The three breweries I'm most excited about right now are from England (Thornbridge), Germany (Freigeist), and Oklahoma (Prairie Artisan Ales). That is incredible. Me-from-two-years-ago didn't see that coming. But the quality of the liquid is undeniable. Thornbridge is making unexpected beers from unexpected inspirations, Freigeist is pushing the boundaries of what has been traditionally called German beer, and Prairie? Prairie came out of absolutely nowhere with wide distribution of surprisingly well-made, unique ales.
How did this happen? Prairie has a simple but magical recipe: well-made beers combine with gorgeous packaging and an aggressive distribution strategy to leave behind them a wide wake of satisfied customers.
And it's working. The operation has only been in existence for about a half a year, but their name and their beers seem to be on the lips of every other beer geek a half country away here in San Francisco.
With more than $20,000 in their pockets from a recent, hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, brothers Colin and Chase Healey seek to move their operation from their current tenancy at Krebs Brewing (home of Choc Beer Company) to their own space with a cooperage to experiment with 100% barrel aged beers. We're excited.
What to Try:
Bursting with Citra and Simcoe hop character, Prairie Hop is a juicy saison that is absolutely exploding with tropical fruit character. Prairie's tasting notes include mango, tangerine and peach, but we'll throw pineapple, kiwi and lime into the mix as well. This stuff is our favorite of the lineup: it's so, so good.
Charmingly packaged with cartoon catfish noodling instructions on the label, Standard is a delicious, dry, minerally, spicy saison, and the only one of Prarie's beers available in six-packs.
Prairie Gold is summertime, bottled. Tart and refreshing, Gold is a saison (sensing a theme here?) that is partially fermented with funky Brettanomyces and souring Lactobacillus. Moderately sour, there's a lot of complex fruit and phenol flavor going on here.
We also tried and dug Prairie's simply named Prairie Ale and Plus Tôt L'État, their collaboration with Florida's Saint Somewhere. I feel pretty confident in recommending just about anything you can get your hands on.
We can't wait to try newer releases Funky Galaxy, 'Merica and Pirate Noir. Keep an eye out!
About the author: Mike Reis is a Certified Cicerone and Co-Director of Beer at the Monk's Kettle and Abbot's Cellar restaurants in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @beerspeaks or find him behind a pint near you.
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