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Grassroots Ale

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Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Cleveland, OH

Style: Saison
ABV: 6.2%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

It’s summer, but forget American wheats and Bavarian-style weiss beers. Apparently the hot new style for warmer months is the saison, the Belgians’ answer to wheat beers. Unlike wheat brews, though, virtually every saison is going to be different—that’s the patented Belgian individualism showing through. Saisons usually sport some sourness/tartness/funk—another hallmark of the Belgians—and a lot of times you’ll see them brewed with non-traditional grains like oats and spelt. I don’t even know what the fuck spelt is, but if given the chance, you bet your sweet ass I’d brew something with it.

This also marks the first time I’ve written a review while Slick Black Cadillac plays on the radio of all places. I’m sure you all know who sings it without having to look it up.

Great Lakes’ newest brew for everyone outside of Cleveland is Grassroots Ale, a—you guessed it—saison. I’m always excited to get my hands on something new from Great Lakes, because their stuff from top to bottom is absolutely solid. Their entry into the style is brewed with herbs and chamomile, an idiosyncratic twist that, once again, is typical of Belgian-style brews.

Grassroots pours a slightly hazy straw color with a white, pillowy head. The nose is alive with fruit and strong herbal notes. I’m going to go ahead and assume that must be the chamomile, because I have absolutely no idea what it smells like. In the background is some soft maltiness, and at the extreme sniff edges hints of cloves.

The sip is soft and slightly tart, opening with strong barnyard funk, stronger than most American saisons I’ve had. The funkiness slides into a distinctly grassy back sip, with some maltiness bring up the rear. This results in an overlong finish, without any acidity or hop bitterness to keep things short and crisp. As the beer warms up, the funk subsides while the malt comes up, making for less-than-crisp sipping down the stretch.

Extremely interesting beer. Tons going on from opening sniff to final quaff, but in a saison I’m looking for something crisper and sharper. Grassroots’ body is a little big for the style, and a little more tartness would have gone a long way toward making this an ideal thirst-quenching summer brew. Its complexity pushes it toward a four-mug rating, but its idiosyncrasies aren’t enough to make it rise above a growing number of strikingly good American saisons.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on June 15, 2009.
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