The concept of table beer is a bit unusual to most people, because any beer can be considered "table beer" by just adding a table to drink the beer on. Yet, table beer actually pertains to a certain type of beer that was meant for the whole family to drink at the dinner table. This is the kind of beer Mystic Brewery in Chelsea, MA is trying to re-introduce with its Mystic Table Beer, a saison farmhouse ale.
Unfortunately for this reviewer, this is a beer that should be tabled, rather than drank at a table.
According to the brewery, this beer traces its origins back to "when water was never an option at the dining table" due to contamination. Therefore, a low alcohol variety had to be created in the form of a saison farmhouse ale. This should be a warning to American beer drinkers, who for a long time had to put up with the jabs of American beer being, in the words of Monty Python, like making love in a canoe because it was "f--king close to water". With a range of 1.2-4.5% alcohol, it may as well be water, but that was the point, otherwise little Billy and Susie would go thirsty.
The beer pours out rather nice, with a nice light golden color and a faint lemony head that dissipates too quickly. It has a very bready taste to it though, thanks to the inclusion of a house-incubated Renaud yeast strain that sits in the bottom of the bottle. The yeasty flavor though was as thin as the lemon-scented head, and retreats from the palate leaving a very watery product (what can you expect with a beer that was meant to be a substitute for water?)
Despite coming in a wine bottle, one person with light alcohol tolerance could down the bottle and feel almost no effect -- and no flavor to enjoy. It may be a neat idea to bring back a beer that hearkens back to when water would give a person cholera, but with modern water treatment facilities, and beer that isn't afraid to actually taste of something other than yeasty water, there is simply no reason to trot out a "table beer" that makes a can of Miller Lite boozy by comparison.
Mystic Brewery may provide a neat little history lesson on its bottles, but it may be wise to table this table beer.