IF ANY AMERICAN brewery could win the masses to sour ale, surely it must be New Belgium: the nation’s largest Belgian-themed brewery and curators of the unconventional Lips of Faith series. Chicago’s Goose Island is famous for the Orval-inspired Matilda that was indeed a transformative pioneer in the field, but that beer and its sisters in the Vintage Series always aimed for a discerning crowd of gastronomes and wine drinkers who were more easily persuadable in the first place. New Belgium has instead focused their new Snapshot on a much wider field of consumers, selling it in affordable six packs of easy-drinking American wheat ale. This broad contingent of styles is dynamic and highly marketable, ranging from nationwide money machines (312, Blue Moon) to more exclusive and/or robustly flavored cult favorites (A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, Gumballhead). So which camp would New Belgium join?
Neither, really. Although Snapshot does feature lactobacillus-soured wort for part of its blend, its flavors ultimately fall much more in line with the simple refreshment of a summery wheat ale, easily quaffed from the bottle at the ballpark without giving its sour component a second thought. Its aroma slips through pale malt, some wheat, lemon, with a very light touch of cream and tartness, and the flavors correspond: light and crisp with a touch of tang towards the finish, almost more salty and piquant than sour or creamy. The ABV of 5% and IBUs of 13 are both non-factors, though a little floral note comes in the aroma from Cascade hops.
The body is light enough to be hardly noticeable until a larger sip is taken, and with that longer exposure the lactic component can develop more clearly, tweaking the transparent finish and tying in neatly with the sweet sparkle of coriander. Otherwise this Snapshot flits across the tongue, gone nearly as quickly as it arrived but leaving a light and refreshing wash behind. Thus Snapshot delivers on its name: quick and carefree, ultimately disposable but sometimes still worth revisiting. It may well become the next big summer beer for those who’ve tired of 312’s ubiquity and comparative roundness. Some may lament that it could have been so much more, and they’ll be right. But not every vista calls for Ansel Adams.
Served: 12 oz bottle best by 6/15/14