From the annals of “drinking at Free State during Monday night cheap pint night”:
Name: Prairie Fog Ale (I love this name)
Origin: Free State Brewery, Lawrence, KS
Style: California Common (Steam Ale)
ABV: The OG is 1.054. Free State doesn’t give ABVs – they give OGs instead, which is a pain because this gives an idea as to how much alcohol there *might* be but doesn’t work as an exact measurement. The OG (original gravity) measurement refers to the amount of sugar in wart before fermentation. If you’re really into math, the wikipedia article explains all of this in detail. I am not into math, so I’m not worrying about it. Anyway, this beer wasn’t knockout 7-8% level by any means – I’d guess it’s in the 5.something% range.
I drank this: on tap at the Brewery
Free State’s venture into the Steam Ale category is a medium red/brown color with a pale malt flavor (picture roughly the inside of a malted milk ball) that ends with a bitter-grassy-sharp hop bite. The ending was hoppier than I usually expect out of this style of beer. It had a really lovely sweet-citrus nose – I think that was honestly my favorite part of the beer. All in all, it was okay, but it wasn’t my favoritest beer from them.
The other notable thing about this beer was its inability to retain any kind of head whatsoever within the first couple of sips. In my world, this is fine: the only time I really want good head retention is when I’m dealing with an Imperial Stout, where the cappuccino-colored, superdense head is a really nice gateway to the oil-like liquid beneath. When it’s a beer like this, where the head is foamy but not overly flavorful, I’m all for the head going away quickly. In my mind, it gets in the way of the actual beer.
There’s a single review of this beer on beeradvocate by someone who was absolutely bowled over by this beer and suggesting that it replace the Ad Astra Ale as a flagship. I’d like here publicly to state that I think that person is nuts (or, reviewing it last November, had a better batch of it, which is also possible) – this was an adequate beer, but I don’t think it’s up to Ad Astra standards. Plus if Free State dropped the Ad Astra to seasonal status, I’d cry. If they’re going to add any other flagships (not that I’ve heard any rumors that they’re planning on doing so, so don’t consider this as a rumor or anything. It’s not), I’d have to root for the John Brown Ale.
A note on the style: Once my brain turned on and I thought about it, the name makes sense: this is a California Common Ale, more often known as a Steam Ale. However, the Prairie Fog Ale can’t really be called a Steam Ale because Anchor Brewing Company patented the name “Steam Ale,” so someone somewhere got the idea to call the style a California Common Ale to pay tribute to the fact that the style is one of those bizarre hybrid things that Americans tend to be good at creating. For those unfamiliar with the style, it’s an ale fermented with lager yeast. Ale ferments typically in the 60-something degree range, whereas lagers ferment typically in the 40-something degree area. Lagers also take a hell of a lot longer to create, but that’s for a whole different post. Anyway, the upshot here is that a steam ale is a beer that has ale and lager characteristics.