Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Ilkley Siberia Rhubarb Saison

We bloggers are the rock stars of the craft beer movement. It must be true - BrewDog said it about me, Mark Dredge and Pete Brown when we went to brew Avery, Brown, Dredge. We go on tour, smash preconceptions with an iconoclastic dry-hopped rye mild, and then write a thousand unpunctuated words about it (that was Adrian Tierney-Jones at Arbor Ales, with Ryeteous Mild - I lied about the punctuation). And Melissa Cole didn't bugger about when she went to brew at Ilkley - a rhubarb saison with vanilla, grains of paradise and orange peel. Have at you, convention!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - saison is the riesling of the beer world. It's a delicious, complex and under-appreciated style that can hit the mark like nothing else. It's also tricky to get right - I'm not sure that I've ever had a cask saison that's been worthy of the name, and even keg saisons seem to lack a certain something. But taking the cap or cork from a bottle of saison, and the eruption of escaping gas, with it's faint aroma of hay, spice and sweet silage on the breeze, seems to bring the beer to life in a way that draught dispense just doesn't. Garrett Oliver talks about the eruption of life force you get when opening a saison, and he's right, not just in the force of the escaping gas, but also the pungent aromas too. It needs all that busy carbonation to lighten the palate and make it taste just so.

I didn't get to try this beer on draught, but I doubt that it could better the bottles. All the classic saison hallmarks are there - brisk carbonation, complex yeasty spiciness, dry finish - and each one of these is accentuated very subtly by the ingredients. The vanilla slightly fills out yeasty palate, the spices lift the aromatics a touch, and the rhubarb adds a slight tartness to the finish. Much as I love hops, it's nice to try a beer that has been made subtly modern without the addition of armfuls of the damn things. Hazy, lovely and moreish. Nice work all concerned.

NOTE: I'll be buying and selling this beer through the business I own, although I don't think this has influenced my opinion of it

26 comments:

  1. will be looking out for a bottle!

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  2. I loved it on draught so I'm very much looking forward to getting hold of a few bottles of it. Saison is fast becoming one of my favourite beer styles.

    Grand review

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  3. I loved this on cask, it was subtley sour with every one of the complex flavours blending together really well. Can't wait to see if it's even better in bottles!

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  4. Replies
    1. discount for a dozen, if you collect!

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  5. I want Pete Brown's version... ;)

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  6. Saison is not under-appreciated in my house.

    Agree with your point on the bottles – I've had Saison Dupont, one of my Top 3 Beers Ever ©, as fresh as you like out of a keg and although it was stunning, I've definitely had better bottles.

    I'm intrigued to see what rhubarb adds this style; I imagine the dry tartness works really well.

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  7. Saison is also much misinterpreted, the modern benchmark is Dupont with its highly attenuated hops and blessed yeastiness, but some of the American interpretations I've sampled bare little resemblance to Saison. Probably the best I've had would be the one Yvan brewed at De la Senne a couple of years back, dry and lip smackingly thirst quenching, just as it should be.
    Haven't had Melissa's Rhubarb Saison yet so can't comment on it, but Grains of Paradise? Shades of Sam Adams Summer Ale?

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    Replies
    1. Not had SA Summer Ale, but I believe that Grains of Paradise (a sort of peer, as I recall) were a "traditional" brewing ingredients in "times past".

      That sentence has so much conjecture and "bunny ears" as to be totally meaningless, sorry

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  8. Of course the convenient thing about "saison" is that the "style" is such a broad church really. You can't quite shoehorn everything into it but it seems to be pretty accommodating - dark, light, hoppy, not-so-hoppy, you name it really. Is saison the true beer geeks' IPA these days?

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    Replies
    1. I think so. And saison is definitely one style totally defined more by the yeast used than anything else

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  9. Definition or I'm digging another bottle of auslese out of the inspection pit.

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  10. I found the beer too sweet for a saison, more like a Belgian ale instead. Wasn't impressed.

    Regards,
    TavastlandBrewing

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    1. It is certainly a little sweet, but I'm not sure what "too sweet for a saison" really means. Is it a beer-without-style because of its sweetness, a rogue beer with no category home, destined to be drunk, uncategorised and forever unknown?

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. I thought the beer was great and will be reviewing it myself shortly, but honestly I have no idea what English speaking brewers mean these days when they say 'saison' -- other than to conjure up a generally rustic, late summery Belgian image with a whiff of funky yeast. Loved the idea of including rhubarb in a beer brewed not that far from the rhubarb triangle.

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  13. One bottle please Mr Avery, as I live right on the border of Rhubarb Triangle it's only right!

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  14. Soon it will be possible to neck nowt but beer blogger beer. As Winnie said "The empires of the future are the empires of the mind"

    How come the label doesn't make it obvious it's blogger grog? I'd put your grog higher up the list as that had 3 beer bloggers for the price of 1 but one can dream of the day one tastes a bottle of single blogger Avery, without the crude aftertaste of Dredge or Brown.

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    Replies
    1. and that single blogger ale would be blogged about by a Brewer guesting on a beer bloggers blog

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  18. Look forward to trying this. I am a fan of saison/farmhouse ales. But I'm a bit sceptical...
    Unless they are using a Belgian yeast, I don't see how it can taste like a "proper" saison.

    Yeast makes beer. Especially Belgian beer.

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Sorry about the word verification - the blog was getting spammed to bits.