Stone & Wood Pilot Batch Wilderness Honey Cream Ale

Total Score: 7.15/10 Clove1Honeycomb1Peppercorns1Nonicpint1

My pet peeve with beers #647: Brewers that get the hype-train rolling out of the station (i.e. the social media barrage of information about a limited release beer which gets every craft lover frothing at the bit weeks before said beer is even released) only to produce a minuscule amount of supply to meet the demand that is already at the station, newspapers in hand, waiting to board a train that will never arrive for them because a bottle shop manager has to ration out single bottles to a select customers *and breathe*. Stone & Wood is guilty of this sin (along with many other Aussie brewers I could name but for brevity’s sake). This Stone & Wood Pilot Batch Wilderness Honey Cream Ale – was literally the 1 bottle I could get my hands on, let’s see if it’s worth its weight in honey [cream ale].

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Hazed pale straw body with a fluffy white cappuccino 1 centimetre head on top that slowly compacts. My own experience with the Cream Ale style is rather limited (I’ve reviewed 1 so far: Mikkeller Cream Ale) so I turn to the 2015 BJCP for guidance: it says: “Pale straw” – bingo! “Brilliant, sparkling clarity” – oh dear. 8/10.

S: Surprisingly spicy/peppery on the nose, with a hint of honey, some smoke, dry crackers and a light floral/earthy tone throughout. This is not what I imagined when I signed up for “Honey Cream Ale” (I was picturing a beer that would put a grin on Winnie the Pooh’s dial), but it seems interesting nonetheless. More honey, and the sweetness that generally accompanies it, would be nice. 7/10.

T: Look, this is an odd… beer. Flavour profile bounces all over the place, not really knowing where to land – spicy clove, ginger and pepper notes, drrrry cracker centre, hints of wild floral and earthy honey that touches briefly on smoke, wood character, grainy tinge, back to a long dry finish, and not much else: boing, boing, boing = flavour profile. As the label states “Dreamt up by an artist, a local inventor and a wild chef…”, uh-huh, “death by some sort of crazy committee” I say. 7/10.

M: The base beer in this Cream Ale is similar to S&W’s other brews – mid to light bodied, medium carbonation, to style if not tedious. 8/10.

D: Far from the best in the S&W oeuvre, I liked the promise, the bold visionary ideals this brew embodies, but the execution, and let’s face it: the whole artist/inventor/chef collaboration was probably never going to produce a mind-shattering beer anyway, is lacking overall. Which is a shame. 7/10.

Food match: I would pop a kangaroo steak on the grill for this one – keep it Aussie.

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La Sirène Fleur Folie

Total Score: 8.45/10 Honeycomb1Peppercorns1Flowers1Tulipglass1

Time for another from Australia’s most veritable Belgian craft brewer: La Sirène. These guys (and possibly girls) have been hitting it out of the park with each beer they brew, and even though I’ve only reviewed their Hazelnut Praline – one of my favourite chocolate beers, I can attest to the exacting qualities of several of their brews. Fleur Folie (or “flower madness” if my cursory knowledge of French is correct) is in actual fact a Saison Miel (miel = honey) – a style that set off my “why didn’t I think of that before” brain reflex, surely this will be grand then.

Poured from a 375ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy with speckles of yeast floating around the pale golden body, with a lively white sea foam which drops back from 1 inch to 75 mm. So it’s right in that delightful farmhouse zone – big, fluffy head, yeast particles, there’s nothing not to like really. 8/10.

S: Peppery cardboard yeast upfront, lingers on for a long while, followed by notes of orange blossom flower, hints of honey and five spice. Aroma then is a classic Saison with that hint, though muted, of honey towards the back. There’s something else in there that I’m amiss to describe, something spicy (which is why I ended up going with five spice – the catch-all spice term). 8/10.

T: Well the honey really comes through in the flavour and imparts an overall sweet floral/woody tone throughout the entire palate. The peppery cardboard yeast comes through as well. The balance is sublime, sweet/bitter/dry/sour all make an appearance though no one flavour dominates. Finishes with an Ethyl Acetate (nail polish remover) aftertaste – don’t worry, this can be considered normal in a Saison. 9/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a decent amount of carbonation, ala the Saison style. 8/10.

D: This is a cracking Aussie Saison from the southern hemisphere kings of Saison: La Sirène. What indeed impressed me though is how the honey characters of this brew really “popped” in the flavour even though they felt quite muted in the aroma, yet another example of a beer that tastes better than it smells. Overall, at a better price and a bigger bottle, I would definitely get this fine Australian Saison again. La Sirène, you beauty! 8/10.

Food match: A traditional bouillabaisse or ratatouille niçoise will suit this hearty Saison.

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