Baltimore, Maryland’s Stillwater Artisinal Ales is one of America’s most well known brewers of farmhouse styles beers. I recently uploaded a video review of Stillwater’s As Follows a Belgian Strong Ale and was very surprised by Stillwaters flavorful yeast strain. Debutante is a Farmhouse Ale brewed to 6.4% ABV and crafted in the style of Biere de Garde. Debutante is brewed with spelt and rye along with heather, honeysuckle, and hyssop. Biere de Garde is a style traditionally brewed in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.
Stillwater Debutante pours out a bright and sparkling golden orange with a fizzy densely bubbled head. A few lacing rings stick easily to the glass as I swirl a few times. A first small sniff and I note a pleasant estery spritz of citrus fruit, floral hops, musty barnyard notes as well as mild herbal aroma. Debutante has a generally pleasant and bright aroma that reminds me of the best saison beers and a blend of grassy herbs. A bit of a toasted bready malt that blends well with a refreshing bouquet of herbs, citrus, mild hops and a musty ester essence. The finish is refreshing and crisp with a relatively mild bitterness. The spices and herbs that Debutante is brewed with aren’t individually notes in the flavour but come through as a mild floral spiced note. Overall Debutante is certainly unique and tends to remind me of a cross between a spiced wit beer and a saison.
Oro de Calabaza is an oddity in the craft beer world to say the least. Brewed by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, Michigan, Oro de Calabaza is an 8% ABV golden ale aged in French oak brewed in a traditional Biere de Garde style. Translated from Spanish “oro” is for gold and “calabaza” is in reference to gourds including pumpkins.
Biere de Garde is a style of ale originating in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. In many ways the style is similar to the Saison of Belgium in that they both use a Farmhouse style yeast and are brewed traditionally in the winter. Biere de Garde translates roughly in French to “beer for keeping” and is controlled by a appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) meaning that only beers produced in Nord-Pas-de-Calais region are allowed to use the Biere de Garde name. This is similar to Champagne is only produced in the Champagne region and others are just sparkling white wines.
Oro de Calabaza pours out a marvelous out a bright and hazy golden yellow with a creamy fluffed up pure white head. A slow cascade of bubbles appear in the body as the head dissipates slowly into a thin cap. Taking the first sniff of the glass I immediately sense a mild funk and barnyard aroma. Woody, zesty with lemon and citrus esters, beautiful fruity notes and earthen funk notes with light toasted bread malts. Diving in further I sense a mild brettanomyces bouquet with a plethora of bursting fruits; lemon, white grapes, apples, pears and some black pepper. Oro has hands down one of the most unique and enticing aromas. Slowly taking the first sip, a sweet bready and light caramel malt forms in the middle with fruity notes. Apple and pears with a prominent white grape flavour come along with the funky brett and earthen barnyard flavours. Zesty lemon esters and mild hop bitterness on the finish with a bit of astringent dryness on the finish. Not even a single bit of evidence of this being an 8% brew on the finish as funk and fruity brettanomyces notes fill the aftertaste.
This is probably the most creative style of beer I’ve ever encountered and Jolly Pumpkin truly hit it out of the park with Oro de Calabaza. Complex, well balanced, tart and dry, fruity and funky….the list goes on and on. I could imagine this brew to be quite a handful for the more novice beer drinkers due to the high acidity. Overall, just an incredible beer.
Grade: 93/100 Price: $11.29