I finally had the opportunity to head down to Gruff Brewing Co’s taproom. What a beautiful space and location! The taproom is warm, comfortable, and open with exposed wood overhead, a massive flat screen TV, and two nice pinball machines. The outdoor area is dog friendly and offers beautiful westward views perfect for sunset and water gazing. The place was fairly packed for a Thursday evening, which was nice to see.
Now, before we talk beer I feel a few qualifications or acknowledgements are in order. First and foremost, making beer is hard work physically and mentally. The sweat, worry, and sometimes tears that are part and parcel to your pint at the bar should not go unnoticed. Lastly my opinion, good or bad, certainly is not gospel. While I try to be objective, personal preference and perception are admittedly a part of this gig.
So let’s get this on the table. Gruff Brewing Co’s Blonde Ale wasn’t great nor was it terrible. It was just ok, and here’s why: off flavor and aroma. Blonde ale should be a fairly straightforward showcase of ingredients and brewing process: a moderately malt-forward and minimally bitter craft beer nod to mass-produced lager. Blonde ale is oftentimes considered a gateway to craft beer for the habitual macro-brewed domestic drinker.
Simply put, my pint of Gruff’s Blonde Ale had enough diacetyl aroma and flavor present to consistently interfere with the intended experience of this style. A central problem with diacetyl is this: if there’s enough present it becomes increasingly noticeable as the beer warms. Flavor and scent reminiscent of buttered movie popcorn and/or butterscotch are not welcome additions to the blonde ale style. There was also an odd lingering bitterness at the back of my palate throughout this pint. Gruff’s Blonde Ale wasn’t undrinkable, but it didn’t leave me eager for another pint.
It wasn’t all bad news though. The nearly brilliant color of Gruff’s Blonde Ale is beautiful and just a shade darker than golden. Carbonation was crisp and on point. The nice medium-thick white head lasted about a quarter way through my pint.
All this said, I will definitely go back to check in at Gruff Brewing Co soon. The guys have a great space, friendly staff, and plenty of craft beer drinkers in the taproom. And we should understand that things go awry at the most hallowed of breweries. A large established brewery might be able to absorb a dumped batch, while getting every batch out the door might be crucial to keep a smaller brewery afloat. Shit happens. Yeast wrangling is part science and part art, and brewing is an unforgiving process. Individual thresholds for off flavors and aromas vary. So let’s not pass too strong a judgment based on one pint of beer. Regardless I congratulate Gruff Brewing Co on an impressive space and location, and look forward to trying an improved batch of blonde soon.