Craft Beer Corner
Back Forty Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale
(Editor’s note: Cory Byrom, local craft beer enthusiast and home brewer from Peachtree City, shares his opinions on craft beer from all over the world.)
The story behind the name of Alabama brewery Back Forty is an interesting one. The term comes from old farming slang that refers to the land farthest from the barn. This land was said to be the hardest to farm and suffered from neglect. Back Forty founder Jason Wilson saw the parallels in his home state of Alabama, where up until very recently prohibition-era laws were still on the books that outlawed beer above 6% ABV, essentially cutting the state off from a huge chunk of the exploding craft beer market. As such, Alabama too suffered from neglect.
But Wilson and his cohorts aimed to change that once the laws started changing. A brewery in neighboring Mississippi lent them the space to get started with their flagship beer, Naked Pig Pale Ale, and the sale of that beer gave them the final push they needed to get Back Forty off the ground (there are few industries as friendly to competition as the craft brewing industry). Their second release was Truck Stop Honey, a brown ale flavored with local Alabama wildflower honey. It's a mild, medium-bodied beer meant to go down easy.
It does go down pretty easy, but the problem is it isn't really much of a brown ale. It's crystal clear and amber colored with almost no head or lacing to speak of. It's touch too sweet, likely due to the honey, but it doesn't really taste like honey per se. Honey ferments out for the most part, so it's pretty tough to get that essence to come through, even in a fairly mild-flavored beer such as this one. You get a little of it in the aroma, but in terms of flavor, this is simply an unremarkable amber. It's sweet, but also has hints of toasted grains, biscuity bread, and fruit. There's no nuttiness and little in the way of caramel or toffee notes, all of which are common to browns. There's also no real hop presence, so if you're averse to hoppy beers, then this might be one to check out.
Back Forty Truck Stop Honey isn't a bad beer by any stretch, it's just not a particularly interesting one either. It's also worth noting that part of Back Forty's philosophy is to sort of ease the Alabama market into the world of craft beer, starting with basic styles and then advancing into more creative territory from there. So just because Truck Stop Honey doesn't do a lot for me certainly doesn't mean there won't be more interesting beers coming from these guys. Manage your expectations going in (in other words, don't expect a brown ale), and you'll find yourself with an easy drinking, mostly balanced (it is a hair too sweet) ale that could be mistaken for a lager. It's clean and mild, and easy on the palate, but frankly just doesn't offer too much to convince me to have another glass. C+
* * *
(Cory Byrom is a stay-at-home dad to three young kids. He likes loud music and strong drinks, and in his spare time he enjoys listening to other people's stories. He hosts a monthly storytelling show in Atlanta called The Iceberg.)