Saison du BUFF : Stone Brewery
DogFish Head reviews: Punkin Ale
Yes, I voted. That will be the end of the politics discussion on this blog. Unless it has to do with beer, of course.
I was really excited to try tonight’s beer (though when am I not, honestly?) as it came in a really cool bottle with everything written right on the glass rather than a paper label, and it is a trifecta collaboration. That’s right. It’s a recipe created by three different brewers, Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head, Bill Covaleski of Victory Brewing Co, and Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Co that will be brewed three different times, once at each of the breweries. The one I tried tonight was brewed at Stone Brewery and has a label design written by Sam from Dogfish. I will try to get ahold of the two other brews so I can compare their differences.
Their collaboration extraordinaire is called Saison du BUFF, where BUFF stands for Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor and is described as a “clandestine organization committed to liberating collective taste buds, citing the dastardly and/or oppressive reign of so-called ‘fizzy yellow beer.'” A Saison is a type of farmhouse ale that supposedly almost became endangered due to lack of interest, but lately has been sporting a fabulous comeback in the US. Farmhouse ales are traditionally brewed in the winter and enjoyed in the summer thanks to their extremely complex herbal and spicy natures which vary greatly across the board. There is no right way to make a Saison, but they should have a very distinct earthy flavor with medium bitterness.
Back of the bottle: “It’s a Saison of sorts; hellaciously herbaceous and hopefully contagious. This was not a ready made ale. But it is a ready made collaboration. Meaning Stone and Victory are 2 breweries that are exactly like DogFish in that they do/brew exactly what they love and they do/brew it exactly like no other brewery out there (♥- lots of it in this bottle)
After really enjoying myself with all of the research – seriously, I need to find a job doing research – I poured as much of the 12oz bottle as I could into my snifter before the head completely overtook the glass. The liquid can best be described as a hearty clouded goldenrod flitting with sunflower highlights, which made it very cheerful to look at by color alone, but add an awe-inspiring 4-finger thick creamy head on top and, ladies and gentlemen, you have yourself a craft beer. The head had great retention and lasted until I reached the bottom of my glass, leaving thick, spotty, medium-bubbled lacing that refused to let go without being dirty.
No sooner had I put my nose to the glass when summer seemed to erupt out of the top of the beer. It was an explosion of lemon zest, light pine, rosemary, hints of thyme, cloves, light yeast, and an over-exuberant grassy sage that stole the show. I wasn’t sure if I was smelling an herbal potpourri or a beer! Despite the myriad of aromas swirling around under the top heavy sage, it had an airy feel to it and became intoxicating after a few sniffs. It reminded me of the beginning of summer, when obligations and worries are finally melted away by the sun and grass, when there doesn’t have to be a care in the world. It was so refreshing before I had even tasted it and I still would have been happy without a sip. Though that definitely enhanced everything.
I was caught completely off-guard by the spiciness that blasted through my mouth coupled with a medium bitterness that quickly bit my tongue before being washed over with the other flavors. Once again, the earthy sage steam-rolled everything else into near submission, but a floral lavender, light lemon, rosemary, thyme and grassy cloves eventually reared their heads as I swallowed. I think the only part I didn’t really enjoy was when I could still taste the oily sage sitting on the back of my tongue 5 minutes after each drink – it was reminiscent of what I can only imagine licking a sage plant would be like. Holding a light to medium body with moderate carbonation, this Saison was way thicker in texture than it was in scent, which further encouraged my surprise at the anomaly of it all.
This beer is definitely a sipper, not one to be gulped or tossed back. If you’re going to try this beer, you need to really put your heart into it, you need to let yourself be taken over by the aromas and quality of the seasonings. At the same time, don’t take this craft brew too seriously, it is the epitome of summer, after all. I would recommend pairing this with grilled chicken, maybe with a lemon marinade to further enhance the lemon hiding in the beer, and don’t forget the herbs.