Stillwater Artisanal – Cellar Door
Summer is not yet over, my fellow malt-loving marauders of all things craft beer, and though the name may suggest hibernation, I can assure you that this American farmhouse ale is not one to tuck away in a deep, dark place for the cold months that lie ahead.
Now “artisanal” is a word that, having a hippie wife who loves hand-made stuff, I have come to fear. Traditionally, it refers to a product made by an artisan, a craftsman – a glass blower, a wood-worker, a watchmaker – and one whose crafted perfection comes a premium price (which they deserve, but I can’t necessarily afford). In recent years, this has come to be a term associated with the food and beverage industry as well. Everything from cheese and wine to bread and beer is now stamped with the “artisanal” label. (Think Prairie, Perennial, and Jolly Pumpkin to name a few.)
Stillwater Artisanal’s Cellar Door pours a milky golden color with lees floating in the wake of a fluffy white head. Lemon zest, floral notes, and a hint of alcohol reflect from the rim as your nose nestles close enough to dig in…the tantalizing scent of refreshment in the dog days of a Midwest summer when humidity makes your eyelids sweat. The first sip, and the second, and the third are as advertised: a tasty wheat beer with citrus pleasing the taste buds, leaving them begging for more. And they can take more because at 6.6% alcohol you can drink the whole bomber without worrying whether you will sleep through you morning wake-up call (at least I didn’t). Citra and Sterling hops are present but not overpowering, and my nubile tongue barely detected the hint of white sage that is added into the brewing process.
Farmhouse ales can be too earthy for my taste (I have a juicer if I want to blend up some grass and dirt), but Cellar Door has balance: malt and wheat fill out the body, while prominent citrus and mild hop linger with nothing, besides a pleased consumer, standing out. When it comes to “artisanal” beers, Stillwater knows their craft, and their Cellar Door deserves the moderate price tag they put on it. Artisanal, in this case, is something to seek out, not to shy away from.