Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A HAPPY NIGHT SPENT WITH PRAIRIE ALES

We here in San Francisco recently went through the crucible known as "San Francisco Beer Week", which just gets bigger and more overwhelming every year. I've gone from being an active participant in multiple events to being a mere "dabbler", showing up to a couple of lower-key events if and when the spirit moves me. This year it really only moved me to one event: PRAIRIE ALES tap takeover!! Yes, Oklahoma's majestic Prairie Ales trucked out all sorts of rare and wild saisons, brett bombs and other experiments to the Mikkeller Bar in SF, with head brewer Chase Healeywhom you may recall we interviewed here – making the trip along with his many glorious creations. I think Chase and his team have vaulted themselves to be one of the Top 5 brewers on god's green earth this past year, and I wanted to take a "deeper look" into his weirder and less available creations.

Perhaps one of the benefits of so many Beer Week events going on at the same time is that the burgeoning beer-swiling Bay Area populace is sufficiently diffused enough to make "Tier 2" events like this one less crowded. Thank god, because my drinking pal & I nailed a table right away and got down to business – food and Prairie Ales on the same ticket. So if you're wondering what Prairie brought, let me just say they brought a lot. Anything you've seen in a bottle – from Prairie Ale to 'Merica to Bomb to Standard – was on draft tonight, as were a number of other draft-only creations – which is where I tried to spend my time.

Prairie tend to focus hard on earthy, flavor-packed saisons as their main recipe, and create variations of those in different forms. Of course, Healey and the crew don't stop there. I tried three beers I'd never had before: ELIZABETH, SPECTRUM and POTLATCH. Of the three, "Elizabeth" is the only one I took good notes on, though I scored 'em all. I started with "Elizabeth", and she was my fave. It's a farmhouse ale that's "aged on apricots" and allowed to sour a bit, so it has a rustic, super-Belgian quality to it while being easy-drinking and complex simultaneously. You know great art when you taste it, and this was very nearly a masterpiece: 8.5/10. The others, well, I got to talking a bunch and only recalled that "Spectrum" was a saison nearly as good as Elizabeth (8/10) and that "Potlatch" was a slight step down from those heights but still a righteous brew of unknown style origin (7/10).

Had a chance to go up and banter w/ Healey but respectfully declined. I hate that sort of brewer brown-nosing, to be honest. Very happy to drink his beers, however, now and forevermore.

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