Bell’s Oberon, in many respects, is the gold standard of Michigan beer. Oberon has the widest reach and the most mass appeal, and the release of Oberon in the spring has become a holiday in Michigan. But as the big kid on the block, Oberon, justifiably or not, is often criticized. No sooner had I discovered Oberon as an undergrad at WMU than Kalamazoo beer enthusiasts started selling me on Arcadia's Whitsun as a superior alternative.
While Oberon needs little introduction, Whitsun, a “full-flavored” summer brew, flew largely under the radar until recently when Arcadia stared selling it in cans. I’ve enjoyed both beers, but the debate about which is Michigan’s best summer beer rages on. Recently—by accident—I just happened to have a six-pack of both in my refrigerator, so I decided to sample them together to see which of the two I actually preferred.
The differences begin at bottles-cans and keep going from there. Whitsun is dark orange in color, almost brownish, whereas Oberon is light orange, almost yellow. Whitsun is much cloudier than Oberon, and has a larger, thicker head. The feel and taste of the two beers is worlds apart. Whitsun is all spice and orange—tingly, with a tart finish that stays on the tongue. Oberon on the other hand is subdued with a creamy flavor that is distinctly wheat as opposed to the more fruit-flavored Whitsun. Oberon is smooth, where Whitsun is surprising and lively.
In the right setting I can enjoy either—beers are situational. But since the post is titled “battle of wheats” I’ll force myself to pick a winner. As a summer beer, brewed to be refreshing, Oberon is a bit smoother and easier to drink. If I’m sitting on a porch with a cooler full of beer, I’ll give the edge to Oberon, but I sure wouldn’t turn down a Whitsun.