Southern Tier is a classic made-for-TV story of small business success. At the turn of the millennium, there seemed to be a hundred new microbreweries popping up every day. And like garage bands in suburbia, many were just something for guys to say they did in order to get pretty girls to talk to them. A few–rare few–made it to the big time, and Southern Tier was one of those.
We were in Upstate New York visiting family last summer, and the thing you may have noticed about people from Upstate New York is that they are fiercely proud of where they’re from. (And the accents.) (Oh, and the attitudes.) So of course we were constantly being offered wine, beer and food made locally. Including Southern Tier beer. Most drinkable and accessible were Phin & Matt’s, IPA, and Harvest; but they have a significant roster of every-day and seasonal options.
Fast forward to this summer, back in Florida of course, and it’s 98 degrees at 11:00 PM, with humidity at approximately 300%. We wander down to our favorite pub to take refuge in the air conditioning. The Man is delirious from the heat and forgoes his usual Guinness in favor of a Southern Tier beer. Perhaps dreaming of the cooler New York weather. Farmer’s Tan. On draft. Yum.
Farmer’s Tan is a summer seasonal pale lager, classically light colored, with the distinct malty and grassy flavors of barley and wheat. The mouth feel is somewhat thick, but very cool and crisp overall. It finishes with clean, bitter hops. This summer/German style lager is sweet but balanced nicely with undertones of hops and a non-sweet finish. Hmmm, so if you used to drink Heineken before you became a beer geek, then you’ll indubitably like Farmer’s Tan.
Although pale lager is hands-down the most popular style of beer world-wide, it’s often sneered at by beer aficionados. Mostly because many of the epic, lowest-rated beers are pale lager. It’s about statistics really, but we’ll leave that to the math nerds to explain. Pale lager was invented fairly recently by a German who took the concepts of pale ale brewing (warm fermentation of pale malts) back to Germany and grafted them into the traditional lager style of brewing (cool fermentation).
Lagers and ales traditionally tend to be low ABV, usually 4.5% to 5.5%, but with these new fangled microbreweries pushing their creative limits with flavors, they’re also increasing sugar content, which increases alcohol content. Although Farmer’s Tan is at 8.6% ABV, you can find some specialty brews up to the 9.9% or higher mark. If you’ve ever had to drink alcohol while sweating out in the hot sun, you’ll know why a lower ABV on a mild beer is so attractive.
I’m not going to bore you with a lot of details about beer, bottom-fermenting yeast, ale, hops, nanobreweries, continuous fermentation, malt liquor, ale wives, or saccharomyces pastorianus. Books, huge volumes of books, have been written about making beer, the history of beer, our love of beer, and why beer makes the world a better place. In this heat of August in Florida, I just want a cold drink on a muggy summer night, and a good seat on the patio to people watch. I urge you to do the same.
If you happen to wander downtown Gainesville and swing past Loosey’s, we’ll probably be out on the patio with a cold drink. I suggest you stop in and try a Southern Tier beer. Or peruse their selection of domestic microbrews for something else that tickles your fancy.