Small beer? Huh?
I mean, seriously. What’s a small beer? It comes in a medium sized bottle, looks normal-ish. Then I read the label. “The tradition of brewing two distinct beers from one mash has existed for thousands of years and for centuries the term “small beer” was used in English to describe the lighter and weaker second beer.” Oh, I see. What happens is that when a beer is brewed, the wort that’s left behind (in this case its from their Foghorn barleywine) has water added and out comes a thinner brew from the diluted wort. An interesting idea, and a historical one, too. So I had to see what happens when you take a barlewine and essentially put it through the ringer again. (Its kind of like making little tarts with leftover pie crust. Or something like that.
It pours a pale yellow (which I expected) but I will admit that I was taken aback by the smell of this beer. I can’t tell you exactly what it was but something in the aroma reminded me of what my grandfather used to drink – and of a half-stale can of beer left behind after a picnic in the backyard. Something about it – the bitterness, the breadiness or the bite of the smell is off-putting. But you know me… I’ll try anything.
The taste is really nothing like the smell (thankfully). I was expecting it to taste like Schlitz, but was pleasantly surprised to have that not be the case. However, the taste was still not what I imagined. It was bitter and a little flowery, very thin and light. The bitterness is unique – and it isn’t purely a hop bitterness. Its almost a biting/acrid bitterness (for lack of a better term) but without it being overwhelming. I am surprised that it isn’t more like its big cousin Old Foghorn, considering they come from the same stock.
Though I can’t say I recommend this, there may be those out there that can appreciate the historical brewing methods and maybe the taste will remind them of other small beers that they may have had in their lifetimes. For me, I’m not really into the aftertaste, and there are other low abv or light beers that I might enjoy a bit more than this. I’m all for history, but in the end, it really does just come down to taste.