First and foremost huge thanks to the Vicster for donating the bottLOL yeah right, can you imagine that dude doing something selfless not designed to maximize some self-aggrandizing desire, LOL YARITE.
So after many trials and tribulations trapezing around the current state of farmhouse affairs, we have returned to the touchstone of American Saisons: Hill Farmstead.
I want to state at the outset: I don’t generally enjoy reviewing Hill Farmstead beers. Allow me to clarify before your urethra starts spewing out liquid Velveeta. I love DRINKING these Vermont gems. I LIKE making fun of the attendant shitty, capitalistic HF traders. But in practice REVIEWING Hill Farmstead beers isn’t especially fun from the DDB pulpit.
The function of reviewing is to leverage and evaluate the shortcomings and merits of a given work. If the verve of DDB is to present these impressions with any modicum of levity, then it’s gonna be a fair amount of hyperbole and understatement to suck the marrow out of the bone. Hill Farmstead derails all possible jokes. Generally people love the excoriating rhetoric or seeing a car fire of a beer getting eviscerated, Malty Romans ripped to shreds by yeasty lions.
Yeasty lions is the name of my new protopunk group.
The problem with most Hill Farmstead beers is that they generally are either setting the bar to some degree or competing against their own product, so how in the fuck is DDB expected to make a 900 word handjob entertaining for the nondeviants to witness? It is just a parade of praise with some jRPG and hip hop references, then we call it a day.
This would be the greatest issue that I have with Art: it is too fucking good to extract a legitimate degree of humor. I would much rather just rip on one of the “shittier” Hill Farmstead beers like a sour pumpkin ale or the Jim line, but alas, I guess I finally have to review this masterpiece. Lamentably.
Here is the wind up to the pitch:
“Art is the wine barrel fermented and aged version of Arthur (1922-2005), our grandfather’s youngest brother as well as the name of our rustic farmstead ale. In honor of Arthur, we mindfully blend his namesake beer from French oak wine barrels that have been aged and conditioned for between 1 and 3 years. This is the standard that reflects, redefines and guides the progressive vision for Hill Farmstead.”
Just look at this shit. How am I supposed to do my job and maintain the tart ph salinity of my vagina, when it looks flawless. I guess I could bitch that a more diverse grist bill with spelt would combat the acidity and improve the sheeting and lacing. But does anyone think that’s a legitimate complaint? Fuck no, it’s just some domineering korean housewife nagging.
The smell? I don’t have a whole lot to deconstruct on this front either. It makes for a shitty boring review, inverse to the quality of the beer itself. In fact, the smell is the only thing that Ann does better than Art. The average shitwaffle strokes it to pinups of that lottery masterpiece, fully ignoring the fact that Art is better in several aspects if not as a whole. The nose has waves of cut clementines, nectarines, honeydew, ritz cracker, and ricotta cheese. It is unendingly refreshing like having cyber sex with a water sprite.
I first opened this beer at Beer Revolution in Oakland in 2012, when American Saisons were still enjoying this nascent blissful anonymity before covetous assholes ruined everything. The comments were like “oh so it’s a sour then? No? Is it like a Russian River then? Hmm. Weird.” People couldn’t wrap their heads around this because there weren’t many barrel aged saisons, let alone executed in this fashion. Now everything is in ruins.
The smell has a much imitated balance of tropical fruity zest with acidity that strays far from the edge of tolerability. It is incredible and a beer that uproots itself due to how good it is. The consumption is an event and in itself is destruction. The experience is a discrete event that actually makes your net life experience worse having had something this well done. For that reason it is hard to recommend seeking this out with a clear conscience. You can’t go back to watching Tyler Perry movies after you have seen Michael Haneke’s best films.
The taste is dry, not nearly as dry as E. but not nearly as honey sweet as Ann. The Aristotelian mean that is better than both of those beers simply due to this swiss army knife profile that delives depth, cleanliness, complexity, and refreshment. Usually the acidity would work against drinkability, or the dryness of the barrel treatment would be oppositional to any malty sweetness. Somehow all divergent horses and reigned in by Helios on this golden farmhouse chariot. There’s lemon zest and wheatgrass, gruyere and croissant, with a lighly herbal fernet branca grassiness to the closer. What am I seriously supposed to say about this shit?
As a caveat to undermine all of the foregoing: regular ass Arthur is like 85% as good and about 2000% easier to obtain. Unless you are a completionist asshole who needs 100% trophies in the beer game, or some Minnesota Dentist who wants to buy a palace on top of HUGE PRICK MOUNTAIN, there’s no reason for you to seek out this beer. Arthur is already so damn good and the improvements on this are akin to those absurd R TYPE models of already fast enough cars where they gut the AC and roll cage it and supercharge it to absurd heights.
Drink Arthur, or seek this out after you finally patent that dual sided Hitachi/Fleshlight marriage saving apparatus you have been working on.
Scanning the channels of a HAM radio was a tedious task usually relegated to the loneliest of shut-ins. RF frequencies rarely led to any juicy pearls of wisdom and further served to alienate the participants frittering away their lives in leaky garages around the nation. Nathan Spaulding sipped on a cup of assiduously prepared Earl Grey and listened to the white noise cascading through time and space. Each clipped frequency was an extension for contact, a passing analog glance from a stranger. In a world replete with bodies, Nathan sipped his herbal embrace and never felt more alone. “PPSSHSHS- can anyone, please, PLEASE!” the radio hissed, echoing against the wall of the garage door. Nathan frantically gripped the receiver “Yes, this is Phantom Tangelo!” the UHF/VHF transmitter shaking in his palm. “I don’t have time to explain PSSHSHHH I am Warren Dupont, I am a produce shipping magnate who was overseeing a tangerine GMO operation to increase- JESUS JUST LISTEN, the strain is…its…are you there?” “”YES!” Nathan stammered sipping his tea, “PHANTOM TANGELO here, please continue!”
That evening Warren gave the coordinates of the most potent strain of farm grown tangerines ever designed, dizzying in yields and fruit latency. It would take weeks of scouring, but Nathan would ultimately find the ultimate treasure, the pinnacle of farm-based desires. Months later, hunched over the Platonic ideal of citrus, gripping the flawless rind delicately, he would contemplate whether science had gone too far.
Man it would be a nightmare to start up a hoppy or farmhouse centred brewery right now in oregon. The sheer number of awesome options in that one state is staggering. Despite that beer is pretty tasty and is a legitimate standout. I know it looks like dextrose fermented Crystal garbage, but it actually is pretty clean and refreshing. It isn’t too syrupy and imparts a long resinous note of pine and nectarine that finishes dry with a lemon pledge closer, exception not like a solvent. If this is reasonably priced I could see Oregon residents enjoying all 43 days of sunlight in gentle repose with this sticky libation.
Florida is in such a magical and endearing place in the beer game at present. It holds a checkered past replete with some of the most coveted releases, the lowest bottle counts, and just short of Chicago, some of the absolute worst beer traders in the game. Despite the foregoing, this leaky waterhag filled peninsula has unquestionably pumped the everglades with some of the finest breweries in the game right now.
Since we are painting with sweeping generalizations about a huge swath of land occupied by an equally diverse populace, coveted Florida releases usually go like this:
1) take an existing style
2) add a bunch of obscure fruit, coffee, chilis, or white oak to it
3 release like 120 bottles to the public well knowing that over 1000 sweaty nascar bros will show up.
4) wait nine months and release the barrel aged version to cause a shitstorm of even more pandemonium and butthurt
That’s pretty much how things fly down there, five times a year since always until forever.
So today let’s take a look at an upstart brewery that is concurrently working within the climate of Floridian demands, but also ekeing out their own character: Aardwolf Brewing.
Whiskey Barrel Aged Early Bird Special
Stout aged on vanilla bean, cinnamon, coffee, aged in whiskey barrels
If this particular breakdown looks familiar to you, it’s because every fucking brewery founded after 2012 is brewing this same shit. It’s like dudes saw Founders drop CBS in 2011 and then talked their rich stepdads into buying them a 7 barrel brew house just to make this adjunct banger. Hold onto your hats: a stout brewed with coffee, vanilla, cinnamon, the works.
The first thing I would like to note is that this is markedly thinner than the traditional foray into this now predictable style. It feels more nimble and svelte coating the glass more like an imperial Porter in a way, leaving nice earthy foam on the glass. The nose dominates with coffee to a staggering degree and closes with a long toasty roast. There is a touch of residual sweetness but the ultra thin body and relatively low Abv don’t give this artist much canvas to paint upon. Sometimes an intentionally restrictive medium lends itself to focusing the performance; that is kinda the case here. The taste is focused and it delivers in the manner it promises without overstaying its welcome or feeling poorly crafted. It is tasty albeit not altering the consciousness of the style. If there is a “crushable” entry in this increasingly crowded realm, this would be it and it is unquestionably well brewed, but perhaps not spec’d to shatter any molds or conceptions.
I would much rather prefer something be delicious and come in understated rather than the typical under-attenuated execution we see far too often. This is nice but it won’t displace the greats within its ranks.
As a side note, there is a long lingering spice and cinnamon aspect that was borderline cloying. In what may amount to an incredible amount of irony, DDB is being a bitch about the cinnamon. There is simply TOO MUCH cinnamon on the finish that artificially dries out the mouthfeel and gives it a lingering spice profile that displaces the delicious coffee like a cup of Abuelita. FINE. I GUESS I AM JUST A CINNABITCH AFTER ALL.
Zagreus, Red wine barrel aged Tripel
Ah a barrel aged tripel, the diciest of consumer gambles in beer. This style can fall close to the pin of Curieux if it wants to play it conservatively; or it can aspire to hit the pinnacle of the genre like Sante Adairius’s Always in Life. More often than not, breweries turn out over oaked, over estery adjunct messes like Bruery BA five golden rings or something that becomes too big for its tripel britches.
This offering hugs the curieux design so conservatively that you might have a hard time telling the two apart, aside from moderate differences. Now is benchmarking and coming close to nailing the industry standard worthy of derision? Not really, Hyundai bites luxury brand styling all day and makes cars for single parents year in and year out. This beer is dry and doesn’t exhibit the flabby honey and banana issues most Ba tripels fall into: thank god. In fact it is more oaky than honey, and the red wine barrel gives it this tannic dryness that almost reminds me of Darjeeling or a floral type of chamomile tea.
You certainly should drink this around 50 degrees because it becomes a bit hefty at higher temps and a syrupy mouthfeel develops. If you see this, you should certainly pick it up, but if this shares the same price point as Curieux it is hard to make a compelling argument for one over the other as they are so similar in scope and execution. Pretty tasty stuff, nothing you need to slip your Fedex delivery man’s L5-S1 over tho.
Brandy Barrel Aged Mariachi
Stout Made with Cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, and chilis
Man if you want a textbook definition of the most predictable stout release from Florida, here it is. This infected Westbrook upwards, and then spread like some Umbrella corp virus to all of the brite tanks around the nation.
If you read DDB, you have already had a billion beers just like this, so let’s parse this down to how it is DIFFERENT from the various iterations of this style. It isn’t as hefty as Huna, the barrel profile comes across as understated but presents a light caramel sweetness as though it wasn’t racked for a significant period of time or didn’t hit optimum saturation (i.e. basically anything released by a North Carolina brewery.) The peppers aren’t overpowering and if anything this is a bit hamfisted in the cocoa aspects. I had this side by side with regular ass Mexican Cake and, despite having barrel aging, the two are about comparable in quality.
This could use less sweetness and brownie batter from the cocoa nibs and allow the various other aspects to shine. This is the best of the three and it is worth seeking out because it presents a novel riff on an increasingly crowded genre. While it fails to reach the heights established by BA Abaraxas, Brandy Huna, or Double Barrel Mexican Cake, it stands its own and parries blows with admirable speed and dexterity.
In sum, I like where this brewery is headed in terms of marketing, branding, ambition and DDB nods. In jumping headfirst into the foray of the most contested styles they are bold and didn’t fail in any one of their attempts. It will be a pleasure to see how things progress with these guys in the near future.
Maine has this odd beer scene that at one pole is the Northeast innovator of older days, and also a reactionary to what Vermont is currently producing. You have the consistent top notch work from Allagash, but you also have the likes of upstarts Bissell Bros and Austin Street brew company doing their own mixolydian riffs on the hoppy farmhousey doric scales from Vermont.
Oxbow shines best when it focuses in its realm of clear influence: shredding the high neck with saison solos. Their barrel aged pale ale was prison shanking unsuspecting palates in the shower and their draft lineups often don’t make it past state lines. Let’s take a look at some of their recent offerings to see what them ‘Bow boys be brewin.
Oxbow Grizacca Grisette 5.2% abv
I love liter sized grumblers but this is one instance where a two liter needs to be the mandatory format. The 33oz feels more like a comforting back massage without the full table shower. It is intensely clean and drillable, the hop profile steps aside and lets the lemony rustic cultures impart a dry lemon aspect that pulls tight head spins on the cardboard. It is simple and doesn’t have any real grist or heft to the mouthfeel which would be nice if you had a touch of that creamy wheat character but, as it stands it is a lemon orange carbonated Gatorade that you can drill during your shift at CiCi’s pizza. No one expects you to be sober at that job anyway.
With the barrel aged pale ale, oxbow proved that they were competent Brewers and blenders in the Wallonian realm. This beer drags their catalog backwards into obscured mediocrity. It is by no means bad, but chances are you have some 10bbls local upstart doing this same shit.
It is wiped out, watery, not especially complex, bitter and herbaceous, with a mild tart sweet tarts aspect to the finish. You can live your entire life, miss this, and your wife will still have an Ashleymadison account. This beer changes nothing and is of little circumstance.
Alright time to romp into a strange salty realm not unlike a Craigslist casual encounter. This is a clean, Low abv saison brewed with maine lobsters. That is about as Maine as you can get just short of a used Stephen King condom filled with autumn leaves. If you have tried Jester King snorkel, you basically have already had this shit. It is insanely drinkable and the touch of salinity only lends to chain combos, cascading your palate into the sky with no recourse.
These beers made with exotic proteins make headlines but the vast majority of snails, oysters, bulls testicles, whatever, are just unfermentable solids that contribute calcium profile, some alkaline and salt. That’s about it. Drop an alka seltzer into a Stone saison if you need to approximate this bubbly crisp experience.
In sum this lobster pot is incredibly delicious and refreshing, get your CLAWS in one before it TAILS it out of here.
For all their mastery of the traditional saison game, Oxbow has piss running down its leg when it comes to Biere De Gardes. This french style eludes so many breweries and it is even harder to define the realm of good and bad beyond pointing to “acetic bad” and “Sans culottes good.” This Amber affair doesn’t have the red wine vinegar trappings of some amateur shit, they knew what they were doing, it just didn’t turn out that well.
First and foremost, the body is too watery, splishy splashy, lacking that candy caramel complexity and red delicious you probably are craving. Secondly I am assuming oxbow has a hard ass water profile because it is lightly copper and metallic.
To approximate this experience, get some BFM Abbaye du St Bin Chien, add water to it, let it sit for an hour. Or just ask OEC for one of their jankest barrels.
Oxbow is clipping along with some hits, some mediocre whiffs, but no clear failures. That’s more than some breweries can say at this juncture.