Unibroue A Tout le Monde Megadeth Saison

Brewer: Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec
Style: Saison
ABV: 4.5%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description:  This saison ale was brewed at the request of Dave Mustaine, lead singer of heavy metal band Megadeth. It uses a cold (aka. dry) hopping technique and, to date, has the lowest alcohol content of any Unibroue beer.

Tasting Notes: This is not the first Saison I’ve had by Unibroue (the other being their Blonde de Chambly), but it is one of just a few new beers that I’ve sampled from this brewery in recent years. And it was a bit light in terms of alcohol and flavor – which is surprising, given the brewery’s reputation. But certainly came through in terms of it being crisp and refreshing. It also has the characteristic yeasty effervescence of a Saison, with hints of spice, lemon and a bitter soapy finish.

Addendum: This beer recently won a gold medal by the Beverage Testing Institute. With a score of 93 points, the beer qualifies as “Exceptional”.

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Phillips Atomic Buffalo Smokey Red Saison

phillips_atomic-buffaloBrewer: Phillips Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Saison/Smoked Ale
ABV: 6.2%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: The Smokey Red is one of Phillips four seasonal releases for summer 2016. It is brewed in the style of Saison farmhouse ale, combining smoked pale red and wheat malts with a mild hopping, and then fermenting the mix with Belgian yeast.

Tasting Notes: Lately, I’ve been complaining about the plethora of Saisons and Sours that are out there. And so I was a bit hesitant to sample this one. But i have to say I enjoyed the combination. A red malt base is always a delight, and the subtle notes of smoke and Saison yeast play nicely off each other, alternating between mild smokiness and spiciness.

Appearance: Deep red, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, baked bread, smoked meat, Belgian yeast
Taste: Smooth malt base, mild sweetness and tang, hint of smoke, yeast spice
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast, malt flavor, mild smokiness
Overall: 7.8/10

Dead Frog Sunset Sencha Tea Infused Sour Saison

Dead_frog_sunset_senchaBrewer: Dead Frog Brewery, Aldergrove, BC
Style: Sour Saison
ABV: 6%
IBUs: 30

Description: Dead Tree’s latest limited release is their contribution to the current sour trend. And in their case, it involves a sour saison-style beer that combines Pilsner, aromatic and rye malts with Sterling hops which is then infused with Sunset Sencha leaves – a type of Japanese green tea.

Tasting Notes: This latest sour was certainly interesting. Combining saison yeasts, sour fermentation and tea contribute to a beer that is very tart, but also quite light and refreshing. Basically, its highly reminiscent of sour lemonade. While it was (much like most sours I’ve had this season) a little tart for my liking, it is undeniably refreshing and creative.

Appearance: Deep golden, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malt, tart fruit, yeast, lactic acid, strong citrus, green tea leaves
Taste: Gentle malt, burst of tart lemon flavor, hint of green tea, and 
Aftertaste: Lingering lemon flavor, subtle tea notes, clean finish
Overall: 7.7/10

Four Winds Sovereign Super Saison

fourwinds_sovereignBrewer: Four Winds Brewing, Delta, BC
Style: Saison
ABV: 8.5%
IBUs: 20

Description: As part of Four Wind’s Eurus series, which is named after the Greek god of the East Winds – Sovereign is a bottle conditioned ale that is brewed according to a venerable European tradition. Like a good Saison, it is brewed using pale malt, mixed fermentation and then dry-hopped to create a spicy farmhouse ale.

Tasting Notes: Four Winds did it again, providing me with one the better beers I’ve had in recent memory. It starts with a strong but smooth malt base, and then gets into some yeast cultures that just pop in your mouth. Notes of citrus, lavender, and oak linger on the tongue before things finish with a lingering bitterness that’s full of dry hops and spices.

Appearance: Deep amber, cloudy, very good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, citrus, herbs, dry hops, lavender, strong yeast
Taste: Smooth malt, citrus rind, lavender, effervescent, spicy yeast, oak, fruity esters
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast and hop bitterness, notes of citrus and lavender
Overall: 9.5/10

Category 12 Unsanctioned Saison

C12_unsanctionedBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.9%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description: Another Belgian-inspired creation by Category 12, the Unsanctioned Saison is part of their regular lineup. Superior Pilsner, Belgian Caravienne malts are combined with a hint of rye, bittered with Zythos hops, and then fermented using their household Belgian yeast strains.

Tasting Notes: Once again, I’ve reserved reviewing this beer until I had it in a bomber. This is the problem with living close to a brewery – it is exceedingly easy to get beer in growlers! Anyway, this brew was an exercise in balanced flavor. Crisp malts are accented by Saison yeast, which provides a nice, spicy bite. The Zythos hops and a touch rye provide some lovely balance by adding notes of pineapple and body to the mix.

Appearance: Golden/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Crisp malt, floral, spicy yeast, mild hops, faint trace of rye and pineapple
Taste: Smooth, semi-sweet malt, yeasty tang, pineapple and rye bread, spicy yeast finish
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast, rye, and malt sweetness
Overall: 9/10

Category 12 Transmutation Belgian Specialty Ale

C12_transmutationBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Belgian Tripel/IPA
ABV: 9.6%
IBUs: Unspecified (but high)

Description: This is the latest release of Category 12, which just premiered yesterday at the brewery, and amidst quite a bit of fanfare. Brewed in the Tripel fashion, but with a significant hopping consistent with a Northwestern IPA, this beer is brewed using Superior Pilsner and Belgian Caravienne malts, Hallertauer and Northern Brewer hops, and then fortified with Amber Candi sugar that was handcrafted in house.

Tasting Notes: Where to begin with this one? For starters, the term “Belgian specialty ale” is appropriate given that it has elements of both a tripel and a saison, but also some distinct West Coast flavor. This leads to an eclectic taste, where three times the malt, candi sugar and a high alcohol content lead to a powerful malt base. Add to that some strong yeast flavor and some powerful hops that compliment the yeasts, and you’ve got this baby in a nutshell. Between the fact that they handcrafted their own candi sugar to make this beer and it happened right in my backyard makes me especially proud!

Appearance: Dark ruby, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, sugars, notes of citrus and tropical fruit hops, strong yeasts
Taste: Rich and coarse malt, saison-like yeast, caramelized sugar, hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering malt coarseness, hop and yeast bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

The Bavarian Purity Law and UNESCO

german-beerGermany has always been a nation that is proud of its brewing heritage. So much so that the country’s brewing association recently began pressuring the United Nations to recognize that fact. In essence, the brewers association wants the Bavarian Purity Law (or Reinheitsgebot) – established some five centuries ago in 1516 – to become part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. In this respect, it would join the Argentinian tango, Iranian carpet weaving and French gastronomy, among other famous traditions, that are considered unique and worth protecting.

Written by Bavarian noblemen in the year 1516, the law states that only water, barley and hops may be used to brew beer (contrary to popular belief, yeast was added to the list centuries later when scientists discovered the fermenting agent). The law was aimed at preventing crops used to make bread from being squandered on brewing. In addition, it wrote the centuries-long practice of using hops to flavor and preserve beer into law – a practice which also ended the use of other psychoactive and potentially poisonous additives during the Middle Ages. But over time, it became synonymous with high-quality German beer and began to be adopted by brewers all over the world.

Muenchner_ReinheitsgebotCurrently, some 5,000 different beers carry its seal. Many brewers today still make beer that would pass muster under the law, though penalties for breaking it are long gone. Modern German brewers are also trying to be more creative with their beers while adhering to the purity law — for example, by adding hops that taste like grapefruit or pineapple. And for many Germans, especially those who endured the many decades of partition during the Cold War, the tradition is something they are especially proud of and want to see recognized internationally.

Marc-Oliver Huhnholz, the spokesman for the German Brewer’s Association, expressed these sentiments and the associations stances thusly:

It stands for the things you are thinking of when you think of Germany and beer and culture and friendship and all these positive things. I think it’s a traditional thing because it brings us together and holds us together as a nation within this more and more international lifestyles… The idea and message is that German beer is pure and will be pure in the future.

However, some German brewers dismiss the attempt to gain UNESCO recognition as mere arrogance. They say the purity law is from a bygone era and that Germany can compete in the world beer market without it.

reinheitsgebot2Opponents of the law claim that limiting his brewing to the centuries-old document restricts creativity. What’s more, they point to the fact that many nations produce high-quality beer that does not adhere to it. For example, Belgium produces such styles as Wits, Saisons, Framboises, Krieks, and Farmhouse Ales that make use of coriander spice, fruit, and other additives that are not permitted by the law. But these styles are internationally renowned and are considered historic examples of fine brewing. In this respect, opinion is roughly divided along lines of culture and historical preservation, and modernization and globalization.

Personally, and as someone who’s wife works in Heritage, I can certainly sympathize with those who wish to see this law protected. All too often, the process of modernization and change has the effect of eroding our cultural foundations. At the same time, I can sympathize with modern German brewers who would like to expand and adopt new ways of making beers. And since penalties associated with it have not been enforced for some time, there really is no reason to fear it remaining in effect.

And if the modern brewing industry has taught us anything, there’s much to be gained by marrying tradition to innovation. For those who want to get truly experimental, there’s plenty of opportunity to be had. And for those who want to keep making beer according to centuries-old traditions, I’m sure their will always be a market. And let’s not forget that we can do both. If the craft brewing revolution has taught us anything, it’s that we can experiment and innovate and keep traditions alive all at the same time.

And In the meantime, drink up, and have a happy holiday season!

Source: npr.org