The watermelon is a time-honored summertime treat, whether eaten on its own, grilled into something savory or blended into a frozen dessert. It’s not surprising, then to see watermelon used in beers designed for summertime drinking—for better or worse. 21st Amendment Brewery’s Hell or High Watermelon, the wheat beer that preceded Watermelon Funk, has become a particular favorite of mine in the warmer months. However, my experience bringing it to social gatherings suggested that many of my craft beer-drinking friends have wildly disparate opinions on it: Some also enjoyed it, while others didn’t find its blend of flavors to be particularly compelling.
Watermelon Funk’s can declares itself to be an evolution of this polarizing beer: “We have transformed our summertime watermelon wheat beer into Watermelon Funk,” it begins, and a quick comparison of the two beers’ ingredient lists shows they have a whole lot in common—both use watermelon puree as well as Two-Row Pale and White Wheat malts—with a couple of key differences. Watermelon Funk is billed as a sour ale, it’s a bit stronger (6.7% ABV to Hell or High Watermelon’s 4.9% ABV) and it uses a French Saison yeast.
While Watermelon Funk’s bold label design looks festive, this is a beer that might well be best-suited for small pours or shared cans.”
When poured into a glass, Watermelon Funk is a lively golden brown in color—not exactly watermelon-esque, although a deep-red beer might be somewhat disconcerting. Staring into it for a while reveals some nuance to that color: It’s not entirely translucent, and that opacity is bolstered by thin streams of tiny bubbles rising to the top of the glass.
The presence of watermelon is more discernible when you smell the beer. While no one would confuse this for a glass of juice, there are subtle notes of the fruit puree alongside the more familiar smells associated with fermented grains.
Tasting Watermelon Funk reveals a beer that’s more concentrated than its predecessor. Rather than a light, refreshing summertime beer, Watermelon Funk hits the palate evenly with a flavor that’s smooth and sweet, yet subtly tart. As befits something with the word “sour” prominently displayed on its can, there’s a tartness definitely present—though it’s not so present that you’ll find yourself puckering your lips with each sip. There’s also an echo of nectar in the mix. This isn’t a deeply nuanced beer: the ale imparts the watermelon flavor consistently throughout the experience of drinking it, without a tangible shift in aftertaste.
While Watermelon Funk’s bold label design looks festive, this is a beer that might well be best-suited for small pours or shared cans. If Hell or High Watermelon was all about the feeling of an outdoor summertime party that lasts all day, Watermelon Funk might be the beer you open up once the sun goes down–or the fanfare you choose to start things off.