Brew Review

Beer Review – Southampton Publick House Biere De Mars


I first had this beer last summer at The Alemonger’s, and I remember enjoying it immensely. This was my first Farmhouse Ale and I liked it so much that it inspired me to try several other Farmhouse Ales over the past year. When I saw that The Foodery had it in stock, I immediately picked up a bottle to take home. Here is what Southampton Publick House has to say about this beer:

“Southampton’s Biere de Mars is brewmaster Phil Markowski’s classic interpretation of an authentic French farmhouse-style Biere de Mars. Our version is brewed with a blend of wheat and barley malts and a generous amount of continental hops. It is cool fermented and aged to give it a clean, smooth, lager-like character”

  • Appearance: Pale orange color. Made a whole lot of fizzy noises when first poured, but sadly, all that commotion amounted to nothing, i.e. zero head. Virtually no lacing.
  • Aroma: Mild citrus, spice, and yeast notes. I wish I could tell you more about the aromas, but I either have a cold, or my seasonal allergies are kicking in, so I’m having a hard time picking out much else.
  • Taste: Light carbonation. This is a very mild tasting beer. Very little malt sweetness. Little to no hop bitterness. Has that dry white wine finish that I’ve come to  expect from a Farmhouse Ale.
  • ABV: 6.5%

What a difference a year makes! I was very underwhelmed by the Southampton Biere de Mars this time around. The Beer Advocate reviews speak of  fluffy heads, caramel maltiness, herbal notes, and many more interesting smells and flavors. Sadly, I experienced none of these things. Maybe I picked up a subpar bottle, or perhaps my cold/allergies have temporarily numbed my taste buds.  All I can say is that it left me uninspired.

11 replies »

  1. Hey G-LO! Good review. I’ve experienced inconsistencies in Southampton’s White. Really good a few years back, then later I bought some and was very disappointed. Inconsistent taste buds? Who knows?

    As for Farmhouse Ales, I’m not a huge fan of the lighter style beers (kolsches, pilsners). I like my full flavored higher abv bevs. But with that said, I often judge a good brewery by how unique and interesting their lighter beers are. Since you like Farmhouse Ales, here are three that I really like: 1) Flying Fish Farmhouse Ale – I believe you’ve heard of them; 2) Smuttynose Farmhouse Ale – they’re masters with classic styles; and 3) Ommegang Funkhouse Ale – After paying $15 for a bottle, I looked it up online and someone described it as tasting like funky horse blanket. Actually, it’s mild, full flavored, with subtle wild yeast flavor. Really nice, really interesting. I got lucky though – lesson learned, check out the review BEFORE you buy the beer!

    Cheers beers!
    Paula

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  2. Yo Paula!

    Your Kolsch & Pilsner comments are similar to comments made by The Wookie, i.e. that it’s more difficult to make good versions of lighter style beers. Since my “Travels With Barley” (great book by the way!) have taken me from Pilsners to barrel aged Imperial Stouts and everywhere in between, I would have to agree with this statement. Since the lighter beers have fewer ingredients, you have to really know what you’re doing as a brewer to make them taste exceptional. While IPAs and Farmhouse Ales have been my favorite beer styles this past year, I have also grown to appreciate a really well made Pilsner. I can thank the Sam Adams Noble Pils for this renewed appreciation.

    As far as the Farmhouse Ales go, while I have not yet tried the three you mentioned (Smuttynose is always on my list and Flying Fish is practically in our backyard), I have experienced a wide variety of them over the past twelve months. Without a doubt, the different versions from Brasserie Dupont are my favorite. Though I’m fairly new to the style, it’s my understanding that they are usually a very rustic type of beer (cloudy, fizzy, and very very funky). The Brasserie Dupont versions possess these qualities. I’ve had several American versions as well, and while some of them have been really tasty (Stone’s Saison du BUFF and Goose Island Sofie are two of the better US versions that I’ve had), I feel like they may be a bit too refined and not funky enough. Kinda like the difference between pasteurized cheese and non-pasteurized cheese. Thoughts?

    Cheers!
    G-LO

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    • Wait …. did G-lo just agree with a statement I made? Excellent!

      Light (in flavor and color) beers are hard to make with consistency. While Bud is not a favorite of mine it’s hard to argue that the taste and appearance are not consistent no matter where you get it. Their quality control is one of things, maybe the only one, that I admire about “Big Beer”. I have gotten plenty of light “craft beers” that have been wonderful one time and horrible the next.

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  3. I do love sour, funky, wet horse blanket beers, but I’ve never detected those qualities in the farmhouse ales I’ve had, unless they were specifically sour beers – like Jolly Pumpkin. Maybe you’re right, the American versions are more refined. Ommegang’s Funkhouse even has only a very very mild funk to it. You’ve peaked my interest with the Brasserie Dupont – I prefer rustic over refined. Will give that one a try.

    Paula

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    • I actually had a pint of the Saison Dupont the other night at The Pourhouse. Since it’s a bottle fermented beer, I’m thinking it may actually be better in bottle form. While it was good on draught, it didn’t have the big, fluffy head that it’s had when poured from the bottle. Then again, it was served in a pint glass, so maybe that had something to do with it. I’ve reviewed the Saison Dupont twice and also another one of their beers (Avec Les Bonnes something or other. French escapes me!). Give them a try and let me know what you think.

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  4. So here’s my take on domestic Belgian Farmhouse style brews versus the real thing from the place that’s been doing them a bit longer and that also offers up a fair chocolate or two….

    They really have to considered as two distinct styles and not compared directly against one another (despite the parallels). Usually, the American versions of classic craft beer styles are more aggressive, more irreverent, more muscular…more “American”. With some styles such as IPAs the American attitude transforms the style – some would say – elevates the style (I’m one of them).

    Belgian Farmhouses and German Hefs are two of the few styles that tend to get a more subtle treatment on this side of the pond. In my experience, both styles are more flavorful and more robust in their home countries than they are here. American Farmhouse Ales tend to be a cross between Pales and Belgian Farmhouses (with the notable exceptions of Ommegang and Jolly Pumpkin which pride themselves on strictly adhering to traditional Belgian brewing processes). Southampton’s Bierre De Mars is a perfect example of the domestic Belgian Farmhouse style ale. It has most, if not all, of the classic flavor profile but the fuller flavors are more subdued – they blend into more of an American Pale profile. I also think Southampton uses a less assertive yeast which results in a naked horse as opposed to a blanketted one (or something like that).

    Anyway, I still enjoy Bierre De Mars though not nearly as much as many other domestic Farmhouse style brews – certainly not as much as I enjoy Saison Dupont or other real deal Belgian Foarmhouses – but, again, the direct comparison is unfair.

    Cheers!
    @TheAlemonger

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    • Well said! I think you are right on when comes to comparisons between the domestic and the “original”. The American spin on most classic brewing styles generally takes taste off on a different tangent. Usually for the good, sometimes not, and other times they domestic brewers essentially create a new style.

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    • While this is a well balanced and thoughtful response (and one with which I completely agree), whoever said beer criticism has to be fair? I stand by my criticism of the Biere de Mars. Loved it last year. Not so much this year. Stone Saison du BUFF, Goose Island Sofie, and even the Great Divide Colette are infinitely better interpretations of the American style Farmhouse Ale.

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