Prairie Eliza5beth Midwest Farmhouse Ale
Prairie Artisan Ales
STYLE: Saison / Farmhouse Ale
3.9 / 5.0
Look: 4.25 | Smell: 3.25 | Taste: 3.75 | Feel: 4.5 | Overall: 3.94
A special note of thanks: This bottle was graciously given to me from a guy named Shawn that belongs to a local beer drinking group, the Pour Misfits Brew Crew. He posted on the page that he had a few extra bottles that he wanted to “Beer it Forward”. I was one of the first people to respond and had my pick of the four beers he was offering. So thank you Shawn and the Pour Misfits group for bringing this beer and this amazing sense of generosity into my life.
Brewery at a glance: Prairie Artisan Ales have just recently started distributing to Indiana and I couldn’t be happier. Admittedly, I haven’t had a ton of their offerings but have been impressed with the few that I’ve had in the last year since they have came to town. Among them include the amazing Bomb! (a hot pepper infused sweet imperial stout), Birthday Bomb! (spicy chocolate birthday cake, anyone?), and Funky Gold Mosaic (a sour dry hopped with mosaic hops). In short, they know how to make good beer and aren’t afraid to put a refreshing spin on already strong styles. They have been persistently on my radar since they came to town and I’m frequently joining the rest of the masses in the hunt for all of the Bomb! variants released. Recently, they put out an Apple Brandy Barrel Noir that I absolutely must try. So if anyone reading this has an extra bottle they want to share, I’m your man!
A note about farmhouse ales: So before I get into my thoughts on Eliza5beth, let me back up and talk for a minute about the often challenging farmhouse style. The farmhouse ale style originally was the product of leftover ingredients on brew day with natural and wild fermentation. The style’s taste can vary wildly from brewery to brewery and even beer to beer within the style. However, they usually have a mild, lager-like crispness with virtually no hop bitterness and are often brewed with fruit, herbs, or spices (or all three).
A lot of farmhouse fans take note of a creamy caramel, toffee maltiness with a low presence of alcohol bite at the finish. Even though these are the general tasting guidelines, I strongly feel that the lack of a rigid flavor profile often makes them an especially challenging style. For other styles, you know it will be chocolately, earthy, or hoppy. With a farmhouse there is a distinctive taste but it is hard to pinpoint its subtleties and complexities that separate it from its lager, pilsner, wheat, and pale ale styles. I’ve sourced a lot of this information from Drinking Class in an article titled “What is a Farmhouse Ale?”. It is definitely good reading if you want to know more.
There are some breweries that focus all of their energies on only producing farmhouse ales such as Haw River in North Carolina. They have proven that the style is versatile and the term “farmhouse” can be applied to a range of different styles. I’ve had their collaborative brew Brah’klava and have a bottle of St. Benedict’s Breakfast in my cellar that I can’t wait to try. It is an interesting philosophy in beer making and it is a style that is quickly catching on among some of the major players in beer. I’m excited to see where the style is headed and will definitely be drinking more farmhouse ales whenever a brewery I love and trust decides to produce one.
So how do I enjoy farmhouse ales? My personal opinion is that the farmhouse ale is one of the last challenging styles for me and it has taken me a long time to grow completely comfortable pulling a farmhouse ale off the shelf and knowing that I will enjoy it. I’ve had some good farmhouse ales such as Boulevard’s Tank 7, Goose Island’s Sofie, and Dogfish Head & Victory Brewing’s Saison du Buff. But I’ll admit that I rarely pull a farmhouse ale off the shelf if I see a porter, IPA, sour, or stout that looks more appealing. In short, it isn’t my favorite style.
Look: Before I get into the way this beer looks when poured, let’s take a moment to look at this bottle’s amazing artwork. If you can’t make it out in the pictures I’ve taken, I was lucky enough to find a high resolution image of it’s label. Just look at it! Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of this brew’s label and pretty much all of Prairie’s labels. There is topnotch artwork on each of their brews and this one is no exception. Pugs and pirate cats in space? Sold. For this, I’m giving this brew a much higher rating in the looks department.
Eliza5beth is clearly an unfiltered beer as it pours a hazy peach color that is almost completely opaque. The beer was pretty heavily carbonated when I first opened the beer and foamed over just slightly once the bottle was opened. When poured, the carbonation was very intense and I had to wait mid-pour in order to finish emptying the bottle. The carbonation quickly dissipated and left a thin, white foamy head that stuck to the glass during the whole sipping session. There is a fair degree of sediment left at the bottom of the glass which is fairly common in unfiltered beers. This one may have a little extra due to it being aged on apricots. As always, I’ve used a Spiegelau glass for my drinking vessel. This one is of the wheat beer variety and is quickly becoming of my favorite glasses.
Smell: I’ll be honest. I think most saisons and farmhouse ales all smell pretty similarly. There’s a notable earthy yeast component that is always present followed by a very mild citrus scent. This one has slightly more citrus on the nose and faintly smells of apricot and oak. In all farmhouse ales I tend to pick up this unusual peppery component that a lot of my fellow beer enthusiasts don’t detect. For some reason, I always pick it up more strongly on the nose and this one is no exception.
Taste: How does Eliza5beth taste compared to the other farmhouse ales I’ve had? In short, I dig this one. It hits with a light-lager crispness that progresses into a very subtle apricot sweetness. The finish is yeasty with notes of oak that move over the back of the palate. There is little bitterness and the slightly high ABV is completely masked by it’s malty backbone. As it warmed, the apricot sweetness became more pronounced and there was definitely some new elements of spice I hadn’t picked up when it was first poured.
The spice was reminiscent of clove and white pepper and definitely complemented the oak finish. A lot of reviews I read suggested that this one would be slightly sour. Through the entire glass, I expected to detect some notes of tartness but never felt like sour ever was a factor in the taste. I’m still not a huge fan of the style but appreciate Prairie for what they are doing on this one. Easily one of the better farmhouse ales I’ve had.
Feel: What this brew lacks in taste and smell, it definitely makes up for in mouthfeel. I have to admit that there were several times while finishing this bottle that I had to remind myself that I wasn’t drinking champagne. As I mentioned, this one was heavily carbonated and it definitely helps with the flavor profile that Prairie was trying to accomplish. At first the beer feels very light but then moves to a brief juiciness before the carbonation hits strongly to give a very bubbly, champagne-like feel on the mouth that finishes crisply with a sharp, dry finish. It was absolutely delightful to say the least.
Overall: I wasn’t sure what to expect from Eliza5beth but was pleasantly surprised by how good this one really is. To date, I’d have to say this is by far my favorite saison / farmhouse ales I’ve had. For those looking for a good example of what the style can offer, I cannot recommend this one enough. It is light, refreshing, juicy, dry, sweet, and somehow subtle. It covers the gamut in what a beer should be without being overly gimmicky or trying to wreck your palate in the process. It is a solid brew that should definitely start up an interesting conversation about the style and everyone’s recommendation on what is the best one’s to try. Thanks again, Shawn, for giving me a chance to try this one. I’ll get you back soon.
Have you had this brew? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.