Keeping Together | I Am Because We Are
Chicago has been undergoing a saisonissance recently. Including the 2017 debut of Afterthought Brewing (at our Saisonathon), three dedicated saison breweries that have opened in and around Chicago. While that’s not many compared to breweries that have opened in that time frame, it represents a big jump from the zero Chicago breweries solely dedicated to the style. (There are some – Off Color and Whiner come to mind – that focus heavily on the style but don’t brew it exclusively.) The most intriguing of those three has been Keeping Together.
Averie Swanson is the brains behind Keeping Together. She made her name as the head brewer of Jester King in Austin, Texas (noted for their farmhouse and wild ales). She then got her Master Cicerone certification and moved to Chicago in 2018. Averie brews out of Half Acre and releases her creations when they’re ready, which recently has been about once a month. Since their first release in December 2019, Keeping Together has released four beers – all saisons.
Their latest is I Am Because We Are, a 5.7% ABV mixed culture saison brewed with lavender-smoked barley, wheat malts, oats and EKG hops. It pours a straw golden color with some milky white highlights. Two fingers of head quickly fizzle away, leaving a thin layer rimming the glass.
As with most of Keeping Together’s beers (we’ve had both The Art of Holding Space and Architects of Harmony on the podcast), I Am Because We Are is subtle, complex, and balanced. Sweet smokiness dominates the aroma, but it’s balanced by barnyard, horse blanket, and slight floral notes. Behind this there are also some funky cheese notes and a certain breadiness. Tons of different aromas that balance as well as complementing each other.
I Am Because We Are strikes the tongue lightly and effervescently and leaves quickly. Some smokiness and a hint of sweetness remain behind. The beer itself is a delicate balance of smoke, sweet, and tart. This shouldn’t scare off smoked beer haters – it’s a slight smokiness, reminiscent of Dovetail’s Grodziskie. That smokiness hits up front, with the sweetness finishing things off and a tartness throughout. Notes of a sourdough bread are present as well and the beer finishes dry.
While this pairs exceedingly well with most foods, do not pair this with a smoked cheese. I paired a pour of it with my with a charcuterie board that had a smoked gouda on it. The smokiness became a bit too much, throwing the beer’s balance out of whack. And you really don’t want to do that, as the balance is one of the great things about this beer. The fact that you can get some smokiness, tartness, and sweetness all wrapped up with a light, refreshing and dry finish is a wonder. The ability to be able to purchase a beer of this quality in the city is astounding. Every release from Keeping Together means a trip to Half Acre. Do not miss out.