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Posts Tagged Saison

Beer of the Week: Toolbox Saison Chene Rustique d’Abricot

Aug 19
Toolbox Brewing's Saison Chene Rustique d’Abricot

Toolbox Brewing’s Saison Chene Rustique d’Abricot

From the Beer Writer: It’s hard to believe they’ve been in business nearly two years, but Toolbox Brewing Company (which will celebrate its second anniversary at its Vista tasting room on September 3) has been cranking away at its wild-and-woody pursuits for some time now. During that time there have been obstacles to overcome, due mostly to a far-too-high-profile split between ownership and their original brewer. But Toolbox has done more than repair any busted cogs. Current brewer Ehren Schmidt (who’s been there a full-year now) has hammered-and-nailed the brewhouse to fit his brewing methodologies, and visitors to the tasting room—where the most impressive of the brewery’s stock is presented—are benefiting big-time. Toolbox’s line of wild and otherwise soured beers is varied and impressive, but when asked which they are most proud of, the owners and brewers unanimously point to Saison Chene Rustique d’Abricot. Smelling of apricot flesh and tasting both floral and herbal in its Belgian-yeast influence with subdued stone fruit character, this 7.8% alcohol-by-volume farmhouse ale is a thing of beauty. It’s easy to see why the crew is so quick to hang their collective hats on this one. And bonus: unlike most prized bottled beers up for sale online (which happened a short while ago), there is still some of this beer in-stock at Toolbox’s tasting room. And starting later today, bottles of two new beers—a barrel-aged sour farmhouse ale called Nyssa, plus a version of that beer flavored with white peaches—will be available on Toolbox’s website.

From the Brewer: “The Rustique Series of saisonswhich so far consists of Chene Rustique and this beerare Toolbox’s tribute to times past. Chene denotes that this beer came from our American oak fouder. This variant has apricots added to accentuate the already complex characteristics of hay, citrus and oak with deep stone fruit flavor and aroma. Close your eyes and imagine you’re a saisonier working in the fields of rural Wallonia in Belgium, sipping a quaffable beverage such as this. This is our homage to those hard-working farm-hands, and a place and time when beers like these were necessities, not luxuries.”—Ehren Schmidt, Head Brewer, Toolbox Brewing Company

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Beer of the Week: Cellar 3 Natura Morta Boysenberry

Jul 22
Green Flash Cellar 3 Natura Morta with Boysenberries

Green Flash Cellar 3 Natura Morta with Boysenberries

From the Beer Writer: If you’ve never been to Cellar 3, Green Flash Brewing Company’s Poway-based tasting room-equipped barrel-aging facility, then you are missing out. Even with barrel-aged and soured beers on the rise throughout the county and the world, one would be challenged to find as much of it in as much variety at as good of a price-point as what Cellar 3 is offering. Were it in North Park or even Oceanside, it would be flooded with customers, but being out in “the city in the country”, it’s not all that convenient (unless you’re making a Costco or Home Depot run). The current Beer of the Week, Cellar 3 Natura Morta Boysenberry is worth a special-trip all on its own. The latest riff on a series of fruited red wine barrel-aged saisons that debuted during the 2014 edition of Green Flash’s annual Treasure Chest Fest (proceeds of which benefit the Susan G. Komen San Diego) incorporates boysenberries, which boost the tartness of the base-beer. It’s so berry-like you’ll feel like you need to pick seeds out of your teeth after enjoying a positively bone-dry finish. The 5.5% alcohol-by-volume beer is available in bottles or on tap, along with more than a dozen other barrel-aged creations. Don’t venture very far just for beer and need an excuse? Stop by on your next hiking trip to Mt. Woodson or deep East County trek.

From the Brewer: “After over a year at Cellar 3, Natura Morta Boysenberry is our first release that has been completely fermented, aged and blended under the Cellar 3 roof. For all beers released prior to this, we had started the long process back in our Mira Mesa location. The environment at Cellar 3 is controlled to our specifications and thoroughly geared to barrel aging beers. This beer is really outstanding in part because of this elevated level of environmental control. The process we use to make this, and the other Natura Morta beers, has been developed over a four-year period. We ferment our Saison in oak foudres with our house strain of Brettanomyces. This strain comes from the first wine barrel we ever used—a red wine barrel from a San Diego winery—that has been isolated and introduced to our program over the past several years. This house yeast strain is now in everything we do. After doing a 100% Brett fermentation, the beer is transferred into barrels where boysenberry purée is added. The house Brett then ferments out the sugars from the fruit and is allowed to age for between 6 and 18 months. The sugars that are fermented are from not only malt, but also from fruit, resulting in completely different flavors than you would find in a regular beer. What I am trying to do with these Natura Morta beers is utilize the yeast, malt and fruit to make a ‘beer’ that has not only the flavor of beer and fruit but the essence of the fruit.”—Pat Korn, Barrelmaster, Green Flash Brewing Company

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Beer of the Week: Council Les Saisons—Spring 2016

Apr 1
Council Brewing Company's Les Saisons - Spring 2016

Council Brewing Company’s Les Saisons – Spring 2016

From the Beer Writer: I recently attended the first-ever beer-pairing dinner held at Council Brewing Company. It was fantastic, and you’ll read all about it in my Plates and Pints column in the April edition of West Coaster. Numerous barrel-aged and otherwise rare beers from the Kearny Mesa business were paired with fine cuisine that night, but one of my very favorite was a beer that was served all on its own—Council Les Saisons. Presented as the welcome-beer, it poured with a great big, fluffy head, the retention of which was so profound, it gave me plenty of time to take in the aromas before getting to my first sip. The idea behind the beer was to convey the scents and flavors of spring, and it comes through on both fronts. The nose is like damp hay, grass and spring citrus, while the flavor is slightly tart, moderately funky and green as a freshly cut lawn. It has a number of qualities that evoke memories of authentic Belgian farmhouse ales enjoyed in their homeland. I was pleased to find out this beer is being bottled and will be available to the general public starting today.

From the Brewer: “Translated from French, les saisons means ‘the seasons.’ Our first release from this series features a Brett saison, Brett Brux from White Labs, well known for providing farmhouse notes that call to mind the smell of damp earth after a spring storm. The dry hop addition of East Kent Goldings contributes traditional floral notes. For a New World twist, we used Hallertau Blanc, which helped us to achieve a fresh, bright, fruit flavor. After aging the beer in oak barrels for months and then allowing further development in the bottle, we are happy to release Les Saisons—Spring 2016. On a side-note, we enjoyed this beer so much, we will be filling one of our new 30-barrel oak foeders with a future release.”—The Council Brewing Team

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Revisiting Toolbox Brewing Company

Feb 23
Toolbox Brewing Company head brewer Ehren Schmidt

Toolbox Brewing Company head brewer Ehren Schmidt

So young. So unique. So tasty. So much drama! All of these phrases have been used to describe Toolbox Brewing Company (1495 Poinsettia Avenue, Suite 148, Vista)—by me, at least. After a recent visit, I’m happy to delete that last one from the list. It would seem since parting ways with original brewer Peter Perrecone (who has since taken over brewing and the sour ale program at Belching Beaver Brewery’s original brewhouse just a mile north), things have calmed down dramatically. Much of that has to do with their current head brewer, Ehren Schmidt.

Young, colorful (in dress and personality), and both bearded and be-dreaded, his look belies his scientific, methodic nature. This guy is all about wild yeast and the various microorganisms that dry out, sour and otherwise transform ales into more outlandish and exotically beautiful quaffs, and he has a lab full of beakers and Petri dishes to prove it. But in-house bugs by themselves mean little. It’s how they’re incorporated into beers that matters, so I was eager to see how Schmidt was doing on that front. After tasting through eight of Toolbox 2.0’s beers, the answer is: quite well.

toolbox_beersThe tasting room’s current line-up is heavy on beers that were developed under Toolbox’s original brewing regime, but with tweaks and deviations by Schmidt. In general, I found that fruited beers like Purple Drink, a boysenberry sour ale, are a bit softer in their acidity. There is still plenty of pucker-power, but it’s a bit rounder and a little easier for entry-level tart beer tasters to take. That said, Bramble On Rose—a barrel-aged blackberry wild ale—assaults taste buds with sourness, eliciting salivation. It’s definitely for those who relish Sour Patch Kids, Warheads and beers that push the pH barometer, it’s also darn tasty. A cranberry and raspberry Berliner weisse called Bog Sauce is less sour, less fruity and can be consumed in greater quantities. That beer is currently available in bottles at select beer outlets.

Also on-tap was a second Berliner weisse, this one brewed with cucumbers. I’ve had several cucumber ales in my day, but this one tasted like more than just beery spa-water. Eighteen pounds of cucumber per-batch equates to some subtle vegetal, chlorophyll character, but there are also nice earthy, melon-like nuances and a bit of lemony zing in the finish from the base beer. It was easy to enjoy, as was Life Gose On, a traditional German-style Gose brewed with salt and coriander that was the first beer Schmidt brewed after signing on with Toolbox.

I tend to prefer sours to beers fermented using Brettanomyces. That’s mostly because so many brewers have yet to get a handle on how to best utilize Brett. It’s not easy. But Schmidt seems to be well on his way with this family of yeast strains. Proof came in the form of three Belgian-style beers—Funky Wit, a foeder-aged farmhouse ale called Chêne Bretta and a saison brewed with ancient grains dubbed Rustique. Each exhibited two things I look for in Brett beers—clean, sharp dryness and lack of plastic- or Band-Aid-like off-flavors. The witbier had a nice twang, Rustique was gentler overall with nice lemon rind flavor and bitterness plus a bone-dry finish, and Chêne Bretta was big on oak flavors (so much so that I could smell it) and a perfect example of what fouder-aging can do for a beer.

Schmidt also has a Shandy-inspired Berliner weisse brewed with grapefruit and young ginger, and has plans to release a sour farmhouse ale aged in foudres as well as a barrel-aged ale flavored with California Chardonnay grapes. When Toolbox’s personnel change occurred last August, many wondered if this 100% wild-ale brewery would be able to find someone to fill its initial brewer’s boots. Not many have the knowledge-base to take on such an ambitious role. But it would seem Schmidt is the right man for the job. If anything, Toolbox is better now than it was before, and considering how much I enjoyed it previously, that’s saying something!

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URBN St. Brewing calls it quits

Feb 1

urbn-st-logoEntrepreneurs looking to get some only-slightly-used brewery equipment are advised to contact the URBN Restaurant Group. The company has ceased brewing operations at its El Cajon brewpub, URBN St. Brewing Co., with no intentions to resume. That means everything from its 15-barrel brewhouse to its fermentation vessels and other appurtenant apparatuses are up for sale.

The decision to shut down was not made based on beer quality. Brewmaster Callaway Ryan and assistant brewer Ben Accord made good beer—URBN St. Saison was exceptional enough to earn a medal at last year’s Great American Beer Festival. It was an inevitable business decision following a lack of proper calculation when URBN decided to get into the brewing business by taking over the former site of the El Cajon Brewing Company back in 2014.

According to URBN Restaurant Group representatives, a primary investor was not aware how capital-intensive it would be to open a brewery. Because of this, the brewery opened lacking adequate funding. Selling beer became problematic because the beer could not be sold at a price that would sustain the operation. Eventually the decision was made to cut losses and stop funding the part of the operation that was losing money.

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