Boulevard Smokestack Series Tank 7

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Alberta has finally received Kansas City, Missouri’s Boulevard Brewing. Known to many as being one of the dustbowl’s best maker of fine ales Boulevard hit shelves this past week. I had personally never tried anything from Boulevard’s vast catalog so what better place to start than with a saison. Tank 7 is a Belgian saison style brew with a heavy 8.5% ABV and is brewed with Magnum, Bravo and Amarillo hops. Unlike the traditional saison beers of Belgium which are brewed with home grown Saaz, Goldings and often Challenger hops Tank 7 should have a more American hop presence. 

Tank 7 pours an effervescent golden straw colour with a thick puffed up white head. The head subsides slowly leaving tons of lacing blotches on the glass. The body appears to be extremely carbonated with a steady stream of bubbles cascading towards the surface. At first glance the nose is subtle but complex with layers of spicy hop and ester notes, citrus fruits, musty barnyard notes and light toasted wheat malts. Crisp and clean first sip with a nice effective coriander and spice blend on the finish. The mid palate is refined and fruity with notes of pear, lemon rind and grapefruit. Crisp toasted wheat and bready malts make up a malty backbone. The esters are really the star of the show with tons of fruity and spiced notes working well with the citrus hops. On the finish a moderate bitterness helps keep it true to style with a lingering spice and saison yeast aftertaste. A truly exquisite saison!

Grade: 93/100

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The Bruery Saison Rue

One of California’s most esteemed brewers is the aptly named Bruery located in Orange County. The Bruery is a self described boutique brewery specializing in barrel aged and experimental ales. The brewery was started by Patrick Rue an avid homebrewer in 2008 and is named with his surname as the moniker. Saison Rue is a nod to the family saison brewers common in Belgium who often name their saison style beers after their surname. Saison Rue is one of The Bruery’s few year round offerings and is billed as a bottled condition saison brewed with rye malt and brettanomyces. 

Pouring out a rich, murky burgundian amber with a thick and lively yellowish head. There is a solid stream of bubbles reaching up to the soft pillowed head of foam. At first the aroma is of ripe fruit, old leather, earthen and woody notes and a bit of lemon pledge cleaner. Richly steeped with crisp and spicy rye malt that quickly contrasts the notable citrus and light pine hops. A bit of a musty, earthy aroma from the inclusion of brett presents itself in moderation. A nice crisp first sip with light caramel and toffee malts with hints of cracked pepper, floral and citrus hops and musty barnyard wood. A very complex yet approachable profile that is reserved where it should be and takes liberties elsewhere. Ripe fruit and rich leathery earth flavours combine with toffee and spicy rye towards the finish with a trademark saison finish. Dry and astringent with lingering yeast and ester flavours. Citrus hops linger on with a backbone of cracked pepper and floral notes. Saison Rue is a wonderfully exuberant and complex beer that shows a different story with every sip and for that reason it is consistently one of my favourite brews. 

Grade: 95/100

© Laurie P Smith

Prairie Artisan Ales Prairie Ale

The latest American microbrewery to hit the off license shelves of Alberta’s better stores is Krebs, Oklahoma’s Prairie Artisan Ales. Prairie Ales is a self-described Gypsy brewer started by two brothers with a love for great beers. Over the past few years they have cultivated a reputation of brewing unique and interesting beers including a variety of saisons. Prairie Ale is one of their flagships brews and is a 7% ABV Saison style ale brewed with Brettanomyces and single hopped with Saaz hops. Pouring orange a bright golden orange colour the body is quite cloudy with a bit of yeast sediment in the glass. There is a strong stream of carbonation leading to the thick head of pure white that coats the glass entirely. The aroma is crisp and floral with subtle farmhouse and brett notes. Light and fresh fruit aromas of pineapple, lemon zest and orange rind blend well with the floral and spicy Saaz hops. Toasted wheat malts in the mid palate with light caramel or honey sweetness. Quite fruity and floral with tons of estery and yeast based flavours. A few light spice notes of coriander and cracked black pepper are included with the esters. The farmhouse notes are more subtle and balanced then some Saisons with a crisp and lightly bitter finish. The mouthfeel is medium to heavy with a rather effervescent amount of carbonation. Overall a crisp and smooth saison that is very much on cue sylistically with a superb balance. 

Grade: 91/100

© L.P. SMITH

Dieu du Ciel! Isseki Nicho

The newest beer from Dieu du Ciel! to arrive in Alberta is Isseki Nicho an Imperial Dark Saison a style which has started to slowly develop in the craft beer community. Dark Saisons from breweries such as Stillwater, Widmer and Upright have all been recently released. Isseki Nicho is a collaboration project between Dieu du Ciel! and Shiga Kogen a Japanese sake producer. Isseki Nicho is described as having a grain bill of an Imperial Stout with a saison twist. At 9.5% ABV this brew is certainly a heavy hitter in the class on an Imperial Stout.

Twisting off the cap a slow hiss of vapor trails out of the bottle. A gloopy, pure black viscous body with a thick, bubbly, tan head forms in the glass. The head settles slowly with larger bubbles and small, dense bubbles forming well. The nose has a general rich malt aroma with a moderately heavy roasted note, hits of coffee and chocolate and a beautiful mild saison style yeast scent. Soft esters complement the light saison yeast well with light barnyard dust notes and mild citrus zest. The aroma is rather elogent and the heaviness is a refreshing change for the saison style. My first sip has a thoroughly roasted, heavy malt flavour with a note of espresso and vanilla. More subtle flavours of smoke, wood, bourbon, lemon zest and barnyard dust work their way through. The finish is heavy with a mild saison yeast and a roasted malt bitterness that lingers for a while. Well balanced, Isseki Nicho is a unique twist on the style of saison despite being alot like an Imperial Stout.

Grade: 89/100

Price: $4.00

 

Le Trou de Diable La saison du Tracteur

The legendary brewery from Shawinigan, Quebec has finally started to ship their beer in quantity to Alberta and one of the first to arrive is a saison known as du Tracteur. Brewed to 6% ABV with traditional farmhouse style saison yeast.

A beautiful glowing bright yellow body with a finger of foamy white head. A solid stream of tiny bubbles ascend upwards as a testament to bottle conditioning. The aroma is floral and very heavily scented with citrus zest and yeast esters. A light honey sweetness and mild toasted cereal malts with a noble hop aroma blended well with the whole nose.The first sip is a bit tart and zesty with big lemony citrus fruits and mild spice notes of coriander and light grains of paradise. Mild malts are mostly unnoticed in the whole flavour profile with overbearing citrus fruits and spices.There is a full flavoured traditional saison style yeast and ester flavour throughout with mild spices and definite funky farmhouse flavours. The finish is tart and a bit bitter with lingering citrus fruit notes and mildly bitter grassy hops. A well combined, complex saison with one hell of a flavour. Overall this is one of the best non-Belgian saisons I’ve been privileged to try with a solid traditional yeast flavour and aroma as well as a tasty fruity taste.

Price: $6.99

Grade: 91/100

Nøgne Ø/Bridge Road India Saison

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This Saison is a collaboration between Nøgne Ø out of Grimstad, Norway and Bridge Road Brewers out of Beechworth, Victoria, Australia. The India Saison is a blend of a traditional Belgian saison with new Australian hops. I must confess of never hearing of Bridge Road Brewers but Nøgne Ø is well known to me as Norways foremost experimental craft brewer.

A nice pseudo Saison style with a blend of tropical hops and peppery saison flavours. The pour is a cloudy, hazy golden yellow with a massive foamy white mess of a head. The nose is multi faceted with a pale ale esque tropical and fruity hop aroma and a traditional peppery and earthy saison backbone. Light toasted bready malts and honey sweetness are also noted in the aroma. The mid palate has a mild toasty bread malt with a hint of lemon zest and overly fruity notes. A mild bitterness pervades the flavour profile into the finish. Moderate spice flavours with pepper and coriander on the finish give a noted Saison style flavour. This beer has a very unique flavour and as an experimental beer this is a tasty blend of a pale ale and a saison.

Grade: 87/100
Price: $8.29

Evil Twin Ryan and the Beaster Bunny

Evil Twin Brewery is a Danish brewery similar to the Gypsy brewer Mikkeller in that many of their beers are contract brewed by other breweries. Similar to Mikkeller it seems that Evil Twin has a tendency to brew extremely high alcohol beers. Ryan and the Beaster Bunny while having one of the most unique names is a Belgian Farmhouse or Saison by style. In general the style of Saison is a pale coloured slightly spiced and floral ale with a prominent peppery note. Ryan and the Beaster Bunny is 7% ABV and is brewed at Fanø Bryghus in Fanø, Denmark.

Ryan and the Beaster Bunny pours out an extremely effervescent foamy mess with a pale golden yellow body and a bright white head that foams up heavily in the glass. After finally settling, a few big lacing bands linger on the glass. The aroma has a strong Belgian estery yeast with floral hop notes as well as a mild spice blend. A bit of a strong aroma in general but definitely Saison-esque in style with big floral esters and a prominent spice note. The flavor has a crisp wheat malt with a few lemony citrus hops and floral notes fill the middle. A mild peppery spice note with light coriander accents and a lingering mild bitterness.  The finish is rather boisterous and has a lingering peppery spice and light alcohol presence. Overall, this is stylistically in lines with the taste and aroma profile of a Saison despite having a bit more of a hop presence.

Grade: 86/100

Price: $8.00

8 Wired Saison Sauvin

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Craft brewing is a relatively new trend in New Zealand with the Lion and Db breweries controlling the entire beer market until the mid 1980’s. In 1986 the Shakespeare Brewery in Auckland became the country’s first craft brewery. Over the past several years, the cultivation of rare an unique hop varieties in New Zealand has jump started a new craft brewing movement. 8 Wired Brewing in Marlborough is one such new brewery with a knack for creating unique and odd beers.

Saison Sauvin is a Belgian Saison by style brewed with homegrown Nelson Sauvin and Motueka hops. The Saison is a style of beer traditionally brewed by farmers for refreshment during the harvest season. The style of characterized by peppery hops, lemon and zesty fruits as well as funky, earthy farmhouse flavors.

Saison Sauvin pours a bright golden yellow with a fuzzy short lived white head that dies as bubbles pop. A thin half finger of porous white foam remains with a few specks of lacing. A steady stream of fine carbonation surges upwards. The aroma is mildly musty with a zesty lemon and citrus peel note. A hint of wheat malt, with a few notes of black pepper and floral hops. The nose is fairly standard for the saison style with a bit of an odd fruity nuance. I’m not quite sure if I sense the New Zealand hops in the aroma, but I hope they create a unique flavor profile. The mid-palate is a bit sweet with floral hops up front and mild tropical fruits making an appearance. A hint of zesty lemon and musty funk notes come through in the traditional Saison style. Letting this guy warm up in the glass I notice an old green grape and vegetative floral flavor. The finish is mildly bitter with a bit of pungency and a lingering musty earthen flavor. Overall this is a great New Zealand twist on the traditional Saison style.

Grade: 89/100      Price: $10.79