#348 Hallertau – Barrique Fermented Saison

Hallertau Saison Name: Barrique-Fermented Saison
Brewery: Hallertau (Auckland, New Zealand)
Style: Saison
ABV: 5.3%
Source: the Golden Dawn (Ponsonby, Akl)

I had to stare at this photo for a full five minutes (and then eventually put it into Photoshop and lighten it up), in order to figure out what  it was. Eventually I recognized the blue picnic table and remembered that oh yes – this was that cracking little Saison I drank at Golden Dawn on Saturday.*

It was a little hard to taste the beer because it was so dark (sounds weird but it’s true), and because a girl sitting near me was blowing smoke in my direction, but I tried not to act like a grumpy old man about it and enjoyed the beer as best I could.

It was pretty classically saisony, with aromas of lemon, bread, bubblegum and gentle spices, but also a little oak from those barrels. In the mouth it was fresh and creamy, lightly sour and very refreshing. There were actually quite a few similarities between this and the Funkonnay, which could never be a bad thing.

Though I do actually like Golden Dawn a lot, it wasn’t quite the right setting for a delicate saison. Still – I’m yet to find a flowery meadow or sunny barnyard with beer on tap, so for now it will just have to do.

*Again, sorry for posting out of order and for being so hopeless with remembering what I drank. I’m hoping this is coming across as a charming Zooey Deschanel-type kookiness rather than signs of a mental deficiency. 

Published in: on July 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

#271 Raffe – Bibliotheque

Name: BibliothequeHomebrew saison
Brewery: Raffe Smith (homebrew)
Style: Saison
ABV: 6%
Style: French Saison

“bready yeast, sweat, flowers,
lemon, delicate, crisp, soda water finish.
They say saison is for farmers, but this tastes too posh – like a summer cricket refreshment.”

That’s not me trying to write a Haiku, it’s just I put my notes directly into a wordpress draft when I drank this last week, and looking at them now I think they convey the vibe of the beer well enough as is. Am I lazy? Maybe. Sick of writing “The aroma was of”? Definetely.

This is the first home-brewed Saison I’ve ever had and I really thought it was marvelous. It was just so clean and lovely, – like a dry champagne or a breeze-dried white sheet. It was as if you could drink it all night and never get a hangover, although of course this is probably untrue. (Raffe, can you confirm?)

Remember at the beginning of the blog when I was all “Saaayzon? What is this I don’t even-“ ? Well, I am pleased to confirm that I am  80% sure I know what a saison should taste like, an much more importantly, I know I think they’re swell.

Published in: on May 16, 2012 at 9:40 pm  Comments (1)  

#263 Nøgne Ø – Saison

Name: Saison
Brewery: Nøgne Ø (Grimstad, Norway)
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%
Source: Galbraith’s Alehouse

Oh, fuckadoodledoo.

I just wrote a 5-6 paragraph post on this beer, which included multiple pictures and divulged secrets, amusing jokes (I thought) about Norwegians and flowery descriptions of the beer, only to have it all disappear on me during the final proof-read.

Well, sod it. I’m not doing it again. Instead I will just tell you that I loved the beer (classic saison done right – yeasty, lemony aromas, sweet in the mouth and then spicy and dry), and that I drank it to counter-balance a slightly gloomy evening.

Instead of actually describing said gloom again, I will just post this photo of my flatmates (and the beer, see?) and let you make up your minds on what the sad faces were about. Go ahead – be creative!

The Last Supper

Published in: on May 9, 2012 at 11:04 pm  Comments (2)  

#126 Brasserie Dupont – Moinette Blonde

Dupont Moinette BlondeName: Moinette Blonde
Brewery: Brasserie Dupont
Style: Saison
ABV: 8.5%
Source: Regional Wines (Wellington)

About 100 or so beers ago (yes, I now denote time with beers) I drank the Moinette Biologique from Brasserie Dupont and went mad over it. When I saw this at Regionals with the same Moinette name, I had to get it just in case it was half as good.

It was half as good. Maybe even three-quarters as good which is actually saying a lot.

You can see it poured beautifully – a warm hazy gold, with a big white head that cleared off pretty quickly.

It smelled typically Belgian – bready yeast, candied sugar, banana, orange and spices. It was complex I suppose, but also quite simple in its summery deliciousness. In the mouth it was sweet, full and instantly boozy, but with a clean dry finish that could fool you into drinking far too much. Even after this one little bottle I was feeling p r e t t y merry indeed.

And speaking of merry.. there’s only 12 beers till Christmas! Huzzah!

Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 7:56 pm  Comments (5)  

#53 Brasserie Dupont – Saison Dupont

Saison DupontName: Saison Dupont Vielle Provision
Brewery: Brasserie Dupont
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%
Source: Brew on Quay

Just what the f**k is a saison, anyway?

That’s a question that had been plaguing me recently, and I decided I couldn’t answer it until I had tried this – supposedly the Holy Grail of saison, certainly the most famous example of the style, and presumably the benchmark with which I could compare all others.

Saison originated in farmhouses in Wallonia (the French speaking part of Belgium) , and was brewed seasonally (saison means season, geddit?) to last through the summer. That meant it had to be strong enough to last a few months, but also thirst-quenching and not all sticky-like.

Brasserie Dupont is in fact located in Wallonia, and on a working farm which dates back to the 1700’s, so if anyone can claim to be making real deal saison then I guess it’s them. Apparently Saison Dupont became famous in the 1980’s when an American started to import it, and it’s become even more popular in recent years – being named “the Best Beer in the World” by the magazine Men’s Journal in 2005.

Cogito, ergo sum – you could say it’s thanks to Brasserie Dupont and this particular beer that Saison is now hotter than vindaloo in New Zealand. (Feel free to correct me if I’ve got that totally wrong.)

I drank this one at Brew on Quay (but you can also buy it online at The Beer Store), with my mum (Tuatara APA) and sister (Hop Zombie). You can see it poured a hazy yellowy golden, and had an impressive head, like beaten egg whites.

It smelled like summer in a glass, but also – a bit confusingly – like a wheat beer. Belgian yeast, bubblegum, candied sugar, citrus (orange I think) and clove.

I battled through the foam to get a sip, and found that those heavy Belgian aromas came together in a way that was deliciously clean. It was a bit sweeter than the last three saisons, but with a tartness too, some spice, and a really refreshing, dry finish. As my mum put it, “it just zips out of your mouth.”

Overall I think this is a really classy drop, definitely perfect for summer, but not the “Best Beer in the World”, or at least not my favourite.  I actually like the Biologique (which I should have mentioned, is from the same brewery) even better.

So did it answer my original question?

Of the five saisons that I’ve had now, the only thing they’ve really had in common is that they are dry, light, and refreshing. Maybe a little bit spicy too. The international (not from Brasserie Dupont) interpretations of the style that I’ve tried have clearly not tried to imitate the Saison Dupont (they didn’t taste like wheat beer, for a start,) so maybe there is no benchmark. I think saison is just a beer that’s good to drink in summer, and beyond that rule brewers can do whatever they like. Am I wrong? Quite possible. All I did was drink five beers and read a bit of Wikipedia… but right now I’m sick of talking about saison so I’ll leave it at that.

Stick around though! Tonight I’ll be addressing another question that’s been nagging me of late…

What the f**k is a barley wine?

Published in: on October 1, 2011 at 2:18 pm  Comments (2)  

#49 Ommegang – Hennepin

HennepinName: Hennepin
Brewery: Ommegang (Coopertown, NY, USA)
Style: Saison
ABV: 8%
Source: Regional Wines

So last night I drank my fourth ever saison, and I must confess to still being completely baffled as to what one of these should taste like. I fell head over heels for that gorgeous floral/candyfloss version by Dupont, but now I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be forever chasing the dragon.

This one poured a glorious colour, hazy marmalade with a stiff foamy head. I sniffed and swirled and sniffed some more (almost inhaling some of the foam), but couldn’t get much of an aroma beyond some faint citrus and a whisper of Belgian yeast.

The taste was similar, but with a hoppiness that seemed spicy (ginger, pepper?) rather than bitter, and a hint of acidity. The mouthfeel was light and dry, with spritzy carbonation that seemed to enhance the spiciness.

I started to eat a pack of chips halfway through it (Ready Salted Kettles – what else), and I can confirm the beer cut through the grease like a charm. Actually I’m out of dishwashing liquid at the moment, so had this tasted really terrible I might have been tempted to use a bit on my frying pans…

Overall I thought this beer was nice and refreshing, but not terribly interesting, and when I’m drinking an 8% beer I feel like I need lots of flavour to match the booze. If this were three of four percent then it would make a lovely midday drink – the kind of thing you cool off with after a hard morning ploughing fields in the sun – but at 8% you’d probably go back and crash your tractor. (Yeah, I know all about farming, can you tell?)

DISCLAIMER: I’m sick of saying this, but I should add that I do have a sinus infection at the moment which means I’m not really tasting things properly. That means you should probably disregard everything I’ve said about this beer and all posts in the few days hereafter.

Published in: on September 27, 2011 at 3:09 pm  Comments (3)  

#47 8 Wired – Saison Sauvin

8 Wired Saison SauvinName: Saison Sauvin
Brewery: 8 Wired (Nelson, New Zealand)
Style: Saison
ABV: 7%
Source: Victoria Park New World

It’s Sunday evening (I’m not sure what time exactly – this daylight savings thing always boggles me), and I just got back from a bach at Whatipu on the West Coast.

I spent the weekend with six of my friends – squeezing into caves, eating camp food, squinting at a very smoky bonfire and drinking (mostly) Epic Pale Ales. It was a pretty great time, only slightly hindered by the unwelcome return of the sore throat and blocked-up sinuses that I thought I kicked to the curb two weeks ago.

So, I was in an idyllic setting but less than peak physical condition when I drank Saturday’s beer – a Saison Sauvin by 8 Wired.

You can see it poured a dark golden amber, with a small blue head. Just kidding! That’s an effect of the wonky bach glassware. The head died away almost immediately, which may be because said wonky glassware was a bit dirty.

It smelled… interesting. Belgian yeast, definitely, and hoppy in a way that wasn’t familiar. I guess most of the big-hopped beers that I’ve had so far have used American hops, whereas this beer uses only Sauvin hops from Nelson. They’re obviously quite different, though I’d struggle to define how exactly.

On the tongue the hops were fruity, spicy, and really bitter. It seemed to have some sauvignon blanc characteristics – gooseberries, pine, straw/cut grass  (but I wondered if this was just the name putting ideas in my head) as well as lemon and passionfruit. It was drying (a bit like tonic water) and had a lively carbonation. I think my blocked nose stopped me from tasting and appreciating this one fully, as my overall impression was really just one of zingy bitterness, and I kept wishing it had a bit more malt.  I know I shouldn’t judge a beer after just one (especially not when it’s in a wonky glass) so I’ll give it another go before I make up my mind.

And now it’s time to go and stand in front of my pantry for 20 minutes while I choose my beer for today. See you back here soon!

Published in: on September 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

#35 Invercargill Brewery – Sa!son

Invercargill Brewery Sa!sonName: Sa!son
Brewery: Invercargill Brewery (Invercargill, New Zealand)
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%
Source: Forrest Hill Liquorland

This is my second ever Saison, and I must admit I’m none-the-wiser about what this style should taste like because it is 100% different to the last one I tried (Dupont Moinette Biologique).

What I do know is that both of them have been lovely, and I’m incredibly pleased that DB didn’t follow through with their attempt to trademark the name Saison, because that could have meant less of this style being produced in NZ.

This one poured a clear, golden colour – like a pale whiskey – and had a small white head that didn’t hang around. On the nose I got freshly squeezed OJ, marmalade, and candied sugar. On the tongue it was the same, but with a spicy dry bitterness that made it clean and refreshing.

It was only after it started to warm up that I realised how Belgian it tasted. What is it that makes something taste Belgian? What’s the official word for it? Is it funk? And should I start Googling things instead of lazily posing my questions to readers?

This beer would be absolutely gorgeous on a stinking hot day in summer, although it’s also pretty good next to the heater in my room. I don’t love it quite as much as the Moinette Biologique – but seriously, that shit was off the hook.

A final word on the name… I suppose if DB had followed through with trademarking the name Saison then “Sa!son” could have been a sneaky way of getting around it. Perhaps someone should make a R@dler?

PS: I got this from Forrest Hill Liquorland and it was great. If you live in Auckland then I highly recommend you go get yourself some treats!

[Update: Apparently DB Did actually trademark the name Saison, they just dropped it later. Dicks.]

Published in: on September 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm  Comments (2)  

#21 Brasserie Dupont Moinette Biologique

Moinette Biologique Name: Moinette Biologique
Brewery: Brasserie Dupont (Tourpes-Leuze, Belgium)
Style: Saison
ABV: 7.5%
Source: The Beer Store

I think this was my first ever Saison and I think… (surprise surprise)… I’m in love.

I love everything about this beer. The name for starters:  Moinette Bioloque. It’s just begging to be whispered out loud. Don’t fight it.

The pour is a slightly hazy warm amber, with a foamy white head – just the way I like it. The aroma seemed quite typically Belgian to me… yeasty, fruity – banana especially – with a bit of spice.

After I took a sip I went “Woah!” which, while not that uncommon for me, means I will remember it forever. I have a list of “woah-beers” in my head, which are usually the first examples I’ve tried of a particular style – like the 2008 Smokin’ Bishop, or my first Orval… But I’m getting off topic.

It’s bloody lovely! It tasted of banana, apple, orange, yeast of course, and quite strongly of candyfloss, which dominated the aftertaste. It sounds full-on but it’s not – there’s a bit of dry bitterness which balances out the sweet, and all the flavours are quite delicate and perfectly harmonised. The mouthfeel is nice, quite light and smooth and doesn’t leave you wanting

Whenever I try a beer I really like I always force it on those around me. Here’s what they had to say:

Olivia: “I don’t even know what to say about that, except that it’s delicious.”
Hollie: “It’s like the Gewurztraminer of beer.”
Jerry: “That’s yummy.”

I can sense a bit of an obsession, an obsaison if you will (oh yes I did), coming on. What’s your favourite Saison and where can I find it?

PS – I was a bit rushed/lazy and didn’t put any information about this brewery or what a Saison is – luckily someone else has already done a good job here at Beer from the Motherland.

Published in: on August 30, 2011 at 10:12 am  Comments (10)