Beer Review 0315: Westbrook Bearded Farmer “Hughey” Saison

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I took a trip down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the New Year holiday, and an out of town trip naturally means a visit to a couple of local bottle shops for beers I can’t get back home. Westbrook Brewing Company makes beer in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. I picked up four bottles of their brew for review, and I’ll be going through those all this week.

While Westbrook’s website doesn’t divulge much history about the brewery, they are pretty new to the scene, having first produced beer in late 2010. The founder, Ed Westbrook, started with a local home brewing club, earning the name “Prolific Ed” because he brought 5-10 different home brews to the club each month. After graduating Furman University with a degree in computer science and later Clemson University with a MBA, Ed had the idea to start a brewery.

Planning began in 2009, and Mr. Westbrook hired an experienced brewmaster to run the show, given that he had no commercial brewery experience. Currently, Westbrook list two year-round brews and a host of seasonal/special offerings; in fact, they have so many of these type beers that I couldn’t find either of their regularly scheduled programming. Every beer I came home with is either seasonal or special release.

Not to get any more confusing, but today’s beer belongs in a special series of brews itself — the Bearded Farmer Saison series, which “Hughey” is the first release from. The series is inspired by Ed Westbrook’s love of Saisons, local farmers, and No Shave November. Each beer in the series is named after a local farmer; in this case, Hughey, who picks up spent grain from Westbrook. This Saison is brewed with oats, rye, and spelt, and is fermented with a combination of Belgian and French yeast strains, which include three different types of Brettanomyces, a wild yeast that produces acetic acid. The beer comes in at 6.7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is bottle conditioned.

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Pouring made for a typical huge Saison head, bright white in color and dense and creamy in texture. As the head slowly faded, it became rocky, developing big bubbles. The beer was a hazy light golden color, which of course became very cloudy the further I got into the bottle. Lacing was excellent, leaving behind numerous thick pods of suds all along my glass.

The nose presented a huge barnyard funk along with some spiciness. The yeast was the star here, heavy-handed, even giving off some bubblegum aromas. I detected a bit of the rye used, and a general graininess, along with some orange/lemon peel. This beer is quite fragrant and began filling the room with its scent upon opening, and it reminded me of a dry white wine.

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On the taste, this is barnyard funky up front, with a fair amount of rye. Without the full yeast treatment, this features a peppery spice and a noticeable alcohol presence; with the yeast at the bottom of the bottle in, the alcohol tames, and an orange peel note is introduced. This beer finishes with a major lash of barnyard, a punch of sour and a heavy bitterness. I found “Hughey” to be medium-bodied, with a medium mouthfeel, creamy and quite drying.

I had a lot of promise for this beer before I opened it; unfortunately, it was not realized. The funkiness was a bit much and the bitterness served to drown out all the potentially good flavors. That’s quite unfortunate. This beer can be aged, but I’m not sure that would help. If you like very funky beers, this is for you; but even then, be prepared for intense bitterness that is too much.

Westbrook Bearded Farmer “Hughey” Saison, 84 points. Price: $10.29 US for one 750 ml bottle.

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