Stillwater Artisanal’s Existent American Farmhouse Ale
By: Benjamin Welton
Friedrich Nietzsche and beer have a few things in common. Besides being both German (although beer is far older than the German state and Nietzsche himself claimed Polish szlachta extraction), Nietzsche and the fine art of brewing were both deeply appreciated by Henry Louis Mencken, the Baltimore Sun writer who became America’s cranky and conservative consciousness during the Great Depression. A lifelong Germanophile, Mencken was not only sympathetic to the Kaiser’s forces during the Great War, but he also opposed Prohibition, labeling it a “brummagem cure-all” that masked “the Puritan yearning to browbeat and injure, to torture and terrorize, to punish and humiliate all who show any sign of being happy.”
In between his jabs at what he called the American “booboisie,” Mencken did much to popularize the philosophy of Nietzsche on this side of the Atlantic during the interwar years. Without Mencken, the triumvirate of drinking, Nietzsche, and libertarian politics may have never met. Some dislike this marriage, but even they cannot deny that a sort of elitist mentality creeps into our beer consumption. The good people at Stillwater Artisanal know this, and that is why their Nietzsche-centric Existent American Farmhouse Ale is only for the truly existential.
First Impression: Obviously, the first thing that should grab your attention is the label, which presents a film negative portrait of the controversial Prussian philosopher . The packaging (which includes the four pack case) reeks of hyper-intelligence, or what others would call pretension. From there, one cannot help but to notice that this beer is dark…real dark.
Pour: As the black liquid reaches the top of your glass, the heavy, foamy head will crest to the lip with awe-inspiring grandeur. Like an Imperial Stout, this beer commands the respect of nobility. Its inky color and its beefy head are undeniably intense, and don’t be surprised if the look of this beer alone drives away those more accustomed to lighter fare.
Taste: Despite it’s pour and look, the Existent American Farmhouse Ale is not particularly bitter or hard on the palette. Lacking the pucker factor of a porter, this beer goes smoothly down the hatch, thus revealing its saison ancestry. And while it feels like a heavy beer (especially if you don’t eat beforehand), the Existent American Farmhouse Ale drinks light and can be consumed with quick ease. I would warn against such an action, for this, like all the beers we cover here at Craft Beer Critics, are worth savoring.
IBU: Approximately 35