[NOTE: I wrote this review not long after I started the blog and have been saving it for a day when the world won’t let me near the computer. As I just read through it I had to laugh. I’m trying to be SO series here. BAH! That didn’t last long…. Anyway, I decided to post it as written just for sh*ts and grins. Also, since the time I wrote this, Stillwater has become one of my favorite breweries.]
Ever stumble upon an idea that was so amazing that not only does it seem to resonate down into the basic roots of your soul, but you wonder why more people are not doing it? That’s how Brian Straumke must feel every day. He is one of the world’s few “gypsy brewers”, a group of people that have no real home (or brewery) to call their own. Stillwater Artisanal is listed as being in Baltimore, MD but honestly, that’s probably just to satisfy some federal business regulation. After all, a company has to be somewhere for tax purposes doesn’t it? But instead of planting roots there, he wanders the landscape and like a modern troubadour sings the virtues of craft beer. And when he finds someone who shares his love and vision on the craft, well he sits a spell and brews a beer. But this isn’t contracting – no sir. This is a guy who is arms deep in every beer he brews, he just brews where ever he can find like minded brewers and idle equipment. Hell, he doesn’t even have a fancy web page as far as I can tell, just this nice blog which seems to fit well into the whole “non-grounded” attitude he approaches business with. Brewing great beer, while wandering around searching out other great brewers AND using their equipment! Brilliant! And more than slightly romantic.
My first experience with Stillwater was in 2010, when at Max’s Belgian Beer Fest they proudly debuted their Stateside Saison (in cask no less) and so I kept my eye on this up and coming brewery. The following year at the BBF, Stillwater greeted everyone at the door with their As Follows, poured from 9L bottles. I haven’t reviewed one of their beers for my blog, and it’s time to correct that oversight.
The Background : Cellar Door is a Farmhouse Ale, brewed and bottled by Dog Brewing, Westminster, Maryland. Farmhouse ales were brewed mainly in the French speaking region of Belgium. As their name implies, they were beers brewed by farmers with whatever they happened to have on hand. They’re meant to be refreshing summer time beers that were brewed in the winter, probably to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Farmhouse ales don’t have a style guideline in themselves but float nebulously within the Belgian Saison and the French Biere de Garde styles.
Them : Cellar Door is built on German Wheat and Pale Malts. Sterling and Citra (used in Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo) hops are used. The beer is finished with white sage and sits on top of 6.6% ABV.
Me : Cellar Door starts like any door, with the opening. As the cap came off I got a nice eruption of CO2 and foam that told me this beer was alive and ready. The beer poured with a medium head and was cloudy (it’s bottle conditioned) in the glass. The color flipped from a yellow/orange at the bottom to a orange/yellow at the top of the glass. The nose contains a nice sage note with hints of citrus from the hops.
The beer starts in the front with a not unsuspected bite from the carbonation as well as herbal and pepper tones from the hops/sage. This gives way in the middle just long enough to get a hint of the malt/wheat foundation before ending with a peppery/spicy finish. A very enjoyable beer. And one that encourages me to seek out the other beers they offer.
So next time you spot a Stillwater Artisanal beer grab it and raise a toast to these “gypsy” brewers who are doing things a little differently and bringing amazing craft beer to the forefront. Like Jimmy Buffett sings, “We’re Gypsies in the palace and we got it all tonight.”
Time for another beer…