The first time I experienced Till and Toil, the farmhouse saison from the Garland-based Lakewood Brewing Company, the beer was blonde and nearly crystal clear. Light and floral hoppy notes danced in my nose with every sip, and a subtle backdrop of citrus marked what I found to be an exceptional beer.
Later, at the same bar, a second glass of Till and Toil looked completely different. The brew was opaque and murky. It didn't feel as light to me. Since the beer is obviously unfiltered (remaining yeast is what clouds many beers) I thought maybe someone had jostled switched out the keg. But since then, with the exception of one glass I sampled at a recent brewery tour, every glass of Till and Toil I've ordered has been cloudy.
Wim Bens, who owns and operates the brewery, says the variation is perfectly normal. Every time a keg is moved, the yeast gets stirred up and distributed throughout the beer. So a keg that's just been delivered to the bar, or one that has been recently moved in the cooler, will often draw cloudy beer. After the keg settles a bit more, the beer will begin to pour more clearly like that one I first sampled.
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The only problem is that it takes a day or two for a keg to completely settle out, and Till and Toil has developed a fan base sufficient enough to kick kegs at many bars in less than two days. The kegs have no time to clear before the next one is tapped. And of course moving the next keg will often stir up the yeast enough for a few more days of cloudy beer.
The good news is it doesn't matter -- the variation is all part of drinking a seasonal farmhouse saison and other unfiltered bears. According to Bens the yeast won't hurt the flavor, and the variation is part of the fun of exploring his seasonal brew.
And seasonality, of course, points to the coming bad news. Lakewood Brewing has brewed its final batch for the year. Bens says he has about 40 or 50 kegs of the golden nectar left in his coolers, and then they're gone till next spring. With kegs disappearing at local bars this quickly, there are likely only a few weeks' worth of Till and Toil left.
Don't get too sad about the beer's departure, though. Bens just started the first batch of his next seasonal brew this week. Dubbed Zomer (summer) Pilsner, the new, all Belgian Malt beer will be available in three to four weeks -- just in time to replace Till and Toil.