The American Heartland might be the next battleground in the craft beer movement. The east and west coasts have held ground for much of the past quarter century, with the Rocky Mountains and Upper Midwest making their presence felt.
But it’s the space often referred to as flyover country where some of the nation’s most innovative brewing has emerged most recenlty. It’s not as if brewing is new to the region, what with AB Inbev’s St. Louis headquarters serving as the capital of the beer world for decades. Amid a region awash in beechwood and swill, names like Boulevard and Perennial grew. And, just to the west in Oklahoma, Prairie Artisan Ales has made its mark on the industry.
We know Prairie from its Bomb beers: the original Bomb!, an imperial stout aged on coffee, vanilla, chocolate and chilies; the Birthday Bomb, which adds caramel to the original; Pirate Bomb, which takes the Bomb! and ages it in rum barrels; and the Christmas Bomb, which sees cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices added to the Bomb!. Brothers Chase and Colin Healey have led the brewery from its humble beginnings in 2012 to today’s near-whale status.
Though Prairie’s best known beers are stouts, it produces some interesting sours and Belgian beers. If you didn't expect to find a decent farmhouse ale from an Oklahoman brewery, now's the time to admit your faulty assumptions.
It finishes with some funk.”
Prairie’s Merica is a beautiful golden beer with with a nice stream of bubbles from the bottom of the glass to feed a sudsy top that lasts throughout. You could mistake it as a pilsner, since the malts evoke those telltale flavors and scents. Prairie ferments the beer with its proprietary yeast strain, adding some funk and a champagne dryness to the palate.
This beer, though, is all about the hops. Prairie chose to single-hop it with Nelson Sauvin, a New Zealand grown varietal. It gets about three pounds per barrel in the mash followed by a significant dry hopping at the end.
The result is a flavor profile mimicking Sauvignon Blanc grapes: a full body backed with a little bit of that farmhouse tartness that you expect in the style. Upon sipping, it opens up with dry white wine characteristics and transitions to the more dry and crisp saison. It finishes with some funk. The beer is crisp and refreshing but felt a little heavier than I wanted. It’s not quite a summertime sipper but it’s still quite nice.
Are there better farmhouse-style beers being made domestically? Certainly. Prairie's might not even be the best from this region. But, it’s still worth grabbing when you find yourself at the bottle shop and the shelf slot for the Bomb! is empty.