Tag Archives: belgian

New Brew: O’so Picnic Ants Farmhouse Ale

15 Jun

I’ve made no secret of my affinity for O’so Brewing and their willingness to experiment despite their recent entry into Wisconsin’s competitive craft beer market.  Their Jack’s Lantern (a pumpkin ale brewed with rye and smoked malt) wowed me this past fall and their silky smooth Dank (imperial red ale) wooed me this past winter.  Their summer seasonal, Picnic Ants  Farmhouse Ale, made its debut last year in bomber and draft, but I don’t think I ever had a chance to try it.  Luckily for me, they’ve chosen to release this year’s iteration in six-packs, one of which I quickly snatched up across the street at Barriques Fitchburg. I even found it on-draft at the Echo Tap of all places.  O’so is quickly becoming a ubiquitous presence in the Madison beer scene.

Belgian farmhouse ales, or saisons, are made for summertime – crisp, tangy, dry, spicy – perfect thirst-quenchers for those with a fondness for the funky.

O’so Picnic Ants Farmhouse Ale

Style: Imperial Saison/Farmhouse ale

Vitals: 7.2% abv; Styrian Goldings hops; yeast strain also used by the makers of Saison Dupont; ~$9.50/6-pack at Barriques Fitchburg

Company Line: “A deliciously fruity, spicy Belgian-style farmhouse saison.  What’s a picnic without ants!”

My take: pours a vibrant tangerine orange in the glass with a finger of creamy foam that hangs around ’til the end.  Bouquet is bright and peppered with citrus peel and spice and a faint hint of barnyard funk.  Black pepper, citrus peel, and tart, underripe fruit flood the palate, which strikes a balance between spicy and soured.  A lingering dry, slightly puckering  finish makes for a wonderfully refreshing warm-weather quaffer, despite its considerable strength.  The extremely high fermentation has led to plenty of funk and fruit and the yeast strain’s thoroughbred pedigree rounds out the drinkability quite well.  I’ll take Picnic Ants over picnic mosquitoes any day.

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Beer Me: Lake Louie Brother Tim’s Tripel

13 Sep
43N/89W: Now with eye candy!

43N/89W: Now with eye candy!

If you haven’t heard of Lake Louie Brewing Company by now, you’re not paying attention.  What started as a pipe dream for former auto-industry engineer Tom Porter in a utility shed in Arena, WI has quickly become the source of some of Wisconsin’s most consistently well-made and sought-after beers.  I remember the first time I tried a Lake Louie beer, which was early in my journey through craft beer.  Back then, the only way you could try their beers outside of a few small pubs around Arena was in growler form.  For the uninitiated, a growler is a 64-ounce glass “jug” most often used by brewpubs to allow patrons to take their beer home with them.  For fledgling breweries, it’s a low-cost way to get your beer in stores without investing in expensive bottling rigs.  My first Lake Louie experience was a big ol’ jug of their venerable Warped Speed  Scotch Ale, a high-octane, ballsy malt-bomb.  I was in love.  While all of Tom’s beers aren’t as brash as the Warped Speed, they all show a reverence for their respective styles that is rare from such a young brewery.  The beer I’m enjoying tonight while the Packers put an old-school hurt on the Bears on opening night, Brother Tim’s Tripel, has experienced a number of facelifts over it’s relatively short life.  Speaking with Tom on brewery tours and at various beer events around town, I learned that he has tweaked the recipe a few times mostly to polish some of the rougher edges that often poke through in American versions of the classic Belgian style.  This has been the third or fourth release I have had the pleasure of sampling.

Beer: Lake Louie Brother Tim’s Tripel

Style: (American) Belgian Tripel

Description: “Based on the strong abbey style ales of Belgium, this tripel has a spicy nose and a delicate, fruity balance of malt, hops, and yeast on the tongue. – lakelouie.com”

Vitals: limited August release

My take: Pours a hazy golden yellow with 4+ fingers of frothy-white head that leaves great lacing on the glass.  Spicy yeast and bright fruit dominate the nose, though the alcohol makes itself known just a little too much.  Mouthfeel is thin and beyond the spice and fruit tipped off by the nose, sweetness and booze comprise the lasting impression.  Like all-too-many American takes on the style,  it is just far too sweet and rough on the booze front.  The great thing about a true Belgian tripel is the complex spice of the yeast and the lemony dryness of the body.  While spice we’ve got in spades, the underfermentation has left this one a little cloying to do the style justice.  It’s not a bad beer objectively, and quite frankly, if this were called a “golden ale” or “Belgian pale” it wouldn’t have the built-in expectations that taking on a Trappist style brings into play.  The delicate balance that the lighter Belgian styles require seems to elude many American brewers and while Tom’s Prairie Moon Farmhouse Ale works as a refreshing summer quencher, Tim’s doesn’t have the benefit of orange peel and coriander to hide its shortcomings.  I think Tom is best when he tackles traditional British styles like porter, milk stout, scotch ale and pale ale where his brewing fundamentals truly shine and there is certainly no shame in that.

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