You don't have to be Minnesotan to appreciate the Wheaties beer.
Announced two weeks ago as a collaboration between General Mills and local craft brewers Fulton, HefeWheaties was a goddamn sensation, prompting NPR, Fortune, and USA Today (among countless others) to explode and wonder what the hell was going on in the Twin Cities that prompted a cereal-branded, non-cereal-flavored beer to slink into creation. Buzzfeed remarked that HefeWheaties "makes no sense, on many levels," but if you happen to be from Minnesota, you know exactly what the hell is going on.
In that way, it's just as big an homage to the city's history as Grain Belt Nordeast and just as big a back-pat as Schell's 89.3 the Current. Instead of hat-tipping to its neighborhood or fundraising for the local MPR station, Fulton is showing the world that chumming up is a Minnesota birthright.
"It exists for a reason," says Fulton director of marketing Tucker Gerrick. "We didn't do it just to do it."
General Mills is a still-standing totem of the industry that made Minneapolis great. Though in the years since the milling collapse, General Mills has become a monolithic conveyor belt of processed foodstuffs, the company is so embedded in the fabric of Twin Cities industry that any given business has a handful of former General Millers on payroll. Fulton president Ryan Petz did a stint there, as did the brewhouse's director of operations. Getting into bed with the brand's flagship product was only a matter of time.
And like all good ideas, this one started at a bar.
Fulton marketing manager Ben Flattum was out having drinks when he ran into a bud from General Mills. The two bullshitted about cooperating on a brew but left with no concrete plans. After some boardrooming, less than three months later, the sports-orange cans were rolling off the production line. It's not a sponsorship or a brand lease — General Mills takes no money from the sales. It's the type of arrangement that'd send a Forbes writer spiraling into existential crisis.
The beer itself — which was released at the brewery yesterday and will be hitting Minnesota liquor stores in mid-September — is fairly unremarkable. Fulton has a way of making crisp, neat beers that live well within margins, and HefeWheaties isn't much different, aside from a few notes. In the south German tradition, HefeWheaties is unfiltered, so it pours mostly cloudy, though that haze thins to a crisp bronze soon after. The gradient makes for good drinkability without sacrificing any of the aroma or mouthfeel of an old-fashioned hefeweizen.
Unlike a traditional hefe, the Wheaties beer is quadruple hopped with rakau, galaxy, mandarina bavaria, and sorachi ace hops, giving it a highly above-average (for the style, anyway) IBU of 21. The beer is still very mild, and there isn't that grassy nose you'd expect from a brew crammed with aromatics, but the hopping (especially the post-brew dry hopping) lends a light tickle to the swallow — a pleasing effervescence that's nicely shoehorned into a style plagued by homogeneity.
Generally speaking, it's a good beer. Is it 35 million Twitter impressions good? Probably not, but is the beer really what matters here? There's a reason Fulton is only selling HefeWheaties in tallboys, and that's because you can't read a two-inch logo on a tap beer or turn a 12-ounce bottle into a brand pylon recognizable from either end of the bar. Fulton knew they had a win with their General Mills collab, though they hadn't calibrated just how intense the reaction would be.
The hyper-limited release isn't meant to evoke the your-favorite-athlete collectability of Wheaties boxes, nor is it a device for inflating interest to the point of national distribution. The crew at Fulton just had no idea they were sitting on a golden egg. "We definitely underestimated the covetability," Gerrick says with a laugh.
That's Minnesota Nice for ya.