoctions made by 5 Rabbit Cerveceria, Huitzi may be the most complicated. Brewed with hibiscus, ginger, honey sourced locally from Chicago, thai palm sugar, and chamomile, this Midwinter Ale is surely a dizzying challenge for any palate to unsnare. Yet equally confounding is its presentation–indeed, it may even be irreconcilable–so let us approach it step by step.
5 Rabbits classifies Huitzi as a Belgian Strong Golden, and it does share numerous characteristics with that illustrious archetype: a Belgian yeast strain, ABV around 9%, strong fruity bouquet, sugar adjuncts, low bitterness, and a suitably impressive 750 ml bottle packaging. But these similarities on paper don’t reflect to the beer in the glass. Its color is radioactive watermelon instead of golden; effervescence is medium-low and a little sticky instead of highly carbonated and dry; flavors are musty and slightly dank, not piquant or spiked with phenols. Furthermore, 5 Rabbits positions Huitzi as a Midwinter release and tweaks tradition by calling it a “winter cooler” instead of ‘winter warmer’. True enough, there’s hardly a hint of alcohol in its finish and thus no warming glow so customary to big winter seasonals. As for the body, it seems heavier than its estimated 2.5 Plato, and is set a little adrift between a Strong Golden Ale’s high attenuation and a winter warmer’s voluptuous depth.
So what are we really left with? An intriguing experiment with limited appeal. Between Belgium’s lax attitude towards style guidelines and America’s impudence in breaking them, there’s no reason but for marketing buzzwords that 5 Rabbit should strain to categorize this beer. It’s especially counterproductive when those chosen styles conjure up such strong associations that Huitzi simply does not equal. Though unique and deeply complex, it is too sweet and stolid on the palate, lacking the spice, stronger attenuation, or bitterness to give it a truly refreshing balance. Its lower carbonation, too, leaves it almost more akin to a sparkling melomel mead. Altogether it’s a little confusing. While experimentation can be a wonderful and illuminating thing, executing the fundamentals must come first; if 5 Rabbits put aside their mythic cookbooks and focused on excellent base brews, their exotic embellishments would be much easier to swallow.
Served: 750 ml bottle