Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, Baby Tree

Grade: B+
Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project

Pours dark brown amber, with a tan head that laces the glass well. It's almost completely opaque, with a decent amount of bubbles in the glass. The nose is a nice example of a Belgian quad, with plum and banana aromas mixing with some of the biscut and bread from the malt. Of course no hop aromas, which is appropriate. Mouthfeel is relatively heavy at first, a bit coating on the tongue, but the carbonation and dryness comes through in the back and aftertaste. Oddly enough, I've never had a beer that starts this full in the mouthfeel and ends so dry. The malt takes a more forward role in the flavor, some caramel and toast coming through with the plum and banana-like yeast esters following. There is a touch of cidery acidity, possibly from the addition of extra sugars, which is typical of the Belgian quadruple style. It would also explain the crisp finish, and the warming sensation as you drink.

One of the things that make Belgian beers what they are is the use of special strains of yeast that produce those plum/banana/clove flavors, without actually adding plums, bananas, or cloves to the beer. The yeast tricks your palate into thinking that those ingredients are there, when in fact nothing was added to the beer at all. Some sub-par brewers, hoping to mimic those Belgian flavors without using the same yeast (which can be difficult to control sometimes) add actual plums, bananas, and spices to their beers. If you put a well brewed Belgian next to one of those beers, you will see the difference immediately.

Pretty Things takes a different approach, by adding an ingredient that accents one of the characteristics of their Belgian yeast, instead of trying to replace it. Not only is the flavor impacted, but the mouthfeel of the beer is as well. I believe that the fullness and roundness I detected in the beginning of my palate when drinking this beer was due to the presence of the plums that were added. The B+ rating is only due to the fact that the bigger, older, and more traditional Belgian breweries do a slightly better job of this style. However they do have centuries of experiance behind them, and Pretty Things started LAST YEAR. I think that's nothing to sneeze at.

Overall I think that Pretty Things is a brewery that everyone should be watching. Their beers are simple yet interesting, traditional yet unique, and generally they just taste damn good. Their freshman lineup of a quadruple with plums, a traditional northern english brown, a sour ale with cherries, and an American saison speak volumes about this brewery. Look for more interesting and solid beers from Pretty Things in the future, because I know I will.