Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Drinking, again! Premium from Stillwater, reviewed.

Throw a rock and you'll find some 'craft' brewers and drinkers indicting adjuncts, with supercilious derision, as cheap and tasteless. Corn, rice: blech! Big brewers use 'em. Can't be good. Wheat, sugar: oh, those are acceptable because we use them. Fatuous claptrap spit in glass houses.

So, bub: try this. Buy a bottle of Premium Post Prohibition Style Ale from Stillwater Artisanal (of Baltimore, Maryland), and drink it.

Stillwater "Premium Ale" (02)

It's a 'Post Prohibition' style ale rife with the craft-scorned corn and rice (and, yes, 'premium' Pilsner malt), hopped at 2 pounds per barrel with Cluster (U.S.) hops, Northern Brewer hops (Germany), and Saaz hops (Czech Republic), and fermented with a farmhouse ale yeast and two (!) strains of brettanomyces yeast. 4.5% alcohol-by-volume (abv).

Here's what I got.

Aromas of breakfast cereal, mowed grass, white pepper, citrus, pale stone fruit, anise, and fresh mulch (in a good way!). Don't believe me? Buy a bottle.

During fermentation, the Brettanomyces yeasts (which contribute those 'funky' aspects) consume the complex carbohydrates left behind by the Saccharomyces ('regular' brewing) yeasts, which eat only maltose, and other, simple sugars. The corn and rice ferment out fully, with few complex carbs left. Thus, the body of the beer —delivering a cereal taste to go with all that aromatic fun— finishes dry (that is, in jargon, not sweet). It's a magic act. Complex, yet not pretentious; dry, yet flavor-full.

Stillwater Artisanal is the 'gypsy' brewing project of Baltimore, Maryland, native, Brian Strumke, his beer roster filled with saison-hybrids. Like other 'contract' brewers, he has no 'brick-and-mortar' brewery. Unlike other 'contract' brewers, Strumke brews in many places, at many breweries, sometimes overseas.

Strumke at oL&R

of Love & Regret [lower case correct] is Strumke's pub/restaurant/retail shop. It sits within the shadow of the old National Brewing Company, in the Highlandtown neighborhood of Baltimore. Many of his draft beers that he serves there, he brews in Westminster, Maryland, at Dog Brewing. (He's magnanimous. Strumke serves guest drafts from other breweries at his pub, as well.)

A lot of his packaged beer (bottles and cans), Strumke brews at Two Roads Brewing in Connecticut. Premium, with its brett yeast —anathema to brewers wary of cross-contamination— he brews at Westbrook Brewing in South Carolina.

Stillwater Premium_label

I asked Strumke about the bottle I had purchased at a wine/beer/cheese shop in Arlington, Virginia. It was six-months old, but tasted fresh. How, so? Brett(anomyces) yeast has good keeping power. It ages well, he said.

Premium has a sibling, Classique, a hybrid ale-lager, brewed alike with Pilsner malt, corn, and rice, but the brett withheld, available in cans. Both beers are bold-brewed offerings from Strumke, but I especially like Premium, a 'deconstructed' American adjunct beer. (Even his use of Cluster hops is a throwback to earlier brewing times.) "Will you produce it again," I asked Strumke? "Yeah man ... more to come."

So, bub: drink a Premium . You will not be able to tell me, afterward, that adjunct beers are insipid.

It's not what you have; it's what you do with it, or something like that. Don't scorn the corn. Praise the maize. And, like the rice.

  • A recent guest-column at —a website moderated by the Brewers Association, the advocacy group for American small breweries— failed to mention corn or rice even once in an essay about the use and purpose of adjuncts in beer.
  • Drinking , Again is a series of occasional reviews of beer (and wine and spirits). No scores; only descriptions.
  • Graphic created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

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