Existent - Stillwater Artisanal Ales

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very good

569 Ratings
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(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 569
Reviews: 163
rAvg: 3.79
pDev: 11.35%
Wants: 18
Gots: 53 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
Stillwater Artisanal Ales visit their website
Maryland, United States

Style | ABV
Saison / Farmhouse Ale |  7.40% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
Existent represents the philosophy behind Stillwater Artisanal. We strive to define ourselves through our passion and sincerity while accepting that not all aspects of life are readily explainable. To manifest this ideology we present an ale of intrigue. Deep & dark though deceptively dry, braced by a firm yet smooth bitterness and accented with an earthy hop and mild roast aroma. This is an ale for you to define...
’and if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.’ –Nietzsche

(Beer added by: Thorpe429 on 11-13-2010)
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Ratings: 569 | Reviews: 163 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
3.5/5  rDev -7.7%

Photo of rapidsequence
4.28/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle. Bought from Bottle Revolution. I think it was 12 or 14 bucks.

Appearance: Pours very dark-- black. Lots of reddish highlights even in not-very-bright light. Light tan colored head. Falls in sheets, but only some spots of lacing. I guess this is what a black saison looks like. Their packaging continues to impress.

Smell: Mildly roasty with a hint of cocoa. Some earth and grass. Sort of subdued, but not bad.

Taste: Very interesting integration of earthy, ourdoorsy, saison flavors and the well measured roasty notes. Its got a significant contribution of flavor and bittering hops which tend toward spicy and citrus. Its like an earthy, hoppy, dry porter with the yeasty goodness of a saison.

Mouthfeel: Highly carbonated, but soft and very smooth feeling. Dries out nicely on the finish.

Overall: So, not much in the nose, as I think some of the more subtle notes are washed out by roast. The flavor however is pretty great. Very interesting flavor combinations. It feels like a dream. I hate to give such a high rating to these more gimmicky beers, but this one is a winner.

Photo of lordofthewiens
3.95/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

In a pint glass the beer was a dark brown color with a thick tan head.

Mostly cocoa aroma. Some spice and a whiff of hazelnut.

The taste was similar to the aroma. Cocoa, nutmeg, and hazelnut. A little bit of coffee also.

This beer was on the dry side, and a little on the sharp side.

Overall a decent beer.

3.43/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

750mL to tulip. Sampled in March 2011. $8.50 for the bottle.

A: Large three finger foamy head, medium dark brown in color and long lasting. The color of the body is black with amber brown hints along the edges when backlit. Otherwise completely opaque. Fair lacing. Besides the black color, this beer looks pretty good.

S: Roasted (if not lightly burnt) grain, cocoa powder and a nuttiness reminiscent of walnut oil. Grassy hop aroma.

T: The aromas listed above make their way to the palate, as well as a pleasant fruit character and a dry, almost tannic woodiness (although I've never heard anyone say there is wood treatment involved).

M: Medium to light body with below average carbonation. An improved mouthfeel would help elevate the flavors.

D: Among the better Stillwater offerings I've had to date but have yet to be blown away. I'm just not digging the novelty of the black saison. The color of a beer alone doesn't make it taste outstanding.

Photo of elNopalero
4.5/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Should a beer inspire such philosophical musings? This one can and does.

Pours into a New Belgium snifter. Dark black with a few good inches of “fluffy” foam. I poured slowly and topped it off as the bubbles died down, then repeated two more times until I had a tight, compacted, thick head on this. Just wonderful. Heady, roasty aromas, lots of chocolate and leather, and a memory of autumn leaves from a childhood in Michigan. I get a lot of sharp roasted cacoa nibs dominating the taste, and a dry, bracing finish. Mild body, wonderfully carbonated (I believe it’s bottle-fermented, and if not then it should be) to the point of achieving a near-lightness that works in counter-point to its bold roast flavors. This beer hits like a roasty stout but has a light saison finish, surprising and complex. On the finish I identify some saison funk, for lack of a better descriptor, especially as it warms. Roasty, funky, effervescent. An incredible brew that I enjoy tremendously. Perfect for good conversation and whimsical pondering. Definitely lives up to its name.

Photo of wisrarebeer
4.13/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750ml bottle.

A: incredibly deep, dark copper color - near opaque - clear, ruddy head
S: strong nose with CO2 and farmhouse estery/yeasty qualities
T: deep roasted malt with good fruity qualities and yeasty finish, mellow and balanced
M: creamy, malty up front with pronounced bitter finish that was more than most farmhouse style ales

Photo of Knapp85
3.85/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I've had this twice, the first time I bought a bottle for myself and opened it I found this brew to be quite hoppy. The color was black and just really nice looking overall. The smell was similar to a Belgian IPA with some roasted aromas in there too. The taste had some big citrus notes mixed with the dark malts too. The mouthfeel was light for a darker style brew, overall I enjoyed it both times I've had it. The second time after a few months had gone by I was given some and I noticed that the hoppy flavors and aromas were not nearly as strong. This had turned into a much more earthy brew with the aging it had. Pretty interesting how much a little time made on this one.

Photo of bonkers
3.8/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I poured from a bomber into a snifter. The pour is dark, with a big white head, no lacing. The aroma is light, citrusy. The flavor has a hint of alcohol, bready, fruity, light funk. The body is light, effervescent. I was expecting more, a decent saison, not great.

4.13/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750ml shared into tulip: from notes.
A: very well done on the appearance, a jet black body, with a light and retreating head of light khaki. Carbonation is a bit low for style, and lacing is right on.

S: The aroma is a lighter spice and fruity esters. The slight roasted and toffee comes through.

T/M: The character is light and refreshing, while being bold and assertive. Very much like the light character in the American Black IPA, ahem, American Black Ale, wink (Cascadian Dark).
With profiles of earthy spice and lingering hop and floral character, this makes a true beew to be defined.

O: Overall great take on a new style, but a bit thin on the finish and would have like to have had a bigger yeast character. But wow now the ideas for homebrew are sparking.

Photo of Sanford
3.38/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Fun confusing beer. Gentle pour produced great frothy soapy head. Dark brown body and tan foam. The head took a frustrating amount of time to recede...I wanted a drink! I have been sipping over an hour and each pour has brought big foam, but not much lacing has stuck. Interestingly fruity, though a bit reticent nose. taste...some farmhouse funk, more with warming; some fruitiness: fruity tart, fruity sweet...when colder I thought I could perceive some malty sweet qualities, yet finishing dry, and now an hour later I can't...find any malty flavors, which I think is appropriate. As the beer has warmed I am experiencing a medicinal kind of astringent finish...hops, bitterness and not flavor, which again, I think is probably more correct than not. Correct or not, it's no doing it for me.

Honestly, I think I liked "Existent" more right out of the fridge. A great 750 to share, but 2/3 of the way through, I'm loosing interest...don't get me wrong I am going to enjoy finishing it, as it is late enough that I am not going to open anything else.

Photo of drpimento
3.9/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Dang, this is one of the beers that are great but don't fit the mold/tradition. Poured with a large, foamy, frothy, tan head that soon settled and a little lace. Color is a clear, very dark garnet. Aroma is spicy, yeast, malt, a little hop. Flavor has similar characteristics plus roast and some bittersweet fruit. Body is good and carbonation is very good. Finish is like flavor and of medium length. Very good beer, but not much like a farmhouse ale of the label.

Photo of mactrail
3.75/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark, rich, and strange. I'm trying to fit this into my mental catalog of Saisons, but it appears to be a unique one. Rather tart, with a long nose of cranberries and mushrooms. Notable for its depth of funky, dirty, sourish flavors. Mineral taste. A dose of dark malt apparently from the nearly black Porter color. It takes a while for the roasted flavor to emerge. Rather coarse carbonation, though some lacing lasts after the foam up.

I suppose served in an earthenware mug at an actual farmhouse would enhance the flavor. But this does seem to be an authentic-tasting beer from another world.

Photo of andrewinski1
3.78/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a goblet. The color is very dark brown. The head is two to three inches and leaves behind some nice sticky lacing.

The aroma has typical saison fruitiness with a gentle touch of ash.

The taste is mildly sweet with a subtle cocoa finish. The fruitiness from the aroma is also delivered in the taste. Nothing here is too strong or overpowering.

This is light and drinkable. The carbonation is smooth.

This is pretty good for a dark saison.

Photo of Bendurgin
3.63/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a tulip. This one pours dark brow with a big rocky biege head that settles to a thin layer of foam with some sticky lace.

A little bit of pepper in the aroma with some a little bit of a grape skin aroma to it. A little bit of char here too. Has a bit of a grainy flavor to it. A little bit of peppery yeast and some char round out the flavor.

The body is deceptively light and the carboantion is a little softer than I would have immagined. Overall nothing bad here. I may be a little bias here because I would generally take your standard saison over this one all the time. This one is still well made

Photo of mikesgroove
4.08/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

very hazy, and very cloudy dark color coming forward, much darker then I thought it would be for the style. Nice head, maybe two inches with some really great retention and a wonderful bit of side glass lacing. Lots of carbonation was visible streaking up from the bottom of the glass.

The aroma was a little bit light for me to be honest. Some nice notes of yeast, grain, with lots of breadiness in the middle, not nearly the funky farmhouse ale I was expecting it to be. Lots of light fruit notes with hints of peppery spice dominating on the flavor. Quick hints of pear, peach, maybe some apple, all in that general family

Photo of impending
4.15/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

750ml into a tulip. Pours a deep opaque mahogany, towering dense tan head subsides slowly, excellent lacing.

Wonderful aroma. Roasted ginger and clove, who knew! grape bubblegum, intriguing

Peculiar diversity of flavors, complexity has depth. A meld of a strong dark & a saison. The initial flavor is all roasty strong dark then a dryness kicks in the saison. The nice funk note is more imitated than real. A mild but well defined hop profile rides the long lasting pleasant aftertaste. Thin prickly mouthfeel. Warms well.

a unique saison

Photo of Reaper16
3.63/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

750mL bottle served into a tulip glass

Pours a dark, roasted chestnut brown. Sit this down in front of me without telling me what it was and I'd think it was a porter. 3/4 of a finger's worth of sand colored head; creamy looking, but not very dense. Huge swaths of lacing all around the glass. Obviously, this isn't exactly a textbook appearance for the Saison style. But its one good looking dark ale.

Ah, but the nose immediately reveals that this isn't a malt-forward ale. This beer is primarily yeast driven. I don't want to discount the roasted malt character here. The abundant roasted coffee is the single strongest component of the aroma. But there's a lot of other, yeast driven, components here. A medley of soft spices, some dry appleskin, and plenty of flower petals. There's an earthy hop presence backing things up as well. Existant isn't as phenolic as most Saisons are, nor as fruity. While I like how this beer smells, it smells like a porter that's been brewed with a Saison yeast strain, rather than a Saison that has some roast character. That balance should be the other way around.

The balance between farmhouse ale and roasty dark ale is better achieved on the palate. The Saison elements come first: clovey spice, a dash of red fruits, a touch of phenols on the finish. The roast character is really interesting here. I always appreciate roast, especially when it offers a contrasting bitterness to any hop bitterness that may be in a beer. Existant's roasty bitterness is no exception; it plays off of the earthy European hops very well. I'm such a sucker for roast + hop. But this roast character doesn't really play well with the Saison flavors. It doesn't amplify or accentuate the Saison flavors, and frankly the roast contrasts in a negative way with the phenols a little bit. Still, this is a Saison that taskes risks and reaches for something unique. Just because it didn't work out perfectly doesn't mean that it doesn't work to some degree. I'd say this is a solid Saison, and unique one.

The body size is on the fuller side of medium-bodied, but considering the dark malts in this beer it makes some sense to have a thicker-than-normal body. At any rate, it is offset somewhat by the active carbonation. What takes this mouthfeel over the top and into 4.5 territory for me is how dry it is. Saisons should be dry, there shouldn't be much residual sugar at all, there should be a high level of attenuation. Existant has that requisite dryness, even with all of the dark, roasted malts packed into this beer. That's impressive to me. Overall, this is a solid, solid Saison. It's a grand experiment, and I enjoy the results even if they didn't produce a great beer. Pick this up if you're at all curious about how roast can work in a Saison, or if you like the idea of a Belgian-yeast porter.

Photo of ccrida
4.5/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle poured into a goblet, Existent is dark muddy brown with a big frothy light-an head with very nice last, rocky to settling, foamy lace. Very impressive, almost but not quite in top tier Belgian territory for a thick, textured head.

Smell is impressively robust and very 'quintessential' for what is obviously an emerging style of saison noir - pithy citrus and chalk countered with a husky cocoa. Robust without overwhelming, delicious, wow!

Taste is delicious - a saison first and foremost, the fruity esters and dry, mineral laded body, but then the roastiness of a stout. The minty hops keep it nice for me, fuggles?

Mouthfeel is very creamy, dry and light bodied.

Drinkability is very high - this little MD brewery (home-state love, grew up in Ellicott City) is really ripping out some nice saisons, Americanized yet firmly grounded.

Photo of maximum12
4.13/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to baconsausage for this lovely looking piece of artwork wrapped around a beer. I'm a sucker for a good-looking bottle, & this is one. And love the quote on the bottle; always been a fan of witty/deep/interesting quotes; we need a lot more of that wisdom on beer bottles, bonus points! Poured into two snifters for my wife & myself.

Pour is full-frontal brown, leaning hard into black territory but for a twinkle around the edges. Nose is interesting too, nutty, roasty, with a bit of damp forest wind - almost exactly. Cool. Subtle but enticing.

Existent is taking the big axe to style limitations, then tossing the logs onto a roaring bonfire. Two sips & I'm not sure what I'm tasting...roast malt is calling the shots. Dash of chocolate in the background, every-so-slightly soured dark fruits, surprising shot of bitter earthy hops on the close. Leaves a peppery aftertaste, I'd almost suspect there's rye in the mix, or perhaps that's just the yeast acting up. I can feel the puzzled lines on my forehead. As I take sip after sip after quick sip. Yep. Good. One could take a chunk of time plumbing the depths of this creature. 'Twould be a good use of an hour. I'm just going to enjoy the rest of it.

Chock full of flavor, intriguingly mixed, & kicking the style guidelines in the nads. My kind of brew. Excellent, & now I'm looking forward to the other Stillwater bomber in the cellar.

Photo of feloniousmonk
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

.existent. Stillwater Artisanal (yes, I was fooled into thinking this was some under-the-radar, Stillwater, MN brewery) American Farmhouse Ale, 1 Pt 9.4 fl. oz. (750 ml)
Alc. 7.4 % by Vol.
"Existent represents the philosophy behind Stillwater Artisanal. We strive to define ourselves through our passion and sincerity while accepting that not all aspects of life are readily explainable. To manifest this ideology we present an ale of intrigue. Deep & dark though deceptively dry, braced by a firm yet smooth bitterness and accented with an earthy hop and mild roast aroma. This is an ale for you to define…"and if you gaze for long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."---Nietzsche.

And look, there's Freddy right there on the label. Never thought I'd see the day, Nietzsche on a beer label. Let's open it up and drink it down.

Dark brown, lush, creamy tan head, pock-marked and rocky. A sight to see.

Aroma, soft and spicy, yeasty and lovely. Cocoa and cream, mmm, mmm, mmm.

Taste: chocolate malt, and mild fruit control the flavor. Never sweet, though, a round and dry ale. A beautiful flavor emerges on the palate, delights the senses, and lingers a bit. Even-handed, sufficiently dry, with further flavors lurking below the original blast, slowly emerging. Some dark fruit crawls up, raisin and plum. Despite it, dry and spicy. Dark caramel malt, chocolate malt, fruity esters…drinkable and dry.

The dark saison is a new category. I may have only had one other commercially produced version (see De Ranke Noir de Dottingies), and had never fathomed the style until I tried a friend's homebrew version. I like it. So fascinatingly flavored. So complex and delicious.

Bottle's end: still scrumptious. Mmm, these guys are good.

Photo of ThePorterSorter
3.95/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Grabbed a bottle of this brew when in Portland, ME on vacation.

I was surprised by how rich this beer poured, a deep mahogany brown ale with a fluffy tan head. I was expecting something lighter with stillwater's history of producing robust saisons, but this will have to do as my light, refreshing summer ale. There is some sparse lacing and heavy sediment.

Very funky smelling beer with lots of character. There is powerful and ripe fruit that overpowers the beer's aromas. However, stinging bite from the beer's alcohol is also noticeable. Fruit notes fall along the lines of cherries, banana and pineapple. The pineapple plays into the slight sourness that competes with the beer's strong sweetness.

At approximately room temperature this beer is wonderfully flavorful and relatively balanced. There are smooth notes of dark fruits mixed with a biting 7.4%abv. At first I didn't like the beer's bitter aftertaste because it was overpowering the light, summer meal I had prepared. However, allowing the beer to air out and accepting its potent, bold flavors, I warmed up to beer as it warmed up to me. I would have loved this beer in the fall when frost is first beginning to set and have to realize that this really is an issue of this beer being out place on a hot summer evening. Tobacco-like bitterness from the hops coats the palate and leaves me feeling like I just finished a long draw on a cigar.

As aforementioned in the taste section, this beer provides bold fruit upfront with a complementing alcohol bite and a lingering, bitter aftertaste. There is still a subtle sweetness from the malt and some diverse spiciness to feed my palate's curiosity. I almost thought there was some actual spicy hotness with this beer, but my intuition tells me otherwise after drinking more.

The price is right with this beer for what it has to offer in both quality and quantity. It was a nice change from the Ommegang farmhouse ale, which is distinctly different. I liked this beer when it was warmer and would not recommend pairing it with a light meal because its flavors are too overpowering. Definitely a worthwhile purchase that left me satisfied and relaxed.

Photo of Sammy
3.73/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A complex saison that's overtaken by a shwartbier with chocolate and mildly seems like an imperial stout. Lots of roast, good drinking though not exceptionally tasty. Dark bittersweet chocolate milk colour with a bit of white head. Thanks Michael Pollack.

Photo of kingcrowing
3.58/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap poured into a wine glass.

Pours a dark brown that's almost black with a small brown head and a tiny bit of lacing. Nose is very light and mellow, there is a slightly spicy note and some dark malts.

Taste is more on the spicy side with some tart and sharp notes and a bit.of an earthy Smokey flavor on the finish. Mouthfeel is full and creamy and overall its quite good!

Photo of wyattshotmaker
3.25/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

poured into a tulip, essentially black with a tan head. very nice lacing.

nose is dark fruit, slight leather, tobacco. pretty good.

roasted malt flavor upfront, fades into some slight dark cherry flavor, coffee, really dry. slight metallic finish, can't really put my finger on it exactly but this doesn't sit well with me. this doesn't do that much for me. really dry and nothing to balance out the roasted malt flavor.

effervescent mouthfeel, but i don't think it really complements the "darker" flavors of this beer.

this realy should be listed under the belgian strong dark category. i'm kind tired of every niche belgian style beer being listed under the saison category.

Photo of TheGordianKnot
3.48/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

No dating or batch number of any type found on the bottle or label. Poured from 750ml to stemless wine glass...

A- Pours a hazy dark brown with a very large caramel colored head that is very foamy and really sticks to the glass as it settles. Head wasn't really stable, but also didn't die immediately.

S- A lot of the fruity esters shine in the forefront of the aroma, but they are closely backed by a roasted component. You get a tiny bit of the saison yeast funk with a floral hop character, but it is very subtle. Lastly, a bit chalky

T/M- Very roasty; clashes with the yeast a bit. There is also a prominent alcohol warmth that stings the back of the tongue and sits until your next drink. The bitterness is somewhat harsh and astringent from very grassy and spicy hops... I will say, as this warmed up, the alcohol burn went away and a sweet caramelly taste really came through. It got less harsh and became much more complex- too bad I only had half a glass left of the 750ml until I discovered this. Medium carbonation on a fairly light beer that ends pretty damn dry...

O- A little cluttered. I liked it, but it could have used a bit more balance and overall identity. The roastiness was certainly an interesting take on a saison and I always enjoy something like this when it is a different take on a familiar style. I would buy this again down the road.

Existent from Stillwater Artisanal Ales
85 out of 100 based on 569 ratings.