Friday, August 3, 2012

The Session #66; or Highlander’s Beer-y Revenge

So there can be only one, huh? That means making some choices. And when it comes down to it, I want a beer that is bright and refreshing when young, and yet able to age gracefully into something subtle and complex. I want it to combine Old World know-how with New World innovation. In other words, I want a beer that can be all things to all people. And that beer? An American-hopped Belgian Pale Ale/Saison with Brettanomyces. When young, it offers citrus, pine, and resin hops backed by light candy sweetness, bitterness, and bright carbonation. And when older, the earthy straw and loamy tang of funk sparkles crisp and tart on the tongue. Really, it’s more like two beers for the price of one. Which, in part, may be the best thing about this beer: just when the hops begin to fade and disappear, the Brettanomyces (and/or other potentially appropriate souring organisms) starts picking up. I call that win-win. And while some may quibble that my combination of BPA and Saison is cheating, we’re basically just talking a lighter, Pilsen malt-based beer here—the American hopping takes the potential differences between the styles in hop types and schedules. Sure, the specialty grains are different (well, kinda), but I can always use the Saison designation as justification to throw pretty much anything that I want into the mash-tun anyway. At least that’s what Phil Markowski tells me. Plus, like any good American, I reserve the right to use whatever yeast I deem necessary at a given moment—as long as it is appropriately attenuative, of course. And don’t forget the reciprocal bugs to finish off any lurking fermentable (and unfermentable!) sugars. I mean, who wouldn’t like a BPA made with Simcoe and Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes? Toss in the White Labs Platinum Series WLP 644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis trois, and you had me at Belgian.

Not surprisingly, I’ve tried my hand at a couple different versions of this beer. The Dandelion Saison with Brett B was delicious enough that it was hard not drinking it all young (sure, I went light on the hops, but that was so I could discern the dandelion). An earlier version of this beer used the dregs from a bottle of the Bruery’s Saison de Lente. I currently have a Cherry Saison with Brett B that, almost four months in, is still slowly bubbling away in the carboy. By far the best version, however, is the Hoppy American Belgian Pale Ale I made with yeast cultured from a bottle of Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Biere. I have four bottles left, one of which I drank while typing this post (see picture above). Damn, that beer is good. And I’m not alone. I’d consider the Bruery’s Saison de Lente and Anchorage Brewing’s Galaxy White IPA with Brett professionally-made versions of the beer to end all other beers offered here; there are undoubtedly others, like Goose Island’s Sofie, as well. Saison de Lente undergoes a delightful transformation in the bottle—one year later, it is nothing like the beer when fresh, and yet both are a delight. Next year, I’ll have a three-year vertical to try, and I’m excited to see how it continues to change. And when I had a bottle of Galaxy White IPA in San Francisco in May, it was bright and citrusy, just developing an underlying funky tang; the bottle I had earlier this week had decidedly shifted towards barnyard funky deliciousness, with the hop flavor all but disappeared. My first thought when trying the second bottle: that’s the one.

The Session is a monthly first Friday beer blogging event; this month is hosted by Craig Gravina at drinkdrank. Drink and blog, y’all.


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