Posts Tagged ‘saison’

12 Beers of X-Mas: Dupont Avec les Bons Vœux

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

With good wishes from Brasserie Dupont in Tourpes, Belgium, comes the classic holiday saison Avec les Bons Vœux. Originally brewed as a new year’s gift for select clients, this dry-hopped farmhouse ale is now widely available. Each winter I consider it Dupont’s personal gift to me.

Avec les bons VœuxThe head on the Bons Vœux is so lively and thick that it’s a challenge to pour. The quite creamy and long-lasting head sits atop an unfiltered, opalescent beer the color of gold. A dry hoppy aroma greets you at first, with a bit of barnyard mustiness as well. Biscuity malt character follows, balancing the herbal hop nose. This is one of those delicate and complex aromas you can easily get lost in.

The flavor walks the knife’s edge between dry hoppy and sweet malty. An herbal bitterness is balanced by bready sweetness. The clean malt character grows into a strong alcohol warming, betraying the almost ten percent alcohol. A strong effervescence keeps the heat from growing too biting and brings out the piney and herbal hop flavor.

The Bons Vœux is a pinnacle of understated complexity.

++Avec les Bons Vœux de la Brasserie Dupont

4.2 (5-9-7-4-17)

12 Beers of X-Mas: Ovila Saison

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Tonight’s beer was brewed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California. This is a collaboration beer, but unlike any collaboration I’m aware of. The nominal collaborator was the Abbey of New Clairvaux just up Highway 99 in Vina, California, but all the brewing experience rests with Sierra Nevada.Ovila Saison To the credit of the monks at New Clairvaux, they do make wine.

The Ovila Project, as it is called, is a series of three Belgian abbey-style ales. The label art is inspired by Santa Maria de Ovila, a twelfth-century monastery that was purchased by William Randolph Hearst in 1931 and shipped to California (though never rebuilt). Part of the profits from the sale of this beer will go to the Abbey of New Clairvaux, to help them in their quest to reconstruct the abbey building on the grounds of their monastery.

I was fortunate enough to find a bottle of the saison at Beer Crazy. I doubt I will be lucky enough to see the dubbel or quad.

The Ovila Saison pours an opalescent golden straw with a creamy, thick, long-lasting white head. The nose is light and playful, with floral and mild citric aromas. Earthy hops follow with an unexpected assertiveness. Clean malt character rounds out the very intriguing progression of aroma.

Earthiness leads the flavor as with any good saison. A rich herbal taste combines with a bit of citrus. A bready sweet malt flavor supports the balance. My only complaint about this beer would be the palate: it is somehow simultaneously thin and cloying.

+Ovila Saison

4.0 (5-9-7-3-16)

(p.s. Somebody needs to tell their webmaster that the menu images for all three styles say “Abbey Dubbel”.)

Peace Tree, Day Two

Monday, February 21st, 2011

A major factor in the success of the Peace Tree Brewing Company has been the wide availability of their beer. Distribution has always presented something of a chicken-and-egg problem for small breweries. Winning the shelf space of retailers without any brewing history is difficult, and taking away tap handles from other brands (especially ones from the big three brewers) can be next to impossible. Fortunately things have been changing, and the state of Iowa has slowly built up a craft beer culture. It is onto this burgeoning scene that Peace Tree has burst.

They wasted no time at all building a wide distribution network. Though they are anchored by a dozen locations around Knoxville, including their own tap room, the real strength of their growth can be seen in the liquor section of Hy-Vee. Timing their opening just perfectly with a recent push by that store to expand craft beer and wine selections, Peace Tree beers are now available at more than forty Hy-Vees statewide. Considering beer purchasing is done individually by each local store, this illustrates a dedication to making their beer available.

But what is most impressive is the number of Peace Tree’s draft accounts in Des Moines and Iowa City. There basically isn’t a bar of consequence in either town without at least one of Red Rambler or Hop Wrangler. Peace Tree is quickly becoming Iowa’s own little New Glarus.

Tonight I will have two more beers. The first, a seasonal farmhouse ale, is brewed with not just corn, but also corn stalks. I’d also say that the name Cornucopia fits very well with yesterday’s discussion of roots. After that I will have a bottle of the year-round Rye Porter.

Cornucopia pours a very pale straw color, just barely shy of brilliantly clear. The head is bone white, just a thin little pillow that doesn’t linger. A rich but delicate bread character from the malt supports the fruity aroma that is the star of the nose. This characteristic raspberry peach calling card is created by Peace Tree’s strain of Belgian yeast. They use the same for (almost) all of their beers, but nowhere else does it shine like this.

A spicy yeast flavor and a alcoholic sharpness make this beer a bit more intense than one would expect. The alcohol turns quickly to warming, and the black pepper and coriander almost yield to the malt. The corn makes the body quite light, and the corn stalks give a bit of a graininess to the flavor. Certainly a beer to drink fresh.

Now to the Rye Porter. This one is a very dark, very hazy, chocolate color, with some creamy, sandy brown head. The nose is at first roasty, strongly of burnt toast. A light berry fruitiness grows to balance, and the roast character turns to coffee.

Rich toast and caramel marries with the spiciness from the rye, creating a deep and intriguing combination. Espresso and strong dark chocolate flavors balance the milky palate and sweet caramel malt residual. Very thick and rich, but still refreshing.

+Peace Tree Rye Porter

3.8 (4-7-8-4-15)

+Peace Tree Cornucopia

3.5 (3-8-6-3-15)

Spotlight Week: Brasserie Dupont

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

2010-01-16-dupontThe beer style saison was originally brewed each winter in Belgian and French barns and farmhouses for the consumption the following summer by migrant farmhands. The Tourpes, Belgium farm on which Brasserie Dupont is located was one such place. They have brewed saison there continuously since 1844. In 1920 Alfred Dupont bought the farm-brewery for his son Louis. The brewery is now run by Olivier Dedeycker, great-grandnephew of Louis Dupont. They were among the first to brew organic beer, starting way back in 1990. Besides making several varieties of saison and bier de miel (beer with honey), they produce the Moinette line of Belgian ales.

Their website has some great pictures and plenty of details about their brewing procedures. If you can read French or stand bad Babelfish translations check it out. They also describe their baking and cheesemaking operations, if those tickle your fancy.

Since saison is the beer Dupont is known for, tonight I will try three varieties. I’ll kick things off with two vintages of their flagship Saison Dupont, a 2007 and a 2009. I have a bottle of their organic saison called Forêt (Moinette Biologique in Europe). I will also taste a bottle of their holiday brew, Avec les bons Vœux de la brasserie Dupont (“with good wishes from the Dupont brewery”), usually shortened to just Bons Vœux.

2010-01-16-saisonsSaison Dupont pours an old gold color with a thick haze as well as a homogeneous distribution of tiny yeast particles. The off-white head is thick and moussey, and for the cellared version has a bit more stability. The change in the nose is intriguing. The fresh saison has a very light fruity nose of lemon and pear. Some malt and dry grass or hay come with it. The 2007 has a much darker fruit aroma. Raisins, cranberries, and figs stand out. There is just a bit of a malty sweetness before a funk sets in. I wouldn’t describe it as quite barnyard, but that might be only because I drink gueuze. There is just a bit of cider and some stinky cheese on the nose that remain too mild to be unpleasant.

The fresh beer has a light flavor reminiscent of champagne. Clean malt flavor is paired with some dust and an assertive bitterness. Bread and some grassiness add complexity. A bit of fruit is there as well. The taste of the 2007 follows from the nose. The dried fruit and cider are prominent. Some malty sweetness and a bit of meaty (yeast autolysis) character. The fresh version has a light, refreshing body that stays dry. The bitterness and the lively palate make this beer drinkable but keep the character. The 2007 is somehow thicker and sweeter, with a lingering palate fullness. Two years is too long for this beer; I wish I had a 2008 to try.

2010-01-16-foretI decided to blend the last few sips of each vintage. They compliment each other quite well, with the 2007 providing a robust character and the 2009 making it sprightly.

Next up, the organic saison Forêt. I looked it up: it means ‘forest’. Is it a suggestion not to miss the forest for the trees? You decide. It is important to note that when they say ‘organic’ they mean it. Exactly 100% of the ingredients in this beer are organically grown, unlike beers labeled ‘organic’ in the United States.

Forêt pours a hazy golden fulvous color (yes I looked that one up, too). The creamy white head lasts forever, and there are a few of the same yeast specks floating. The aroma is just fascinating. There are little bits of so many things. A spiciness greets you at first: coriander, black pepper, anise, and cinnamon. This is followed by an herbal hop character that borders on floral. A clean pale malt aroma rounds it out, but the spices never give way.

The taste, much like the nose, is spicy, yet so much more. An alcohol warming sets the stage. The black pepper and coriander are back, and sage and basil are quick to add an herbal contribution. A little bit of sweetness and clean malt flavor balance an earthy hop bitterness. This lasts just a moment, with the sweetness lingering a bit longer. This beer is eminently flavorful, refreshing, and quaffable. Without question Forêt deserves a place among the best saisons, be they organic or otherwise.

2010-01-16-bon-voeuxFinally, the Avec les bons Vœux de la brasserie Dupont. The top of this label has the inscription “III”. Every bottle I have seen has this. I don’t know what this is or why it’s there. Please tell me if there is some story behind the three that I cannot locate.

The Bons Vœux pours a lightly hazy coppery gold. The off-white head is thick and voluminous and seriously lasts. The nose is light and dirty. The sweet malt aroma is made interesting by a bit of barnyard funk and sweatiness. Some spiciness comes out, too.

A spicy alcoholic flavor, a warming sensation, and a bit of ethanol flavor betray the nine-plus percent alcohol of this beer. It is almost hidden, however, in the spicy yeast flavors: coriander, pepper, mace, and cloves. A bit of sweet malt contributes a bready flavor. The earthy hops add a balancing bitterness that keeps the beer lively. Though thick and sweet, this beer is certainly refreshing and not at all cloying. The Bons Vœux would be essentially perfect if not for the pronounced alcohol character.

++Dupont Forêt

4.5 (4-9-9-4-19)

++Avec les bons Vœux de la brasserie Dupont

4.4 (5-9-8-4-18)

+Saison Dupont 2009

4.0 (4-7-8-5-16)

+/-Saison Dupont 2007

3.6 (4-8-7-3-14)

Spotlight Week: New Glarus Brewing Company

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

2010-01-10-new-glarus-capFrom the tiny hamlet of New Glarus comes the beer that is the de facto king of Wisconsin microbrew, Spotted Cow. There are very few bars in the state that don’t have it on tap. But Daniel Carey, co-founder (with wife, Deb) and head brewer of New Glarus Brewing Company is no one-trick pony. They are continually producing Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart, two of the winningest fruit beers out there. Fat Squirrel and Stone Soup are stellar malty brews, and their Dancing Man Wheat is one of my favorite American wheat beers. They have ceased production on a few of my top picks, including Yokel (“Buy local, drink Yokel”), Uff-da (a rich bock), Hearty Hop (their IPA), and Copper Kettle Weiss (an incredible dunkelweizen, named after the copper kettles Dan brought over from Germany).

But Dan really comes into his own when brewing the Unplugged series. These (usually one-time) brews have included some divine sours, imperials, and barrel-aged selections. The Bourbon Barrel Bock has yet to be matched by a bourbon aged beer in my mind (I once said I would be happy just to smell it). Enigma was among the most unique beers I’ve had the opportunity to try, comparable only to Unibroue’s Quelque Chose. Dan is also one of the few brewers around here to attempt a Berliner weisse, a style that is all too easy to seriously butcher.

2010-01-10-edel-pilsNew Glarus beer is only available in Wisconsin. This is absurd considering their position among the largest craft brewers. People in Wisconsin drink a lot of good beer. Hey, leave some for the rest of us! After a brief attempt to expand distribution to Illinois a few years back, they built a new brewery up the hill with a much larger capacity. After a year of operation they still have yet to expand outside their home state, vexing craft beer lovers everywhere.

Tonight I have three examples of the work coming out of New Glarus this past year. First up I’ll try their Edel-Pils, brewed last summer. I know, I know, I should have consumed this fresh. Well, I’ve kept it dark and chill so hopefully it hasn’t lost too much. I’ll also have a pair of the Unplugged selections from 2009, the Imperial Saison and the dry-hopped Imperial Weizen.

The Edel-Pils pours a crystal clear golden straw. The bone white head is frothy and leaves significant lacing on the glass, though it could last longer. A rich noble hop aroma greets you from a distance. More deliberate investigation yields a delicate malt character and a hint of that Bavarian lager corn character (almost certainly from the yeast. I think Spotted Cow is the only beer they make with corn). The flavor is filled with malt, a clean and rich barley taste with just a bit of sweetness. Balancing bitterness and grassy noble hops round out the flavor. The body is full and creamy at first but gone in an instant. A well executed pilsner.

2010-01-10-imperial-saisonThe Imperial Saison is a beautiful opalescent coppery gamboge. The head is creamy, the appearance of clouds, and leaves not just lacing but a coating as it (slowly) falls. This nose is thick with fruit and spice. Apricot, orange, lemon, and apple dance with coriander and black pepper. Some alcohol pungency adds complexity yet refrains from being sharp. A bit of caramel and almond make for a truly intriguing aroma.

The first of the taste is a spicy alcohol warming on the tip of the tongue. This is accompanied by a hint of crisp acid and a dustiness to ensure you know it’s a saison. Some fruit comes out, but very different than on the nose. The apricot remains, joined by kiwi and banana. A bit of caramel and clean maltiness round out the flavor. The body is light and refreshing like lemonade. A bit of bitterness and some of the fruit lingers. This beer is quite complicated. I’m glad I have a second bottle to sit on for a while, to see how it ages.

2010-01-10-imperial-weizenFinally, the Imperial Weizen. The color is very close to the saison, a bit more towards copper. Chunks of yeast hang suspended in the beer. They are pushed up by the bubbles evolving in the middle and drift down towards the outside, almost giving the appearance of a lava lamp. The creamy off-white head leaves a great lacing but doesn’t last nearly long enough. The aroma is rich with spices: clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Sweet toffee and plenty of wheat come out, too. There is just a bit of higher alcohol that could be perceived as medicinal, but that is probably simply interaction with the spices.

The clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon are alive and well in the taste. Here they are joined by a citric hop flavor of grapefruit and orange. Caramel and toffee from the malt also contribute to the character. There is certainly an alcohol warming, and a lively effervescence that threatens sharpness without delivering. Complicated bordering on gridlock. By that I mean, though the flavor is certainly interesting and not at all unpleasant, I wonder if perhaps there is too much competition. To some extent the richness of tastes block each other out. Still quite a good beer.

++New Glarus Imperial Saison

4.2 (4-9-7-4-18)

+New Glarus Imperial Weizen

3.9 (3-8-7-5-16)

+New Glarus Edel-Pils

3.8 (3-8-7-4-16)

Brasserie Lebbe L’Amalthée

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

2009-09-03-lebbePierre and Annick Lebbe are living the dream. They live on their organic goat farm in the south of France, making cheese and beer. They grow barley for the malt on their farm and feed the spent grains to their goats. Pierre brews and bottles about 450 liters of L’Amalthée a month. This beer was recommended to me by Erin, the manager of Lush Halstead. Head on over to the importer’s page – Charles Neal Selections – for more information and a neat story of discovering this true farmhouse brewery.

L’Amalthée pours an opalescent goldenrod. The off-white head is ridiculously thick, buttressed by ceaseless bubbling. It settles a bit and reveals itself to be quite creamy and lasting, leaving a near-solid lacing on the glass. The nose is delicately malt and cidery. A bit of toast, corn, and sulfur hearken to Munich golden lagers. Hints of spicy hops.

The palate is rich and creamy. A light sweetness balances the tiny alcohol warming without straying too far from dry. A complex hop character: some earthy herbs with a pleasant spiciness. Malt flavor comes through as caramel and bread, with a bit of DMS adding the character of corn.


3.5 (5-6-7-4-13)

Millstream Beer and Chocolate Tasting

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Millstream Beer and Chocolate PairingYesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Beer and Chocolate Tasting put on by Millstream Brewing Company. This event paired chocolates from the Chocolate Haus in Amana with eight radical one-off beers. Six of them were brewed by Millstream brewer Bill Heinrich, with one offering from Millstream’s sales guy Dan Carpenter as well as a coffee porter brewed by head brewer Chris Priebe. The event was coordinated by Nick Snavely. Tickets sold out over a week ahead of time and the place was packed the whole time. The impression I got from people is that everyone was very impressed with the beers, and the chocolate pairings were quite fun. I took tasting notes but forgot to write down process information so let’s see what I can remember.

The first beer I had was the Czech Pilsner. Made with loads of Czech Saaz hops, this one is a well executed Bohemian style pilsner. It’s a crystal clear straw with some white head. The hop aroma is very grassy and earthy, and behind it I notice just a bit of a corniness. The flavor is massively grassy, with a lingering bitterness on the middle of my tongue. It is deep, earthy, and herbal. There is a hint of sweetness, perhaps some dimethyl sulfide.

The pils was the only beer that seriously follows any style conventions. Most of them have a Belgian character; Belgian styles are pretty loosely defined as it is. Bill was not afraid to take liberties to ensure the brews were interesting, further complicating things. Many of the beers were made with a strain of Brettanomyces wild yeast, which develops different characteristics depending on how it is used. Most of these were fermented with usual brewing yeast Saccaromyces and then aged on the Brett, giving a berry-like fruity flavor and aroma as well as a noticeable funk.

Next up the Saisonnier Gran Cru. This was actually fermented with Brett only, except for a shot of ale yeast to help it along when it was being sluggish. When Brettanomyces is used for primary fermentation, it tends to behave alot more like the normal Saccaromyces. It does dry the beer out a little more, leaving a dry, dusty flavor accented by the funkiness.

The Saisonnier pours a milky straw color, with some creamy off-white head. The aroma is delicate and elusive, featuring light fruit (raspberries) as well as some funk (wet pavement?). The taste is dry, with a somewhat zoological funkiness. A bit of malt flavor breaks through. Despite being so dry there is a bit of a cloying sensation, as well as a lingering bitterness. The nose is fantastic but the flavor doesn’t quite match up.

The sign describing the beer officially named Dan’s Barleywine had a telltale note on the back. The reminder to the server read “Dan’s Awesomeness”, and that’s not too far off. Blended from two-year and three-year batches, the barleywine poured a deep dark sienna, lightly hazy, with persistent creamy head. It also leaves a little reminder on the inside of the glass. The rich, round aroma is a treat: chocolate caramels (so good), coffee, and hazelnuts. Despite the intensity of the aroma and alcohol, the flavor is light and balanced. Major coffee flavor dominates, with a roast and caramel malt character that reminds me of burnt cookies. Both malty and pleasantly bitter, “Awesomeness” is thick and coats your mouth. Do yourself a favor and ask Dan for a bottle.

Moving on to the Belgian-Style Tripel. This golden ale was made with the strain of yeast normally reserved for Bavarian hefes: generator of strong banana esters and clove phenols. This gives the Tripel a serious banana aroma, somewhat sweet, with hints of clove and black pepper. There is barely a tinge informing you of the level of alcohol. The flavor is very malty, with a big bready, biscuity taste. It is somewhat sweet with a rich, round alcohol warming sensation. Noticeable as well are banana and clove flavors. The thick coating feeling probably derives from the fact that this tripel is not as carbonated as many. Despite the use of wheat and Bavarian weizen yeast, this beer is most definitely a tripel, and a well executed one at that.

The Belgian Quad is a good example of the use of Brett to age. It is a cloudy deep dark brown with some tan head. The aroma is lightly sweet and strongly fruity of raspberries and mango, with just a bit of banana. The flavor is strongly alcoholic: somewhat sharp, almost medicinal berries. There is a bit of lingering bitterness and a thick, cloying sensation. A somewhat similar beer, the Wheat Wine is a cloudy unearthly red with almost no head. The aroma is lightly fruity, with a bit of wood and funk; the flavor roughly alcoholic, with some berries. A strong bitterness is simple and harsh.

Head brewer Chris Priebe brewed up a batch of Sumatra English Porter with real Sumatra coffee. It pours somewhat clear, a dark russet wtih some cheesy off-white head. The aroma is very light, with only a bit of roast malt and some caramel. The flavor is dry and roasty, with a strong rich roast coffee presence that lasts. Hint of an earthy hop flavor balance, and a coffee astringency lingers a bit.

By far the most impressive beer available was the so-called Wheat Stout. I can’t say enough good things about this beer. Made with Templeton Rye whiskey and plenty of roast and wheat malts and fermented with weizen yeast, this beer is simply impressive.

First off it is utterly black. There is just a hint of a creamy copper head. The nose is rich and playful, with a roast aroma that tickles the nose. The whiskey comes through quite well: malt, rye, and some notes of alcohols. There is also a serious banana and clove character. A taste is heaven. It is all too easy to overdo it on a whiskey addition, ruining the beer. Here the Templeton is perfectly balanced with the other flavors. The roast comes through first, followed quickly by the rye. There is a bit of astringent bitterness. This beer is thick and chewy. It is delicious. A tour de force.

++Millstream Wheat Stout

4.4 (5-9-8-4-18)

+Millstream Czech Pilsner

3.3 (3-6-7-4-13)

+Millstream Saisonnier Gran Cru

3.5 (4-8-6-3-14)

+Millstream Dan’s Barleywine

4.0 (4-9-7-4-16)

+Millstream Belgian-Style Tripel

3.5 (4-7-7-3-14)

+/-Millstream Belgian Quadrupel

3.1 (3-8-5-3-12)

+/-Millstream Wheat Wine

2.5 (2-6-4-3-10)

+/-Millstream Sumatra English Porter

3.0 (3-5-7-3-12)

Ommegang Hennepin

Friday, January 16th, 2009

In upstate New York in an idyllic farmland lies a brewery that looks like it belongs a hemisphere away. If you went by without any context, you might not even realize it was a brewery. Unlike any other American brewery (at least any built in the last two decades), Brewery Ommegang looks beautiful. This appreciation of aesthetic is surely the future of classy beer, and something I am personally concerned with, but I digress.

From Brewery Ommegang comes a serious saison, Hennepin. This beer pours a light straw with just a hint of haze. The head, bone white, is soft and pillowy. This beer exudes a delicate but powerful aroma: slightly sweet and floral, balanced by mustiness and a bit of a pepper character.

The flavor is also somewhat sweet, but not too much so. It is floral, with a pronounced earthy, dusty flavor. The alcohol (7.7%) makes itself known to you with a significant warming sensation. The palate is creamy yet lively, full and round.

The brewery’s website claims that “[i]t’s true: no matter where you are, Hennepin is the perfect ale for all seasons.” It’s true. This beer is way too sessionable. I need that, given the negative whatsits temperature out.

+Ommegang Hennepin

3.7 (4-7-7-4-15)