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Posts Tagged ‘saison’

(no, not the Maroon 5 song)

These were two beers I had on Sunday morning while watching TV and catching up on wedding thank-you notes. Actually, it was Sunday afternoon, but Sunday morning sounds more cozy. And when you get up at 7, but then go back to sleep around 10 and get up again at 11:30, Sunday afternoon still feels kind of like morning to you.

This first one, split with Dan, was Le Merle, a saison from North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg, CA.

“Le Merle” translates to “the blackbird,” and Michael Jackson (no, not that Michael Jackson; Michael Jackson the famous beer writer) apparently described it as “More than a serious beer – it is outstanding….Dizzying, appetizing, refreshing.” For some reason I think of blackbirds being associated with fall, with picking off the grains and buds of corn from the harvest, with cawing at you from a bare tree branch as you bake a pumpkin pie. So I wasn’t sure what the association with a saison, typically a springtime beer, was. But, blackbirds make me think of farms in general, so maybe the association lies in the rustic, farmhouse-style nature of the beer. Or maybe it’s that “dizzying” quality that Michael Jackson described, the lush flavor unlocked by a rush of carbonation, that reminds us of the dizzying swoop of the blackbird.

And, since I haven’t done a “brew haiku” in awhile, here’s a picture, and a poem:

Blackbird
Swooping, dizzying
the husks, his caws a rush of
lemon, bright in cold.

This was an incredibly citrusy saison! So much bright, acidic lemony-ness cutting through the rustic funk of thick yeast. Definitely felt like the sun shining down on the dry late-fall stalks in the cold, in the clear air.

So that was beer #1. Now let me tell you about beer #2. I’m not going to pretend here that I’m better than everyone else and never end up with a hangover some Sunday mornings. There’s just no need to pretend that, while it’s not a frequent occurrence, it never happens. So when it does, what’s your first instinct when trying to think of a hair-of-the-dog drink that will ease the pain a little bit? Probably a bloody mary. All those good vitamins from the tomato juice, the spice clearing out your head, the vodka numbing it a little until you can hydrate properly. But, if you are like me, you have no ice maker, and have a tiny freezer, so you rarely have ice. And the thought of a bloody mary without ice is disgusting.

So enter: the michelada.

To make a michelada:

1. Pour a lager

2. Drizzle worchestire sauce

3. Drop a few tablespoons of lime juice, or squeeze some fresh lime directly in there

4. Dump in a palm full of salt

5. Add other spices as desired

6. Realize you should’ve salted the rim but decided to turn your lager into a michelada after you poured it

7. Consume. Hydrate. Eat some mac & cheese. Watch some guilty pleasure TV. Write some thank-you notes.

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Last night’s drinking and dining situation made me feel like this:

You’ll see why.

Yesterday after work, I was in Total Wine picking up some Thanksgiving selections, and thought I’d pick myself up something to crack open that night. So I grabbed this baby:

bottle.JPG

Because I am a sucker for a) saisons, b) hops, and c) the unusual. As well as the new, and this was certainly a new one to me. I’d had De Proef Brouwerij’s Reinart Flemish Wild Ale and Zoetzuur Flemish Ale before, and was a fan of both of them. This one sounded right up my alley as well. Dirk Naudts of De Proef Brouwerij is known for experimentation, and with this ale, he teamed up with Tomme Arthur of The Lost Abbey (“Inspired Beers for Sinners and Saints Alike”) in San Diego, CA. The Old World openly embraced the hand of the New World, and vice versa, to produce a saison aggressively hopped with American pale ale varietals and fermented with traditional Belgian brettanomyces yeasts.

glass 1.tiff

The result? Well, as you may expect, it’s a hoppy saison! It’s a pretty tasty one at that. The hops are citrusy, with a hint of cedar. The yeasts are present, though not as in-your-face as the hops, and to me, tangible yeasts always give a beer a thicker body and a hint of breadiness, which nicely balanced the pucker of those hops. They also give the beer the signature tartness of a saison, but (at least on my first tasting), this brew seemed less earthy and tangy than I’m used to saisons being.

I was drinking out of a small glass, however, which required a refill, and the bottle had been sitting out for 15 or 20 minutes by the time I went for a second pour.

glass 2.tiff

The flavors of the Belgian yeasts seem to really come into their own once the beer warms a bit, and the signature earthiness of the style seems to raise its voice more, to inch toward the front of the class.

Perhaps my choice of dinner, chewed while I sipped on this, was partially to blame as well for me missing some of the finer points the first go-round. You see, I made crab-and-leek-stuffed portobellos, paired with asparagus and my last-minute, wait-this-plate-doesn’t-have-a-carb! side, buttered bread.

crab mushroom dinner.jpg

The buttered bread went nicely with the creaminess of the yeast-feel (that body-boosting effect I talked about tangible yeast imparting), but nothing about the meal particularly matched the tartness or tang (except maybe some spice in the Old Bay on the crab). However, I think the portobello, while delectable, might have been the main problem. It’s so earthy and rich that it may have overwhelmed the beer. Instead, you need something light and tangy- and perhaps salty- to match the tang of the yeast, and buttery to match the yeast-thickened-body and balance the hops. Total Wine recommended pairing this with blue cheese, and while I’m allergic to blue cheese and could never experience that, I think some sort of cheese would be appropriate. White Stilton? Goat? Port Salut?

Even if the meal didn’t match the beer perfectly in taste, it matched it in metaphor: just as someone brewing beer regionally (as tradition and historical circumstances would mandate) would not have access to both Belgian yeasts and American hops, nor would someone foraging for mushrooms in the woods typically also have access to seafood. Old World meets New World, forest meets the ocean. Perfect harmony.

glass 3.tiff

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