Recently in Saison Category

Trillium Farmhouse Ale

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Boston's Trillium brewing very quickly sashayed their way into our hearts during Operation Chowder earlier this year, and I'm already jonesing for more of their wonderfully crafted beers. So far, they've amply demonstrated their proficiency with hoppy beers, creating some fabulously aromatic examples of the style that put them in the upper tier for me. But how's their farmhouse game? Sunshower was a nice dry-hopped example, but can they swing a straight up saison? The answer is yes, and this eponymous brew stands out as one of the better American takes on a standard (non-funky, non-BA) saison:

Trillium

Trillium Farmhouse Ale - Pours a slightly hazy yellow color with a finger of fluffy head and some lacing. Smell has a nice Belgian yeast profile, peppery spice, some fruity esters, very nice nose (typical of Trillium). Taste has a nice sweet and spicy thing going on, feels Dupont-like in that respect, but a little brighter in terms of hop profile. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, on the dry side, pretty easy going stuff. Overall, rock solid non-funkified saison, up there with the Duponts and Apex Predators of the world. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/21/15. Bottled 05/21/15.

I have another bottle of this to coddle, but am otherwise all out of the Trills, need moar. Also, after a week of putting dumb images and memes on my posts, I've fallen off the wagon again, but I really wanted to get a gif of Jim Carrey sashaying through a restaurant in Cable Guy (for whatever reason, this one tiny bit of a scene imprinted on me or something) but either my Google-fu is weak, or no one has made this gif. Both seem unlikely, but then, here we are.

Update: Screw it, I made the Cable Guy gif. This is Trillium sashaying their way into my heart:

The Cable Guy is Trillium in this metaphor

I love you too, Trillium.

Pizza Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for drinks, food, and fun. This time we went to a favorite discovery of mine, Ravanesi Pizzaria, a tiny little joint out in the burbs that scratch makes almost everything. Pizza places are a dime a dozen around here, but these guys really distinguish themselves. It's one of those places where they open at 4:30 pm and close whenever they run out of dough. Yes, it takes approximately 30 hours to make the dough, so they do run out fairly frequently. As a veteran BYOB attendee (because of beer club), most places aren't so busy on Tuesdays and thus welcome a bunch of beer nerds who take up a table and drink a lot of beer whilst occasionally munching on their food. This place was pretty much bumping from around 5 pm until we left at around 8 pm. But the pizza. The pizza is almost absurdly good. And it's not like Philly is bad at pizza (there's plenty of bad pizza, but we've got our hotspots). Check it:

ravanesi-pizza.jpg

A most excellent backdrop for beer club.For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we had are below. Usual nerdy disclaimers apply, this was not ideal tasting conditions and I didn't exactly take detailed notes, so take it all with the requisite mountain of salt. In order of drinking, not necessarily how they appear in the photo:

August Beer Club at Ravanesi Pizza

  • Otter Creek/Jack's Abby Joint Custody - Yep, it's a pilsner, but it's a pretty darn good one, crisp, light, and refreshing. Certainly a step up from your typical macro, and perhaps worthy of a closer look this next weekend. B+
  • Night Shift Santilli - A rock solid IPA, nice citrus and dank pine character, nice and crushable. B+
  • Two Roads Road Jam Raspberry Wheat Ale - Holy hell, this is terrible. Robitussin tones, artificial raspberry flavor, and the like. Perhaps not quite that bad, but not at all good. D
  • Vault Mosaic Imperial IPA - Does this sound familiar? Of course it does, I just reviewed it yesterday. In fact, it performed supremely well in this tasting format, pairing well with the spicy Sopressata pizza and just generally standing up to the other beers pretty well. May be tempted to raise this one to an A-
  • Night Shift Trifecta - Brewed with three Trappist ale yeasts, I found this a bit disappointing. It's got some decent Belgian yeast character, but it isn't quite carbonated or dry enough to really work well. Disappointing C+
  • Smuttynose Spank - For a beer that labels itself as a "hoppy saison", I have to admit that I find little in the way of hops here, even if it's an otherwise unremarkable beer that is far from bad, but which won't exactly light the world on fire. B-
  • Adroit Theory Ortolan Bunting - A very odd beer, almost quad-like, but without the full fruit character, but a very nice nose that doesn't quite live up to the straightforward taste, with some dark malts, perhaps even some smoked malt. Fine, but not quite a top tier effort. B
  • Lickinghole Creek Enlightened Despot - One of the best beers of the night, a clear winner, Pappy 15 barrel aged imperial stout, is quite tasty, very sweet, loads of coconut and vanilla from that barrel, delicious stuff. A-
  • Smuttlabs Durtay - Smuttynose - A rum barrel aged brown ale, this one works pretty darn well, very sweet, a little boozy, but a nice barrel and molasses character comes through too. B+
And that just about covers it. I really love this pizza and want to come here as often as possible, but it's also a little out of the way, so I'm guessing it won't be quite as regular as some other BYOB places. Still worth the trip though, so we'll see...

Grassroots Brother Soigné

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Grassroots is kinda like the collaborative arm of Hill Farmstead, so it's always surprising that these beers don't command more attention. Some of them you'll even find sitting on a shelf! The horror! In general, they're up to par with Hill Farmstead's "regular" farmhouse offerings, but then, I guess that's not what gets people amped up about them either. Not that I'm complaining, the more people who sleep on saisons, the more saisons for me.

Mr. Burns the beer nerd, sleeping on Grassroots saisons

This is a collaboration with Luc Bim Lafontaine (formerly of Dieu du Ciel!, now toiling away in Japan or something) and it's a saison brewed with Lime and Blood Orange (and possibly, depending on who you ask, hibiscus). Sounds good to me. So let's start a Grassroots campaign to drink more saisons:

Grassroots Brother Soigné

Grassroots Brother Soigné - Pours a clear orange color with an almost pinkish hue and a finger of white head. Smells of tart fruit, citrus zest, and some farmhouse yeast esters, very nice nose. Taste starts sweet, hits some spicy saison notes, then comes some tart fruit, don't know that I'd have picked lime out blind, but it's there, and some orange too, not quite sour but headed in that direction. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, lower-medium bodied, lightly acidic, and relatively dry. The 750 went down quicker than I thought it would, and I was left here wondering if someone snuck into my house and poured themselves a glass or something stupid like that. Overall, a nice estery saison number, not going to light the world on fire, but well worth the stretch. Somewhere in the B+ to A- continuum. It's getting hard to rate this stuff.

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/1/15. Bottled 04/16/2015.

I've got a couple more bottles of this in the cellar, and I'm told it cellars well, which would be exciting... if I can manage to not drink them all in the next few months. Check the line in Vegas to see where that's at these days, but it's not a particularly safe bet.

Tired Hands Astral Plane

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When Tired Hands opened the new Fermentaria a few months ago, one of the big, eye-catching features was three rather large oak foeders. For the uninitiated, foeders are very large oak vessels used for long-term aging of beer (among other fine liquids). They are capable of harboring wild yeast and bacterial beasties and imparting some of that oaky character, but despite their size, the actual surface area touching the beer is smaller and the amount of oxygenation is usually less than traditional barrels. They're good as fermentation vessels and their much larger volume allows for more blending than your traditional barrels (foeders are somewhere on the order of 1500 gallons, whereas a traditional barrel is a little more than 50 gallons). Indeed, lots of Belgian breweries are famous for using foeders in their wild and blended beers, most famously Rodenbach and their blended Flanders Reds.

So Tired Hands has been playing with these new toys of late, and several beers have gone on tap from the foeders. It's an interesting and distinct feel from regular barrels, so far I'm seeing less in the way of sour and oak, but still some funk in its own way. Astral Plane was a recent bottle release, and to my knowledge, the first such release to originate from a foeder. For my part, I tend to prefer the more typical barrel approach, but this represents a nice change of pace:

Tired Hands Astral Plane

Tired Hands Astral Plane - Pours a hazy yellow gold color with a finger of whispy head that is not long for this world, very nice looking beer. Smells wonderful, lots of funk, some fruity esters, a little earthiness poking around, great saison nose. Taste has a little more oak to it (not a ton though), some sticky malt, but it's got a lightly funky saison spice and fruit thing going on too, finishing back with that sticky note. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, low to moderate carbonation, more sticky than I'm used to from Tired Hands (lower attenuation? Lord knows I'm super sensitive to lower carbonation, and this might be falling into that spot a bit...), but nothing untoward or improper here. Move it along. Overall, pretty solid little saison with enough funk to keep things interesting and pretty damn tasty in any case. I'm betting some time in the cellar will do wonders for this, and fortunately, I have a few more bottles to test that theory on. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/24/15.

Of course, I'm totally in the bag for this stuff, so I'm curious to see how these new techniques evolve as Tired Hands continues to expand. They've still got plenty of regular barrels hanging around as well, so it's not like they're going away (thank goodness!)

Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta

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Look at any crowd-sourced list of top beers in the world, and you'll basically find an accounting of the best Double IPAs and Russian Imperial Stouts in the world. On Beer Advocate, you have to get to Fou' Foune at #15 before you reach something that's not a DIPA or RIS. Ratebeer isn't quite as bad, with only 7 imperial stouts in the top 10. The commonality here is high alcohol, which generally means intensity, which generally makes more of an impression than a delicate, nuanced pilsener or something. Heck, I'm as guilty as anyone, and the A level archives of this blog are littered with high alcohol brews (though I do seem to have at least a little more variation in terms of style, even if there are plenty of DIPAs and Imperial Stouts). This is a drastic simplification for effect, of course, but the point is that beer nerds love them some high alcohol brews.

Which is why it's kinda funny that Lost Nation doesn't really make any of those. They're from Vermont, so they do have some hoppy beers, but they tend to be lower alcohol IPAs like Lost Galaxy (which I'd probably term a straight up Americal Pale Ale, but still), clocking in at 4.8% ABV. Their flagship Gose hits the same ABV. Indeed, their highest ABV beer is the one we're reviewing today, Lamoille Bretta, with a whopping 6% ABV. And yet, it's a beautiful, flavorful beer, and while it might seem like Lost Nation is bucking a trend, it's also something of a beer nerd trend. Session IPAs are all over the place these days (again, they're kinda just APAs, but still) and Gose's soaring popularity partly due to it's easy drinking nature. Once Americans realized how much they could annoy their British friends by claiming that a 4.6% ABV beer was a session beer, it just took off even further. But seriously, it turns out that not every beer has to melt your face, and more and more people have been coming around to that notion. Revolutionary, I know.

Anywho, this is Lost Nation's straight up Saison Lamoille that has been dosed with Brettanomyces and it's a pretty damn good attempt:

Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta

Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta - Cork nearly took off my hand, I hadn't even finished undoing the cage when it exploded out of the bottle. Was worried about a gusher, but no, thankfully all was fine. Pours a nice yellow gold color with several fingers of fluffy, large bubbled head that sticks around for quite a while (I could see this coming and poured extra slow, so as to prevent a glass consisting mostly of head). Smells beautiful, starts off with dusty, musty farmhouse funk, with some more traditional spicy Belgian yeast, followed by a nice fruity kick. Taste hits that musty farmhouse funk early on, some earthiness, Belgian yeast spice, followed by some more fruity esters coming out to play, lightly tart fruit. Not hugely funky, but a well balanced amount. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, crisp, and very dry. Light to medium bodied, just enough to offset the massive amounts of carbonation. Overall, this is pretty special stuff, an improvement over the base, and something I need to try again. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a charente glass on 6/26/15. Bottle: 441 - B5.

This has been my favorite Lost Nation beer yet, and there's sadly only one remaining (and even more sad, I already drank it! I will get to it soon enough). I'm excited to return there and purchase more of their gloriously low ABV beer (also, apparently some proper glassware, as they keep informing me on twitter).

June Beer Club

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Beer club was tonight! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for drinks, food, and fun. Astute observers will notice that we skipped the month of May, which primarily came down to laziness and the fact that a couple of key attendees were embarking on Operation Cheddar/Chowder. That said, our triumphant return was quite the success, good attendance, great beer, and some rather fine sushi.

June Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each are below. As usual, these are mostly from memory because I'm not a total dick and was socializing at the time, so take these impressions with a gigantic nugget of salt or something. Here goes, in order of drinking, not necessarily how they appear in the photo:

  • Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA - This must be the gazillionth time this has made an appearance at beer club, but it made for a nice warm up beer for the folks who arrived early. B+
  • Evil Genius Shut Up, Meg! - Evil Genius is this weird brewery that seems to always be mentioned as a PA brewery, yet they brew all their stuff in Connecticut. Also, almost all of their beers have pup culture reference names, such as this obvious reference to Family Guy. It's a pretty straightforward Belgian farmhouse ale or saison with a hint of hoppy goodness added in for character. Nothing particularly special and suffers in comparison to much better executed examples of the style (which we'll get to in a moment). B
  • Troegs / Appalachian / Pizza Boy (717) Collaboration - Slightly more interesting than Shut Up, Meg!, this one had a similar feel, but it was a little more tart and hoppy focused. Still not going to light the world on fire, but it was decent enough. B
  • Jester King Das Wunderkind! Saison - Ah, now this is more like it. A beer that shares certain characteristics with the above two beers, but is wholly better. It's a funky saison with a light tartness and a nice dry hopped citrus nose. Really pleasant and refreshing, a great summer beer. I really should try to track down more Jester King! B+
  • Hill Farmstead Dorothy - I'm not sure what precipitated this run on hoppy farmhouse ales, but this is certainly the high point in the style (at least, with tonight's entries) and represents a wonderful balance between spicy saison and citrusy hops. Really a beautiful beer that I will most certainly be revisiting in more detail soon enough! A-
  • Lawson's Finest Liquids Sip Of Sunshine - Hey, didn't I just write about this? Of course I did. A-
  • Scotchy, Scotchy, Scotch, Get In My Belly - A friend's homebrew, and it's a fantastic little Scotch ale aged on Scotch soaked oak chips. Really nice Scotch wiskey flavor, but not overpowering the malt backbone, which has a nice caramel and toffee character, accentuated by the Scotch and hint of oak. I've yet to have a homebrew that really gets at the really great barrel character, but this is still quite nice! B+
  • Rock Art Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale - An interesting contrast to the previous beer, a little darker and with more barrel character, but with substantially more carbonation that almost ruins the beer. I'm pretty sensitive to carbonation issues, and that usually means something being undercarbonated, but in the case of a Scotch ale, I usually expect something smooth and rich, and this was effervescent and not quite as rich as it could have been. Certainly not bad at all, but a bit of a disappointment. B
  • Fiddlehead Tejas Marron - Yup, another VT beer I recently reviewed, it perhaps does not fare so well in a tasting scenario as it does on its own, but it's still quite nice. B+
  • Forest & Main Paradisaeidae - Alright fine, it's another beer I recently reviewed, but it's a really good one worth sharing.B+
  • Elysian Avatar Jasmine IPA - Yet another beer we'd had before at beer club, and one I do not particularly care for. My feelings have not changed at all, and if anything, I'm less forgiving of this beer than I was last time. I must not be that big of a fan of jasmine... C
  • Shiner Birthday Beer Chocolate Stout - Man, this thing has an absolutely amazing nose. Lots of chocolate brownie character, really sublime. Alas, the taste doesn't quite deliver on the promise of the nose, lots of chocolate, but really thin, almost watery, very disappointing. An imperialized version of this might work wonders, but we're left with something in the middle of the road. B
And that just about covers it. Another successful beer club, and I'm already looking forward to next month's edition...

Trillium Double Feature

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This brewery is named after the Trillium, a perennial flowering plant native to North America. Translating to "three parted lily", it is often associated with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity (because of its three flowers as part of one plant) and perhaps due to its early medicinal use among Native Americans, some think it symbolizes American durability and balance. The Boston homebrewer-turned-pro JC Tetreault (Interestingly, his blog from homebrewing days is still online) thinks it symbolizes what he's attempting to achieve with his brewery.

I had the great fortune of stopping in at their brewery during Operation Chowder to pick up some bottles. It's a neat little place, located in Boston proper, they appear to have crammed a lot into a rather small space (including what appear to be quite a few barrels, which is pretty exciting). The retail shop is really only for selling bottles and growlers (apparently in their early days, they would serve beer there, but as their popularity waxes, they have to keep that line moving), and I was happy to snag a handful of such. They recently announced plans to open a new, larger facility, so here's to hoping these beers become more plentiful.

What we're covering today is Congress Street IPA (guess what street the brewery is located on?), which appears to be a Columbus and Galaxy hopped wonder. Then we've got a "Super Saison" dry hopped with Centennial hops called Sunshower. Both are music to my earballs, so let's dive in:

Trillium Congress Street IPA

Trillium Congress Street IPA - Pours a murky, cloudy light yellow color with a finger of white head (very in line with the Hill Farmsteads and Tired Hands IPAs of the world). Smells intensely of tropical fruit hops (Mosaic up in here? Nope, apparently that's Galaxy hops), almost like mango juice or something like that, a superb, amazing nose. Taste has a sweetness up front that quickly transitions to citrusy, fruity hops, less juicy than the nose would imply, a little dry bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and refreshing, more highly attenuated and dry than expected, but really quite quaffable. Overall, rock solid IPA and it's holding its own despite my attempt to drown myself in hoppy Vermont beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/6/15. Bottled: 05/26/15.

Trillium Centennial Dry Hopped Sunshower

Trillium Centennial Dry Hopped Sunshower - Pours a mostly clear straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells of peppery saison yeast, clove, coriander, with big floral notes and hints of citrus. Once again, the nose on this is absolutely beautiful and I could sniff this stuff all night. Taste follows the nose, lots of spicy saison yeast, pepper, and clove, hints of citrus peeking in towards the middle. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, lower medium bodied, smooth. Feels much lighter than an 8.5% ABV saison. Overall, this is very nice stuff. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 6/6/15. Bottled: 05/26/15.

Well that's quite a nice first impression. I have bottles of Vicinity Double IPA (which will almost certainly be consumed this weekend) and Trillium Saison (which may wait a bit, but will surely not be long for this world). And it's a place I will most certainly have to return to again someday (and maybe finally get some lunch/dinner at Row 34, as that place looks amazing).

Logsdon Peche 'n Brett

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What do you get when you take Logsdon's already amazing Seizoen Bretta, stick it in oak, and then cram it with 1.5 pounds of peaches for every gallon of beer? You get a gigantor peach singularity that curves spacetime and collapses in on itself such that scientists don't really know how to measure any of this except to say that it's delicious. First released in 2012, it quickly achieved walezbro status, disappearing immediately upon subsequent releases. I assume production has been ramped up for the simple reason that I was actually able to get my grubby biscuit snatchers on a bottle, and lo, it was good:

Logsdon Peche n Brett

Logsdon Peche 'n Brett - Pours a radiant yellow gold with a finger of fluffy white head. Smells of pure, juicy peaches. I have never had a beer that had this much peach going on. Sure, there's some light, musty funk if you look for it, but the aroma is really dominated by those peaches. The taste has a little more balance to it. Still lots of peaches, but you get more of that musty Brett, a little spice, some oak and maybe even a dry tannic quality. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and crisp, medium bodied, perhaps even a bit of boozy heat, but not at all unpleasant. Hot damn, this is a peach bomb. I've never had anything quite this intensely peachy. Overall, a pretty fantastic beer and a must for peach lovers. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/8/15. Bottle No. 12628. Best by: 01/2020.

While not distributed here, my understanding is that Seizoen Bretta is generally available wherever it is distributed, which is just inconceivable to me. That stuff is absolute nectar of the gods, and you would do well to seek it out by any means possible. As much as I enjoyed Peche 'n Brett, I can't help but fall back on Seizoen Bretta as a more regular option. And honestly, everything I've had from Logsdon has been pretty fantastic. Indeed, got a couple more in the pipeline, so watch out...

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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