Tag Archives: Stillwater Artisanal Ales

A Beer for all Saisons

A couple of years back now, and many posts ago, I wrote about the history of saison beers. At the time saisons or farmhouse ales were somewhat of a novelty but like many great fads saisons appear to be enjoying a bit of a renaissance this craft beer season.

So here is a bit of my original post on the origins of the style.

Saison is French for season and it was believed saison style ales were brewed in the autumn or winter for consumption during the following summer’s harvest.

However, according to Mosher’s Tasting Beer the current story about saisons being brewed to sustain workers  during the labour season, while quaint, is not exactly historically accurate. Rather the term saison applied to the eccentric beers of Liège as well as the beers of Mons in an area now known as the Saison region.

The commonalities uniting these beers were the ingredients used, saisons being brewed with a regional yeast strains, malt, wheat, oats, spelt and even buckwheat or broad beans, and not the coalitions of thirsty farmers and their intrepid beer-brewing wives – though personally I find the farmer version much more romantic.

Mosher suggests that fast forward to the twentieth century and the modern day versions of these saison beers may or may not contain wheat, tend to be bottle conditioned and have a higher ABV. One of the defining elements of this newly named style is the yeast, a ‘slow cranky’ strain believed to be related to red wine yeast.  This yeast is quite heat tolerant and produces lots of peppery phenols.  Spices are optional but pepper, orange, malts and grains of paradise are sometimes added.

A Saison Darkly

While I don’t have much new to report on the historical origins front I have tried a saison worth blogging about, A Saison Darkly from Stillwater Artisinal Ales.

This is the first beer I have tried from this brewery but I am a long-time admirer of the incredible artwork adorning the labels of their beers and I was intrigued enough by the promise of a dark take on the saison style to bring one home.

A Saison Darkly 8% ABV (great beer name to go with a gorgeous label) pours dark brown black with lots of mocha coloured head on the initial pour. There is pretty decent head retention on this beer. Lots of sediment remains in the bottom of the bottle, most decidedly the mark of a good saison, and there is a bit of cloudiness and sediment in the glass. A funky yeasty nose but there is also a coffee chocolate dark beer element to the nose. First couple of sips and this beer speaks more to the dark beer character rather than the farmhouse. I find the saison style gets a bit overwhelmed by the roasty malty character of this beer but that does not necessarily mean this is an inequitable partnership. As you drink the yeastiness comes through now and then reminding you you are not drinking a straight-up porter. Overall I think this is a great blending of styles and I look forward to sampling more from the Stillwater line-up.

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The Beer Geek’s Guide to Las Vegas – Part 1

Sometimes when you travel finding a source of great craft beer is a no-brainer, this is true if you go pretty much anywhere on the west coast of North America or say Belgium but sometimes if can be a little bit more challenging to locate your next beer fix.

Oddly enough the latter description applies to Sin City. Yeah I know it’s kinda ironic that the capital of overindulgence is not resplendent with gushing craft beer fountains and tap houses on every garish block but hey that’s what you’ve got me for right? The beer geek that plots her beer routes on the map before landing in the desert.

 

I always have a few beer priorities when I am travelling. First, finding a store that sells lots of great beer so I can stockpile bottles for my hotel room mini-fridge; second, locating a place I can go to grab a decent pint and third, staking out that oh-so-elusive eatery that allows me to both drink great beer and eat great food.

So what did I find in Vegas?

Probably the most important time-saver I can think of is to constantly repeat the mantra that the Strip is basically a giant corporate marketplace sponsored by the big macro-brewers – if you love Bud Light with Lime you’re golden otherwise you’re boned.

Granted you may find the odd craft beer sprinkled here and there at a Walgreens but if you are serious about having a decent bottle selection on hand head south my friends, head south (and don’t stop until you get to Town Square).

A quick cab ride from Mandalay Bay will get you to the local Whole Foods or as beer geeks know it Old Faithful. Here you will find all the craft beer your heart desires, at reasonable prices, and in sixes or twelves to boot!

 

Some highlights from my bottle line-up…

Brux Domesticated Wild Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Russian River Brewing Co. – Deep amber gold ale with lots of sediment and tons of stiff white head. Super yeasty and earthy on the nose with that barnyard element coming through on the nose, flavour and finish. Straight forward live beer with no flavour embellishments. This could be a challenging beer for some since bacteria-laden brews can be an acquired taste but I have to say this one worked for me.

Calico Amber Ale from Ballast Point Brewing Company – Deep amber to brown in colour with a ton of cream coloured head. Quite hoppy on the nose, but well-balanced flavour wise with lots of malt coming through and a nice smooth mouthfeel. Very clean and smooth to drink. Not remarkable but a good beer all-in-all.

Table Beer from Stillwater Artisanal Ales- I love the concept; an analogue to a table wine this table beer is a blend of various styles to make a versatile go-with-anything brew. Very pale gold in colour, slightly cloudy with bright white head. Hoppy on the nose, bitter on the finish. Flavour wise I would say this is most comparable to a Pale Ale. Overall, I think they met their goal of making an accessible and easy beer that most anyone could drink.

Brett Beer from New Belgium Brewing Company and The Lost Abbey – “We got the funk”. Hoo boy, a cloudy gold coloured beer with lots of head, tons of sediment and that fresh-from-the-farm aroma. As the name suggests this is a bacteria bomb; a wild ale that is earthy and sour in flavour. Another challenging brew but if you are open to pushing beer boundaries this is one to try.

Hell’s Keep from Squatters Salt Lake Brewing – Deep golden colour, lots of bright white head and sweet malt on the nose. Fairly light-bodied beer, malt heavy in the profile with a bit of an earthy aftertaste. An easy drinker for a Belgian.

 

Other options include, getting growlers filled at local breweries like Tenaya Creek or Sin City Brewing Co. Or checking out Lee’s Discount liquor for a decent selection of craft beer (I did not get a chance to get there myself but the bartender at the Freakin’ Frog recommended it). The Freakin’ Frog will also sell you bottles out of their impressive fridge but you won’t be paying retail prices.


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