Beer Review 0592: Southern Tier Grand Arbor Farmhouse Ale
Southern Tier Brewing Company have been in the beer business since 2002, when founders Phineas DeMink and Allen Yahn started the brewery with the goal of reviving small batch brewing. At first, this goal was a reality — using equipment gained from the purchase of Old Saddleback Brewing Company, various brews were distributed in and around the Lakewood, New York area. The distribution circle quickly expanded to New York City, and then to the entire New York state. Small batch, not so much.
That’s what happens when you make good beer. The rest, as they say, is history. Since 2009, the brewery has continually expanded, and the bottling line at Southern Tier can crank out 10,000 bottles per hour. The company’s brews are now distributed in about half of the United States and several foreign countries.
At first glance, you wouldn’t think Grand Arbor is a beer from Southern Tier — that’s because the labeling is a departure from their normal style (not to mention the style of beer), thanks to Nate Duval, an illustrator/designer out of Massachusetts. The beer is a Farmhouse/Saison Ale, and is brewed with maple syrup, which is sourced from a farm right across the street from the brewery. Brand new for 2014, Grand Arbor is a one-time release (as of now), and comes in at 8% ABV (alcohol by volume). Presentation is in 750 ml. bottles, and the brew is bottle conditioned, like most traditional Belgian Farmhouse Ales.
The pour produced a large collar of bright white foam that was creamy and frothy in texture, composed of both large and small bubbles alike. The beer was a vivid golden color, with just a touch of haze to the body; there were no particles or sediment present, but there were plenty of carbonation bubbles zooming to and fro. Lacing was excellent, leaving behind a thick, creamy coating of foam. Grand Arbor is a beautiful brew.
The nose is earthy, featuring a soil-like yeast coupled with herbal hops and grainy malt. There’s notes of orange peel that play nicely with the small touches of funk, then we have lemon peel as well. Unfortunately, as it warms, the fruitiness dies out and the overall nose becomes a bit bland. But don’t worry, we still have the palate…
…and it’s delicious. Dry orange peel and lemons are up front, with a hit of earthy, soil-like funky yeast. This opens up nicely with some sweetness from the malt and maple syrup; middle of the mouth sees some woodsy, almost oak-like notes play with a light tartness. The finish is dry but refreshing, with plenty of orange peel, some clove, and a hint of bubblegum, along with some alcohol warmth. Grand Arbor is exceptionally drinkable; the beer is medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy (almost velvet-like) mouthfeel. Pouring the yeast dregs in at the bottom of the bottle did little to alter flavor — it only made the appearance cloudy.
To me, this is a surprise from Southern Tier, who typically don’t make beers of this style. I found this Saison to be pleasant and fun to drink from start to finish, and I thought it to be a good value in terms of price. If you like this style of beer, you’d be doing yourself a favor to give this one a try.
Southern Tier Grand Arbor Farmhouse Ale, 92 points. Price: $8.99 US for one 750 ml. bottle.