Fearful Symmetries

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04 December, 2015

Liquid Folk Art: Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale by Back Forty Beer Company



As I wrote yesterday, I recently spent some time down in Montgomery, Alabama. While there my wife and I jumped a broom and spent time with her family. And, of course, we sampled some Alabama brews.

My most extensive sampling was of beers from Back Forty Beer Company in Gadsden which describes its beers as "liquid folk art". Alabama is not exactly flush with breweries and, from what I can tell, most microbreweries there do not bottle or can. Back Forty does and a trek to a supermarket down there yielded a six pack of their Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale which was brought back to Madison.

Truck Stop was Back Forty's second offering when it was first released in 2010. It is brewed with wildflower honey from Alabama and was one of many brown ales I saw in Montgomery. They were nearly as common as IPAs, a decidedly different situation than here at home.

For the occasion I busted out my mini-British pint glass which was from the Great Taste at some point in the past several years. The beer poured a dark amber hue that reminded me of maple syrup. It was clear. Back Forty is not particularly effervescent as I got a small off-white crown which did not stick around for long and only a few stray bubbles were to be seen floating upwards.

My nose caught a mildly sweet earthy aroma from the honey followed by some caramel. On successive sniffs I also discerned a very mild floral scent which I would think flowed from the honey. Malt was the order of the day in the taste which was surprisingly clean. Moderately sweet toffee was followed by roasted grain and coffee notes from the chocolate malt. Carbonation added a little dryness while what are surely the Willamette hops came through as a bit of spicy bitterness which became bolder as the beer warmed.

I was surprised by the finish which was rather dry. The malt sweetness petered out rather quickly which allowed the carbonation and grassy/herbal hop flavors to come through. There was not much lacing to report and the vast majority of the foam slid down into the beer.

Truck Stop has a rather light body which belies its 6% A.B.V. But this is likely a plus in the Deep South where it's hotter and the heat stays longer than here in the Upper Midwest. I was pleasantly surprised by the use of chocolate malt and the resulting roasted grain flavors which are coveted by my palate. It added a little extra depth to the flavor and kept the sweetness in line.

I enjoyed Truck Stop quite a bit. There's nothing intense or in-your-face about it but rather you get a nice easy-going set of flavors. The brown ale was ascendant back in the 1990s when I started drinking microbrews and I drank my share of Pete's Wicked Ale. But the style fell out of favor. I'm as guilty as anyone for this as I haven't allowed myself to be charmed by the mellow maltiness of the brown ale very often this millennium. What's old is new again.

Junk food pairing: Grab a handful of trail mix to go with your Truck Stop. The dried fruit will complement the toffee notes perfectly while the salt accents the roasted grain while bringing out more hop flavor and bitterness.

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|| Palmer, 11:33 AM

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