27941 Diaz Road, Temecula
I’d heard good things and even sampled some good beers from Wiens Brewing Company (27941 Diaz Road, Temecula). I’d even made one of the company’s brews, Far Post Brown Ale, a San Diego Beer News Beer of the Week. The preliminary stuff was good enough to get me to drive up to Riverside County. And there was more goodness when I walked into the large industrial park space. I was instantly impressed by a roomy tasting space, nice-looking high tables, and good-looking artwork lining the walls. Also, the chalkboards behind the bar had a lot of beers listed. But that bar was where the positives and my excitement ended, for they were soon extinguished by beers ranging from lackluster to subpar.
For the most part, Wiens produces two types of beers, sessionable German-style beers and India pale ales. For the former, low alcohol is cool, but low flavor is not. Though many consider light-bodied beers such as golden and amber lagers to be simple creations, they are often harder to perfect than imperial, heavier styles. Less alcohol, less aggressive hop bills, a lack of roasted malts, and no extra ingredients like coffee or cacao nibs leaves brewers with virtually zero room for error. The consumer will easily be able to detect deficiencies that would otherwise be covered up by hops, booze, or added flavors.
Wiens describes its Front Street Golden Lager as “malty and citrus.” There’s a hint of lemon, but it’s far too watery and bland. A wheat ale made with avocado blossom honey is thicker and tastier thanks to plenty of yeast presence, but is still below average for the style. Wienfest, an Oktoberfest that tasted faintly of spiced pumpernickel was the best of the bunch, but is by no means the type of beer worth seeking out.
The brewery’s Old Town Amber Lager best exemplifies the problem with Wiens’ better beers. It falls within acceptable ranges where beer style specifications are concerned, but is light in flavor and too thin in its consistency. In short, passable and alright in a community like Temecula, where craft beer is starting to set in. But the scene is young and there isn’t the competition and, therefore, the need to create exceptional beer to garner patronage. Plunk Wiens down in San Diego and the business would be hard pressed to replicate the level of early success it’s attained.
That success, so far, is modest. Wiens still isn’t mentioned in the top tier of Temecula breweries — Black Market Brewing Company, Ironfire Brewing Company, Refuge Brewery are the most talked about with Aftershock Brewing Company leading the handful of also-rans. But that’s OK. Wiens Brewing Company is a spin-off venture of Wiens Family Cellars, the business that provided the funds for this large-by-Temecula-standards brewery and that fancy tasting room.
Samples from the surprisingly long list of IPAs led me to believe they should have stuck to wine. To be fair, all of the IPAs have potent hop presence. But here’s the but. Whereas the light beers are too thin, the IPAs are too heavy. It would seem a byproduct of trying to compose a malt bill big enough to stack up to all those hops. Worse yet, diacetyl is as big on the palate as all those hops, transitioning these brews into the unacceptable category.
After coming so far, I was severely disappointed that Wiens’ beers failed to live up to what I’d expected. But truth be told, I’d have been just as unsatisfied had I walked across the street. It wasn’t the distance traveled that was the problem—it was the beers. There’s an opportunity to do big things to advance Temecula’s budding craft beer culture, and with the resources at their disposal, this spin-off is poised to be a major player in that effort…but not until they start producing better brews.