SweetTarts. Never liked ’em. During my formative years, I learned, within seconds, that the ‘sour’ profile just didn’t turn the wheels for me. After basketball practice at the old CYC, you’d find the candy-machines nudged up against the wall as you descended the gym. A nickel could get you a handful of those SweetTarts, but I always chalked that up as a complete waste of 5 cents.
Fast-forward to the present-day. And I’d have to say that I feel pretty much the same. The ‘sour’ is still a bit dour for me when it comes to Farmhouse ales. They were the rage (and perhaps still are) several years ago. You couldn’t turn sideways in a beer-shop without your pelvis knocking over a 22-ounce bottle of one. Or ten.
So I commend the fine folks in Downingtown, PA for tricking the hell out of me. Nicely played. When I spotted Helios Ale from Victory Brewing on the top shelf of a Primos Deli cooler, it simply looked….happy….to be there. And the description on the back seemed lengthy, and average. I started to read it, but immediately got caught up in conversation with Paula, so I skipped the rest of the words and skipped on up to the register.
I congratulated myself on the $3.99 sticker. But when I arrived at home and actually perused the entire description, visions of SweetTarts thumped in my head. Damn. ‘Farmhouse’.
But I was singing its praises last night on the front deck. Wow.
Victory claims it as a ‘Belgian Farmhouse Ale’, of the 7.5% variety. It’s also, as I understand it, a sort of a ‘replacement’ beer for their previously-known V-Saison. A video on their site explains the alteration, but I still don’t completely understand it. Unless, of course, by intoning ‘making Helios Ale more approachable’ they also mean pleading with former SweetTarts-haters like me to give it a second try. If so, then that video should probably get an Oscar.
Helios Ale pours orange and hazy, a sort of Sunkist-bottle-conditioned thickness. Head-retention is solid and attractive. I happily allowed it to get comfy with a near-windless evening. (the Indians were playing the A’s, and the label’s hues somehow reminded me of the visiting team’s uniforms. Coincidence?)
The up-front sour-esque squelch is tempered by really extravagant hop-balance. I mean, delightfully-so! I sense black pepper overtones, and maybe some grass. (or it could be that Coop, down the street, is sending clippings into the air and messing with my mind. If so, he needs to stop. I need clarity…and ‘quiet’, since it is past 8 o’clock in the evening!)
Frankly, I think Victory designed this beer for me. The sour tentacles don’t reach out as far as other Farmhouse ales, and the remaining space is remarkably balanced with assorted Czech and British hops. It has tart-ness, but not of the lip-puckering variety. And, really, none of the overly cloying acid burn that causes you (or, me, at least) to squint and whistle.
I believe this Belgian Farmhouse Ale might be able to dislodge a few of those damaging SweetTarts memories after all.
The folks from Philly have done it again. Helios Ale is a winner. And, coincidentally, so was the Tribe. Sour: it’s not just for SweetTarts anymore.