With only two ingredients, water and honey, a panoply of flavors present themselves. Although it’s just honey in hot water, the smells can send the mind to another place: overcoming coughs as an elementary school student, baking in grandma’s kitchen, or a summer stop at the Amish farmstand.
This multifaceted aroma wafts out of Guinness’ Crosslands Clover Honey Ale, along with a unique yeast bouquet and a mild hop character, creating a dance of spicy esters, herbaceousness, and a wallop of honey.
“Our Crosslands series of beers always uses a local ingredient. With this beer we used clover honey from Apex Apiary [on Maryland’s Eastern Shore]. It’s 7% ABV. Drinks smooth with a nice honey character on the finish,” according to Guinness Open Gate pilot brewer Todd Perkins, who previously brewed at Dogfish Head and Fredericks’ Brewer’s Alley and Monocacy.
The Clover Honey Ale is the only canned offering in Guinness’ lineup of six specialty beers brewed specifically for St. Patrick’s Day, 2020. The other beers include a Black Currant Stout (5.5% ABV), Irish Breakfast Amber (4.8% ABV), Coffee Stout (5.3% ABV), Red Currant Sour (4.9% ABV), and Hop Tea (1% ABV). As Guinness Open Gate has cancelled its Saint Patrick’s Day festivities, the Honey Ale is the only beer in this release that can be taken home for consumption.
Wonderfully pale, Honey Ale pours with a pillowy, rocky white head. In many ways, this beer is the best of what Guinness’ Open Gate brewery has to offer: traditional in that it is a pale, easy-drinking beer, with classic Guinness yeast, but modern in that it uses a new fermentation profile, an only-available-in-Maryland product provided by Apex Bee Farm, and Loral hops.
Loral honors the old tradition of “noble” Old World hops, in this case French. The mother of Loral is the centuries old Tardif du Bourgogne. Grown in America, Loral is a hybrid of newer American and noble parentage. Like many modern hops, Loral was released in 2016, it provides a potent aromatic touch in the beer. The hop’s name is a combination of the descriptors lemon and floral. Honey Ale is certainly packed full of floral and citrus flavor, “It is a great hop. Has an almost tea-like character,” Guinness brewer Perkins says. To see it in use closer to us, try Bluejacket lagers Love Cats or For the Company, for heavy and light hands of Loral, respectively.
From a sensory perspective, Crosslands Honey Ale lands somewhere between a saison and Pilsner; the yeast character is like that of a subdued farmhouse beer. The malt and hop balance works harmoniously, not too much of each. Though the ABV is too high for Pilsner, it is equally quaffable as a well rounded pale Bohemian lager with a charming yeast character.
According to Perkins, “Guinness yeast really has a very unique character depending on what the fermentation temp is.” And it is very clear there was an excellent attention to detail taken with this beer as it came out of the cellar. “It is the Dublin yeast with a warmer fermentation temp to produce more esters. We added the honey at the end of boil,” Perkins notes, and in tandem they make for a beer well suited to the American palate albeit quite different from the stouts for which Guinness is best known.
Crosslands Clover Honey Ale, a distinctly Maryland product using Guinness’ yeast, will be available for purchase only at the Open Gate brewery. If you are feeling well and would like to venture out before social distancing, consider picking up a six-pack or two. Or, if you want to look after your neighbors, perhaps a case, and sprinkle cans liberally across neighborhood doorsteps.