While I knew that I'd encountered Stillwater Artisanal Ales
previously, I had completely forgotten that my previous two run-ins
were both collaborations and that Stillwater was a "gypsy" brewery.
And so this is my first solo Stillwater brew. Fear of Ghosts
is a smoked sour farmhouse wheat ale and also quite a mouthful. Although folks of an agrarian bent around the world have been brewing ales for some time, "farmhouse ale" tends to refer to – here in America, anyway – a Franco-Belgian variety. Admittedly, this is not a style with which I am very familiar but O'so's Picnic Ants
has slaked my summer thirst many times, although I have no idea how "authentic" it may be.
I tend to think of these beers as being wine-like in that they're on the dry side with fruity and spicy tastes courtesy of the yeast but lacking sweetness. Plus they have a little tartness as well. In this case I was drawn by the promise of smoke. It is, after all, the Summer of Rauch and the idea of a smoky saison was novel and intriguing. Fear of Ghosts debuted back in the spring.
The beer pours a light yellow and has an almost spectral haze in keeping with being a wheat ale. My glass had a big, firm, white head but it disappeared rather quickly. Inside there was a thriving colony of bubbles.
Juicy pineapple stuck out on the aroma which led me to believe that the beer had been dosed with nouveau American hops. The sour part of the style was lemony here while some earthy, resiny notes were a bit further back. I was struck by the absence of smokiness, sadly enough. This combined with West Coast pale ale flavors made for an inauspicious start.
On the first sip my tongue was greeted with a spookily large dose of lemon-tasting sour that let up some as I continued sipping but was always keen on reminding me that it was there. Those tropical fruit and pine/resin scents made a return appearance here. The tartness helped keep the beer dry tasting as did its attendant acidity and the solid carbonation. As it warmed, a little sweetness crept in, but just a touch, as did barnyard funk. I let the beer sit a bit longer and the funk got stronger as some grapefruit came through as well as a hint of the wheat. But no matter what I did, I could not discern any smoke.
Unsurprisingly the tartness lingered into the finish as did the nouveau hop flavors. However, there was not much bitterness to be had. There were a couple of small patches of foam left on the glass along with a smattering of spots.
Fear of Ghosts gets low marks from me for the phantom smoke flavor. My palate is not particularly discerning so it is possible that there was some smoke flavor in there. If there was any, it's likely that it was on display in the same sense the plans for the bypass that went through Arthur Dent's home were. And then there's the matter of those trendy pale ale hops that I tend to avoid. Truth be known, I liked the tropical fruit and resin tastes in this beer. They didn't try to steal the show like Kanye West at the MTV Awards and were content with joining the chorus of flavors instead.
I liked the beer's firm and consistent tartness as well as its brett funkiness which slowly gained strength but never overwhelmed. It has a pretty light body which went well with the dryness. This brew was really nice on a hot day, though it weighs in at 6% A.B.V.
Junk food pairing: Pair your Fear of Ghosts with some kind of lime-chili chip such as Takis Fuego chips. The lime tartness will complement the beer's sour and its citrus flavors.
Labels: Beer, Farmhouse Ale, Rauchbier, Saison, Smoke Beer, Stillwater Artisanal Ales