Colleen DeMenna Photography

Crime + Punishment’s God Inquisitor, a sour, smoky wheat beer

Editor’s note: Pick Your Poison will be a recurring column about Philadelphia’s beverages, of all ilks. If you know of a drink you think would be of interest, email Jenn Ladd at ten.repapytic@nnej.

WHEN CRIME + PUNISHMENT BREWING CO. suds-meisters Mike Wambolt and Mike Paul brewed their first batch of Grodziskie — a re-cently revived smoked-wheat beer style — they weren’t thrilled with the results.

“It tasted like a Blue Moon full of smoke,” Wambolt says. He had read articles about Grodziskie, which had effectively gone extinct in the mid-1990s, that described the style as “‘Polish champagne,’ very crisp, carbonation on it, light and refreshing. And that first one we did was not very refreshing at all, even though it was a 5 percent wheat beer.”

The recipe they followed that first go-round called for smoked wheat malt exclusively, which gave the beer a pillowy mouth feel but also a monstrous smoke flavor that soured both brewers on the beer.

But Wambolt and Paul, six-year veteran homebrewers, kept fielding requests for wheat beers. When they and five other partners finally opened Crime + Punishment in Brewerytown in mid-July, they wanted a wheat offering on draft. So they tinkered with the Grodziskie recipe, using a brewing technique called kettle souring to add acidity. That effectively cut the overpowering smoke, and the brewery’s “Grod Inquisitor” Grodziskie was born. The smoked sour wheat beer pairs especially well with the brewpub’s Eastern European food menu, which features pierogies, kielbasa and borscht.

The Grod Inquisitor is not the brewpub’s best-seller, Paul says, but he thinks it’ll be on draft for a while. “Whenever someone asks about it and I let them try it, they’ll always order it,” he says.
Wambolt and Paul plan to do more non-traditional or forgotten styles as they churn out more beers on Crime + Punishment’s seven-barrel brewhouse. But they’re also incorporating familiar varietals — pale ales, IPAs, farmhouse ales — that seasoned and novice craft beer drinkers alike can put down with pleasure.

“We try to have beer for everybody,” Wambolt says. “That’s why the blond ale’s on, and even the raspberry [Berliner Weisse]’s very approachable.”

Still, don’t expect the brewers to cater to the crowd all the time. “I think it’s important, too,” Wambolt says, “when people come in here to know that we also want to push the envelope a bit on your palate.”