The paw paw is the largest edible fruit indigenous to the United States. Since the paw paw is related to tropical fruit trees like papayas and mangoes you would think that one would have to go to Florida or someplace in the deep south to find paw paws growing in the wild, but you would be wrong. It turns out that paw paw trees can be found throughout Ohio. In fact the paw paw is the official native fruit of Ohio, which is not to be confused with the official fruit of Ohio, the tomato. Despite the fact that I live in the middle of a paw paw paradise I have to confess that I’ve never tasted the delicate flesh of a ripe paw paw. In fact most of what I know about paw paws comes from reading the label of a beer bottle. A bottle of Paw Paw Wheat from Jackie O’s brewery in Athens.
Jackie O’s is not the only brewery to incorporate paw paws into a beer. Weasel Boy in Zanesville makes the tongue twisting Weasel Paw Pawpaw Pale Ale, Thirsty Dog in Akron makes a Pawpaw Saison, and Buckeye Brewing in Cleveland makes a beer simply called PawPaw. In fact Jackie O’s isn’t even the only brewery to make a beer called Paw Paw Wheat, so appropriately enough does Paw Paw Brewing in Michigan. However, at 9% abv and $6 for a 12 oz bottle, Jackie O’s might make the strongest and most expensive of the paw paw beers.
- Brewery: Jackie O’s (Athens, OH)
- Style: Fruit/Vegetable beer
- ABV: 9.0%
- Cost: $5.99 for a 12 oz bottle
Paw Paw Wheat comes in a thick walled brown bottle adorned with a colorful label that evokes a Polynesian vibe. Pouring the beer into my tulip glass yields a translucent golden-amber colored liquid topped by three fingers of pure white head that dies off in the standard manner without leaving much lacing behind. As I bring the glass up to my nose I can smell the Belgian yeast and mild aromas of sweet tropical fruits. The taste starts out rather unassuming, grainy flavors from the wheat malts and a touch of sweetness, maybe vanilla if I concentrate hard. The Paw Paw fruit flavor finally shows itself toward the back end of each sip. If I were to try and describe it to someone who has never eaten a paw paw (like me), I would say it tastes something like a mango. I also pick up some spicy black pepper like notes at the finish. The 9% abv is well hidden. The mouthfeel is quite thick, borderline syrupy.
This is not a light bodied, easy drinking fruit-infused American Wheat Ale, but something more in line with a Belgian strong golden ale. The Paw Paw aroma and flavor are fairly subtle, but they do become more pronounced as the beer warms. It’s a well crafted beer that I’m glad to have tried, but the mouthfeel was a little too thick and the price point a little too high for my taste in fruit beer. At least I can sleep easier at night knowing that I am no longer a complete paw paw virgin. If this beer has disappeared from the shelves by the time you read this review don’t fret, you can try a selection of paw paw beers at the 16th annual Paw Paw Festival Sept 12-14 in SE Ohio.
Rating = 7
Rating scale: 10 = perfection, 9 = excellent, one of the top beers in the world, 8 = very good, one of the top beers in its style category, 7 = good, a solid beer I’m happy to be drinking, 6 = average, not bad but not something I’m likely to buy again, 5 = below average, 3-4 = poor, should be avoided, 1-2 drainpour.