Fearful Symmetries

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12 July, 2016

A Taste of Wallonia. But Different.: Cucumber Farmhouse by Uinta Brewing


First I discovered Goose Island's Calm Radler, made with cucumbers. More recently I heard about Uinta's Cucumber Farmhouse and I wondered if perhaps there was a trend underway. Were cucumbers, in fact, the new black?

Looking around I couldn't find any other brews on Madison store shelves featuring the green, cylindrical vegetable. While I didn't undertake the most exhaustive search possible, I feel that I would have found evidence of it at the trio of stores I went to. And then I bought a Sam Adams Summer Variety Pack and discovered that the gose, Got to Gose, had cucumber. Still, three does not a trend make. Although we're talking order of magnitude more beers with cuke than five years ago, the raw numbers are still very small. No New York Times trend piece needed quite yet.

There are certainly worse flavors to become trendy in beer than cucumber. I really like their taste and have warm memories of eating Mizeria z Ogórków (cucumber salad with sour cream) made by my Polish grandmother. So I get this warm feeling inside when I spy a cucumber beer on the shelf that predisposes me to giving it due consideration when pondering something new to try.

Cucumber Farmhouse benefited from the warmth of nostalgia but also from the impression Uinta's Baba Black Lager left on me that those folks out in Utah knew what they were doing.

To be honest, I don't really know what a farmhouse ale is and highly suspect that the term was invented by a BJCP judge well within the living memory of some of the kids I see running around my neighborhood. I suppose to a farmer back in the day it meant the beer you brewed down on the farm with whatever ingredients you could get a hold of at brew time. But what does it mean today? A beer like those brewed on farms? Where and when were these farms?

When I initially encountered the word "farmhouse" in relation to beer it was in reference to New Glarus' Spotted Cow. If memory serves, the idea behind the brew was to, if not exactly replicate, to approximate an ale that Wisconsin farmers would have brewed in the days of yore. And then the term "saison" started to get bandied about and equated to the farmhouse ale. And so the bucolic brews of southern Belgium fell under the shadow of craft brewers. Today it seems like you have a saison/farmhouse ale if you use a Gallic yeast.

Perhaps farmhouse lagers are right around the corner. Take a landbier like, say, New Glarus' Two Women, and slap "Farmhouse Lager" on it and you'll be in like Flynn.

Uinta's Cucumber Farmhouse is "a blend of rye saison and a saison aged in gin barrels". I'm not exactly sure where the cucumbers enter the picture but I've gotta say: beer, rye, cucumbers, and gin are all foods I like.

Cucumber Farmhouse poured a lovely light gold color and was very cloudy. (Are there Clair Farmhouse ales yet? It'll be the next big style modifier after hazy IPAs.) My glass had about one inch of loose white head that lasted a looong time. It was highly effervescent with bubbles all around.

The aroma wasn't as strong as I thought it would be considering all of the ingredients here. I mean, yeasts that give fruity and/or spicy notes, gin, and the titular cucumbers – each can give a pungent bouquet individually. Here, though, they were all pretty mild but with the cucumber at the fore. Bringing up the rear was a little crackery grain and a touch of fruitiness that reminded me of Kölsch.

And those cucumbers were also right up front on the taste. Not nearly as strong as in the Calm Radler but no single flavor here was. Intermingled with the veg was a really nice floral taste as well as that Kölsch fruitiness which is reminiscent of berries and pear. The beer was smooth tasting overall but there was a touch of tartness here and carbonation was not lacking so the smoothness was cut at times with a mild acidic bite.

When the beer was cold the gin was mostly tasted on the finish after the lingering floral/cuke combo faded. As it warmed, a gentle pine and pepper could be tasted earlier. It was also at the end that I was able to to taste the hops. There was a solid bitterness on the finish along with generous grass & herbal hop flavors which made for a dry end to the proceedings. Not much lacing to report but there were a few streaks scattered amongst some clusters of foamy spots.

Not knowing what to expect going in, Cucumber Farmhouse was a pleasant surprise. While the cucumber is the primary flavor, it did not stick out like a sore thumb. Instead the flavors seemed to find harmony with one another. I really enjoyed the floral taste along with the tartness and fruity flavors. They provided a nice base for the cucumber but also stood on their own very well. The gin on the finish was no slouch and, when combined with the hops, made for a nice, dry contrast to the rest of the beer.

Cucumber Farmhouse has a medium-light body and plenty of bright, summer flavors. It is, however, 6.2% A.B.V. so you probably won't be quaffing it after mowing the lawn.

Junk food pairing: Try some Steakhouse Onion Funyons with your Cucumber Farmhouse. They have a nice light texture that won't interfere with the beer. The onion flavor will complement the cucumber while the hearty steakhouse flavors lend a mildly smoky, fake meat complexion to your gastronomic experience.

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|| Palmer, 7:55 AM

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