So here’s another shot at a beer using Nelson Sauvin; this one is brewed and bottled by 8 Wired Brewing Company in Marlborough, New Zealand. While we’ve had beers with hops from New Zealand, and made beers with hops from New Zealand, we’ve never actually had a beer from New Zealand (well, that all of you know about, anyway). So here it is: our first beer from New Zealand. And an excellent choice, might I add: here’s a beer dry enough to highlight the delicate white wine and Chardonnay-like flavors associated with Nelson Sauvin. And it is made with Wyeast’s French Saison 3711 yeast, perhaps the greatest yeast known to humanity. Ah, I kid. There is no perhaps in that last sentence. So basically, we’re talking win-win all around.
Saison Sauvin pours a hazy golden apricot with a sparse but creamy head, while the nose is simultaneously juicy, earthy, and musty mixed with a fair amount of floral and fruit aromas, including citrus, pear, and apricot. I also get a touch of over-ripe fruit followed by hay and hints of pith and zest—a smell I would best characterize as spritzy. Flavors open with a slight candy sweetness that moves quickly into a dry, earthy bitterness. There is a touch of juicy flavor and mouthfeel in the front, but the bitterness quickly strips it away. The bitterness continues into the finish, along with a brief appearance by bright, spicy hop flavor. While there are corresponding hints of the pear, apricot, and over-ripe fruit flavor in the finish, they are much less forward than in the nose. The attenuated body creates a dry and eminently drinkable beer that pairs well with the hop bitterness; it has a mineral, earthy tang in the finish that further dries and cleans the palate. It is better than I thought it was going to be, and I had high hopes for it; the malt presence is minimal, allowing the yeast and hops to dance and swirl on the tongue. Even Elli, who is often diffident regarding saisons, gives this one her approval. As she observed, “the humble farmer wouldn’t know what hit ’em!” All in all, an excellent example of the style, one worth seeking out. Nice work, 8 Wired!
From the bottle: “Saisons were traditionally brewed by Belgian and French farmers to provide refreshment to their laborers during harvest, back when water was generally undrinkable. Those low-gravity beers were not so much about flavour, I’m sure, so I’d bet those hardworking, humble farmer brewers would be plenty surprised to learn that, centuries later, their style of brewing has come to be cherished by modern beer lovers, and has inspired brewers from all over the world. As with all our beers, this is a very modern, new world, interpretation of the style. We have used a French Saison yeast, which provides a plethora of funky, earthy, very ‘Belgian’ flavours. From there we have upped the ante a fair bit by doubling the amount of malt, and have loaded the kettle with punchy Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand, where our beers are brewed. Unlike the original saison, this is beer to be savoured. Moderation is the key for full enjoyment of this and all great beers.”
Yeast: Wyeast 3711 (I knew it!)
Malt: Pilsner, Aromatic, CaraMunich, Wheat and Crystal
Hops: Nelson Sauvin and a pinch of Motueka