I first stumbled upon 21st Amendment Brewery‘s Hell or High Watermelon at the Ameri’Can’ Craft Beer Festival in downtown Chandler last month. I also discovered many of the other 21st Amendment brews (all of which were fantastic), but this one stuck with me the most thanks to its uniqueness and my interest in finding a good fruit beer. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of beers with fruit flavors, but it’s been more difficult than I imagined to find one that actually tasted like the fruit it was claiming to use in its recipe, as well as the title. Hell or High Watermelon is one of those rare fruit beers that can say it has watermelon in it while managing to taste like real watermelon. And watermelon is a pretty mild fruit in the first place, so that’s saying something.
I think the main thing that’s drawn me to 21st Amendment lately is their creative label designs. Colorful, dynamic, and resembling a modern mural on the side of a historic building, they speak volumes to the attention that goes into the product. I also really like the story of their brewery and what they stand for:
What is the 21st Amendment?
Around the turn of the 20th century, in the year 1900, there were thousands of small breweries operating across America. When Freccia and O’Sullivan were researching old San Francisco breweries (trying to find a cool name for their new brewery), what really made an impact was the discovery that there were about 40 breweries operating just within the city limits of San Francisco (by comparison, today there are eight with a population more than double what it was in 1900). They realized that the brewery captured the essence of the neighborhoods of San Francisco. They were the local gathering places. Places to exchange ideas, debate politics and philosophy. Places for families to come together on weekends. Places that provided something unique—hand crafted beer that was different at every brewery and that defined the taste of a neighborhood.
In 1920, Prohibition wiped out this culture and put the “local” out of business. For 13 years, social interaction was largely driven underground, to the speakeasies, where regular citizens became a nation of outlaws.
But with the passage of the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition, we, as a society, were able to begin the slow climb back to reclaiming the essence of the neighborhood gathering place. At the 21st Amendment, they celebrate the culture of the great breweries of old, making unique, hand crafted beers, great food, and providing a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere that invites conversation, interaction and a sense of community.
With the initial pour, it appears rather thin, colored a clear pale honey-yellow. Thick wisps of a wheaty haze fall as it sits, eventually clouding the entire brew and darkening the color to a more uniform honey-gold – though the thickness remains 0n the thin side. The carbonation is quick and sparkling, erupting as it hits the glass and building a nice 3-finger thick head of thin, lacy foam that sticks around for quite a while afterwards, falling into a gossamer ring and sheer patches as I sip it. While the bubbles seem hardy enough, they refuse to stick to the side of the glass, leaving no trace it was ever there.
The aroma is very light, carrying hints of watermelon and fresh-cut rind, minimal hops, faint grainy notes and some wheat malt, but none are heavy enough to make a lasting impression until the beer is near room-temperature.
Hell or High Watermelon holds a light body, dry mouthfeel, and moderate semi-spicy carbonation. The clean, crisp authentic watermelon flavor is immediately present at the forefront, and fades into a lighter, sweet melon tang while touches of grainy wheat and malt follow through to the end. The profile of this beer overall is very light, but that doesn’t keep it from being the perfect thirst quencher, especially when it’s 115º outside. As much as I disagree with the current stereotypes of women and (fruit) beer, I think that this could be an awesome first step into the craft beer world for both men and women who are still trying to become interested and want to ease themselves in.