Monday, January 3, 2011

447. Stillwater Artisanal Stateside Saison

Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales is another of the gypsy brewers making their presence felt in brewing circles; he operates out of Baltimore, MD. If you read this, Brian, any advice for how to get in on the whole gypsy brewer thing? While the description of the beer on the label provides a boatload of sanctimonious verbiage, the beer itself is actually pretty good once you get past the emptiness of the rhetoric. Don’t take this the wrong way, but if your beer isn’t “naturally brewed,” then how would you brew it? And how precisely does one brew and then ferment a beer? Isn’t that the same damn thing? Am I missing something here? After all, it would seem that you’ve set a pretty low bar if the requirements for “showcasing...the best attributes of modern-day craft brewing” are reduced to “naturally” brewing and “then ferment[ing]” your beer. Because if that is your only claim to brewing excellence, then you’re in real trouble. Let’s dial down that advertising prose a notch, tiger. Oh, and this is our first beer from Stillwater; here’s hoping we can find some more, because while I’m hating on the verbiage, I’m loving on the beverage.

Stateside Saison pours a hazy golden straw with an abundant white head that took up about ninety percent of the glass; while initially a bit over-carbonated, it settled down to a creamy covering that laced the glass decently. The hazy color allows you to see the fine white bubbles of the beer, which creates a nice visual effect. The nose has a perfume-y fruitiness—there is banana, pear, and apple—along with an abundance of perfume-y esters and a few spicy phenols. There is not much hoppiness in the nose, with the exception of a slight mustiness that could be hop derived. Flavors start sweet and dry with a touch of cracker/biscuit malt flavor; the middle is lightly bitter and juicy—sort of the standard fair for saisons—that also features the fruitiness of the nose. Stateside Saison finishes with a dry spiciness that lingers pleasantly on the palate—it is both gentle and unobtrusive. The mouthfeel is dry, lightly chalky, and yet silky—I’d guess this is either Wyeast 3711, the White Labs equivalent, or something else very very close—with a bright, effervescent carbonation that helps build the silky smooth components of the mouthfeel. There is perhaps a touch too much body left in the beer, but this would be splitting hairs. As saisons go, this is easy and enjoyable drinking; besides the atrocity of the over-inflated and unnecessary descriptions of the beer, this one is worth looking for.

From the bottle: “Stateside Saison pays homage to old world tradition while celebrating new world innovation. Naturally brewed with the finest European malts & fresh aromatic hops from the United States & New Zealand. It’s then fermented using a classic farmhouse ale yeast and bottle conditioned to enhance stability. The outcome is a beer of unique design and exquisite taste, showcasing some of the best attributes of modern-day craft brewing.”

From Beer News (February 5, 2010): “Stillwater Ales, founded by Brian Strumke, is a new startup based in Baltimore, Maryland. Strumke is making his beer hands-on with some of the equipment over at Dog Brewing. The first beer to hit the tanks is Stillwater Stateside Saison.”

ABV: 6.8%

Oh, and how precisely does New Zealand fit into the whole Stateside Saison new world innovation?


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