- Matthew Schniper
- Good brats need good beer. Whistle Pig has neither.
Every brewer on the planet, from the humblest homebrewer to Sam Adams founder Jim Koch, has brewed a few bad batches of beer. Mistakes happen, but good brewers learn their lessons and make the next batch better.
Not the case at the newly opened Whistle Pig Brewing, where I sampled two batches of pilsner dubbed Whistle Piss, because you know urine for a great brew with a name like that.
The first batch underwhelmed, bland but for scant banana and clove notes in a cloudy but thin brew. Those are qualities that should be present in a hefeweizen, which, as far as light-colored beer styles go, is about as far from a pilsner as possible. On a second visit, Whistle Pig had a new batch on. Taste-wise, this one swapped banana-clove for lemon and little else. Visually, the Piss was still cloudy, but this time, there were particles of what my server told me was clarifying agent floating around. Due to rapidly emptying taps, they didn't have time to chill the beer to clarify it as long as they usually do. Further questions revealed that it's not even a pilsner — those ferment around 55 degrees or colder. Whistle Piss ferments at 68 to 74 degrees, according to our server, part of why this beer is so wrong.
While none of the other brews I tried were as far beyond the pale as the Whistle Piss, they pained with mediocrity. Across the board, the beers were dilute, flavorless and mostly flat. The standout-best oatmeal stout showed smoke and a little creaminess. The wee heavy claimed a whopping 13.6 percent ABV, but a beer that insipid with that much alcohol would taste boozy, and this did not. The wee wee, another classy beer made from rye-augmented second runnings of the wee heavy, tasted like nothing in particular. And the mosaic IPA had a little hop on the nose, but negligible flavor and bitterness, almost as bland as the wee wee.
The English malt cider tasted middle-of-the-road, bearing only enough malt to allow the brewers to make it without getting a distiller's license, according to our server. To top it off, Whistle Pig charges for a full pint ($5.25) to add two more four-ounce samples to a paddle of six samples that's already a steep $9.
Brewer/owners Eric Merrell and Rob Beers claim a combined total of 20-plus years of brewing experience. So they should know better than to rush inferior beers to the taps.
Fortunately, chef/co-owner Bobby Couch brought over his splendid Green Line Grill french fries and whipped up a noteworthy spiced ketchup. Unfortunately, the smoked burger doesn't taste like much of anything, though it's juicy and one of the better-priced options at $10. Whistle Pig's $13 shark platter shows the difference between a list and a plan, with pickled veggies and beets served beside candied pecans, dried cranberries, slices of bratwurst, candied bacon, toast points and broken beer-cheese sauce. So goes the menu: dry, under-seasoned pork in the pork rolls; pepper dominating all else in the bratwurst plate; watery, over-salted filling in the chicken pot pie; over-salted pickle spears served with a flavorless blackberry jam; and Caprese wings that tasted of barbecue sauce and nothing else.
One silver lining: Despite Couch spending most of his time at Whistle Pig, ever-tasty Green Line hasn't missed a beat, as my lunch visit the following day reaffirmed. Thank goodness for small mercies.