Wild Blue is one of the new crop of surprising specialty beers from Anheuser-Busch. It is a fruit-infused lager, brewed with a mix of hops, barley malt and cereal grains--and a generous helping of blueberry juice.
According to Doug Muhleman, A-B's v.p. brewing operations & technology, the idea for a blueberry beer was triggered by the popularity of blueberries for their anti-oxidant properties. "But I couldn't find a blueberry flavor I liked until I found some Austrian-made Blueberry Syrup at Dean & DeLuca," Mr. Muhleman says. "I bought a couple of bottles and brought them back to St. Louis. Everyone liked it, so we sent a guy to Austria to get more. The factory said, `sure, how many bottles do you need?' It threw them for a loop when he told them we needed 25,000 pounds. They had nowhere near that much on hand, so we had to wait a bit."
Eventually, A-B got its blueberries, and the Baldwinsville brewery was tasked with creating Anheuser's first fruit beer in living memory. The brewers there didn't stint--Wild Blue is a real live blueberry beer, with no shortcuts and plenty of blueberries. It even pours a startling blue in the glass, topped with a fluffy pink head. The flavor is, wait for it--fruity--but it finishes nice and tart, just like a wild blueberry should. It is slightly sweet, but not cloyingly so, and it even boasts a slight blueberry aroma. At 8% alcohol by volume, it is on the cusp of being a fruit wine, and the unusual profile caused some puzzlement among our tasting panel. One taster said "unbelievable! really berry like!" but another taster could not get a handle on a Blueberry beer from the maker of Budweiser. "I don't know to think," he said.
Judges at the North American Beer Awards in Idaho Falls, ID, were less wishy-washy. They gave the beer a gold medal in the flavored fruit beer category. Wild Blue was in good company: Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat took the silver and Wasatch Apricot Hefeweizen got the bronze.
Overall, the offbeat Wild Blue gets a thumbs up from us. It is smooth, strong lager beer, with a novel but pleasing fruit flavor. If you like blueberries, you will like Wild Blue.
--By Peter V.K. Reid
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