There are a number of little known beer styles. By little known, I mean to the general population. Serious beer geeks will likely have heard of them if not actually tried on. An obvious example that has been resurrected in recent years is Gose which is something like a salty witbier in many ways. Another is Grätzer or Grodziskie, a sort of a smoked wheat beer. I won't describe them in any detail but both have made comebacks recently.
Two I had never heard of until recently were Grisette and Kentucky Common. I love exploring new things so as soon as I had the chance, I gave them a try.
From the same book, it appears to have been the drink of coal miners in Belgium's Hainaut province. The difference between a saison and a grisette seems to be more about who drank them. Farmers drank saison, mines drank grisette. The beer styles themselves seem to be very similar in description. Modern saisons are much higher in alcohol than they used to be. The biggest difference between them seems to have been lactic acid. Grisettes didn't have that lactic sourness according to Phil. Did To Øl release a genuine grisette then? At 5.4% it seems to be a little higher than expected but not by much. There's lemon sherbet and citrus on the nose, a beautiful aroma that promises a refreshing beer. It was very bitter and with lots of late hops. It reminded me of some sort of bitter lemonade. The mouthfeel was somewhat watery. There was a slight sourness at the end and the finish was dry. So, we can tick the "refreshing" box as well as the "light body" box. Colour was fine, a golden amber colour. The sourness and bitterness is where we have a problem. So where does that leave us?Oral accounts of those who remember the old grisettes say the were low alcohol, light bodied, saison like golden ales of no great distinction. Indeed the intention was to was to be dry and refreshing as is the case with saison. According to Leon Voisin, grisettes were relatively clean blond ales of 3 to 5% alcohol content that mimicked the refreshing character of saison (only hops were the source of "refreshing" character as opposed to lactic acid sourness of old saison).From Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski
The official description says: Twisted with a smack load of hops and fermented with brettanomyces. So clearly, they took an old style and twisted it a little to produce what I can only describe as an awesome beer. Then, that's the point of the Fuck Art series. To take a style of beer and fuck with it a little.
So what about a Kentucky Common then? Recent Irish brewery, Wicklow Wolf have released one. I tried it last night. I was surprised by the colour, I wrongly assumed that a Kentucky Common was probably a little like a California common and expected a lager like beer. It poured like a porter or brown ale.
Here's a great PDF on the BJCP website that goes in to a lot of technical and historical detail but if you don't want to read it, here's a condensed description of the beer from wikipedia:
It was usually made with barley, approximately 25 to 30 percent corn, and a percentage of rye with some artificial coloring, caramel, or roasted malt to give it a dark color. It had an original gravity of 1.040-1.050, an average bitterness of 27 IBU. Brewers basically inverted a bourbon grain bill, conducted a sour mash (similar to bourbon) and instead of distilling the mash, they ran off the sweet (and sour) wort and boiled it with hops. When cooled, brewers yeast was pitched and within a few weeks they had a very interesting beer style. When made properly, the beer is an easy-drinking, slightly sour brown ale.So, the expectation is a brown ale that's not very bitter and has a slight sourness. It would appear that the wikipedia article is a little wrong in that according to the historical brewing records, no sour mash was used and instead the beer was essentially infected with a lactobacillus bacteria strain.
How was the Wicklow Wolf version? As I recall, it was a very tasty beer and essentially a nutty brown ale with an ever so slight sour note. I will be having this again at my earliest convenience. I didn't take any tasting notes as it was the last beer of a very long night and it was kicking out time in The Norseman, one of the best pubs in Dublin for Irish Craft Beer and certainly the best in the Temple Bar area.