Stillwater Artisanal Ales |Existent Ale
Let me tell you about an unusual beer that I love, Stillwater Artisanal Ale’s Existent Ale.
The bottle describes Existent Ale as an American Farmhouse. However, the “American Farmhouse” moniker wholly belies the character in the bottle. In general, this situation isn’t rare in such an oversized category of ale. But in particular, this brew is an easy-drinking porter/saison mash-up that has no idea what it wants.
Existent Ale pours a dark, cola-caramel color with a beige head. The foam rises high and lingers.
The aroma is heavily ‘farmhouse.’ I get light yeasty spice, with a richly fresh body like overripe banana or pear. Underneath, there is a suggestive roasted nuttiness. You catch it on the first sniff, and then it nearly disappears.
The first sip tastes strongly of hefeweizen-style phenol – perhaps overmuch. After a moment, you get roasty porter notes. The flavor conflicts between Belgian yeast and simple dark brew. This is where the beer may fall short for some folks, I think: the flavors of Existent Ale are discordant, and they may never settle for some. You might be thinking: “What?”
But those roast flavors linger, building a dry coffee aftertaste behind subsequent sips. Give it time, and the dark malt mixes with the front-loaded farmhouse tastes to beget a toffee-like flavor: not sugary sweet, but caramel and satisfying. The mouthfeel is light, and slightly creamy. Single sips become refreshing in their bite, and robust in their finish.
The overall effect of Existent Ale is delicate and unusual. It is essentially a spicy saison, but the roasted malts utterly defy that categorization. Each sip seems to introduce a new flavor to the brew. It is breezy, and also stout: the magic is in its amalgamation. So many saisons are happy enough to deliver an herbal and uneventful tang, but Existent Ale is delightfully weird.
I thought I might introduce Existent Ale as one of my “favorite” beers, but I decided against it. You should know, though, that it’s basically impossible to convince me to rank things. Give me five items and a scorecard on Friday, and on Monday you will find me a broken man. I can’t even figure out my favorite color; when you introduce an ABV to the mix, I’m a lost cause.
So I like Existent Ale. It’s pretty good. Give me some space, okay.
Spencer recently discussed a beer that straddles the seasons. Existent Ale, for me, serves the same purpose: it carries me from the roasty winter campfire flavors into the breezy tastes of spring.
As indecisive as I am, I may still name this beer a favorite.
Just… don’t quote me on that.