Beer: Gardener’s Tale
Brewery: Kent Falls Brewing Co. (Kent, CT)
Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
5.2% ABV / N/A IBU
With almost any other style, an infusion of mint could spell doom – especially darker beers. Ballast Point’s Peppermint Victory at Sea is a perfect case in point, a perfectly good imperial porter ruined by an infusion of mouthwash, creating a really unpleasant medicinal effect. Gimmicky holiday beers aside, mint’s most natural fit would be for changing the character of a saison or farmhouse ale. Mint as a counterpoint to sourness – pairing a strong taste sensation with an equally bold one, a la a mint lemonade or a mint julep.
Sourness – in the form of a lemon-y/ lemon verbena type bouquet – is in abundance thanks to fermentation with what Kent Falls Brewing Co. calls a “mixed culture.” The 500ml bottle on shelves is the 2018 edition of Gardener’s Tale, which incorporates mint from a pasture on the Connecticut brewing company’s working farm; previous versions were infused with locally-sourced chocolate mint, pineapple mint, orange mint, and spearmint. Perhaps the biggest strike against Gardener’s Tale is that there isn’t enough mint to cut through the tartness created by the lactobacillus culture, which also truly drowns out the barley malt.
A finer balance, especially between the lemon and mint notes, could likely be achieved by using stronger strains of mint or aging Gardener’s Tale on mint. The mint infusion process probably takes place too late to really impact the character of the beer. What’s left is a fairly drinkable, albeit one-dimensional farmhouse ale, that offers a neutral canvas for further exploration. For the sake of science, I reserved part of the bottle and mixed 2 parts Gardener’s Tale to 1 part ginger ale, then served over crushed ice with a sprig of fresh mint. Gardener’s Tale fails to impress as a farmhouse ale, but in a shandy, it totally kicks ass.