The beers and decor at Land Grant Brewing are predominantly sports themed, the most obvious exception being the flagship 1862 Kolsch inspired by a dead senator. While Justin Morrill does sport sideburns that would give Wolverine a run for his money, his visage is more likely to be confused with George Washington than Motorhead bassist Lemmy Kilmister. So I was surprised when I learned they are pouring a series of saisons inspired by British heavy metal band Judas Priest at the Franklinton taproom.
The unexpected twist in theme is driven by production manager/assistant brewer Mark Richards, creator of the Judas Priest Saison Series (JPSS). When I asked Mark about his motivation for this move he told me that they were looking to make some small batch taproom-only beers that would appeal to hard core beer geeks. Intrigued I made my way down to the taproom this week to try the first offering in the series, The Sentinel, a big 10.4% abv imperial saison fitting of the heavy metal theme.
Served in a snifter, The Sentinel, is an unfiltered hazy golden amber beer topped with a minimal white head a few millimeters thick (at least as poured in the taproom). The nose screams Belgium with fruity esters leading the way and spicy phenols following close behind. The fruity, spicy flavors that are so closely associated with the saison yeast strain are front and center in the taste as well. While the fruity character of the beer is unmistakable the mix of flavors makes it difficult to pick out specific fruits. If pressed I’d say there are elements of apricots, green grapes, and pears but you may perceive a slightly different mix. The fruity flavors and alcohol give the perception of sweetness but in fact the beer is about as dry as you can make a 10% abv beer. That is to say not as dry as your typical saison, but nowhere near cloying. The alcohol is extremely well hidden for such a big beer, so approach with the same caution you would if entertaining the notion of a long submarine voyage with the aging, leather clad, British rockers.
The Sentinel is an impressive way to lead off the JPSS. Following age-old traditions that originated in the monasteries of Belgium, Richards added sugar at the end of the boil to boost the abv without imparting the maltiness of most high abv beers. The result drinks more like a Belgian golden strong than a saison, which is not necessarily a bad thing (think Brooklyn Local #1 for a comparable beer). Unfortunately the supply of The Sentinel was on its last legs when I visited the taproom this past Thursday. Not to worry though because the next beer in the series, a black saison dubbed The Hellion, is in the fermenter and should soon be available in the taproom. The third beer in the JPSS is rumored to be a hibiscus saison, but the details are still to be worked out.
If you think Land Grant is only about easy drinking sessionable beers you’ve got another thing coming.
Disclaimer – Mark Richards is a friend and part time photographer for this blog. Plus there are several Judas Priest disks in the authors CD collection.