Augusta Brewing: Fresh from the Farm
By Eric and Mimi Griffith
I have to be honest with you, more than once I have walked past bottles of Augusta Farmhouse Ales on the shelves at my local bottle shop and thought, “maybe next time.” So when I saw them at beer school this week, my “next time” had finally arrived. This was my chance to see what those caged-corked bottles contained, and decide if I made a mistake, every time I left the store without an Augusta brew in my hand.
Augusta Brewing Company is located west of St. Louis along the Katy Trail in (you guessed it) Augusta, Missouri. You can drive or bike to the brewery and enjoy a pint in their beer garden or you can find their bottled beer throughout the St. Louis area. They have special beer and music events throughout the year at the farm and I would suggest checking their calendar so you don’t miss out.
Terry Heisler, owner of Augusta Brewery.
The biggest news to come out of Augusta last year happened on April 30th when it was announced that the brewery had new owners. Jeri and Terry Heisler bought the brewery and promoted Shawn Herrin to head brewer. Terry spoke to us about the brewery and about his passion for beer which he acquired as he traveled the globe in the military. His excitement and enthusiasm were hard to contain and I thought he might bounce off the stage and run around the room as he described the brewery and the current line-up of beers. When an owner has that type of energy and commitment to the brand it makes me want to go out and try the product and I appreciate Terry bringing that level of intensity to beer school.
Shawn Herrin - Head Augusta brewer
Once the samples were poured, Augusta’s head brewer, Shawn Herrin, took the stage and one of the first questions was about his age. Shawn is 26 years old and that may seem young for a head brewer, but once you listen to him discuss beer and see his resume: Biology degree from Mizzou, Associates degree from Siebel Institute (brewing), 4 years of professional brewing, Gold Medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival, Gold Medal at the Brewer Olympics at last year’s Microfest, you start to understand why Shawn is in charge of the beer at Augusta. And while most of us were trading baseball cards at age 9, Shawn was watching his dad brew at home and learning how to create the perfect glass of beer.
Augusta Brewing looks to impart an old-world, country farm feel to their brand and to their beers. Tonight we explored their Farmhouse Ale Series which revolves around the idea that historically farmers, especially in Belgium, brewed beer to be consumed by their workers during and after a long hard day in the fields. These beers were expected to be thirst quenching, yet flavorful, and tended to take on the notes of the local terroir, much like wine.
She says- Our first sample was the witbier which was light blond in color, clear and crisp. Non-typical spices of lemongrass and ginger were used in making it. This would be a good session beer at 5% ABV and was suggested to pair well with fish and Asian dishes. It would make a good gateway beer for a newbie.
He says- I am greeted by a wonderful nose of honey and ginger and a splash of mango. Perfect thirst quencher on a hot day because the taste is not as sweet as the nose and the thin mouthfeel and dry finish encourage you to keep coming back for more.
She says- The nose on this one is subtle and sweet. There are notes of fig, stone fruit, black pepper and clove. It is a very smooth beer with a lovely flavor. I’m not a huge saison lover but I really enjoyed this one.
He says- The amber color is darker than most saisons and I take note of the clove and banana aromas first. I don’t pick up the sourness of other saisons and I would compare the flavors more to a hefeweizen, which I thoroughly enjoy. The earthiness reminds you that this is a Belgian style beer and it goes down without a fight. Listed at 6.5% ABV, but you would never know it. Another thirst quencher as well.
Winter Ale- (on draft at Cicero’s)
She says- If I didn’t see this one poured out of a beer bottle I would have sworn someone gave me a root beer. It is very sweet with flavors of brown sugar, allspice, clove, anise and vanilla. There are a lot of flavors dancing in this one as it warmed up and I thought it would make a good after dinner beer. If you like a sweet beer you should try this one!
He says- Checking in at 8.3% ABV this dark brown seasonal poured with little to no head. My first sniff reveals winter notes of cinnamon, clove, allspice, brown sugar and nuts. A few sips later you really start to warm up and that is what I want from a winter seasonal. It is heavier than the first two beers and a little sticky, but in a good way as it coats your mouth spicy sweetness.
She says– This is a new label for Augusta. I thought of it as an IPA with a Belgian twist. It is hop forward but sweet on the finish. Five different hops were blended in this IPA; some of which from Europe so it is a little different from the American IPA’s I’m used to, but I found it very enjoyable.
He says- This 9% ABV IPA was released just 3 weeks ago, and we are pleased to try a sample. India Pale Ales now come in many forms and this one arrives in the form of a tripel combined with a double IPA. It is earthy and more English or Belgian in style, but contains enough hop bitterness to please the American palate. Although I did not perceive 70 IBUs, the brewer suggests that it does hit 70 bitterness units. Unfiltered and light in color, the sweet side of the beer creates a smooth bitterness if you can imagine. Definitely worth investigating for yourself.
The Last Sip
You may not want to cancel your future trip to Belgium, but these Belgian Style Farmhouse Ales from Augusta Brewing will provide you with a wonderful glimpse into the world of hand crafted, locally brewed small batch beers. With plans to add more beers to their line-up, including a couple barrel-aged varieties, and 12 ounce bottles in the near future, you should see more and more of Augusta Brewing and maybe next time you are at Cicero’s or walking down the beer aisle one of these beers will end up in your hand.
About the Authors – Husband and wife Eric and Mimi have been attending beer school for about a year now and love every minute of it. Mimi was born and raised in St. Louis. Besides sitting down with a fabulous pint of beer, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her horse. Eric was born and raised in Texas. He enjoys sports and searching for the next great beer. A search he says he has been on for five years and one that will certainly never end. Mimi, on the other hand, just realized beer actually has flavor about a year ago. After having moved away for a few years, in 2007, this happy couple moved back to St. Louis and is enjoying all the St. Louis beer scene has to offer, especially Cicero’s Beer School. Cicero’s is lucky to have such an enthusiastic couple writing the beer school blog!