Posts Tagged Swamp Head
I apologize for the lengthy and unexplained hiatus. Work got really busy, and then my whole family got sick one after the other. It’s the kind of situation that makes you want to grab a beer….
Anyway, I’m back and I have a couple things in the hopper.
This last weekend, I attended the sixth annual Tallahassee Brewfest. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend all but the fifth, and the event has grown to be quite a feast for the beer enthusiast.
All the usual suspects were there–Anheuser-Busch was pushing their “craft” brands, and InBev had their lineup of trendy imports. Brooklyn, Sweetwater and Rogue were represented, as they have had a local presence for a long time.
The real treat is the smaller up-and-coming local breweries, the craft brewers who are just moving into the market, and the homebrewers.
Swamp Head was there, with a broader selection of their beers than I had seen before. Midnight Oil was their standout, a coffee stout. I was oh-so-very close to voting them best in show for that beer. Coffee stouts and porters were very trendy–I sampled a dozen–and I think that by the end of the night, I was kind of over them. MO is a great beer though, and I’ll definitely be looking for it on tap. The gentleman representing Swamp Head was involved in the brewing there, and he was very happy to discuss recipes, ingredients and beer design philosophy, which was really good of him.
The beer I did vote for was Erie Brewing’s Railbender Ale. It was awesome, golden in color, with a ton of caramel malt. It was a coolish night, and a very fresh-drinking, flavorful beer, and it was just perfect for the occasion. It was sweet from that malt bill, so I don’t know how it would stand up to a hot summer day, but for wintertime drinking, it was exceptional.
The homebrewers mostly came from the North Florida Brewers’ League, and their beers were quite excellent. One of the fun things about homebrewing is that you can brew beer for you, without having to worry about whether it is particularly marketable. That tends to make homebrew a little bit avant garde, and that was the case at the Brewfest. There was some excellent creativity on display, and while not all tickled my palate, they were each skillfully crafted and fun to try. My favorite was a low-octane Belgian. They were very successful at getting the big flavor of a Belgian beer into a 5% alcohol package, and I was impressed. I may have to try that someday, because my classic 9-11% Belgians can be a bit much for many occasions.
One of the trends I’ve noticed at the Brewfest over the past 6 years is a movement away from ultra-hoppy beers. There are still plenty of IPA’s and Imperial this-and-thats for the hopheads, but there are more subtle beers, even very malty ones starting to work their way into the craft beer scene. I think this is great, not just because I’m not a hophead, but because a strong, earnest and diverse beer scene is good for everyone.
(Proof isn’t stingy with its pours–I didn’t think to snap a picture until I had had a couple sips.)
Swamp Head is a Gainesville, FL brewery that appears to have a 30-barrel operation. They’re distributed to select cities across the state, but it doesn’t seem their stuff is readily available farther afield.
This beer was surprisingly good. I suspect most people who are familiar with smoked beers are familiar with the Schenkerla Rauchbier line, which is aggressive in its use of smoked malt. The Smoke Signal was less so. It’s still clearly a smoked beer, but it’s quite a bit smoother than the Schenkerla line. I found it quite easy drinking, whereas Schenkerla can sometimes be a chore to polish off. The beer is definitely malt-forward and the alderwood smoking is the most noteworthy part of the flavor. The hops certainly balance the beer, but they’re a background element. I actually didn’t notice any real chipotle flavor to the beer, but it might be easier to detect if you tasted it side-by-side with the regular Smoke Signal. (That was not available at the bar.)
Smoke Signal is an ale, like most small-scale craft beers. They did a good job of balancing those big estery ale flavors with the smokiness. I didn’t notice any fruitiness, and that’s a good thing.
All in all, I would recommend this beer. It’s definitely something different, unlike typical porters, and also unlike the commonly available smoked beers. Well done to Swamp Head!
I noticed on the Swamp Head Website that they also brew a coffee stout called Midnight Oil. It’s an interesting-looking beer, being an oatmeal stout with wheat malt and cold-infused coffee. Wheat stouts are pretty weird, as is cold-infusion of coffee, but it sounds delicious. Readers may remember that I am quite a fan of coffee beer. I’ll keep an eye out for Midnight Oil, and hopefully I can review that for you all in the future!