Saint Louis brewery Perennial was founded in September 2011 by former Chicagoan Phil Wymore, who’d previously managed the barrel program at Goose Island and then served as head brewer at Half Acre for a spell. His wife, Emily, and her father, Russ Bryant, help run the business, and on the brewing side Wymore has taken on Cory King, who used to manage the International Tap House in the Soulard neighborhood of Saint Louis.
Perennial got my attention this summer with Fantastic Voyage (a strong milk stout made with coconut) and an excellent peach Berliner weisse. So in late October I picked up a bottle of the Heart of Gold wheat wine when the 2012 batch (the second overall and first with this label) hit stores. Heart of Gold won a silver medal in “Other Strong Beer” at last month’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver. There were 55 entries in that category, one of 84 at the festival; the gold went to Boulevard’s Reverb Imperial Pilsner, in a good showing for Missouri.
Wheat wine is a newish style, having arisen in America (probably California) at some point in the past three or four decades. (Home brewers are almost certainly responsible, which makes it difficult to be precise.) It’s about as strong as the comparatively ancient barleywine style—Heart of Gold is 10 percent alcohol, at the low end of the typical range—but wheat malt accounts for more than half of its grain bill.