The Lost Abbey's Red Barn Ale

by: BeerAdvocate on 02-21-2007
Often referred to as a Saison (“season” in French), the Farmhouse Ale style originates from Southern Belgium and France. Traditionally, Saisons (the table wine of beer back in the day) were brewed by rural farmers using local ingredients, often from the immediate area; but today, they’ve become more stylized and predictable. Regardless, this almost-lost style has seen a bit of a revival over recent years and has quickly picked up quite the following with beer geeks who’ve found them both complex and refreshing.

The Lost Abbey's Red Barn AleBeer geek icon Tomme Arthur recently launched “The Lost Abbey” as a sister brand to the Port Brewing Company in San Marcos, CA. This brings us to this week’s tasting: Red Barn Ale—a Saison, and one in a handful of new and inspired artisan ales from The Lost Abbey that clocks in at 6.7 percent alcohol by volume. It’s brewed with two-row malt, flaked wheat, flaked oats, dextrose, ginger, orange peel, black pepper, Grains of Paradise; hopped with Phoenix and German Tettnang; fermented with a Belgian Saison yeast strain; and bottle-conditioned. Overall, a fairly typical lineup of ingredients for a modern-day interpretation of the style. Let’s see how it holds up.

The Taste
Decanted into a wide-bowled tulip glass, the contents of this 750 ml corked and caged brown magnum pour a hazy, bright peach color topped with an extremely tight white foam head, followed by impressive lacing and glass stickage. Aromas are soft and clean—zesty orange peel, wheat husks and barnyard hay, sugar, background ginger notes and an enticing dash of pepper set the pace. A lively carbonation fills the mouth with creaminess. Drying and crisp underneath, with a yeasty bite, steely undertone and green banana pith. Mildly sweet, and a bit akin to sugar water in flavor and feel. Wheat tannin twang, with plenty of jammy orange flavors, while subdued ginger notes surround the sugary edges. Black pepper pulls through a bit as the beer warms, lurking in a soft floral, herbal, semi-spicy hop character. Dry leafy tannins and a mouthful of hay. Bone-dry finish with strong, near-overpowering yeast residuals on the palate.

Final Thoughts
Not the strongest within The Lost Abbey lineup, but a solid offering nonetheless. Personally, we felt the yeast had too much control over the beer, things were a bit too tannic as the beer warmed, and the orange peel was a little overplayed. Having a freshness stamp would be helpful, too, as there’s no way of telling how old this bottle is. That said, Red Barn Ale is indeed complex, refreshing and worth seeking out.

We do recommend decanting gently and consuming this a bit on the cooler side to help push back the yeast and tannins and allow the sweeter notes to shine. For pairing, this would hold up to most earthy and nutty cheeses, and complement raw oysters nicely.

Available now in 750 ml bottles and limited draught accounts.

For more info: lostabbey.com and checkout the story of the Red Barn.

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