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Belt’s Beer Garden: OK honey

Prairie Artisan’s Prairie Hop & 3 Sheeps’ First Kiss

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This week the heartland is featured twice with a Belgian saison from Oklahoma (the first time a brew from the Sooner State is reviewed!) and a DIPA made with honey from a Wisconsin brewery.

Since it IS from the Sooner State...we’ll start with Prairie Artisans’ Prairie Hop “sooner” rather than later (eh, eh!?)

Prairie Artisan is one of the highest rated breweries in Oklahoma (and all of the US really). They originally hail from Tulsa but were recently bought by Krebs Brewing from nearby Krebs, OK. They now have a few locations in the state – a brewpub in downtown Tulsa, where they brew their beer in Krebs, and another brewpub will be opening up in Oklahoma City shortly.

They distribute to half the states, mostly the middle US and east coast, and are known for their wild ales, farmhouses, and, of course, their Bomb! – a highly sought-after double stout.

Today I have hop-forward saison called Prairie Hop which is made with Simcoe and Citra hops. The 16.9 ounce bottle packs an 8% ABV and, like all their beers, doesn’t come cheap; costing a steep $10.99.

This farmhouse poured a dark copper color with a huge amount of head that rose quickly from the millions of bubbles flowing upward. The foam built to more than three fingers high before I had to stop pouring and let it settle some. But the slightly off-white head was stubborn and stuck around for a while…slowly, very slowly fizzling down.

On the nose there are some tropical fruit and citrus notes from the Citra hops, while the Simcoe add a hoppy pine aroma. The yeast adds a peppery scent while the malts add some bready qualities to it. All in all, it was a very complex aroma with each ingredient being noticeable while not overpowering any others.

My first taste started with a long blast of carbonation that continues throughout the entirety of the sip. When the flavors do emerge they were quite subtle. There was some mango and lemon zest up front before the bready malt took over, adding some nice sweetness. As those began to fade, there was a spicy pepper taste that lingered on my tongue that ended my first mouthful of beer.

Prairie Hop was incredibly dry from start to finish – as soon as the carbonation hit my tongue until well after everything was said and done my taste buds called out for water. Along with the dryness, Prairie Hop has a pretty solid body to it; heavier than I was expecting it to be. But, it still drinks lighter than the 8% ABV that it has.

As I drank this beer down, the head laced my glass incredibly well. There were solid lines to indicate each and every gulp I had taken along with some cloudy streaks in between those.

Overall, not my favorite beer from PAA (although their higher price point means I haven’t had nearly as many of their beers as I should have) but it’s a really solid Belgian-style saison. The flavors blend well and have some great moments. But the high carbonation level and super dry quality aren’t my forte. The price tag doesn’t really help either…but you’re paying for quality not quantity.

If you like farmhouses, and want to treat yourself, then certainly try this beer. But for me, just a little too dry and too subtle flavor wise.

Next, we’ll head way north to middle Wisconsin for a honey DIPA from 3 Sheeps.

Sheboygan, Wisconsin is basically the middle point between Milwaukee and Green Bay on Interstate 43. There are roughly 50,000 people there but only one brewery – 3 Sheeps (there are a few others in the county but not the city itself). They have been open since February, 2012 and take a “scientific approach to crafting unique yet approachable beers”. You can find them across Wisconsin and Illinois and in parts of Minnesota.

They currently offer four year round beers – a nitro stout (yes, it’s one of the few bottled nitro beers in the world!), an amber ale, an IPA, and a double IPA.

I went for their hopped up DIPA, First Kiss, which is a double IPA brewed with wildflower honey and Centennial, Columbus, and Simcoe hops. A four pack of 12-ounce bottles runs you a tad bit more - $10.99 – but each bottle does pack a higher kick, with an 8.2% ABV and 110 IBU.

This double IPA poured a golden amber color with a little more than a finger of beige foam billowing upwards. The head didn’t last terribly long and, within a minute or two, all that remained was a light dusting across the top of the beer. But it sure looked like there would be some great lacing to First Kiss, as a solid half inch of bubbles lined the glass before I had even taken a sip.

For a DIPA the nose was pleasantly soft from all that wildflower honey but there was still a strong hoppy aroma that had hints of pine, toffee, caramel, and floral notes to it.

My first taste began with some higher carbonation that fizzled throughout the length of the sip. When the flavors did emerge they followed the scent pretty well. First there was a strong dose of pine and hops that assaulted my palate. But, soon after, the honey and sweet caramel came to the rescue and eased the bitterness away some.

I was slightly disappointed in how little the honey actually stood out. You get a little bit of sweetness from it but mostly its too far hidden behind the big hop flavors like pine and toffee.

Once the flavors began to fade away, the hops again let themselves be known; creating a piney bitter aftertaste that lingered long after everything else had vanished…but for a beer with 110 IBU, that’s kind of to be expected.

As the beer was drained from my cup, the little bit of bubbles that remained did cling quite nicely to the side of my glass, leaving a solid wall of foam down to the beer. A wall so thick, even Trump would be proud of it (ha!).

The higher ABV, while hidden for the most part, does seem to show up towards the end of the bottle in taste some but mostly by warming your chest and face…but that’s just how you know the beer is working.

Overall, this is a decent double IPA. I would have liked to have tasted the honey more as it gets lost in all the other flavors that the hops produce. It tastes just the tiniest bit sweeter than most DIPAs, otherwise there’s nothing really that distinguishes itself from any other ol’ double.