Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Oak Aged Farm Hand

Brewery Vivant
Grand Rapids, MI

Style: Belgian Ale
ABV: 5.0%

Rings’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

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Brewery Vivant is a throwback. They’ve done a wonderful job blending traditional and new brewing styles and techniques for the enjoyment of their patrons since they’ve been open the past couple years. You can see this immediately in their taproom, which is a nice European style long-table tavern carved out of an old funeral home. People share tables. There are no televisions and no loud music. The atmosphere is just beer, conversation, great food … and beer.

Writing this review, I realize that I’ve been neglectful of this brewery here on Beer Dorks. The place is truly one of my faves and many of their brews are both interesting and above average.

One of their brewhouse trends is the aging of their beers in oak and casks. Traditionally, brewers have always packaged—and stored—their beer in wood kegs and a few places, especially in Europe, still practice this regularly. There’s definitely a softness and a certain Earthy character about draft drawn from an air pushed wood keg or firkin. Modern brewing, however, lends itself less often to the practice. Steel kegs and CO2 draft systems are standard, aside from a “firkin night” at some establishments, which are typically limited in size to avoid spoilage and often served too warm.
Vivant has made an event out of many of their wood aged brews. They’ve experimented with flavors, ingredients, source barrelage (whiskey, wine, etc.) and temperatures. In fact, I recently attended their second “Wood Aged Beer Festival,” which promised to “give me wood” as they released well over a dozen concoctions all of which had been wood-cellared. I had wood.

A few weeks before, however, I had a chance to try one of the occasional tap-house releases, their Oak Aged Farm Hand—a take on their flagship farmhouse ale.

Pouring blond orange in color, there wasn’t much of a head and only light lacing in their beer-clean glass. The nose was earthy, with an acidic bite of alcohol. Citrus tones of lemon and grapefruit accented a thin body and mild fruity finish. It’s interesting, but not an overwhelming effort, particularly when compared to some of the festival releases a few weeks later and probably would have improved with a little longer wait.

Reviewed by Rings on January 9, 2012.
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