I had my first Pete's Wicked Ale in 1989 or so. Back then, if I
can trust my memory, the bottles had a royal blue label with the head
of a bull terrier, white with black around one eye and somewhat stylized.
The dog was called Millie, and she vanished from the label at about
the same time another bull-terrier bitch became famous under the name
"Spuds McKenzie." Some virtue seemed to go out of Pete's around then.
The label of Pete's Wicked Strawberry Blonde has the nautical theme
now usual for Pete's, and does not include a salacious redhead. The
bottle contains a "golden blonde ale with natural strawberry flavor."
A few years ago some colored sweetened water containing five or ten
percent fruit juice included real strawberry juice, and its makers
discovered that pure strawberry juice, even from the best berries,
tastes foul. Perhaps it's just as well that Pete's didn't try using it.
Anyway, here we indeed have a golden ale. The hop and strawberry
smells are of about equal strength. The maltiness isn't entirely
sincere -- something seems to be missing -- but the hops balance it
well. There's that usual odd, faint bitterness I generally detect
when a brewer uses "natural fruit flavor" rather than whole fruit or
juice. Maybe it's just that the flavoring tricks me into interpreting
some of the bitterness of the hops in this way, but I fancy that there's
more to that odd taste than that: real damage to the beer, somehow.
The strawberry flavor doesn't add anything worth having, just
a distraction from an adequate ale, an excuse for a clever name, and a
source of strawberry-scented belches. It doesn't seem to work as
harmoniously with a beer as other berry flavors do. Don't pay extra
for this ale, but when your grocer or liquor merchant lowers its price,
consider buying a six-pack if you like oddities.