When Michael Schwartz announced he would be putting his name on a brew, I was excited to be the first kid on the block to try some. After all, Schwartz is at his best when working with simple, honest flavors and ingredients, and what's simpler or more honest (and satisfying) than a good beer?
The classic American ale, brewed by Back Forty Brewery, is available both on draft ($6 for a 16-ounce pour) and 22-ounce bottles ($11). Yesterday at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, I ordered a bottle of the home brew. The ale was golden in color, with some tart citrus and yeast notes. Though light, it was complex and a little cloudy -- and very reminiscent of Belgian ales.
Before we finished the bottle, our server asked my husband and I if we
would like another. He then suggested we try the draft as a comparison. The two glasses of draft ale looked quite different than the
bottled product. This was a rich, clear caramel color, with more
carbonation. Michael's draft was brighter and crisper,
with a honeyed finish and less yeasty and citrusy notes.
wondered aloud -- could these two ales really be the same? The only way
to find out was to ask the source, so I spoke with Jason Wilson, founder
and president of Back Forty Beer Company in Gadson, Alabama. Back Forty
brews Michael's Genuine Home Brew, as well as four other small batch varieties.
First off, Wilson reassured me that I was, in fact,
drinking the same brew (and I was not crazy). "We bottle condition the
bottled beers and commercially carbonate the draft," he told me.
Explained in layman's terms, before hand capping each bottle of the ale,
a small amount of yeast is added. The yeast works at the sugars in the
brew which provide a natural carbonation, much the same way champagne is
made. And, if you've ever compared a good champagne to a mass produced
sparkling wine, you'll notice the good stuff is less carbonated, with a
slightly yeasty scent.
Wilson further explained that the
bottled version of Michael's Genuine Home Brew is extremely young. How
young? "Right now, it's less than a week old. Give that beer a few weeks
and you'll start to see it resemble the draft more and more. The tangy
notes will diminish. Most brewers like to allow the bottles to condition
for a few weeks, but this is a great opportunity for beer enthusiasts
to follow the ale's progress."
As for the draft? "It's the exact same beer, but for the draft, we pull out those yeast particulates and then force
carbonation into the beer."
What's the benefit of having these
two different versions? Well, it's purely a matter of taste. "Most
American beer drinkers prefer a crisp, clear, filtered product, while
many Europeans and beer enthusiasts will appreciate the cloudiness and
intricacies of the bottled version," Wilson explained.
If you want to try both
versions for yourself, come to one of the following beer-related events:
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Tonight, from 6 to 8 p.m., come out to Harry's Pizzeria for a free "What Ales You" tasting, sponsored by Grovetoberfest, Harry's, and Back Forty. Taste several ales and meet the people behind Back Forty beer.
On August 14, O Cinema and Michael's presents OMG! Beer, Snacks, & a Movie. From 6:30 to 8 p.m. join chef Michael Schwartz for a menu of snacks and beers (and receive your own pint glass to keep), followed by a screening of Beer Wars at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are on sale at o-cinema.org.