David Sapsis's picture

Judge's Review: 82 Rating - Flotation Device Snozzberries Edition by Pontoon Brewing

March, 2021
Judges Rating: 
19 / 24
6 / 6
33 / 40
8 / 10
Overall Impression: 
16 / 20

Flotation Device Snozzberries Edition by Pontoon Brewing is branded as a fruited Berliner Weisse, and is being judged against BJCP category 29A, Fruit Beer. While this choice seems straightforward, the inclusion of lactose and vanilla (in addition to the fruit, which includes black currants, blackberry and raspberry) was not a slam dunk. Increasingly, brewers’ creativity pushes the limits of any attempt at systematics, and this beer, listed at 7.5 % alcohol, basically doubles the strength found in traditional Berliner beers. Speaking of which, at least Berliner wheat beers are known quantities: deeply tart, very (usually exceedingly) low strength, light and spritzy with hints of graininess and lovely Lactobacillus character found in the best examples. Traditionally, Berliner beers derive their sourness due to bacterial activity (in conjunction with yeast) during the ferment; being as that's a difficult and time-intensive process to control well, many producers are using kettle souring (post-mash) processes that while adept at getting lactic acid into the wort, often lack the enticing complexity of the more traditional processes. Historically, these beers were often served with a small amount of woodruff or raspberry syrup for mixing, thus giving established precedence for pairing with fruits and sweeteners. 

The beer was served at 46oF in a tall wheat glass; it pours almost blood red in color, with fluorescent pink foam that exhibits very good stand. The beer is distinctly hazy and seems truly one of the deepest red-colored beers I have encountered. Outgassing appears modest. The aroma is dominated by bright and sweet fruit – mostly raspberries – above a sweet/tart base. I get no real bread-pils malt character, and other than the clean lactic acid sharpness, it’s very hard to get a sense of the Berliner base beer. The sweetness does add a touch of dairy creaminess, that while vaguely similar to light yogurt notes found in some traditional Berliners, really seems here to complement the tartness coming from both acidic fruits and the lactic acid. 

The flavor starts extremely fruity with raspberries dominating but also some nice currant richness beneath the perfumy berry, melding with a nice level of tartness in the middle; no bitterness from hops is evident. The late palate has a light warming sweetness and a long, lingering currant-berry character all the way to the sweet-tart finish. Body is actually pretty full, likely due to the lactose, and really nothing like the highly conditioned and deeply thirst-quenching profile of good Berliners. 

While it no doubt will appeal to some consumers, the beer’s strong fruit dominance and acid-balancing sweetness seem to do a bit of party-foul to the underlying beer style. A softer hand with fruiting (allowing for less lactose as well) would improve this balance situation and give a more slaking effect.

Finally, the relatively low conditioning really doesn't help with it, further missing the mark of the base beer. Still, the fruit flavors are bright and taste very natural, and as a cleanly produced sweet/tart (and very) fruity drink, is no doubt appealing to many.