Bee Keeping and Beer
Every May, we visit Sarah’s parents in Virginia. And every year, we visit the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Sarah and Cynthia squish some fibers and pet some sheep while Asa and I try to watch a sheep dog competition. It’s hard to stand on your toes very long, especially with a toddler on your shoulders.
But our first stop was the Milkhouse Brewery tent. It was right near the front entrance, but even at noon on the, they were running low on supplies. Last year, they had closed up shop before I could check it out.
I didn’t have a chance to chat with anyone behind the booth, and the sample pours were miniscule, but the few sips I had seemed, at the very least, not terrible. So I grabbed four bottles and dragged through barns and across fields for a few hours. Plenty of time to do some research on my phone.
Milkhouse Brewery is located at the Stillpoint Farm in rural Maryland –from what google tells me, somewhere outside Frederick. They raise sheep, keep bees, and grow their own hops. The beer range skews toward the classics – porter, stout, pale ale.
When we finally got home, I cracked open Goldie’s Best Bitter, a sessionable 4.5% pale ale brewed with wildflower honey and Cascade hops. It’s not strictly traditional, but it’s really good. The honey does a lot of heavy lifting, adding a aromatic floral sweetness to the beer. The Cascades are just there for balancing bitterness. I could do with a little more hop flavor, but it’s a real nice beer.
I definitely tasted the Dollyhyde Farmhouse Ale at the Wool Festival, I remember the thimbleful sample being incredibly dry and fizzy. I had to double check the board. This is definitely not a cider? OK. Dollyhyde is also brewed with honey but is complemented by additional chamomile. The beer is fermented with a Trappist ale yeast strain which explains the extreme attenuation. Dollyhyde is only 4.5%. This isn’t exactly a saison, the yeast character is pretty sedate. I’d figure it’s closer to a biere de garde. It’s light on the tongue with just floral scent like a light breeze in springtime.
At this point I was impressed. I opened up the Irish-style dry stout and was convinced. Milkhouse knows what it’s doing. Coppermine Creek is the third beer under 5% but it blew me away. It’s full bodied. It’s simple. Not a lot of coffee or chocolate. Just dry peanuts and plain crackers – charred around the edges, but still good. It’s the perfect bitter counterpoint to a chocolate cake.
That left us with only one beer left, Stairway, the classic India Pale Ale. In the days before the glitter bombs and the milkshakes, this is what an IPA was about. It’s a little simple – on the brown side of amber, featuring decidedly uncool Cascade hops. It tastes like beer with subtle notes of citrus and pine.
And at 7.2% it’s the strongest beer in the line up.
It’s not bad, but it’s not exactly what I’m looking for in an IPA these days.
It’s so refreshing to see a brewery making such an eclectic range of beers. None are exactly chained to the style guidelines, but each finds a way to taste familiar and new at the same time. And when half the beers on offer are so – I guess I’ll just say it – weak, it’s a pleasure to drink all of them by the pint.