We stopped back by Steel String in Carrboro, reviewed by Mike and The Brew Crew back in June, because we’d heard they were branching out a bit in their beers. We’d heard right: of the five Steel String beers on tap this week, two were grisettes. Grisettes are typically light farmhouse-style ales designed to quench the thirst of French miners in the 1800s. They’re refreshing, low-alcohol beers typically topping out at around 5% abv. Steel String now has some of its own bottles for sale, has BYOV (bring your own vinyl for record-playing nights, trivia and a steady stream of live music. But despite the great Carrboro location and the nice taproom, the unusual beers were taking center stage for us.
The Big Mon IPA, their signature beer, was still on tap along with the Rubber Room Session Ale. (For some notes on the IPA and session ales, click here.) We agreed with the Brew Crew and enjoyed the clean, crisp session ale, which we thought had some bitter herbal notes from the hops.
NoQuarter Coffee Stout – 7.4% abv. The NoQuarter has a rich coffee nose. Although it’s lightly roasted and has only slight coffee bitterness and without the lactose from milk stouts, don’t assume it’s watered down: this beer still has the full coffee kick (courtesy of Carrboro Coffee Roasters’ beans).
Sailor’s Warning Grisette – 4.7% abv. The Sailor’s Warning has an ocean spray smell with deep currants on the nose. The sea salt flavor washes your tongue initially (the front of the tongue is designed to pick up salty flavors), with a tart berry flavor serving as the second note while the salt lingers on the finish. However, the tart berry flavor lacks the pucker of a sour and is a good thirst quencher. This was Aaron’s favorite beer at Steel String.
Bustle in Your Hedgerow Grisette — 5% abv. I thought this was the most successful beer on tap tonight. It has a full sour nose with some tropical and light salt notes, but again lacks the pucker of a tart beer on the flavor. It was a cloudy straw yellow, as opposed to reddish brown of the Sailor’s Warning grisette. The beer gives the slight illusion of some sweetness at first, but it isn’t there: it’s all foraged yuzu in the brew. It’s a mellower, understated, but subtly complex fruit (like a tropical citrus). Standout.
Virginia Fitt lives somewhere on the border of Orange County and Durham city limits, and loves risk-taking brewers who use local ingredients, sours, Bretts/wild ales, strange collaborations, and all good beers.