2 O'Clock Tasting:
Stillwater Artisanal Ales
Brian Strumke, founder of Stillwater Artisanal, is a nomad. Whether in Stratford, Conn. at Two Roads Brewing Co. or Baltimore, Md. at Of Love and Regret, Stillwater functions as more of a living organism than a brewery, led by Strumke's wanderlust to go wherever the road, beer or art takes him. He founded the company in 2010 and currently hails from Brooklyn but seems to operate Stillwater from wherever he happens to be. To say that Strumke takes an artistic approach to his beer would be somewhat of an understatement. Stillwater describes itself as "living art," reaching beyond craft brewing to carefully plan and package its beers in cans and bottles with specific intention, drawing inspiration from anywhere, "whether that be a season, location, or even humanity itself." This 2 O'Clock Tasting took us on a mindful journey through Stillwater's Contemporary Works Series, stopping at three "works" in particular: Yacht, a dry hopped session lager; Mono, a dry hopped Pilsner; and Stereo, an IPA. Each beer was wrapped in its own unique package, each one prioritizing the personality of the individual beer over adherence to a brand aesthetic. Take a look and step into the intersection of modern design and nomadic brewing with us.
4.2% ABV Similar to, yet distinguishing itself from, its macro predecessors, Yacht shines in its simplicity. This pale lager poured a light yellow color, similar to hay. A dusty, floral, doughy aroma rose from the head, unifying the pastoral aesthetic established by the appearance. On the tongue, the Yacht revealed the clean taste of pilsner malt with a hint of starch and just a dash of sweetness. Hops were apparent, but not so much to pull the beer away from the smooth, light maltiness of its intended style.
5.2% ABV In the intro to this tasting, we mentioned that Stillwater displays an adherence to aesthetic, rather than brand, with their packaging. Taking this into account, the Mono's label tells us everything we need to know about the beer. It has a simple, earthy orange color, and though the name, Mono, literally means singleness, the label cleverly uses line breaks to split the word into two nigh-identical syllables. Before the bottle is opened, there is already the implication of a single idea, with a subtle turn in the middle.Mono poured a pale gold, with little head and a musty scent lingering above. The taste was utterly clean, with a slight sweetness and a wet, juicy body. As the label implied, the Mono was simple, yet nuanced.
7% ABV Whatever Mono was, Stereo is twice that. After the visual simplicity of both Yacht and Mono, the design of Stereo is almost violent, with a pattern that contains a suggestion of motion in its brashly colorful depths. After the last two beers, this IPA is certainly more assertive. Based on the dry-hopping and unique hop combinations across the board, it's clear that Strumke likes to play around with hops. An orange, honey gold color glowed from the glass for this beer, which was not as effervescent as the lager or pilsner, but just as aromatic. Tasters were baffled by the scent profile until one suggested a similarity to faux leather, which, strangely, fit rather well. Underneath that, though, the taste was much simpler, full of juicy body and citrus tang. When combined with the aroma, this beer created an overall earthy tone, giving rise to images of a mossy forest just after a rain, dank and full of life.