A fun-filled day with Belgian and Belgian-style beers? Yes please! Starting my balmy sunshined adventure at SD Taproom, then to Stone for the release of their collaboration Saison du Buff, and ending at PB Alehouse, it was a whirlwind of friends, smiles, and of course, delicious liquid enjoyment....Ahhh beer.
Russian River Damnation (Golden) 7.2% ABV: Lovely golden color with aromas of white pepper, green papaya, citrus, light spice, green foliage, and dry yeast. As it warms it piques the nose with that pepper element, similar to happens when you take a big sniff directly. That feeling of almost getting ready to sneeze, it tickles the schnoz.
A smooth entry and palate, with zero rough edges. On the finish, and this happens every time I drink Damnation, it reminds me of nutritional yeast. You know the delicious yellow-orange flaky yeast you find in co-ops and Whole Foods? (If you've never tried it you should) Damnation has that same curd-like almost cheese finish. My only critique is that flavor component lingers just a bit too long on the palate. It would benefit from a crisper, cleaner finish, which encourages you to take another sip....
Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze, 6% ABV: This inviting gueze is a blend of 1, 2 & 3 year lambics. Dr. Bill nailed it on the proverbial head when he said, "You get the iced tea aroma?" Bingo. Add to that a almost lemonade aspect, and it was the beer version of an Arnold Palmer. But WAY more complex, delicious, and infinitely more satisfying. Add to the mix wet straw and earth and you have the Fonteinen gueuze in a nutshell.
When I had this gueuze for the first time back in February, I drank the rest of this delicious brew long after everyone else had thrown in the towel. Drinks beautifully. A must-try gueuze.
Giradin Gueuze 1882 Black Label, 5% ABV: Wow. What a different example of gueuze from the Fonteinen! Initial notes of kerosene and rubber tire (much like an aged Riesling)hit the nose. I know some are you are thinking, "WHA?" But stay with me folks, it is not a bad thing here, and it does burn off. Secondary aromas emerge of citrus, sourdough bread, black pepper and dry spice. A wonderfully sour palate that is just as assertive as the nose.
If I had to categorize the two gueuzes, I would say the Fonteinen is the elegant, smoother, more refined style, with the Giradin as the more rambunctious, bold, and fiesty version. Both fantastic, with their own distinct personalities!
Dogfish Head/Victory/Stone Saison du BUFF: Holy herbfest! I think I hear Simon and Garfunkel singing in the background. Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme indeed dominate your aroused nose and tingling tastebuds in this renegade Saison. As Sam Calagione declared in the Saison du BUFF video(BUFF an acronym for Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor), the goal was to "bring it to a place Saison's never been before." And indeed they have. While the spicy, peppery citrus notes of a "traditional" Saison form the underlying foundation for the brew, the herbs form a veritable explosion of aroma.
This beer WANTS to be drunk. And smelled. And enjoyed. Every time I stick my nose in the glass, a different herb takes center stage. As attendee Nic commented, "You can chew on it. You want to chomp your back teeth on it. You can feel the leaves."
This beer begs to be outdoors, with sunshine, the grill fired, and amazing food, much like I do staring out the window on a cold winter day. Pair this with rosemary chicken, sage-stuffed turkey, sage sausage, rosemary herbed potatoes. Best pairing I would have NEVER thought of? Dr. Bill Sysak's match with Stone's Bread Pudding with Rajasthani Chai Creme Anglaise. Absolutely incredible.
CLICK HERE to read about my enjoyable visit to Stone to meet these 3 powerhouse brewers in March.
10th Anniversary Stone Imperial Russian Stout "GK Madman Mix": This beer is a intensely delicious result of Dr. Bill's inital blending of 8 years of IRS (Imperial Russian Stout), including the Bourbon-Barrel Aged, with Greg Koch's blending addition of Sublimely Self-Righteous and Chipotle Porter. Wow, that's alot to take in....The result?
Dark, dark chocolate, dried tobacco, molasses on toast, extracted dark fruit, fig syrup, charred wood, Bourbon. This fella pours out black as a starless night, and packs a serious aromatic and flavor wallop right to the jugular. Definitely give it a try if you have the chance.
Brouwerj Huyghe Delirium Nocturnum: 8.5% ABV: Appropriate for the final beer of the night, eh? After a full day of Belgian beer camaraderie across San Diego county, I wanted a sleep-inducing beer and I knew this one was the ticket.
Comforting aromas of dark honey, caramel, malt, date and fig. Imagine sticking your sniffer in one of the bulk bins of dried fruits...A bit of wildflower, heather, and lavender mingle with sweeter notes of candied fruit. Hints of citrus prevent it from being cloying. A nice ending to a delicious day. I went to bed dreaming of flying pink elephants...