Tasting: March 4, 2014
Style: Belgian Farmhouse Ale
Beer # 521
With every entry of a farmhouse or saison (season) ale – I’ve explained that these styles are meant to be low alcohol by volume (ABV) offerings. You see, these styles of beer were popular with (and often made by) seasonal farm hands in Belgium and France. The intention was to have a beer that would leave the worker upright while toiling in the field. Each farm had a variation but as with most old world recipes – the modern craft brewer introduces their own twist on the style. This one comes in at 8% ABV – so I’d say this wouldn’t be served on the farm – at least during working hours.
The basic premise of brewing is that yeast consumes sugars extracted from grains like barley. The yeast in turn creates carbonation and alcohol in beer. The label of Grand Arbor gives the historical note that Flemish brewers would add sugar during fermentation. This would have been a separate addition of sugar and it would have been added to either the barrel or the bottle to give the yeast a “fresh helping” of food. It may result in imparting a fresh yeast flavor and it might also amp up the ABV a bit. In this case, Southern Tier adds maple syrup (American sugar as they call it) from one of their New York state neighbors – Big Tree Maple. One observation is that the yeast has formed a layer on the side of the bottle – it probably should have been stored upright.
A bit fizzy at first. Definitely potent with the banana, clove of the yeast. A bit “bready” and only a wisp of sweetness. Bitterness is a mellow black pepper and leaves a pleasant lingering flavor on the finish. Some minor alcohol intrusion. Overall a dry beer and probably one that would quench your thirst on a warm summer day in the field. I’ll put Grand Arbor at a respectable 87 points.