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Posts Tagged Saison

Beer of the Week: Lightning Dark Current Ale

Jul 24
Lightning Red Current Ale, a black saison brewed with currants and citrus for Beer to the Rescue

Lightning Red Current Ale, a black saison brewed with currants and citrus for Beer to the Rescue

From the Beer Writer: Before I was a beer writer, I merely drank beer. It was fun, tasty and something I really didn’t put a lot of thought into. But when I was ready to go from merely enjoying beer to finding out what goes into making it and making a business of it, there was a local brewer who was more than happy to take the time to converse with me on those subjects—Jim Crute. The founder of Poway’s Lightning Brewery, Jim was the first brewer I ever shared a conversation with. At the time, I wrote solely about food and hadn’t yet expanded into the beer realm. The time he took to explain the art and science of brewing made me want to learn more, and made me want to meet more brewers and business owners. In a large way, he helped me to get my writing to where it is today and expand my passion for something I already loved into something I could share with my readers. I am very thankful for that, as well as this beer he crafted for my Beer to the Rescue lupus campaign. Coming in at 5.9% ABV, it’s an outlandish take on a Belgian saison that debuts today at Lightning’s tasting room (13200 Kirkham Way, Poway) Another upcoming debut for Crute will be an outdoor beer garden that’s an A-OK from the ABC away from opening to the public. Look for that to open come August or September.

From the Brewer: “We were proud to brew Dark Current Ale to support our friend in the beer trade’s lupus initiative, Beer to the Rescue. The beer—which is only available at the Lightning Brewery tasting room—is a Belgian-style farmhouse ale that incorporates black malt into the grain bill to give it a translucent black appearance. We’ve accentuated the farmhouse characters of this beer by introducing the flavors of orange zest and black currants. A play on words…for sure. A great beer to enjoy…definitely!”—Jim Crute, Owner & Brewmaster, Lightning Brewery

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Council’s new Beatitude Magic Factory

Jul 8
Council Brewing Co.'s Beatitude Magic Factory

Council Brewing Co.’s Beatitude Magic Factory

Though a nanobrewery, Council Brewing Company is big from a popularity standpoint. Just over a year after opening, marrieds Liz and Curtis Chism’s baby was getting too big for its britches from a capacity standpoint. Their answer: the Council Beatitude Magic Factory, an 1,800-square-foot industrial suite located in the same business park complex as Council’s brewery and tasting room.

The Chisms signed their lease on the property in February. After several tenant improvements, they began using it in April. It is currently home to six 45-barrel plastic tanks. Three of those are fermenters, with two being utilized for fruiting and the last one for blending. The space also contains a ten- and three-barrel fermenter. Overall, Council is up to 15 fermenters with seven being used for clean beer and the other eight for sours. Adding their secondary facility should allow them to up production more than 400% from Year One and as much 567% more than the initial 12 months once the space is maxed out.

Council Brewing Co.'s staff packaging a bottle-run of its tart saison

Council Brewing Co.’s staff packaging a bottle-run of its tart saison

The Beatitude Magic Factory is named after the company’s popular tart saison, because this is where it will be fermented, fruited, blended and packaged. The day I stopped by was their initial bottling of the beer, which will soon be sold at Council’s tasting room (with a one-case limit). It will also be lightly distributed to some bars and utilized for special events. The Chisms state lack of visibility as being one of the larger challenges of being a nanobrewery and hope that some placement of their beer outside the brewery will help them overcome that.

When asked why lead with a tart saison, Liz says it’s because the beer is well suited for San Diego’s mostly-sunny year-round weather. On top of that, the beer is a hit among Council’s fans, and the Chisms aren’t interested in competing in the local IPA arms race (even though their Bully Pulpit IPA took bronze in the American-style India Pale Ale category at last month’s San Diego International Beer Festival).

council_03The Chisms also have their eyes on a 4,000-square-foot suite within their park that, if acquired, will house a quality-control laboratory and be used mostly for storage as well as administrative space. Of course, the couple has plans that go beyond their current digs. They would like Council to grow into a larger brewery with a 30-barrel brewhouse; stainless steel, glycol-jacketed fermenters; larger barrel-aging program including a foudre farm. This is what they are working toward and, given their early success, the odds seem favorable that they’ll get there someday.

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Rip Current honors influential homebrewer with What Would Dave Drink?

Jun 30
Rip Current's What Would Dave Drink? Belgian-style dark strong ale honors QUAFF homebrewer Dave Levonian

Rip Current’s What Would Dave Drink? Belgian-style dark strong ale honors QUAFF homebrewer Dave Levonian

It happened in a most apt environment, a beer festival teeming with recreational fermentationists the day before the start of the American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrewers Conference (NHC). It was there, on Broadway Pier, that I bumped into Rip Current Brewing Company co-owner and brewmaster Paul Sangster, who escorted me back to his San Marcos-based brewery’s table to sample a beer very close to his heart. Dubbed What Would Dave Drink?, it was a Belgian-style strong ale referencing QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraterninty) legend Dave Levonian.

Dave’s last name may sound familiar to those in the local beer know as both Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits and The Lost Abbey brewed farmhouse ales called Brother Levonian Saison to honor the homebrewer, who sadly lost his battle with cancer back in 2008. Gone but far from forgotten, Dave’s legacy and spirit for crafting quality beer in domestic environs lives on in the many he touched, including Sangster, who offers up the following explanation of this very special beer.

“The AHA approached Rip Current and a few other reputable San Diego County breweries to brew commemorative beers for the NHC. They asked for 1,000 bombers to give to attendees. Having won the Ninkasi Award when the NHC was held in San Diego in 2011, I was happy to participate, but there was one sticking point—we don’t bottle our beer at Rip Current. So we had to get creative. I asked QUAFF if we could do a collaboration where the homebrew club would provide the recipe and manpower to help with bottling, and they agreed.

Dave Levonian's sister, Andra Fromme holding a bottle of her brother's tribute beer

Dave Levonian’s sister, Andra Fromme holding a bottle of her brother’s tribute beer

“A few of QUAFF’s leaders got together and decided to make a beer straight out of Dave’s recipe book. Since Brother Levonian was a saison, we wanted to do something different. Dave was particularly well known for his expertise with Belgian and English beer styles, and we found his recipe for a Belgian-style dark strong ale we thought would be great to make in his memory. We brewed the beer based closely on Dave’s recipe but with a couple of modernizations. As planned, Dave’s sister, Andra Levonian Fromme, and members of QUAFF attended the brew day to mill the grains, ceremoniously add in hops and drink several bottles of Dave’s homebrew that his friends had cellared. Three weeks later, we set up bottling stations and hand-filled all 1,000 22-ounce bottles with the help of a bunch of QUAFFers using eight homebrew-style, single-shot bottle fillers (i.e., beer guns). It was an incredibly fun day.

“Dave was known as both a beer expert and a foodie. Because of this, friends would often ask him for food and beer suggestions. This prompted the posthumous creation of a t-shirt that read: What Would Dave Order? And that’s where the name for this beer came from. Also popular was a shirt mimicking the logo aesthetic of Duvel, but altered to read “Davel,” referencing the name of a Belgian-style golden strong ale he created using notes from a conversation he had with Duvel’s brewmaster.

“What Would Dave Drink? is 9.8% alcohol-by-volume and recently went into distribution. During NHC, we gave out the bottles and poured the beer at associated conference events. All the feedback has been amazing so far, so we’re pleased to share the remaining barrels with San Diego accounts and visitors to our tasting rooms. But more than anything, we’re excited to hear friends of Dave’s who’ve tasted this beer say it’s very similar to what he brewed.”

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Summer of Saison

Jul 1

Check out our July issue for info on the history of saison, as well as 5 reviews that aren’t included in this post.

Although saison is a Belgian style, many of the best examples being made today are coming from American craft brewers who have taken to the style with great enthusiasm.   The free-flowing framework of saison is very similar to the brewing philosophies of many American brewers, and the style seems to be finding new energy at their hands.

One of the most popular and widely available is Hennepin from Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York.   A dry, spicy, and relatively clean example of the style, it is pretty easy to find and a good starting point if you are just getting acquainted with the style.   Boulevard Brewing Company out of Kansas City Missouri makes an outstanding strong saison titled simply, “Saison-Brett ” as a nod to the use of the wild yeast strain Brettanomyces during finishing; this gives the beer a dusty, funky, and lightly tart profile that is somewhat reminiscent of Fantome.   Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales from Dexter, Michigan is perhaps the American brewery that most strongly reflects the Belgian farmhouse tradition.   All of their beers are produced with open fermentation and see time in oak barrels where they pick up a distinctive mix of wild yeast and bacteria character that gives them a powerful signature.  Bam Biere is one of their flagships and is an incredibly flavorful and refreshing saison that falls into the traditional range at only 4.5%ABV.   The mix of woody and wild elements is subject to variation, and sourness develops with some time in the bottle, giving the beer a puckering and refreshing finish.

Being a California native, I have to give some credit to a few local brewers who are pumping out excellent saisons.  The Lost Abbey down in North County San Diego has in recent years gained a reputation as one of the strongest American saison producers.   Their standard saison, which was featured on the cover of our July issue, Red Barn Ale, is a particularly peppery take on the style. Read more »

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National Homebrewers Conference: A Saison for Every Season and Brewing with Unusual Ingredients

Jun 21
Drew Beechum President of the Maltose Falcons. Photo by Chris Hammett

Drew Beechum President of the Maltose Falcons. Photo by Chris Hammett

I’m not nearly as experienced of a homebrewer as many of the other people attending the National Homebrewers Conference this past weekend at Mission Valley’s Town and Country Resort, but I’ve brewed a batch or two of beer in the past and plan to brew more in the future, and knew that regardless of homebrewing experience, I would take away a lot of general beer knowledge from the conference.

The highlight of the conference for me was a seminar given by Drew Beechum, President of the Los Angeles’s Maltose Falcon’s titled, A Saison for Every Season. Beechum, whose love of Saison’s seems to exceed mine (and I love Saisons), focused on what in my opinion makes Saison’s one of the most interesting beer styles: the yeast. Beechum brewed a fairly basic Saison recipe at Eagle Rock Brewery in Los Angeles and then separated the wort into different carboys pitching different yeast in each. All told about thirteen different yeasts were used and during the presentation we got to taste seven of them. With the only difference between each sample being the yeast, it was pretty striking how different from each other each was. My favorite, and according to a show of hands the favorite of many other people was the sample fermented with White Lab’s WLP585, it had a big ginger and citrus flavor and was pretty tart, unfortunately this yeast strain isn’t commercially available.

In addition to the differences in yeast, another takeaway from Beechum’s talk was his modern ideas about farmhouse ales. Very few (if any) of us are exclusively using ingredients we grow ourselves in our beers, but Beechum suggested the modern definition of farmhouse ale could be to use ingredients that are locally available to you as a brewer. “If this beer style were to arise around you, what would you be using?” Beechum asked. He did admit that living in Southern California we get to cheat a little because of the abundant variety of produce available to us. A few hours later at Club Night Beechum proved that he practices what he preaches with his Guacamole Saison, a Saison brewed with Avocado Honey and all the herbs and spices one would expect to find in guacamole. It didn’t taste like liquid guacamole (and I think that’s a good thing) but many of the flavors came through to make it an enjoyable, if slightly unusual, beer.

Ron Jeffries Pouring an iO Saison at Pro Brewers Night. Photo by Chris Hammett

Ron Jeffries Pouring an iO Saison at Pro Brewers Night. Photo by Chris Hammett

Another seminar with some great information was Jolly Pumpkin’s Ron Jeffries’s Brewing with Unusual Ingredients. Jeffries talked about, and shared recipes for, some of Jolly Pumpkin’s more unusual and experimental beers while giving tips and tricks on how and when to use these uncommon ingredients. Among the more unusual ingredients Jeffries offered information on were things like kale and spinach (shred and add to mash), bacon fat (rack onto it, drop the temperature and then rack off leaving the fat on the bottom) and basil (“Don’t put basil in beer”, Jeffries said with a laugh, offering up no further explanation).

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