I was in Ambler recently for a BYOB meal at Sushi Hatsu, so I naturally took a premeal detour, guided by Beer GPS, to Forest & Main Brewing Co. around the corner. It was my first visit to the new taproom built beside the Victorian house where F&M first opened its pub eight years ago. Simply known as the “Forest and Main New Space,” it’s a lively, white-tiled barroom that presents live music acts, “comedy, puppets, and more.” But I’d come for the beer, of course, and was delighted to find access, by draft and bottle, to a range of the elegant saisons and excellent English-style bitters, stouts, and milds that have made Daniel Endicott and Gerard Olson’s brewery one of the region’s best.
The English styles are underappreciated — especially those one can find here served on cask. But I’m especially fond of F&M’s Belgian-style saisons, which are fermented warm to develop expressively fruity, spicy aromatics with a wild yeast cultivated from the cherry tree in front of the pub when it blossoms each spring.
It’s the same tree that towers in mythical scale over a cartoon of the pub’s yellow clapboard house on the label of Marius, one of the brewery’s original saisons, and also its most enduring. And this bottle takes the cherry theme (so perfect for a Japanese meal) to the next level. Not only is it fermented with cherry blossom yeast, the dry base blonde ale is then aged for another couple months in wine barrels over fresh cherries from Three Springs Fruit Farm, gathering the bretty funk and tartness of spontaneous fermentation. Once bottled and pressurized, yet another layer of evolution occurs, the beer taking on a flavor that Olson likens to Fruit Stripe gum — floral, juicy, fun.
In the glass, some of the barnyard smell blows off as the heady mousse blossoms in the glass, but enough remains to recall its Belgian saison inspiration. It has a salmon pink hue, not the deeper red of full-on cherry krieks, the fruit intended for harmony, not to dominate the tune. But it’s still present enough to lend a quenching tang and whiff of orchard fruit that sit well beside a cool ruby slice of tuna sashimi.
— Craig LaBan
Marius, $24 for 750 ml bottle at Forest & Main Brewing Co., 61 N. Main St, Ambler, and the brewery’s stand at Saturday Rittenhouse Farmers Market.