When you look at the beer market, there is an enormous range of brewery sizes—from the smallest brewpub only serving their beer at that one location all the way to the giants of the industry shipping their beer around the globe. Then, somewhat outside of that range, you have the gypsy brewer.
These brewers don’t have a specific brewery that they brew all their beer at, instead going to different breweries and utilizing the equipment, knowledge and ingredients they can to create their beers. I know you’re probably thinking “Well aren’t those just contract brewers?” and you wouldn’t be wrong really. While there might be some debate on the differences,1 and perhaps there are even a few more labels between gypsy and contract, the main point is that these brewers don’t have their own brewery and brew their beer at somebody else’s brewery.
One of those brewers who is straddling the line himself is Brian2 Strumke, founder of Stillwater Artisanal Ales. While Stillwater Artisanal was founded in 2009 and operated as a gypsy brewer for four years, in 2014 it started production with Two Roads Brewing, located in Stratford, Conn.
Today I’ll be looking at the ‘of Love & Regret’,3 one of Strumke’s beers that was originally brewed in Beerzel, Belgium but has since moved production over to the Two Roads brewery. Originally a Belgian saison ale and now a Belgian-style saison ale seeing as it’s no longer brewed in Belgium, Srumke provides a little background of the beer on Stillwater’s site:
For the first edition of the Stillwater Import Series I traveled to the village of Beerzel, located in the Antwerp province of Belgium. Here I teamed up with brewmaster Jef Goetelen to craft an authentic Belgian version of my liquid interpretation of the Spring season. A recipe originally contrived a few years prior as a collaboration brew with my good friend Paul Kretzer. The base is German barley & wheat, with a touch of Belgian aromatic; accented with grassy hops and an array of spring botanicals (heather, chamomile, lavender, & dandelion). Like a fresh meadow in spring.
The bottle for of4 Love & Regret has some great artwork on it, showing what appears to be a jilted lover about to enact some violent revenge. Cracking open the bottle and pouring half a Teku glass full, the bright, transparent golden yellow color is almost as inviting as the white, dense half an inch of head. The head does settle down, but instead of disappearing it stays at a respectable quarter of an inch, easily and quickly building back up with a swirl or two. The aroma is a slightly sour funk full of lemon zest, floral notes and some bright hops completely void of any bitter hoppiness.
The first mouthful is quite the opposite of what I was expecting. Instead of a sour bite that the aroma might have suggested, it’s actually quite sweet. There is the aforementioned lemon zest and floral notes from the nose, though alongside them are some nice barley and a light yeast note. As the profile develops in my mouth, wheat and orange pop into existence towards the finish, which itself is long, citrusy and sweet. The mouthfeel is light but not anywhere near what I would call watery, with just a little carbonation. As the it warms up there aren’t any more specific flavors or notes that appear, but the profile does intensify, bringing forth even more citrus and sweetness than before, though never getting cloyingly sweet.