Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sour Grand Saison – Grand Teton Brewing Company

                I always look forward to the Grand Teton CellarReserve beers, because while I enjoy the annual and seasonal releases, the Cellar Reserve Series takes the normal releases up a notch to the level of extraordinary beers.  The annual May 15th release is the sour release of the year with the Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse in 2012 and Oud Bruin in 2013.  The 2015 sour release, Sour Grand Saison sounds like a beer that can blow the previous releases out of the water as a blended sour, utilizing three different brews; a traditional saison recipe, a batch fermented with Brettanomyces Drei, and a batch dosed with lactobacillus.  The blend of the three beers should add additional complexity and create a beer more interesting and arguably better than any of the three component beers.

                The blending of different components into a superior finished product has long existed in the worlds of wine, whiskey, and scotch; but only relatively recently expanded into the realm of craft beer with the expansions of barrel aging.  One of my favorite breweries out on the west coast, Firestone Walker has been successfully blending beers utilizing the palates of some of the best sommeliers in the country for their annual anniversary release.  The move by Grand Teton into the realm of blending is an awesome feat and sure to result in a beer that is superior to the sum of the component beers.  I went into Sour Grand Saison hoping that blending created an amazing beer able to draw on the characteristic flavors and aromas of each of the component beers while at the same time coming to represent something new.

                As usual with Grand Teton Cellar Reserve releases I reached out to Brewmaster Rob Mullin to get any additional information he might have that would shed light on the planning behind this beer.  This time around he wrote the entire description, so he didn’t have much to add.  Let’s move on to the review.

They Say:

            VICTOR, ID – Grand Teton Brewing Company, known throughout the West for their exceptional craft brews, is proud to announce the release of Sour Grand Saison, the second in their 2015 Cellar Reserve series.

            Grand Teton Brewing first brewed The Grand Saison in 2011. It was one of their customers’ favorite -beers, garnered rave reviews and won a major international competition. Not content to rest on their laurels, Grand Teton’s brewers have updated the beer for 2015.  Using an old brewing technique called “three threads,” they blended a trio of unique beers into one harmonious whole.

The brewers of Grand Teton started by reproducing The Grand Saison 2011 recipe. The first “thread” follows centuries of tradition, using European hop varieties—German Hallertauer Tradition, UK Goldings, Czech Saaz and French Strisselspalt. They used a very light base malt accented by just a touch of German Wheat and Munich malts. Finally, they fermented it very warm with a classic Belgian yeast strain to bring out the spicy flavors that are common to saisons.

The second “thread” fermented with Brettanomyces Drei (also known as Brettanomyces Trois.) This wild yeast from Belgium produces a very delicate tartness with lovely aromas of tropical fruit like mango, peach, pineapple and guava.

Finally, Grand Teton’s brewers produced a third “thread” of saison, this one soured with Lactobacillus, a common and beneficial microorganism that we encounter every day. It gives yogurt its tang and helps to ferment pickled vegetables such as sauerkraut. In Grand Teton’s Sour Grand Saison, Lactobacillus provides a delightfully tart, tangy and crisp, citrusy-sour flavor.

Each of the three “threads” were carefully tasted and combined to create the wonderfully complex and delicious Sour Grand Saison.

Saison is the original summer beer. First brewed in southern Belgium for thirsty farm hands, these crisp, bubbly, and refreshing brews demand to be consumed on hot summer days. Grand Teton’s version, with its acidity and blend of living microbes, should cellar well, becoming more interestingly tart and complex for several years.

This style pairs well with an astonishing variety of foods. Drink it with grilled sausage or chicken, green curry with coconut milk, or a summer salad with vinaigrette and crumbled bleu cheese.

            Alcohol by Volume: 7.5%
            Original Gravity (Plato): 15.5˚ P
            International Bitterness Units: 34
            Color (Lovibond): 5.0˚

Sour Grand Saison will be available May 15, 2015 in 1/2 and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 750 mL cases.

Brewmaster Rob Mullin adds:

                The beer was bottled with live Brett, so we do expect it to become even more tart over the next couple of years in the cellar. 

I Say:

Sour Grand Saison pours a slightly hazy golden amber with a thin, white medium to large bubbled head that quickly fades to a think collar of small bubbles around the edges of the glass.  The haze clears up with the beer becoming very clear as it warms to room temperature.  Aromas of guava, mango and peppery yeast phenols bound out of the glass.  Notes of tart lemon, pineapple and peach round out the aroma transitioning into slight peppery saison yeast phenols with a hint of ripe guava on the back end.

                Fruity aromas become fruity flavors with peach and mango leading.  Notes of citrusy pineapple and lemon provide a nice transition into a moderately tart sourness.  The peppery phenolics from the Belgian Saison yeast used in the first strain serve as a pleasant transition to additional fruity flavors from the second and third strain as notes of fresh guava, mango, and peach round out the back end.  Peach and guava linger into the aftertaste as an excellent fruity Brett Drei sign off.  With a moderately high level of carbonation and moderately light body this is sure to be a pleasantly refreshing beer over the hot summer months ahead.

                The three strains blended to produce this outstanding beer each presented an interesting variation.  The first strain brought the peppery phenolics that are present in many of the best saisons.  The second, Brett Drei strain brought with it the full, bright tropical flavors of guava, mango, and peach, really upping the fruity, wild flavors of the beer which should develop and become more complex as the beer matures in the bottle.  The third strain, soured with Lactobacillus, adds the excellent tart citrusy notes of that are at home in a good Berliner Weisse and serve to provide a refreshing lemony tartness, although the yogurty tanginess that sometimes arise from the use of lactobacillus is thankfully absent.  Each of the three strains serves to add excellent complexity to the released product creating an awesome beer that should age well for years to come!

                I am often a fan of Grand Teton beer releases, and Sour Grand Saison is no exception.  In fact, this is probably my favorite Cellar Reserve release since Double Bitch Creek (which I hope they bring back, 2016 CR release please?)!  This is a remarkable beer that should mature extremely well becoming increasingly tart, sour, and complex with age.  I know I’m going to pick up as many bottles as I can find when this makes it out to Wisconsin, so anyone in the Milwaukee metro area might want to try and beat me to it.

                That’s all for today, check back again soon for another review!

                Happy Drinking!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sour Safari – MobCraft Beer

                Mobcraft Beer has been releasing sour ales since shortly after they opened in 2013, although prior to this bottle release of Sour Safari, their sour offerings were primarily available at beerfests, with Sour Safari making its debut at Great Taste of the Midwest last year.  The bottle release of Sour Safari, which came out a month ago is a lactic fermented sour red ale in the vein of a Flanders Red Ale, but with a focus on the tart, vinegary notes that come from adding a healthy dose of lactobacillus to a beer either pre or post-fermentation.

A couple previous Mobcraft releases have taken on sour notes in the bottle after release, so my hopes were high that this sour release would have the strong sour notes characteristic of the Flanders Red style.  Arabian Date Night for instance had some considerable lactic, yogurty notes after being in the bottle for a couple months, and that was by all accounts an un-intentional souring; one that turned out remarkably well.  Sour Safari on the other hand is released as a sour, so it should have the aroma and flavor profile of a sour beer.  With a retail price in the $4 range for a 12 oz bottle, this is notably inexpensive for an American Sour and could be an excellent bargain for the style if it’s a good beer with only DESTHIL’s Sour Series coming in at a similar price point.  That said, on to the review.

They Say:
                Sour Red Ale Aged in Oak Barrels.

I Say:

                Sour Safari pours a hazy reddish tinted caramel with cuprite (bright red) highlights.  The beer is capped with a moderately thick, rocky white head that holds low retention (~2 minutes) before fading to a thin layer of hazy bubbles and a thin collar around the edges of the glass.  The aroma is fairly restrained with slight notes of vanilla, oak and balsamic vinegar on the front end.  Light dark cherry notes blend with a hint of solvent-like phenols and a subtle vague funkiness that’s too indistinct to tie down.  Cherry notes and the slight funkiness linger into the finish.  More cherry and fuller vanilla notes develop as Sour Safari warms, providing an exceptionally pleasant aroma.

                Mellow dark cherries blend with vanilla and a slight note of balsamic vinegar to lead the flavor.  A slightly yogurt-like tartness rounds out the back end with tart cherry notes and a flavor similar to red sour patch kids providing a nice, but restrained, sour kick.  Lingering notes of cherry and subtle oak notes linger long after the last sip.  With a medium-light body and a low level of carbonation, Sour Safari seems to fall a bit flat but maybe I just got an under-carbonated bottle.

                Being the first commercial sour release from Mobcraft I was hoping for the tart, lactic sour notes that have developed overtime in some of the other Mobcraft releases like Arabian Date Night.  Unfortunately, while sour notes linger throughout Sour Safari and tart balsamic vinegar flavors are beginning to develop, this beer will require considerable aging before it can compete alongside other sour red ales like Rodenbach Grand Cru, The Lost Abbey Red Poppy, Central Waters Exodus, or DESTIHL’s Flanders Red.

I’m usually a big fan of Mobcraft beers, but this one seems a bit rushed and could have used more aging prior to the release in order to gain the tart sour notes characteristic of a Flanders Red.  I’m going to give this beer the benefit of the doubt and say that it should get better with age; it’s just not there yet.  If you are looking for a good sour ale that you can open for immediate consumption, you might want to look elsewhere.  However if you have the patience to wait for this beer to develop then by all means pick up a few bottles and keep them in a cool, dark place for some extended aging.  As for me, I am going to look for more bottles, if I can find them, hide them away, and hope that in another year or two this will become a great Sour Red.

That’s all for today, check back soon for another post!

Happy Drinking, and remember to always Drink Wisconsinbly!