I’ve long been a fan of Dogfish Head’s Saison-ish Noble Rot. Take it and age it in oak? I’m definitely down. It’s based on the saison farmhouse style, and then infused with grape must before finally being aged in oak for nearly a year. I originally compared Noble Rot to white wine, but once you age it in oak, it’s an order of magnitude closer. The nose is grape and a bit of yeast, the middle has grass and vanilla and is slightly tart, the finish is woody with vanilla and butter. The body is medium, the alcohol is big for a saison, little for a white wine at 9.0% ABV.
I give it a 4.3 out of 5.
So it’s November, and Bière de Provence is a summer saison. Sue me. I try every Dogfish Head beer I can find, and this is when I happened to find this one, and I won’t pass up the opportunity to try it, whatever the season. This is a Belgian Saison, and the tagline is that it is brewed with lavender, marjoram, and bay leaves. The lavender is immediately apparent in the nose, which is predominately floral with a bit of fruity Belgian yeast adding some banana esters. The middle explodes with pepper, herbal notes and sweet malty undertones. The finish is yeasty, fruity and mellow. The body is medium and the for a summer saison the alcohol is a beastly 8.3% ABV, A delicious beer and a fine saison that I wish I’d discovered earlier.
I give it a 4.4 out of 5.
Interlude is a Saison style ale from the Allagash Brewing Company of Maine. It’s one of their specialty beers, not a year-round offering, and the version that I’m tasting tonight, bottled in October 2013, is indeed special. Farmhouse ales tend to be complex and interesting, but generally (not always) on the milder side of the flavor spectrum. This is one of the outliers. The addition of wild yeast (Brettanomyces) gives this the brilliant, sharp, tangy, fruity flavor of a wild lambic. One of the first things I noticed about this beer is it didn’t build a particularly large head, and the head that was built dissipated quickly. The nose is mild with pear and apricot, and a tiny hint of the yeast notes typical of a Belgian style. The middle is explosively flavorful and mouth-puckeringly tart. More pear, some raspberry, and a lot of grape here. The tartness fades into sweetness in the finish, with more grape and a bit of sweet bread, with a strong undercurrent of heat from the alcohol, which is a not-insubstantial 9.5% ABV. The body is medium weight, not particularly heavy, but it packs a punch. One of the best beers I’ve had this year.
I give it a 4.8 out of 5.
Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace is a Belgian Saison (or farmhouse ale) brewed with their own strain of Belgian yeast and the very unusual Sorachi Ace hops, developed in Japan and grown in Washington, and these add a strong lemony aroma and flavor. The head on this beer is massive and persistent. It developed into a thick sticky foam that stayed with the drink until the end. The nose as mentioned before has loads of lemon, and is a bit grassy as well. The middle is surprisingly sweet. The flavor reminds me quite a lot of a shandy. (Half beer, half lemonade.) There’s a good bit more lemon flavor here, but any sour or tart notes are entirely offset by the amount of sugar. The finish is more of the same, with a bit of the Belgian yeast showing through here. This is a very well executed beer, but too sweet for my taste.
I give it a 3.8 out of 5.
So I lied. Or was at least mistaken. I said last week that my review of Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale was going to be the last winter seasonal review of the year, but now I’ve found a can of 21st Amendment Brewery’s winter seasonal, Sneak Attack hiding in my fridge. I guess that’s exactly what I should expect of a beer named Sneak Attack. Sneak Attack is a Saison, which is a really nice style to welcome in the spring, so it’s probably fortuitous that it gets to be my actual last winter seasonal review of the year. As you can see from the picture it pours with a massive head of light meringue-like white foam that sticks around for a bit, but will disappear after a few minutes. The nose is scented with herbs, grass, and yeast. The middle is tart, with herbs again, as well as lemon. The finish is dry and woody with a bit of lemon zest. The body is medium weight, and the alcohol is a reasonable 6.2% ABV. At any time of year this is a nice solid Saison.
I give it a 4.2 out of 5.
Saison Diego is a Belgian Saison, or Farmhouse Ale, from the Green Flash Brewing Co. of San Diego. The style is known for its spices, and Green Flash has done a really nice job of staying true to that style. With spicy Czech hops, orange zest, ginger, and grains of paradise, this is a flavorful old world beer, very different from some of the super piney bitter west-coast style ales that Green Flash is known for, but this is just as good a beer. The nose is bready, with wheat and yeast and a bit of orange. The middle is spicy, with the orange, the hops, and the grains of paradise coming to the fore. The finish is dry and dusty, with fading notes of cinnamon and slightly bitter orange peel. This is a really nice beer, and one of the better Saisons I’ve tried. I give it a thumbs up.
I give it 4.5 out of 5.