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05-12-03

Beer Review #291 Victory Swing

05-12-03We had our first set of warm days and it’s been pretty beautiful out for the last week or so. When it gets nice out like this saisons call my name. Swing brewing by Victory Brewing Company, is the first “session saison” that I have ever seen. It comes in at 4.5% and I believe that it is new to their line-up this year (though I’ve been known to be wrong before0.

Swing pours a cloudy golden color. It starts clear, but as the yeast get distributed, it becomes milky. A fluffy white head comes along with the pour and makes the beer look very presentable. The nose is really interesting as it has Belgian spices, sweetness, and some grassy hop odors. In addition, it has a touch of saison funk with some wet hay aromas. Really an interesting nose that draws you into the beer.

Upfront, this beer is super spicy with lots of Belgian spices, mainly clove, going on. Soon after a citrus hop flavor kicks in and adds a new dimension to the beer. The beer then transitions to include all three components of the nose to end out. I wrote in my notes that it has a “spicy/grassy/hoppy finish.”

This is by no means a traditional saison. It is much hoppier than you would normally expect out of a saison and doesn’t have a delicate body. It’s an interesting combination that works but it’s not something that I totally dig. Victory likes to hop everything and I think this beer would have been more enjoyable had it had less hops and more balance. (more…)

Beer Review #270 Bluegrass Saison

02-14-03As you can tell from the leaves on the tree in the background of the photo, I first had this beer a little while ago. I just finished my last bottle so it’s review time. Bluegrass Saison, or just Saison is brewed by the Bluegrass Brewing Company of Louisville, KY. A friend who lives in the area brought a six pack of this beer back for me after a visit. I’m also out to try a new Saison so I happily took the sixer.

Bluegrass Saison pours a clear orange color. It has a fluffy white head that deflates to half of its original size and then stops. The nose has a nice sweet caramel malt odor along with some honey. There is also a slight sour note along with a bit of funk. I tasted this on the first through last bottles that I tried on this beer and the flavor didn’t change, so I’m assuming that means it is there by design. Nothing wrong with a little funk but this wasn’t your typically “wet hay” smell.

This beer is surprisingly grassy for a Saison. It’s nothing compared to some other beers that I have had, but it’s the most grassy Saison that I have ever had. The malt flavor is really nondescript as the high carbonation level really washes it out. There is a slight sour note through this beer and it ends with a hint of bread. I didn’t get a lot of Belgian yeast characteristics from this beer. Bluegrass Saison stays light in the mouth while staying balanced, but not very flavorful.

This beer is good but not great. There are lots of other Saisons that I prefer to this one. The funk either needs to be a bit more forceful or it needs to get out of the way. Perhaps a different yeast strain or fermenting temperature would benefit this beer. Again, it’s not a bad beer, but it just doesn’t measure up to others that I have had. (more…)

Beer Review #223 Hennepin

Today’s beer comes from Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown, New York. It is a traditional Farmhouse Saison ale that comes in at 7.7% ABV. I was a bit confused when I looked at this bottle as it has all of the Ommegang markings, but the label says that this beer was brewed in Belgium by Duvel Moortgat, NV. According to some info that I was able to find on the net, Ommegang will outsource some of their beer to the Duvel Brewery whenever they have to do changes and/or construction on their brewery in Cooperstown. The last time that I was able to find this happening was in 2011, so I don’t know if I got an old bottle or if they are doing additional changes at the brewery.

Hennepin pours a beautiful blond color with a creamy white head. The beer pours clear out of the bottle with some sediment at the bottom. Against the instructions on the bottle, I swirled my second glass of this to see what the yeast tasted like with the beer. The nose first hits with a nice malty sweetness and then flows into a wonderful light Belgian spice. Nothing on the nose was overly aggressive and seemed to be in balance nicely.

On my first taste I was ecstatic to taste how creamy and flavorful the malt was. Sometimes Belgian beers become too much about the spices and not enough about the malt (particularly US versions). This beer had a wonderful, semi-sweet, grainy body that flowed nicely with each sip. The Belgian spices are solidly there, but well balanced with the hops. I recently reviewed another Saison that I considered to be the “poster child of what a Sasion should be” and I think this beer could fall into that realm as well.

This beer is really outstanding. Everything is in perfect balance and it is packed with flavor. I’m going to be buying another one of these beers shortly and maybe even attempting be make my own Saison. I really can’t say enough kind words about this beer. Brewery Ommegang puts out some great beers, but this might be on of their best achievements. (more…)

Beer Review #218 Ovila Saison

I hear a bit of press when this beer came out so I decided to pick myself up a bottle. I’ve been waiting for a time to try it and I could think of no better then a day off in the middle of the week (score). Ovila Saison is brewed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and comes corked and caged, a first for a beer that I have had from them. This beer comes in a 7.0% and it is actually a series of beers that Sierra Nevada is undertaking. You can read all about the series here, but basically they are brewing traditional Belgian beers with monks in California. I had no idea monks really existed in the U.S., but cool.

Ovila Saison pours a light orange color with a slight cloud in the middle. There is a generous white head that floats atop the liquid below. On my first smell I was surprised at how flat the nose was. There were some dull Belgian spices in there, but no malt, heat, or anything else to really make note of. Generally I expect a bit more out of the nose of a Saison but there is always room for me to learn more.

A nice smooth malt is the first thing to shine on the first sip of this beer. There are some really good Belgian spices that come in and help finish out the beer. I really have nothing bad to say about how this one tastes. It is super balanced and the spices come in at just the right time. Not only are the spices timed correctly, but they are just strong enough to fully balance out this beer.

I wouldn’t call this one super complex but I might look to it for inspiration when brewing a similar style of beer. I really enjoyed this one. It is everything that I hoped it would be and it is presented in such a nice, clean way. If you see this one around, try it out. This is a poster child for what a Saison should be. (more…)

Beer Review #212 Saison Rue

I wish I had more money, because I have fallen in love with The Bruery and their wonderful beers. I’ve only had three of their beers to date (including today’s), but I have really enjoyed what I have had. They all have a unique and distinct taste that I have really enjoyed. The only problem I have is that their beers only come in 750 ml bottles in my area (not sure if they do anything else) and they are a tad bit on the expensive side compared to my normal purchases.

Saison Rue is a “Belgian style ale” that is “brewed with rye and brettanomyces.” Brettanomyces or Brett as it is often called is known to cause some “funk” in beers. Basically it is a wild yeast that has been “used” in Belgian brewing and often can sour or add a farmhouse quality to a beer. The reason I put used in quotes in the previous sentence is because the yeast occurs naturally in the air in parts of Belgium, and traditional Belgian brewing dictates that the wort is cooled on shallow copper tables which are exposed to the air. The yeast in the air gets into the wort and you have spontaneous fermentation happening. With modern brewing we know exactly what is going on, but hundreds of years this little nugget was all a mystery.

On to the beer review! Saison Rue pours a clear golden-orange color with a fluffy white head. The nose is slightly sour with some heavy wet straw odors. There are some farmhouse spice smells in there as well. I didn’t get any hops which is not surprising considering the style of beer.

On the first sip I was really happy to find that there was a nice malt flavor. The flavors were clean and earthy at the same time. A slight sour taste then comes in but it is not an overwhelming sweetness; just a light touch. The malt is mildly sweet but it gets cut right at the end of the beer as the Belgian spices kick in. There is a really nice balance of farmhouse and sour notes in this beer.

I really dig this beer. It is simple while being complex. There is a lot going on in this beer but it doesn’t seem like it as first. As this beer warmed, the flavors and odors really came to life and took this beer to another level. I highly suggest this beer to anyone looking for something special. This one will be on my repeat list for sure. (more…)