Thursday, February 14, 2013

559. Prairie Prairie Hop

So a couple of firsts today: our first beer from Prairie Artisan Ales, and our first beer from Oklahoma. Brothers Chase and Colin Healey are the two behind Prairie, and their focus on saisons and barrel aging is, well, right up my alley. As well, this beer has cute mices on the label. Which we both like. These cute mices are distinctly unlike the bad mices currently infesting our garage. Because, as you can see on the label, these cute mices are staying outdoors where they belong, and not chewing off the shoulder straps on our backpacks to get salt and otherwise cover our camping gear with mouse feces. Those bad mices need to get kicked to the curb.

Described on the label as a “dry hopped Belgian-style ale,” Prairie Hop pours a crystal clear gold and features a thin but persistent white head that re-rouses very easily. It does offer a touch of lacing, that, while technically Belgian, is too limited to accord it that designation. The dry hops are evident in the nose—they are dry, earthy, and lightly spicy—as is the sweet candy malt. There are also floral, fruity, and perfume-y aspects we would connect to the yeast, although they could potentially be hop derived as well. Behind all of this there is slight musty pepperiness that is quite beguiling; it took a fair amount of time to sort this out from the rest of the aromatics. As it warms, some lemon and light pine emerges as well. Flavors start sweet, with candy malt coupled with pepper-y and spicy hop flavor; in the middle, there are floral and fruits flavors—lemon and pear—along with spice and pine from the hops, as well as a decent dose of bitterness. The finish is dry with biscuit malt and a floral pear evergreen that sits on the tongue, along with some lingering bitterness and alcohol flavor. The mouthfeel is dry and cracker-y, with the carbonation providing some bright spritziness, although this doesn’t mask all of the alcohol warmth that is present in the beer. The body contains paradoxical features; while certainly dry and well-attenuated, there is also a residual sweetness (flavor, not mouthfeel) that is present—a bit too present, to be honest. The dryness is well-done, but the remaining sweetness stands out—it gets in the way of the other more delicate flavors. Still, this is an interesting and enjoyable beer, it just feels not fully formed as it stands: it needs to cut the residual sweetness and either lower the ABV to lessen the alcohol warmth, or ferment the beer at a lower temperature. The concept here, though, is solid—it reminds me of something I might make. As well, this beer does a lot of things right. The ephemeral subtle nuance created by the combination of yeast and hops is a big strength; the combination offers flavors that are delicious and that flow seamlessly together—an intangible certainly worth noting in this beer. Nice job, Prairie. This is what an American saison should be. American-hopped saison? Don’t mind if I do! We do look forward to trying more from this brewery. When that will be, however, is an entirely another matter. You guys coming to Ohio soon?

From the Prairie Facebook page: “Prairie Hop - 7% Saison dry-hopped with Citra and Galaxy hops.”

ABV: 7.0%


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