Southern Tier Brewing Company “Farmers Tan” Imperial Pilsner

November 15, 2011

Modern American craft beer making is spreading like kudzu and in order to better grab the consumer’s attention sometimes a clever marketing ploy is necessary. Let’s face it; someone can bottle liquid gold but when there’s hundreds from which to choose and the customer doesn’t know the difference between Corona and Chimay, a little creative license helps draw the eye “this way.” A funny picture or witty phrase can be all the difference when Joe Six-pack is grabbing a brew to take home.

This is not to suggest that anyone’s decision making process should be determined by gimmicks or fancy advertising. Please, for everyone’s palate’s sake, always make an informed choice. But there are times where something catches the eye, elicits a chuckle and causes one to say, “Okay, now I’ve got to try that.” That’s how the Farmers Tan Imperial Pilsner from Southern Tier reeled me in the other day.

I’ve reviewed Southern Tier’s beers many times and the reason I keep going back to them is, simply, they always make great product. So, now that the funny name got me to bite, how does it stand apart from the pack? Pilsner as a style usually falls into two categories: Is it good or is it awful? I can remember trying a beer in beautiful Idar-Oberstein, Germany called Kerner Pils. It tasted like the canned corn you’d get on your tray in your elementary school cafeteria.

By virtue of how pilsner is made, traditionally there’s very little room for variation. Leave it to maverick American brewers who hold no qualms about tinkering with the tried and true. Even calling a beer an Imperial pilsner may be construed as a marketing ploy of its own. The definition of “Imperial” seems vague when applied to beer. These days anyone who ups the alcohol content and uses a ton of expensive ingredients can call their beer “Imperial.” Thankfully, Southern Tier gets it right.

I’m still not sure why there’s a chicken sporting a farmer’s tan on the bottle. The name is a tribute to those who toil in the fields to bring us the ingredients essential to making beer. So why a chicken? Never mind… the beer’s the star here. They could’ve called it Compound Fracture or Head Lice Shake and I’d still enjoy the flavor of this lager family member.

Farmers Tan is bright gold in color with a moderate head that disappears a little too quick but leaves behind nice lacing. All the apropos scents are here: grass, hay, malted grain with a touch of vanilla. The flavor pops with Noble hop bitterness and spice setting it apart from the usual pilsner expectations. Citrusy and floral, there’s some pepper notes here along with some apple and malt sweetness. A long, lingering finish of spicy hops stays for days.