Beer of the Week: Populuxe Smoked Rye Saison

By Iron Chef Leftovers

imagesCAAR87MMSmoked beers can be pleasant and roasty with notes of smoked salmon or BBQ that really compliment the other flavors in the beer when they are done well. When they are not, the beers tend to be roughly the equivalent of chewing on a campfire log. I was excited when Populuxe brewing partnered with Bitterroot BBQ to produce the Smoked Rye Saison. I love the Populuxe Saison, I love rye beers and I was very intrigued over what the combination of smoked rye and saison would end up tasting like. The beer clocked in at 6.8% ABV.

The beer pours deep red in color with a white head. Strong notes of roasted caramel with hints of smoke and rye dominate the nose with just minor notes of grass in the background. The beer has a significant amount of smoky sweet malt up front on the palate before quickly moving into light notes of lemon and grass with hints of Belgian character before finishing with layers of rye and very light smoke coupled with lemon and Belgian yeast that lingers pleasantly for a long time. The beer reminds me of smoked salmon with lemon and dill, with the dill (in a very light way) either coming from the grassy notes or my mind inserting it because of the smoke and lemon flavors.  This beer is very well balanced and layered and is very easy to drink for a smoked beer. It would pair fantastically with just about anything grilled.

Populuxe Smoked Rye Saison grabs the blue ribbon with 5 low and slows out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Brooklyn Brewing Sorachi Ace

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Somehow, despite both its size and profile in the craft brew community, Brooklyn Breweries beers are not available in Seattle (You can’t find their beers in Oregon, Washington or California, but you can find them in BC, go figure). That is disappointing since they make some pretty special beers. Because of that, I made it a point when I was back in NJ over Christmas to seek out a few of their beers for transport back to the Pacific Northwest. One of the ones I was able to come by is their Sorachi Ace – a saison hopped with, wait for it…Sorachi Ace hops. I had it once a while back and I really liked it (this was really before I was familiar with Sorachi) so I thought it was time to try it again. The beer came in a 750 ml bottle and ran about $10.

A rather long read from the Brooklyn website:

Most Brooklyn beers are made with a blend of hop varietals. As a chef does with spices, we look to get the best qualities of each hop and create a harmony of flavors and aromas. However, a few years ago, our brewmaster ran into a hop unique enough to deserve its own moment in the sun. A large Japanese brewery first developed the hop variety “Sorachi Ace” in 1988. A cross between the British “Brewer’s Gold” and the Czech “Saaz” varieties, it exhibited a quality that was unexpected – it smelled really lemony.

The unique flavor of Sorachi Ace was bypassed by the big brewers, but we thought it was pretty cool. So we made a special beer with it, and added the beer to our Brewmaster’s Reserve special draft beer program last year. Most Brewmaster’s Reserve beers are only available for a short time, and then they’re gone. But we liked this one so much, we decided to bring it back and give it the star treatment. Brooklyn Sorachi Ace is a classic saison, a cracklingly dry, hoppy unfiltered golden farmhouse ale, but made entirely with now-rare Sorachi Ace hops grown by a single farm in Washington. We ferment it with our special Belgian ale strain, and then add more Sorachi Ace hops post-fermentation. After the dry-hopping, the beer emerges with a bright spicy lemongrass / lemon zest aroma backed by a wonderfully clean malt flavor
It tastes like sunshine in a glass, and that suits us just fine, especially with seafood dishes and fresh cheeses. It’s just the thing on nice summer days and beyond.

 

Style: Single-hop Farmhouse Saison
Malts: German two-row Pilsner Malt
Additions: Brewer’s white sugar
Hops: Washington-grown Sorachi Ace
Yeast: Our special Belgian strain (primary); Champagne yeast (secondary)
Alcohol by Volume: 7.6%
IBUs: 34
Original Gravity: 15.7° Plato
Calories: 208 (per 12oz)
Food Pairings: Pork buns, fish tacos, shrimp, smoked salmon, sushi, prosciutto, curries, salads, grilled meats and fresh goat cheese (such as Westfield Bulk Chevre.)

 

23_image_sorachiace_largeThe beer pours hazy pale yellow in color with a foamy white head and shows significant notes of yeast and passion fruit coupled with some grassy/dill funk and hints of lemon peel on the nose. The beer starts out dry with a mild grain component and just a touch of hop character before moving on to notes of sugar and Belgian yeast and finally finishing long with hints of grass, lemon, yeast and dill and just a tinge of bitterness before lingering with a pleasant, tannic dryness. The hops and Belgian notes become a bit more pronounced as the beer warms but the grass and dill and the farmhouse notes also become significantly more pronounced, making this beer a pretty deep and complex item. Despite all of the interesting flavors, the beer is well balanced and you really don’t notice the alcohol until you try to stand up after putting back the entire bottle. A great beer showcasing Sorachi Ace with the added benefit of Belgian flavors,

 

Brooklyn Brewing’s Sorachi Ace shows its hand with 4 of a kind out of 5.

 

Beer of the Week: Alameda My Bloody Valentine

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Alameda Brewing is a long-time fixture on the Portland beer scene but only available in bottles in the Seattle market in the last couple of years. Seeing as I am a sucker for anything blood orange, My Bloody Valentine caught my eye in a trip to Chuck’s. After much debate, I decided that my love of saison and blood orange overrode the $17.59 price tag on the 22 oz. bottle.

From the Alameda website:

This farmhouse style Saison is dry, citric, tart, spritzy, and incredibly drinkable. The orange essence comes from the use of dried orange peels and blood orange juice. 21 IBU, 5.5% ABV.

valentine-bottleThe beer is surprisingly dark for a saison, almost tan in color with a cream colored head. Notes of Belgian yeast, blood orange, grains of paradise, lemon and grain dominate the nose with just a hint of noticeable hops. The beer starts off with significant farmhouse character – slightly sweet and funky with just a few grassy notes and touches of lemon interspersed, followed by a nice grain middle and a slightly bitter hop bite before finishing with notes of blood orange and light citrus and grassy notes in a long finish with a mild lingering bitterness. The blood orange becomes more pronounced as the beer warms, especially on the finish, replacing some of the bitterness at the end with a touch of sweetness.

This beer was very good and I would recommend it if it wasn’t for one thing – the price. It is an excellent saison and definitely had great character and balance, but the price tags is a bit off putting – unless you really love saison or really want to try this beer, you probably aren’t going to spend $17 for it, which causes it to lose a point in the ranking.

That being said, Alameda My Bloody Valentine comes in and shoots up the joint with a bullet ridden 3 Tommy Guns out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Reuben’s Pumpkin Saison

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitled2Reuben’s held out on me this year – they made a second pumpkin beer beyond their flagship pumpkin beer that they did not release until November. This beer was based on a saison, definitely a beer that you don’t see used very often in the pumpkin beer world. They had a very limited quantity of the Pumpkin Saison and it didn’t make it past the weekend that it went on tap, but you know that Iron Chef was there to try it and let you know what you missed.

The beer pours very dark reddish brown in color with notes of roasted pumpkin, pumpkin spice and saison funk on the nose. The beer starts out small with subtle grain notes and a distinctive saison background, then moving into a distinct pumpkin realm with light notes of roast and pumpkin seeds before hitting you with a burst of pumpkin pie spices – cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves are distinctly present. The beer finishes long with strong pumpkin pie character a pleasant dryness and just a hint of cinnamon heat. The pumpkin saison manages to bring more to spices to the party than the Pfeiffer’s Pumpkin Rye that Reuben’s also brews, giving a nice counterpunch to that beer. They also took great care in preserving the grassy notes of the saison and not completely overwhelming them with the spices, creating an interesting and balanced beer. I still would rather have the Pfeiffer’s Pumpkin, but this would be a welcome change of pace next pumpkin beer season.

Reuben’s Pumpkin Saison carves out a niche with a spooky 4 jack o’lanterns out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Reuben’s Rye Saison

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitled2I can really appreciate the complexity of a saison – on the surface it looks like it is going to be a light beer with not much going on, but once you get past the looks, you discover that you are drinking something that can have as much complexity as any other beer on the planet. Saison has been made for hundreds of years and is not a beer that you usually see with much variation in the recipe – you will find very different tasting saisons from brewery to brewery, but they don’t generally deviate in their ingredients too wildly. When Reuben’s decided to do their take on saison by including rye, I had to give the beer a shot.

The beer pour a very un-saison like beautiful brown in color with notes of sugar and malt on the nose with mild fruit and hints of chocolate.  Despite the lack of rye on the nose, there is no question that it is in this beer. The beer has roasted rye notes upfront before yielding slowly to a more saison-like back end with notes of grain and citrus in a slightly sweet, subdued finish. There is a very long, slow fade back into rye at the very end of the beer, producing something that just a touch dry at the very end.

I had some major doubts about this beer – saison’s appeal comes from subtlety of character and I was worried that the strong flavors of rye would overpower the beer completely, but Reuben’s did a great job balancing the beer out so that you get the strong rye character while still having enough of the saison character to appreciate the beer for what it is – an amped up version of a saison.

Reuben’s Rye Saison brings you back to the countryside with a stellar 4 farmhouses out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Enchantment Saison

By Iron Chef Leftovers

The September Mountainbeer pair from NW Peaks was fun – a kolsch and a saison, two styles which are gaining in popularity, and two styles that Mrs. Iron Chef happens to like. She was happy when I mentioned to her that our NW Peaks tasting would consist of those 2 beers.

From the NW Peaks website:

The name. The mountain. The enchantments are a string of alpine lakes just outside of Leavenworth. Permits for camping here are arguably the most sought after permits in the area, with good reason. Enchantment Peak is one of the mountains that surround the valley. What sets this mountain apart is obviously the setting, not the climb. As a climb it’s a nice scramble from prussik pass, but atop, it gives a birds eye view of the enchantment basin below.

The beer. Enchantment ale is a saison, a style that is categorized as a ‘farmhouse ale.’ Indeed, there are (musty?) notes of straw and hay reminiscent of walking through a farm. But these styles also have a nice fruity notes (apple and pear), with a slight perception of sweetness. Using a cousin to the Belgian yeasts, these beers ferment dry and somewhat spicy. Enchantment ale is a nice example of the basic style. We started with an average specific gravity but let it ferment very dry resulting in a higher alcohol content than most of our mountainBeers. We also added some grains of paradise adding to the spicy complexity on top of the other defining characteristics. Simply enchanting.

Original gravity: 1.054. Finishing gravity: 1.002. ABV 6.8% – enjoy with some friends over dinner.

untitle8dThe beer pours pale yellow in color with notes of lemon, hay and farmhouse yeast. The beer starts out very light, almost imperceptible, before building in flavor. First comes notes of very mild yeast then a louder grain component before reaching a crescendo with a slightly funky lemon plateau that seems to linger and build upon itself well into the next sip. The funk is more subdued than many saisons, but  the beer has a great progression of flavor and character and more balance than most saisons I have tried. The high alcohol is completely unnoticeable in this beer. The beer is light enough to please those who love a mild beer, but complex enough to please an advanced beer drinker.

NW Peaks Enchantment Saison charms the pants off of drinkers with a strong 3 Prince Charming’s out of 5.

On a related note, we enjoyed this on a night where we shared a pot of Belgian Beef Carbonnade with spatzle with AJ Coltrane and Annie S. Somewhere in Europe; many people are turning over in their graves – Belgian style stew over German style pasta served with a French style beer.

Beer of the Week: Stone Collaboration The Perfect Crime

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Next up in the Stone Collaboration Series is The Perfect Crime; a Black Smoked Saison brewed with the help of Evil Twin and Stillwater. The beer, as with all of the others I had in this series came from a 12oz. bottle and ran about $5.99. There are still a few bottles of this available at Chuck’s Hop Shop if you want to try it.

From the Stone website:

Evil Twin / Stillwater / Stone “The Perfect Crime” Black Smoked Saison. In a masterfully orchestrated collaboration of the minds, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Denmark’s Evil Twin Brewing, Brian Strumke from Baltimore’s Stillwater Artisanal Ales, and Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele crafted a beer that cleverly exploits the definition of a saison.

Stats: 6.8% abv, 60 IBUs
Hops bill: East Kent Goldings, Chinook, and Cluster

This beer is jet black in color with a cream colored head. The nose has hints of smoke with tree bark, grains and hints of hops. The beer starts out on the palate with small amounts of smoke yielding to a bit of tartness (the farmhouse funk) and citrus – the grains of paradise and hops are definitely noticeable and balance nicely with the smoke giving a sweet/sour/smoky combination. The finish is slightly sweet with hints of sugar and mild hop resin. The beer is slightly hoppy but not dominating in a surprisingly long finish.

They really pushed the definition of saison on this beer and they nailed it. It has enough of the farmhouse funk and grains of paradise notes that you know there is a saison there somewhere, but it is far and away the most hoppy saison I have ever tried, The smoke surprisingly marries well with the other flavors and the brewers did a fantastic job keeping all of the individual components distinctive enough that you can still taste them without being overpowered by each other. A regular saison drinker would probably hate what they did to this beer, but if you are looking for something interesting, you should pick one up.

The Perfect Crime from Stone/Evil Twin/Stillwater gets away with stealing 4 Scott frees out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Stone Collaboration Saison Du BUFF

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Collaboration beers can be fun and produce some interesting stuff. Stone has been running a collaboration series for a couple of years now working with brewers from around the world to produce some interesting beers. One of the first ones from this series that I tried was the Saison Du BUFF, collaboration between Stone, Victory out of Pennsylvania and Dogfish Head out of Delaware. This bottle was from the second brewing and was a 12 oz. container which ran about $4.

 

From the Stone website:

Appearance: This beer pours a beautiful pale gold with a white head of foam.
Aroma: Pronounced herbal characters, a wonderful blend of sage, lemon thyme, rosemary. It has some very pleasant citrusy notes, perhaps from the lemon thyme and the Citra dry-hop. And the Belgian yeast strain contributes low level banana esters and a hint of clove.
Taste: The taste starts with the herbal blend in the forefront, and then is backed by a clean malt balance and a very nice citrus and tropical fruit-influenced finish. The finish has a substantial, but balanced hop bitterness and hop flavor. It is a very dry beer, and has a nice refreshing quality that makes it wonderful for this time of year.
Overall: This is the second time that Greg, Sam, and Bill have brewed this beer here at Stone Brewing Co., and this time we were able to get all the herbs from Stone Farms! How cool is it to brew with ingredients from your own farm? Very, very cool.

Stats: 7.7% abv, 52 IBUs

Malts: Pale Malt, Pilsner Malt, Wheat Malt, Flaked Rye
Hops: Centennial & Citra

 

BUFF pours hazy yellow in color with a white head. Lots of lemon and herbs on the nose with hints of grain and yeast – basically this beer smells like a saison should.  The initial taste starts with notes of lemon followed by a medley of herbs and a hint of hops. The finish is dry and lacking direction – some of the time it is green and unbalanced and other times it is even with a distinct progression through the herbs. It is a beer that relies heavily on the olfactory senses as well as taste and it reminds me of a liquid herb garden. The alcohol is there but it is hardly noticeable, I just wish the flavors from the herbs were more consistent throughout the beer.

Saison Du BUFF was interesting but uneven and definitely not a beer that someone who was a casual beer drinker would remotely enjoy. I had higher expectations for this beer and was unfortunately let down.

Saison du BUFF lifts into your fridge with a somewhat disappointing 2 Thymus citriodorus out of 5.