ONE GENERALLY EXPECTS wheatwine to be lighter, or at least less sticky, than barleywine; perhaps Fitger’s 1100 is the exception that proves the rule? Orange amber with a thin light head, its nose is full of syrup and licorice enhanced by a honey sweetness and touch of diacetyl. Such an opening could quickly have turned defective and cloying if carried through, but the beer’s full body is actually rather well settled amidst a lush array of malts. Woodford Reserve barrel-aging also helps smooth its profile, preventing the saturation point from being struck too early. Yet it’s neither oak nor tannins nor barrel char that come through in the flavor—rather more vanilla and corn that are continuations of 1100’s sweet theme. They’re cut slightly by some herbal hops that show early on the palate, after which the wheat basis begins to emerge, a touch spicy and cleaner than barley. The 11+% ABV is on the edge of alcohol slickness and plenty strong enough to give the finish a lift, brightening it though not defining it.
Carbonation is a little understated in the mix and more assertive wheat in both flavor and mouthfeel would have given 1100 the backbone necessary to achieve excellence. Yet while the beer seems an ungainly creation when its parts are all plotted out, for the most part they squish together rather pleasantly.
Served: On tap (Skyline Loft, FoBAB 2013, Chicago)