Service Brewing Anniversary Ale 2 |Savannah, Georgia
I had heard reports of the Service Brewing van being spotted around town. On Friday I cruised by the Vineyard Wine Market and there was their black and gold van parked out front. They, along with sale rep Sam Graci, were making courtesy calls at various shops in the area. Co-owners Kevin Ryan and Meredith Sutton said they were in town for the Westabou Festival, helping with the opening gala earlier in the week and Friday night.
For those who haven’t heard of Service Brewing they are located in downtown Savannah, not far from River Street. Their website has a pretty clear mission statement: We are a veteran-owned and operated craft brewery in Savannah, GA dedicated to honoring those that have put their lives at risk and their country and community first.
We craft authentic American-made beers for the curious and experienced consumer, focusing on high quality and local ingredients. We brew our large scale beers year round while maintaining a busy Research and Development division that produces small batches of innovative, experimental brews.
The last time I had met the brewing duo was in January at the World Beer Festival in Columbia where they were featuring their Oyster Stout. I met Sam at the Augusta Craft Beer Festival back in April. Since then they celebrated their second anniversary with the release of a Pale American Belgo-Style Ale, brewed with blood orange zest and dryhopped with Citra hops.
Meredith, who is also the creative director for the brewery asked if I had tried it and I said no. As luck would have it Roger had one of these 750ml bottles in the cooler. I immediately messaged Beer Brother Mark and he then messaged Beer Brother Brett and we had plans to taste this nice little brew Saturday night. I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m already calling it a nice brew. Why stretch out the results. All three of us liked it.
I asked Kevin what their seasonal was and he said it was an Oktoberfest Märzen. It’s called Teufel Hunden which was the german nickname for US Marines in World World I. It stands for “Devil Dogs.”
Getting the three of us together for just one brew wasn’t going to work so I set out to find the Teufel Hunden and a pumpkin brew since I try and drink a different pumpkin brew each weekend when Auburn is playing. Unfortunately Gravity Growlers didn’t have any of the Teufel Hunden (Kevin and Sam told me The Hive had it but unfortunately I didn’t have time to run downtown). I decided on Ayingers Oktoberfest from Germany and for the pumpkin brew Heavy Seas Bourbon Barrel Great’ER Pumpkin Ale. The Heavy Seas was the most expensive brew on the board at $16.49 per 32oz but I thought it was worth it. The Ayinger was $9.49.
Finally fall has started to act like fall. It was cool enough so Mark could light the burn pot. He has an old antique wash kettle that we sit around when it’s cold and solve the problems of the world.
We started with the “2”. It’s in a wine bottle but with the thickness of the glass it is more like champagne bottle but with a cap. With the contents under pressure thin glass won’t do. The label front is very simple, black with a large stenciled 2 on it. I say stenciled because the font is like the stencils they use to mark up a military truck or a box of ammo. It reminds me of a wine bottle label. On the bottle and on the website it says:
This Pale American-Belgo-style Ale is fermented with our house yeast cultured from honeycomb from our brewery apiary. Add a little blood orange zest to that along with Citra hops and you have yourself a refreshing, juicy brew!
Its 9.5% ABV but it doesn’t taste like it.
Their first anniversary brew was “Inspired by the sweet fruits of our first year’s labor, this American Strong Ale blends Georgia blueberries, cacao nibs, vanilla bean and Savannah Bee Co. honey for a decadent finish to a solid year.” Sorry, I didn’t get to try that one.
So immediately Mark got worried it was going to be a hoppy beer. He’s into malty. Brett was noticing it on the nose as well.
But after the first taste the reaction was immediately positive. The only negative comment was that this is a great summer brew and it’s already fall. (the DOB on the label says July 2016-They also imply drink it now, don’t cellar it).
Brett says it has a tiny bit bit bitterness to it and glad it’s not a super bitter hoppy beer. He says it’s the grapefruit flavors he’s sensing. Maybe he was tasting the blood orange zest and the Citra hops.
We all agree it has a slight sweet edge to it which is probably why they call it “juicy.” I think it’s rather smooth for a Citra hops beer. “This is a really nice beer,” said Mark. “It’s different.” I say it’s smooth. Brett says it has a bit of a dryness is to it like a dry wine. Sam had too me earlier that if you like a Sauvignon Blanc you’d like this beer.
It’s obviously not filtered. It was looking like lemonade next to the fire and the propane light on the table. But with this kind of lighting you are only guessing at the color. As I poured the last bit I was wondering if the sediment would make that last taste whacked. It didn’t. The last sip tasted like the first.
“It’s a nice anniversary beer,” Mark said. “They did good.”
Meredith told me these were the first bottles of their anniversary ale she’s seen in a while because they sold out. Roger has about 8 left and at $7.99 it’s a bargain. I want to thank her for turning me on to it. (While at Gravity Growlers I noticed their BattleWagon Imperial IPA was on tap. Brett and Mark typically shy away from any of the IPAs so I didn’t want to start an argument. I might have to try that one on my own).
It was the first day of October so what better than to start next with an Oktoberfest brew.
That was an excellent start for the evening. Next was the Ayinger. I really wanted to get a good Marzen. I’ve had several in the past few weeks, but they were all American and typically were a bit caramely. I was hoping a good german brew would tell us what the Oktoberfest brews should taste like.
According to Wikipedia Ayinger is in Aying, Bavaria about 30 miles from Munich. Because it’s outside of Munich it isn’t allowed to participate in the Munich Oktoberfest. About 10% of their beer is exported so I guess my 32oz is part of that.
To sum it up, we didn’t jump for joy over this beer. Mark offered that “it doesn’t have a ton of flavor.” That comment kind of stuck with me. Americans have grown accustomed to American wines that are over the top, nothing like the Old World wines where only the grape and the terroir do the talking.
I think the craft beer drinkers are of the same vein. So many amazing craft beers say “an American take on an old world style beer” on their labels. I think we’ve grown accustomed to bold brews. The question is would we like this brew if we were in Bavaria?
Brett added that it has a bit of a bite to it. “Uneventful,” he said. “If this is what Oktoberfest beer tastes like in Germany I don’t want to go. I think German beer hostesses have ample clevage so the guys will stay for the beer.”
We then opined that maybe having been shipped across the Atlantic was part of it. Mark then added “It’s not bad but with so many great beers out there why drink beer that’s okay.” Once again, I think our palates are too americanized. I did notice they have a Winter Boch that I hope makes it’s way across the pond.
Their website doesn’t even mention this beer. Maybe they have a different marketing name for it.
With the Heavy Seas being 10% we decided to save it for last. Brett brought some beer as well. We tried Bell’s Oktoberfest, which also was a Märzen. The overall opinion was that was very similar to the Ayinger but had a bit more flavor. Maybe these 2 brews are what a Märzen is supposed to taste like (being the experts that we are).
Next was a can of Terrapin Cranberry Pumpkinfest. Tasted like a cranberry “Bud-a-rita” but without the sugar and sweetness to me. The label said “beer brewed with pumpkin and spices and with cranberry added.”
Brett said “you can sneak this one on your mother at Thanksgiving and she won’t know she was drinking a beer. You can get your mother lit.”
I will not be serving this brew at Thanksgiving.
Next was Left Hand Oktoberfest Märzen Lager. This one is nice and toasty and malty. By the fightlight it was a beautiful amber. Brett was impressed. Mark was not. Completely different flavor profile than the first two. Smooth start, hint of sweetness then a dry very slightly bitter finish. This was more in the Märzen that I’ve been enjoying from american brews.
Finally it was time for the Heavy Seas. You can taste the alcohol which isn’t necessarily bad. Immediately Brett and Mark chimed together “best beer tonight.” The heavy malty, bourbon barrel-caramel flavors jump out but not so much pumpkin pie spices that you can’t taste the pumpkin.
“Boy, better be careful with this one. Like a whop on the head.” After I mentioned the price Mark smiles and said “You get what you pay for. This is a totally different spectrum than the others we tasted. This one has a lifespan… as it warms up you experience so many more flavors.”
Their website‘s description has In the most worthy of pumpkin patches and during the silence of the midnight hour, the Greater Pumpkin raises up and pours a rich deep and burnished orange color. Heady aromas of bourbon, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and clove linger seductively over the thick white head of this tremendous brew. Its love at first sip as the full malt body, dominated by British crystal malt, brown sugar and pumpkin, slowly washes over your tongue. Bourbon barrel aging rounds out the flavors with notes of oak, vanilla, and bourbon. Pairs well with crisp autumn weather, crunchy fallen leaves, and the knowledge that your kids will be asleep soon so you can raid their Halloween candy bags.
This one comes in bombers and obviously on draft since Gravity Growlers has it.
This brew definitely changes as it warms. The caramel flavors dominate when it’s colder. The pumpkin and spice and bourbon flavors start to dominate as it warms. Brett added, “This is what we expect from craft beer. Five years ago there was nothing like this.” I have a funny feeling a bunch of brewers would disagree. I just think there are way too many craft brewers out there and we just haven’t gotten to them yet. Hmmmm. With that thought there’s always next weekend.