Hello Sour Beer Friends!
During a recent sour beer tasting with several authors from the site, I had the opportunity to try Allagash Brewing Company’s sour peach beer Farm To Face. Allagash Brewing, of Portland Maine, was opened in 1995 by its brewmaster and (then) sole operator, Rob Tod. Focusing on Belgian inspired beers, the brewery has grown significantly in manpower since its opening, producing six year round styles and a wide range of limited release and special project beers. In 2001, Allagash began bottle conditioning their beers and the brewery began routinely working with Brettanomyces shortly thereafter. With the installation of its coolship in 2009, Allagash began producing both spontaneously fermented and batch inoculated sour beers. Their spontaneously fermented beers include 3 blends inspired by the traditional lambic styles of gueuze, kriek, and framboise. Farm To Face, on the other hand, started its life as a pale ale brewed with their house strain of Belgian yeast. The beer then received a dose of both Lactobacillus and Pediococcus along with 3 lbs. per gallon of peaches from Applecrest Farm Orchards of New Hampshire. Aged in stainless steel for 10 months, the resulting beer is a fantastic example of a well-made American sour fruit beer.
Farm To Face poured a hazy golden orange with a bright white head. Right up front the beer smelled intensely of sweet peaches. This may be the most naturally aromatic peach beer I have experienced to date. The beer literally smelled like a bowl of freshly cut peach slices with sugar sprinkled on top. Layered underneath the fresh peach aromas were light notes of stone fruit sulfur along with lactic acid and the slightest of yeast phenolics.
Unlike many fruit sours I’ve tried, when first tasting Farm To Face, I was surprised by how much of the base beer’s malt character appeared in the finished product. The beer’s flavors, while very nicely balanced, came across in waves, with a soft wheat cracker malt profile being the first flavor I tasted. This was followed by a medium to high level of sour acidity. The sour profile of Farm To Face was made up of pleasant lactic acid layered with low levels of natural fruit acids. There was no detectable acetic acid (vinegar) in the beer. After perceiving the malt and acidity, the fresh sweet flavor of peaches returned in full force in the finish of the beer. As the beer warmed up, these peach flavors became more and more intense. Subtle flavors of sulfur and coconut could be detected after tasting the beer for a few minutes as well.
Farm To Face, while thoroughly sour, also has a medium body and some balancing residual sweetness. I think that this malt and fruit sweetness helped to boost the perception of fleshy fresh peaches. The beer had a medium to high level of carbonation and its alcohol profile was transparent. There were no off-flavors to be detected. Lastly, we didn’t pick up any significant hop profile or Brettanomyces flavors.
Allagash Brewing’s Farm To Face has one of the most full and natural tasting peach profiles of any beer that I’ve tried. I wrote “damn tasty” in my notes and I think this thoroughly sums up the beer. You won’t find infinite levels of Brettanomyces funk or barrel aging complexity, but what you will find is a great malt profile, refreshing sourness, and a fantastic juicy peach character. You also won’t find any off-flavors in this beer, which is the gold standard for sours being discussed on this site. Farm To Face would make a great companion beer for almost any meal or would be equally delicious on either a sunny day by the pool or curled up next to a warm fireplace on a cold night. In my opinion, well made sour beers such as this are perfect for any occasion.
Matt “Dr. Lambic” Miller