Appearance: Atwater’s Traverse City Cherry Wheat pours faintly red with a fluffy, white head. Although the beer has a noticeable amount of wheat in it, the beer is remarkably clear. Wheat has a much higher protein content than malted barley, which leaves a memorable haziness in most cases (think Oberon). The beer’s abnormal clarity could indicate a filtering process, or perhaps just a high enough wheat content that the proteins clump together and drop out during a lagering, or chilling process. Although filtered beer is often associated with your classic urine-lagers of America’s yesteryear, it’s important to note that plenty of great craft breweries filter in some way or another, and it is almost never an indicator of quality.
Aroma: Very crisp, clean American Wheat style aroma. There’s a slight citrus character, as well as a vague fruitiness that suggests the beer label’s claims, however I wouldn’t say it’s distinctively cherry.
Taste: Surprisingly pleasant, and subtly balanced. If you’ve read many of my other beer reviews, you’ll know that I am often skeptical of fruited beers, especially when it comes to cherry. In this case, I expected a hint of NyQuil character, or at best, kiddie cocktail. Instead, what I found was a rather sublte, and distinctly red cherry flavor. For me, this has quickly become a classic scenario of judging the beer by its cover. Atwater has struck a truly artful balance between the summery, American wheat character that all of us Michiganders crave come spring (don’t worry, it’s only a few more months away!), and the intense fruit flavors that the northern portion of this top-shelf peninsula provides every year.
Mouthfeel: Thanks to that nice, fluffy head and those wheat proteins I mentioned earlier, the mouthfeel in this beer is right on par. Thanks to the rather non-aggressive cherry additions, the beer remains fairly dry, which helps to maintain the crispness, while still feeling soft on the tongue.
Overall: Atwater’s Traverse City Cherry Wheat is a well-executed American fruit beer that exceeded my expectations. Frankly, I think it’s a bit insulting to this great, multi-continental tradition to produce a fruited beer that looks and feels like the syrup that comes out of the fountain soda machines at Burger King. Yes, it’s certainly a fermented product, but then again, so is soy sauce. Atwater successfully combined age-old traditions and ingredients with new brewing techniques to create an respectfully delicious beverage made distinctively for beer drinkers.