Beer: 'Merica Brewery: Prairie Artisan Ales Style: Saison ABV: 7.5 percent
America: It's great. Inventors of football and tailgating, back-to-back World War champs, land of the free, home of the brave, etc. Despite the occasional government shutdown, it's a pretty sweet place to live.
'Merica: It's also pretty great. The brew comes to Arizona shelves through the efforts of Chase and Colin Healy, two brothers with the most American of dreams: "to do something that was awesome." That thing? Found a brewery in Oklahoma that, though just a year old, produces some of the most sought-after beer in the country.
One of those beers is 'Merica, and you can tell even when the beer's inside the bottle that this liquid is going to be as hazy as mud. In a glass, this holds true -- the apricot-colored brew lets almost zero light in. In a tulip, hyperactive carbonation creates a pillowy head of pure white that'll make you think someone's covered your beer in goose down.
Now, within the 142 or so style categories laid out by the Brewers Association, there is a subset of beers known as SMaSH -- single malt and single hop. These brews are great for educational purposes, as they're only made with one variety of malt and hop, showcasing the flavor and aroma contributions of the individual ingredients. Want to learn what a specific hop tastes like? Try a smash.
Oddly enough, however, 'Merica uses neither an American hop variety nor an American malt. Instead, we get a massive dose of Nelson Sauvin, an en vogue hop variety from New Zealand that gets the second half of its name from a striking aromatic resemblance to Sauvignon blanc. Those white grapes are in the aroma, but more pronounced are notes of dried lemon, lilac, peppercorn, and urine -- but not in a bad way. Good urine.
In the flavor, the crackery crispness of Pilsner malts provides a worthy backdrop for Nelson hop bitterness and funky Prairie yeast. Here's the 'Merica we've been searching for -- a madhouse of homegrown funk, provided by a truly all-American culture. The yeast blends notes of hay, pepper and farmhouse funk with the lemony bite and gentle grape sweetness of the Nelson hops.
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The haze is not just for show -- those extra particles in the glass provide more body than you'll usually find in a saison. The second pour from the bottle is made downright chewy by yeasty sediment. Alcohol, which is fairly high at 7.5 percent, is noticeable as it causes a mild case of heartburn on the way down. Peppery carbonation perks up the big body a bit, but overall this is a bit out of style in the mouthfeel.
But don't let a lapse in adherence to style throw you. In fact, the brew pretty perfectly encapsulates its name, combining the aspects of other cultures to make something entirely new. It is a blend of off-beat flavors, a somehow workable amalgamation of disparate parts. Hard to be more 'Merican than that.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.