To Øl Snowball Saison

Total Score: 8.55/10 Lemon1Peppercorns1Flowers1Tulipglass1

To Øl. I love saying it. It rolls off the tongue: To Øl… To Øl… actually I lie: I’m still a bit fuzzy on the “Ø” pronunciation… I’ve heard that it’s said like “or”, but then “or” doesn’t work with an “L” after it… “To Orl”? (someone from Scandinavia help a brother out here!). ANYWAY I’m expecting another tasty drop from this gypsy brewer – To Øl certainly doesn’t f**k spiders (to coin a popular Aussie bogan euphemism) when it comes to brewing, so I’m expecting BIG flavours without compromises. Their DIPA Underground was like a punch in the pancreas for me and I’m hoping this being 8% ABV (instead of 8.5% of the DIPA) will mean that the sugar content isn’t so diabetes inducing… here goes!

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Spectacular cloudy Harvest gold body with a firm and slightly creamy half centimetre white head that leaves some lace scrawl on the side of the glass. Bit darker than the average Saison, but this is To Øl so all bets are off. 8/10.

S: Brett funk from the get-go which leads on into a floral/earthy and an acidic noted aroma. There’s nothing outstanding about the character of this Saison, it could be a Belgian Saison if I was blindfolded. Waiting for something to jump out I noticed a slight hospital disinfectant touch lingering in the background… weird or am I overthinking it now? Perhaps that’s the band-aid smell other craft beer reviewers have noticed – I’ve never noticed it before, huh, I get it now. 7/10.

T: That acidity noted above is ever present here – herbal bitter lemon throughout the profile. Starts out with a hint of Brett funk (barnyard character as I like to call it), follows through to pepper/floral/earthy notes… actually this is one of the easiest drinking 8% brews I’ve had. Balance is sublime and no alcohol noticed in the profile. Pretty damn tasty… too damn tasty! Aftertaste has a slight menthol note – Aha, a hint of alcohol! 9/10.

M: Medium bodied with a nice dense/creamy carbonation, goes down like liquid-silk (patent pending). 9/10.

D: Kinda glad this doesn’t come in a 500ml can (or 750ml corked/caged bottle!) as it’s dangerously easy-drinking this one. I finished the bottle like it was a soft drink, I’ve struggled more with light beers than this one. If you’ve ever liked a classic Saison and thought “I need to get drunk a little bit quicker” then this is the meal ticket for you. To Øl nailed this one. 9/10.

Food match: Chicken is your main meat with this bad boy.

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Birra Baladin Wayan

Total Score: 5.8/10 Pear1BrownSugar1GreenApple1Tulipglass1

Birra Baladin Wayan is next in my gifted mixed 5 [again read my review of Super Bitter for disclosure ‘n stuff] as #4… of course the only logical question before reviewing this beer: is this brew in anyway endorsed by the Wayans brothers? And if so which brother? If it’s Shawn or Marlon, no thanks, but if it’s Damon then I say: Mo’ Money! This Wayan is listed as a Saison, it should be interesting to see where Birra Baladin go with this – Nazionale was different and fantastic and the last one I had: Isaac was classic to the style of Witbier, so they can go either atypical or archetypal these Italian craft brewers (Birra Del Borgo don’t even try to ascribe to a style – unless that style is “freestyle”).

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy AF with a heap of yeast clumps floating around – this is going to get yeastie (boys!). Colour of the body is an orangey-brown due to all that yeasty goodness. Head is almost non-existent, a thin white ring inside the glass. 6/10.

S: Big juicy ripe pear, musty/almost dirty yeast, apple sauce… yes apple sauce, you think I just make this shit up for fun? [yeah, well, sometimes]. Hard to get past all these esters and yeast characters – it’s a bit of a fruit stew here, not necessarily in a bad way, but it’s not a very clean aroma either. 6/10.

T: Yeah this one sat in the car for too long and refermented – it’s nothing like what anyone else has written about it, all I’m getting is a weird pear and apple pie with an overbearing musty yeast character. Shame, because so far the Birra Baladins have been pretty tasty. That said it’s not all bad – just a bit amiss. Finish is balanced between light medicinal bitterness, sweet pear, earthy/spicy yeast. Aftertaste isn’t great, tastes like I licked the dust off a dusty tome… umm, I’m guessing because I haven’t actually tried that… 6/10.

M: Mid to light bodied, thin with a couple burps here and there from the carbonation. 6/10.

D: Bit of a shame with this one as I love a good Saison. I did keep this in my beer cellar (aka kitchen cupboard) not sure when or how the secondary fermentation took place but it definitely would have transformed the flavour of this beer big time – as I got to the bottom of the glass it started to look like the trub at the bottom of my homebrew bottles… did I drink it? Yeah, yeast is full of nutrients/protein, never fear the yeast (or the reaper for that matter). 5/10.

Food match: I feel like eating blue oysters now for some reason.

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La Sirène Urban Pale

Total Score: 8.4/10 Flowers1Grapefruit1Bubblegum1Tulipglass1

Every once and a while you find a brewer at the top of their game and for La Sirène is one of those brewers. They simply don’t seem to know how to put a foot wrong. Yes, yes, I get that all their brews are basically a variation on the same style: Saison, but I say if you can nail one style consistently whilst adding new elements to it then why would you give that mojo up? Alternatively there’s a time and place for being a revolutionary mad-brew-scientist like Ross Kenrick @ Bacchus as well. Frankly I love that there is one Aussie brewer out there who can ace a Saison like La Sirène can. This is Urban Pale – their first canned beer and I admit I tried one last night and it was so damn good I then proceeded to finish off the entire 6-pack [yep!].

Poured from a 330ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Cloudy tangerine body with a decent 2 centimetre off-white head that uniquely has a mixture of dense/sea foam bubbles – the head soon subsides to a splotchy lace blanket. This is one attractive Saison here. 8/10.

S: Punchy aroma of orange peel, floral hops, coriander spice, grapefruit hints and a tinge of bubble-gum… it’s quite an ester-driven brew thanks to some superb yeast action: The original La Sirène yeast strain was bought back from northern France and has over the years had Australian wild yeast introduced to give it a touch of funk… it’s obviously working – James Brown would get down with this funk! 9/10.

T: Begins lightly tart, floral hop notes come mid-palate, leading on to a citrus orange and grapefruit light bitter rind finish and a touch of pepper. Do what I did last night and let this baby warm up to 12°C and you’ll get more of a bubble-gum note and touches of clove – that’s the temp a real Belgian Saison should be drunk and it’s telling here that Urban Pale improves as it draws inexorably closer (in this Queensland summer heat!) to 12°C [Bill: Listen to this dude Doc, he knows what he’s talking about.]. 8/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a fairly dense and creamy carbonation. 8/10.

D: Hot damn, not since this La Sirène Urban Pale has a brewer of Saison reminded me of the brilliance of Brasserie Dupont. Beg/borrow/steal to get your hands on this exceptional Australian Saison [err, actually don’t steal, stealing is bad mkay]. Price-point-wise at $28 a 6-pack it’s a touch on the dear side… but it is mighty tasty… that old drinkers dilemma. If I had anything to constructively add in my critique – it could be ever so slightly sweeter. That’s it. 9/10.

Food match: Bit of an all-rounder flavourwise, let’s spin the wheel and go: Sushi!

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Stone & Wood Pilot Batch #6 Saison en Chêne

Total Score: 8.3/10 WhiteWine1Pear1GreenApple1Tulipglass1

This S&W “Pilot Batch” is their latest limited release, and the first they’ve decided to bottle. I’ve never seen a beer spend less time on a shelf – my local Black Sheep bottle shop had a single case of 12 bottles sell like some type of flat pastry that goes well with maple syrup and whipped cream [hot cakes???] I got my grubby mitts on one of the few that were left – mission accomplished for S&W re: sales and whatnot (hopefully it’s not as shite as The Forager). So I was quite looking forward to get my olfactory senses back after being struck with a head cold, now they’re back and it’s Saison en Chêne (in oak) time, giddyup!

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Pale straw cloudy body with a white-as-the-driven thin lace blanket on top. Looks very Wit-ish. Head is a bit disappointing, but [that’s what she said?] sometimes thems the breaks with Saison heads. Possibly the most virginal white head I’ve ever seen though – it’s almost titanium white. 7/10.

S: Very much what The Forager could have been in terms of aroma – plenty of banana, pear and apple esters – actually a bit more on the Tripel side than anything (I’m thinking of you Chimay White!). Hint of clove spice, and vanilla from the oak. Yep, it’s definitely a Saison in yeast only… still: no complaints here. 8/10.

T: Flavour really brings it back to Saison territory (barnyard notes) with a touch of extra dry Prosecco. Following this it’s pear/apple esters, a touch of vanilla, and a hint of banana – damn this is a pretty complex (read: tasty!) Saison en Chêne! The finish is quite dry – that Prosecco flavour really adds a vinous character to this Pilot Batch. Balance and complexity: My 2 favourite things in a beer – right here. 9/10.

M: Borderline medium bodied with a thin but sharp carbonation and some real acidic bite in the mouthfeel, again: wine-like. 7/10.

D: I want more [shame it’s all gone then!]. Stone & Wood + Jilly Wines really put out a corker of a Saison: Complex, vinous and well-balanced – there’s nothing I didn’t like with this one. I wish craft brewers would experiment more with wine-makers more often because the results are nothing short of interesting. This is one of those brews I’ll be thinking about for the next month and wishing it gets made again. Word of warning though: It’s acid heavy, extra dry and vinous – some of these things might not go down well with beer drinkers who don’t like wine. 8/10.

Food match: This is a good aperitif beer which would go well with a before meal hors d’oeuvre or a cheese platter.

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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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Bridge Road Chevalier Saison

Total Score: 8.2/10 WhiteWine1Orange1GreenApple1Tulipglass1

Doing my (now) occasional wander through Dan Murphy’s I happened upon a certain Bridge Road I had yet to review, this Chevalier Saison, which did surprise me as I am quite fond of both Bridge Road and Saisons. They may not be the best brewer in the world, or indeed Australia, but their Chestnut Pilsner is IMHO a classic beer which I’ve always enjoyed. Here’s the rub: Saison is a style I’ve not had nailed by an Aussie brewer yet – it is indeed a difficult style to replicate due to the over-reliance on finicky yeast (I know, I’ve tried to homebrew one, it was a disaster). That said if any Australian brewer can nail a Saison I’m sure Bridge Road can.

Poured from a 750ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A:  Cloudy pale straw body with a massive 4 cm bleached white head that slowly recedes to a still decent 2 cm. Very much spot on Saison appearance, I’m giving it as good a score as Dupont here. 8/10.

S: Barnyard hay funk right on the nose with flourishes of apple/pear esters and musty yeast round out the aroma – this is about as Belgian as a beer can smell without actually being from Belgium – colour me impressed (which takes on an overall purple/gold hue). 9/10.

T: “The yeast is strong with this one” – Darth Brettanomyces. That said the yeast isn’t tarting up the brew like most yeast-driven beers it is more on the musty/dry/white wine style of yeast. Other flavours noted are: Cider apple with a slight orange juice citric note, and some Champagne Brut characters – quite a vinous Saison here, but in a good way. Refreshing on a hot summers day, and the Saison style was originally devised for parched hard working farmers, we owe a great debt to them! 8/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a light but sharp carbonation – right in the Saison zone. 8/10.

D: So we Aussies can brew a half decent Saison. Chevalier is proof enough for me. Although it wasn’t a perfect replication as it could have used more funk in the flavour and less dry/musty/wine characters. Still in a blind taste test with Belgian Saisons I would be hard pressed to pick the Australian pretender, and that in itself is a major accomplishment by Bridge Road, bravo sirs, and at $14 a 750ml bottle it’s $1 cheaper than Saison Dupont (though I would pay that extra dollar for Dupont any day of the week). 8/10.

Food match: The bottle label recommends scallops or cheese platter – sounds about right to me.

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Panhead Lola Deville Rosehip + Hibiscus Saison

Total Score: 8.85/10 WhiteWine1Flowers1Earth1Tulipglass1

Panhead get me. They get that when I crack open a can of beer that I want to be pouring it into a Duvel tulip and supping on some sweet, heady, alcohol-fuelled nectar – Giddy with beeriness and anticipation in the prospect of more brew-ventures into flavour country. As such when I asked expert Plonkite (and manager of Plonk) Liz about her favourite of the Panhead brews she pointed at Lola Deville as one of the most exciting craft brews she had tried in a long while. Needless to say: Insta-buy.

Poured from a 440ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Presents an intriguing hazed pink-hued amber body with a light but dense white head that soon recedes to a thin lace covering. The carbonation bubbles are quite small too, certainly different to your general Saison that presents with a larger champagne effervescence. 8/10.

S: The aroma has a very floral Gin-like quality to it. There is a hint of Belgian candi sugar adding some light bubblegum notes, along with a pervading earthy and dry base rounding out a unique fragrance from this Kiwi brew… impressive – I don’t often get a whiff of brews that stand out like this (plus I do like a nice Gin too). 9/10.

T: Taste buds have been set for “stunned” and stunned they are by the impact of this bold floral, vinous, dry and earthy Saison. Overall palate begins with an acidic white wine note which quickly becomes dry and tannic, following this a hit of candi sugar, some earthy/floral notes, with and astringent and (lightly) bitter finish. If you enjoy a decent Rosé you will feel quite at home with this fine drop. 9/10.

M: Mid to light (almost medium) bodied with a slight viscous stickiness and a medium tight-packed carbonation. Again wine drinkers would feel right at home. 8/10.

D: Panhead don’t seem to do anything in half measures and this is the mark of a great craft brewer for me – not holding back on quality ingredients in great quantity (in case you were thinking about starting your own brewery you should probably note that last statement, write it on a post-it or something). Whilst my darker Stout side will always reach for their Hardtail Henry, I can equally appreciate a decent light beer when I taste one and the combination of Rosehip and Hibiscus in this brew has brought an overall floral/earthiness which really counterpoints the candi sugar well. 9/10.

Food match: Treat this as a nice Rosé and pair it with grilled meats/vegetables.

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