Tuesday, March 5, 2013

5 Seasons Brewing

In an unprecedented move, Beer Hates Me took a month off from reviewing a beer. Factors such as work, family, and the dreaded flu all contributed to this monumental breakdown of the real importance here --- drinking beer. To make up for it, I plan on two posts this month. This first one is something a little bit different. Instead of reviewing a single beer, I'm reviewing a single brewery. And my choice for said brewery, 5 Seasons Brewing out of Alpharetta, GA.
The Beers:
I started off my evening at 5 Seasons by arriving with my family and grabbing some food. As with all places I eat, I study the menu beforehand like I plan on being quizzed on it. This goes double for the beer menu. Being the insane beer nerd that I am, I take things a step further and actually reach out to the brewmaster to inquire about his portfolio of beers. At 5 Seasons, their brewmaster, Crawford Moran, actually got back to me quickly and enthusiatically. He told me what would be new, what would be different, and asked what I liked. After a little back & forth, I had my drinking game plan for the night all set.
First up was an IPA. I always lead with an IPA when sampling a variety of beers. I think getting the hops on the palate before other flavors come into play is important. In the case of Hop Project 342X I could not have been more right. This was an odd IPA. Crawford described it as an experimental one. Apparently one of his hop providers gave him some new varieties of hops to experiment with. He couldn't tell me their names, but just that only a handful of brewers have had the chance to work with them. To me, the project didn't necessarily work. I felt that the taste was too funky and not crisp enough. The hops didn't seem to provide the citrus-pine combo that makes a great IPA. It was drinkable, and fun to taste a new IPA for once. And I'm sure with future experimentation, this beer could become great.
Next up was a traditional London Porter served on cask. Here's where I started to understand 5 Seasons approach to brewing. This is about as classic a style as one can get. Serving via cask doubles the classical factor and provides a truer representation of the beer in my opinion. 5 Seasons' London Porter was exactly what I'd expect it to be. Creamy, smooth, hints of chocolate and coffee, and even a little bit of smoke on the nose as well. Where I was able to tie it into the 5 Seasons Brewing repertoire was that there was again a faint note of funk to it. It wasn't bad or oft-putting in the least, and actually provided a nice kick to an otherwise standard beer. But this is where I recognized that the house yeast (the basis for fermenting all their beers) likely has some Belgian lineage to it. While not all out European, there is certainly a taste that is uniform in all of these beers and unlike typical American representations of the styles.
The third and final beer from the menu that I had was the Dark Star Stout. Immediately, I knew that this beer was a winner. Much like the porter, it stuck to a simple base. Irish stout, smooth and slightly toasted with a little bit of hops added for a very subtle bitter bite. This beer has won awards for 5 Seasons and understandably so. The roasty aroma permeated from the glass as soon as it was poured and I easily could have seen myself having a 2nd and 3rd serving of this.
The last beer of the night was the off-menu specialty that Crawford had set aside at the bar for me. Called Square Peg, its a Belgian Dubbel aged in whiskey barrels. This thing was intense. The bartenders had never tried it themselves and also didn't know what the specifics of it were. Where most of the beers at 5 Seasons seemed to have a hint of Belgian lineage yeast to them, this one was full on funk! It was a caramel syrup taste and texture balanced with a tangy yeast kick. The whiskey notes were in full affect and from a single sniff alone, you could sense the alcohol within. I tried to pass this one around a bit to some nearby guests as my sister couldn't handle something of this nature.
The Buzz:
Naturally, when choosing a brewpub to establish yourself in for the night, a certain level of intoxication is expected. From the 4 beers I drank (plus a fifth that I finished for my sister), I was certainly happily inebriated by the time we left. While there, there was no indication on the menu or otherwise of the alcoholic content of the beers offered. Asking servers and bartenders sometimes got an answer but upon double-checking the beers online the next day, those servers only seemed to get it right half the time. Aside from Square Peg, nothing else was high gravity. But the combination of all together made for a potent cocktail of booziness that lulled me to sleep very quickly once we got home.

The Hangover:
Again, here is where sampling a plethora of beers doesn't always bode well with analyzing the post-drinking aspect for this blog. Such a diverse range of beers and styles often means a rough morning. The different grains, hops, and yeasts used only cause the body further confusion in the processing and cleansing department. That said, my hangover was rough. It was ugly. And it was long. Although I've experienced worse, this was definitely one that made an impact since my entire body felt it. Muscles, joints, shit...even my hair I think.

The Verdict:
5 Seasons Brewing is certainly a unique brewpub. I think that when most people picture brewpubs, they picture IPAs, lagers, a stout and a porter. The basics. Some may venture deeper into those classic styles by amping up the hops, doubling the alcohol, or experimenting with variations on the classic styles. Its not often that a brewpub has a largely European influence in their beer profile. Its even less common that said brewpub has (what I believe to be) a Belgian hybrid house yeast that they use as the base of all their beers. I'd certainly be interested in revisiting 5 Seasons. I'd be even more interested in procuring some of their beer in bottles to go and aging them. While overall, the style and execution of their beers isn't to my preferred tastes, I was very impressed and inspired by the beer they make and their approach to the craft beer service.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...