May 4, 2015

White Birch First Sparrow

With the increase in the the number of craft breweries recently, there are two issues I am running into more frequently. The first, I’ve bemoaned for a while now and that’s quality control. I’ve dumped more beer down the sink in the last couple of years than I have in the previous 18 or so years of drinking beer combined. Second, and this one is fairly newish, I’ve seen more and more bottles of outdated beer showing up on shelves well passed their release date — I’m not talking beer that was released and simply sat due to lack of demand.

With some products, there’s some allowance within the style or recipe for a late arrival to market. With others it’s a crime. I can only assume that it’s a matter of limited shelf space. The number of breweries has increased dramatically, but the amount of retail space has not. And for a beer like this White Birch First Sparrow, for instance, to first show up on shelves a year after it was brewed doesn’t do it any good. And I’m not naive, delays have always been present in getting beer to the customer, but some of these recent instances are just ridiculous.

So how has First Sparrow held up in a warehouse or shop back room since “Spring 2014”? Surprisingly, not too shabby. I can’t compare the beer to when it was fresh, but there’s still a decent bit of meaty smoke here that I really enjoyed, as well as a moderate bitterness. As far as smoked beers go, it’s an approachable example of the style that those looking to try something different may want to check out.


First Sparrow pours a hazy golden straw in color with a large stack of rocky, white foam.



Moderate meaty smoke, wheat, distant spices and a soft hint of citrus.


The smoke starts things off with a light meatiness and campfire char that last through to the lingering finish. Wheat and leafy hops present themselves along with a moderate bitterness and light citrus. Perhaps it’s a bit over-carbonated for the style.


First Sparrow has held up pretty well over the year it’s been in a bottle. I like the smokiness and, surprising even myself, the smooth wheat backbone. The combination makes for a tasty brew that I would love to encounter fresh.

Rating: 3.5/5

More: , ,