Field Hand Farmhouse Ale
1 22 oz bottle, $6.49++, 6.3%
Pruchased at Worldwide Wine & Spirits, Southington
Well, would you look at that! My wife makes an appearance in a brew review picture! Everyone say hello to Hoang.
Say it like, “Hwong” but don’t make the ‘w’ all hard sounding, you American louts. Good, much better. Now take a moment to reflect on what this poor woman goes through being married to me; what with all these beer reviews and stops into breweries all-too-often.
She deserves your sympathy.
On to the task at Field Hand! Billed as a classic saison, which differs slightly from the long list of Relic not-so-classic saisons, I was eager to try this one. Of course, “classic” saisons differ quite a bit, but Relic has that Relic yeast so I knew what to expect going in.
And since the Field Hand depicts a(n ostensibly) Belgian farm worker on the label, this beer should be classic. But what makes a “classic” saison? And what is a saison anyway?
From Wikipedia, I get, “Historically, saisons did not share enough identifiable characteristics to pin them down as a specific style, but rather were a group of refreshing summer ales made by farmers. The origin of saison is Belgian farmhouse beers brewed in the autumn or winter for consumption during the summer for the farm workers, who were entitled to up to five litres each workday.”
Holy crow. Hey, want to know something cool? that second poorly written sentence is sourced to none other than Phil Markowski! He wrote the book, y’know, and now he’s the head brewer at Connecticut’s own Two Roads down in Stratford. Small world.
Continuing with some more poorly written stuff from Wiki:
“Brewing outside the summer months was common for all brewers before the discovery of refrigeration, due to the likelihood of the beer spoiling while fermenting in the summer, which is the height of airborne bacteria activity. Farmers possibly also brewed during the cooler months to provide work for their permanent staff during the quieter period.”
I’ve written before about some questions I’ve had regarding Relic’s temperature control apparatuses, and have often wondered if the reliance saison and saison-like beer was due to a lack of such controls. I have no idea. Anyway, here’s the bit I like:
“After brewing, the ale was stored until the summer when the main consumers would be the seasonal workers (“les saisonniers“). So there you are – the derivation of the word.
This Belgian-style saison is full of wonderful spicy and fruity flavors produced by a lovely blend of yeast strains and a healthy dose of flaked rye.
Perhaps the “healthy dose of flaked rye” is a bit outside the standard saison definition (if such a thing existed), but yeah, pretty much a saison saison.
And the thing with me is, I’m not a huge fan of most saisons. I like the DuPont stuff, as they tend to have a fruitier flavor profile. When it comes to the yeasty and/or horse blankety stuff, I try to avoid.
And that yeasty/horse-blankety stuff is impossible to avoid with classic Relic saisons.
It’s kind of like, I’m good friends with a couple guys who just don’t like highly-hopped beers. (I do.) And other friends are all about the sours and saisons. But my fake-job is to determine if a beer style I don’t love is still done well.
The Field Hand was… okay as far as classic saisons go. I still think it had too many yeasty beasties up in there. Their flavor just overwhelmed the palate. They rye and spice character cut it a bit, but just not enough for me. And I didn’t get those fruity esters much at all.
However, as Relic is determined to be the saison-king of Connecticut, I’d suggest the Field Hand become a flagship ale and be one of the always-in-rotation brews.
But I’m a ding-dong, so ignore that.
Overall Rating: C+
Rating vs. Similar style: C