The label on the can of Creature Comforts’ new Table Beer features the enticing words “for food and friends.”
But the limited edition ale will be available to fulfill that promise for only a very short time. And that’s a shame, because like the Athens brewery’s other recent seasonal offering, Automatic Pale Ale, it’s perfectly suited for year-round enjoyment.
If you’re wondering where the name comes from, table beer is a style that’s been around for a long time, originating in Belgium, with some examples found in France and England. As styles go, though, it’s a pretty amorphous one.
Almost everyone agrees that table beer should be relatively low in alcohol and food-friendly. Beyond that, the fundamentals of water, malt, hops and yeast seem to be quite mutable.
Creature Comforts’ first stab at the style came out last year and was called Epicurious — that is, until the website of the same name sent a cease-and-desist letter for trademark infringement.
Billed as “a beer that a chef will want to drink and serve with their food,” Epicurious was notable as a project that included two prominent executive chefs, Ryan Smith of Atlanta’s Staplehouse, and Peter Dale of Athens’ the National, who partnered to provide their perspectives on the beer.
And so the ideal of a culinary beer was expanded to a degree that upped the ante.
“The way we approach the beers is that we offer to try to have a diverse lineup,” Creature Comforts co-founder and head brewer David Stein says. “And we felt that doing a Belgian-influenced style would fill a gap.
“De la Senne Taras Boulba, a hoppy blonde ale from Belgium, was an inspiration. It’s not a specific style, but it’s light and refreshing and low in alcohol, with a good, firm bitterness that balances the sweetness you often get from those styles.”
The Creature Comforts team experimented with several Belgian yeast strains, and came up with a recipe that uses Pilsner malt, as well as spelt and flaked oats, with a smooth combination of Slovenian Styrian Golding, French Strisselspalt, and American Lemondrop hops.
The result is an easy-drinking beer, with earthy floral aromas and flavors, and soft lemony-citrus notes that come together to match a wide variety of food styles, from French to Asian.
“What continues to be our main focus for this beer is to push people to try it with food,” Stein says. “We initially brainstormed with chefs to find out what they thought would be a really food-friendly beer, and that went into the recipe.
“But I think it’s a beer for all occasions, that also works really well at the table. I typically say table beer is similar to a saison but lower in alcohol. In that sense, it’s super versatile, but like saison, almost every one is a little bit different.”
Look for Creature Comforts Table Beer around Atlanta on draft and in 12-ounce cans over the next few weeks, and at the Creature Comforts tasting room in Athens.
If you can’t find Creature Comforts Table Beer, and want to try another American version of the style, Allagash offers its Hoppy Table Beer year-round now, on draft and in 12-ounce bottles.
The Portland, Maine, brewing company is a craft pioneer in Belgian-style ale. This one is brewed with Maris Otter malt and oats, spiced with a bit of coriander, and fermented with a house Belgian yeast. Chinook, Cascade, Comet and Azacca hops present aromas and flavors of citrus and pine with a clean finish. And like all good table beers, it’s very sessionable, and makes a fine mealtime sipper.