...and what saison doesn't bring us jolly?
I originally intended to talk about Cameron's Obsidian Imperial Porter Rum Barrel Aged. Then I thot, "But we're moving into the warmthness of summer. Why not look at easy drinking brews?" So I thought I'd take a look at three highly rated saisons: 8 Wired Saison Sauvin (98), Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere (97 - this one's for you, Ryan :) and Nøgne Ø / Bridge Road India Saison (98).
Okay, so I confess:
- I have a penchant for full-bodied, big-flavoured, rich, dark beers, and
- the Obsidian bottle is so compellingly attractive -- shiny red foil crown, and words like "oak aged," "rum barrel," "unfiltered" (oh so dirty!), and "imperial" on a label hosting an erupting volcano...I dunno <shrug>, maybe it's a guy thing. ???
I was also drawn by the temptress description on the side of the bottle, "Dark & intriguing as the midnight sky, Cameron's Obsidian Imperial Porter is loaded with magnificent and robust flavour. Aged for seven months in Caribbean rum barrels, roasted malt and chocolate character abound in this velvety nectarous ale." And I found it to meet more than satisfactorily it's 97/100 rating! But I digress (impossible to be digressing whilst savouring an Imperial porter barrel aged in rum!)...
Jolly Pupmkin?! Jolly Pumpkin?! Is that a demonic clown nightmare? Or some halloween beer? Well no, they are a highly reputed American brewery from Michigan. Clicking on the About link of their homepage, one is given somewhat of a mission statement, "Welcome to a land of open fermentation, oak barrel aging, and bottle conditioning...." And doesn't that statement alone cause your nether extremities to quiver excitedly?! "At Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales we are dedicated to more than the traditions of old world craftsmanship. Everything we do is designed to create ales of outstanding art and flavor. Focusing on traditional rustic country style beers brought to life through labor and love, we strive to create beers to lighten the spirit and soothe the soul. Sharing our joy to the betterment of mankind is the most that we could hope for." Well, we just got their Bam Biere Farmhouse Ale in the store this past week, and it has been received with excited anticipation.
Speaking of Deschute's Obsidian Stout (well, a least one of the voices in my head was), what a sly devil this brew is! Me thinking it is a highly rated stout (99), expected a thick, heavy, BIG beer. NOT! This brew is so astonishingly light and quaffable! (am I using too many exclamation marks?!!!) I could sincerely drink this beer all night long without feeling full. I will delightfully revist this brew ... often. Even throughout the summer! Whoops! Digressing again. =-P
And "Nøgne Ø." I desperately need help from you Denmarkians as to how to pronounce that. :P We've stocked this brew in Das Cooler for quite some time but I feel it deserves some attention. Enough cannot be said about the Nordic brews available to us, don't you think?
"What's a saison?" you may well ask. This from the Wikipedia Saison page:
Saison (French, "season," French pronunciation: [sɛ.zɔ̃]) is a broadly defined pale ale that in modern versions is generally around 7% abv, highly carbonated, fruity, spicy (sometimes from the addition of spices), and is influenced by Saison Dupont Vieille Provision. As a beer style it originated from beers brewed during the cooler and less active months in farmhouses in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, and then stored for drinking by the farm workers during the summer months. It is believed that these farmhouse beers would have been of a lower abv than modern saisons—probably initially around 3 to 3.5% abv on average, rising in the early 20th century to between 4.5 and 6.5% abv. Modern saisons are brewed in a range of countries, particularly the United States, and are often bottle conditioned.
Historically, saisons did not share enough identifiable characteristics to pin them down as a specific style, but rather were a group of refreshing summer ales made by farmers. Modern saisons brewed in the US tend to copy the yeast used by the Dupont Brewery, which ferments better at warmer temperatures—29 to 35 °C (84 to 95 °F)—than the standard 18 to 24 °C (64 to 75 °F) fermenting temperature used by other Belgian saison brewers.
Light, refreshing summer ales. Perfect! Being a saison initiate, I so wish Travis was here to do this sampling with me. I'm either the worst or best person in the world to evaluate these puppies.
As (mis)fortune would have it, the 8 Wired kinda fizzed a little when I opened it so I'll look at it first, having already sampled it. 8 Wired is a slammin' brewery from New Zealand...okay, I just found out from their hompage that all their brews are "crafted by Søren Eriksen, a nomadic Danish brewer". Wha'd I just say about Nordic brews?! Anyway, it weighs in at 7% ABV with moderate 50 IBUs. They used French Saison yeast saying that this imparts "belgian" flavours. I certainly get the fruit nose & flavour of the Nelson Sauvin hops. 'Kay, this brew has totally sold me on saisons! I was sure I wasn't going to 'get' them what with me having dark, roasty, "meaty" beer needs. But there is plenty of body (rich, silky mouth feel), and bud satisfying flavour here to meet my needs. Wow!
The Jolly poured the most pleasingly, with a big, pure white, long lasting head, but with the lightest colour of the three. This Bam Biere is a more traditional brew, having the lowest ABV of the three at 4.5%. Mmmmmm...that sensual, horse-blanket nose! Can't get enough of it!!! The 8 Wired doesn't hold a candle to this. Yup, and that nose carries right onto the tongue -- the two are one. A bit more hoppy than 8 Wired's. Ya, the 8 Wired is definitely 'warmer' going down.
OMG, I'm so excited about what the Nøgne Ø (Norway)/Bridge Road (Australia) collab could bring! The richest golden colour of the three...7.5% ABV and 41 IBUs... Not the nose of the Bam Biere. A bit of the blanket smell but ... I dunno, a totally unique aroma I can't identify. That scent is amplified on the tongue! Wow! How'd they do that? Really makes me think of a raw, simple, farmhouse brew. Delish!
Well, as has been proven countless times in my experience, there are no two brews in a style that are identical. Hallelujah! That's why I'm drinking beer. The taste experience alone is infinite! These are three phenomenal brews each in their own right. I love them all for their own pecular characteristics, but I favor the Bam Biere -- that nose & taste. M-m-m-mmm!
Das Cooler houses these other fine saisons for your jolly (with their obligatory RateBeer rating):
o Upright Four (95)
o Stillwater Barrel Aged Series - Stateside Saison (99)
o Saison Dupont Vieille Provision (99)
o Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Saison (98)
o Ommegang Hennepin (97)
o The Bruery Saison Rue (98)
o Birrificio del Ducato Nuova Mattina (New Morning) (95)
o Green Flash Saison Diego (86)
o Selkirk Abbey Saint Augustine (84)
Chris the Beer Blogger
from Das Cooler
at The Keg n Cork Liquor Company
p.s. But summer beers need not only be light ales. Deschutes Obsidian Stout is a prime example. My first encounter with a "summer stout" was Mill Street Cobblestone Stout -- full stout flavour but deck-friendly-ly light. Well, of course you can find it in Das Cooler! :D