feels like the first time

self portrait with Secession

The recent opportunity to try Westvleteren 12 (thanks, David!) got me thinking: what makes a beer memorable? There are objectively great, world-class, special occasion beers – like the Westy – and then there are your personal favorites, and the overlap (or lack thereof) is interesting. Continue reading

a pint of ’12 Surly Wet

image courtesy mnbeer.com

About the time that the first pictures of fall steelhead get posted to social media sites, the year’s first wet-hopped beers start hitting the shelves. And, just a few days ahead of this natural phenomenon, I had my first pint of 2012 Wet.

While yammering on as part of a Better Beer Society panel on sour beers last week, I got to sit next to Spencer from Surly Brewing. Spencer told me in no uncertain terms that my obligation to the universe was to have some of this year’s Wet – Simcoe had returned, he said, from front to back, and (now I’m going to paraphrase almost 100%) that the hop profile was less “bam!” and more “whoa” than last year’s Columbus-forward version, and (now I’m done paraphrasing) that it was not to be missed.

After getting my arm twisted like that, I had a pint (on tap at the Republic, at least as of last Wednesday, citizens), and its sticky, piney dankness did not disappoint. I am haunted by dankness.

What fresh-hop beers have you had (or brewed) so far this season? Any standouts?

to everything, a saison

It’s a couple days past the solstice and it’s not the time of year I think most folks usually scramble for a snifter of saison … plus, I generally don’t hold truck with spices in my saisons. I love process-derived and yeast-derived complexity.

But this was an Urban Farmhouse Ale, using the ingredients of the season (homegrown hops and coriander from a plant I had let go to seed in the garden) from my pied a terre. Spice embargo be damned, and also the time of year – it’s never not a good time for a saison.

An agrarian admixture of mostly pils malt backed by a touch of Canadian pale and German Vienna, flecks of unmalted oats in the grist. Low, low mash rest for high, high fermentability, a bit of kettle sugar, then a long, hot primary with East Coast Yeast #08 Saison Brasserie Blend.

How did it turn out? Here we go:

Poured off a keg at about 7 weeks from brew day. Hazy straw and a Luciano Pavarotti’s finger-worth of white mousse. The nose is initial musty notes of cellar and cork followed quick with a yellow lemon Froot-Loop snort of coriander. More coriander in the flavor around a flash-bang of grassy, spicy Liberty hops (a flameout addition to the kettle along with coriander). The yeast comes through with a curious mix of powerful ripe tropical fruit esters and phenolic black peppercorn. Some oat-derived oiliness fools your palate into thinking the finish will be something other than blastingly dry (FG 1.001!)

So – it’s light, snappy, and I wish I had had this during the heat wave in July. But, as I said, it’s never a bad time for a saison, and as Garret Oliver writes, it’s an extremely food-friendly style. And with all the food-centric holidays coming up, that’s good enough for this farmhouse aficionado.

This was my first time out with ECY08, and I like it … maybe not love it. The mixture of ripe fruit and phenols certainly holds my interest, but I have to wonder if this beer would be improved if it broke one way or the other. I would try this recipe again but perhaps with a different saison yeast (Wyeast 3711? yeah, Wyeast 3711), or with the same strain but different fermentation schedule. My notes say that the primary free rose to over 80F (fermometer on the carboys didn’t go that high) and that at 12 hours the offgas was “spicy – lemongrass and white pepper – but not phenolic.”

Anybody else use ECY08? What were your results? Where do you come down on spiced saison?