Thursday, September 20, 2012

531. New Glarus Saison

When good things happen to bad people, I’m usually indifferent. Or maybe I’ll muster some faux ire and indignation, even if it feels a bit forced. But then it’s quickly back to being indifferent. Because let’s be honest: I think most people suck, and yet good things still keep happening to most of them whether they deserve it or not, and not that sharp stick in the eye that they really actually deserve. But when good things happen to me, well, quite frankly, I’m always somewhat shocked. So imagine my surprise last Friday when I found a rumpled grocery bag outside my office door filled with New Glarus beer. And not just any New Glarus beer—there was a mixed six- and four-pack, plus a big bottle of the Belgian Red. Six different New Glarus beers. My name was even on the bag, confirming that this wasn’t just some galactic mix-up or cruel hoax. Then began the contemplation: who would do something so incredibly nice? And for me? After all, to quote my dear, departed mother, I am something of an asshole. I won’t lie to you, my dear readers—the thought did cross my mind that the beer was poisoned, and this was an elaborate ruse to kill me. But then I realized I didn’t care, because a) they were beers from New Glarus, and b) besides the dreamy, dreamy Belgian Red, I hadn’t tried any of them. Thus, if I died, I would die happy, with a tummy full of delicious and exciting new beer. So home they went, and right on into the refrigerator.

New Glarus Saison pours a delicate, hazy straw; the white, creamy head is augmented by tons of tiny streaming bubbles up the side of the glass. It is clear enough to leave orange highlights on the table, but cloudy enough that your fingers are more a shadow on the other side of the glass. The nose is equal parts grainy, perfume-y, and spicy with an underlying fruitiness that imparts both banana and pear—combined, it gives the beer that brut champagne earthy and musty aromatic quality. Flavors start with light bread dough malt and creaminess in the front; the banana from the nose is there as well, but not quite enough to call it banana bread. The carbonation quickly strips the palate clean, clearing the way for the dry husky graininess and hop bitterness found in the middle of the beer. Touches of cracker malt return in the finish, and there is that soapy hop bitterness flavor found in lagers, but here it is shot through with apple and pear fruit hints—again, spritzy via the bright, crackly carbonation. This beer does a nice job of combining delicate aromatics, effervescent carbonation, and loamy, earthy flavors. I’m glad to see that a gentle hand added the grains of paradise—like the rest of this beer, harmony and balance are the watchwords for spice additions as well. My only complaint is more personal: I would like this beer better without the banana aroma and flavor. I find it a bit more intrusive than the other fruit components of the beer, and it gives the beer a certain sweetness that doesn’t quite match the dryness of the body and the earthy malt and hop profile. Nonetheless, a solid beer—it fits somewhere in-between Hennepin and Saison Dupont in the Great Saison Chain of Being, with the creaminess and rounded malt character of Dupont—albeit with a drier body—and the banana yeast esters found in Hennepin, along with the brightness and freshness of the carbonation. So besides being delicious, this beer keeps good company.

From the bottle: “A few times a year we cut Dan loose to brew whatever he chooses. Always handcrafted, the bottle you hold is brewed for the adventurous soul. This is a very limited edition and we make no promises to ever brew this style again. Saison, the original Farmhouse Ale, was the refreshing invention of thirsty Belgian farmers. Wisconsin pale barley brewed with Grains of Paradise in this bright new copper hued ale. Deceptively approachable, its complicated fermentation incorporates a blend of three Belgian yeast strains and is fully bottle conditioned. Fresh hops snap with lemon zest and peppery ginger notes, lending to its enigmatic personality. Enjoy, as this sassy Wisconsin Saison is at its best thirst quenching drinkability now.”

Oh, and I forgot the normal organizational mumbo-jumbo: yes, we’ve tried New Glarus before, including Raspberry Tart, Belgian Red, and Fat Squirrel Brown Ale. And this particular beer is from the Thumbprint Series.

Thank you, Veronica.


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