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Posts Tagged Saison

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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Beer of the Week: AleSmith District 6 Session Saison

Nov 13
AleSmith District 6 Session Saison

AleSmith District 6 Session Saison

From the Beer Writer: The impact of the local brewing industry is resonating at City Hall, where visionary public servants are seeing the job creation and fiscal boost craft beer brings to America’s Finest City. Particularly bullish on local brewers and working to do all he can to advocate on behalf of the craftspeople within his constituency is Chris Cate, City councilmember for District 6. Encompassing Miramar, Mira Mesa, Sorrento Mesa and Kearny Mesa, D6 is home to more breweries than any other district—or any municipality in San Diego County—with 21 (and more on the way in the form of Amplified Ale Works, Pure Project Brewing and Mikkeller San Diego). In celebration of San Diego Beer Week, Cate wanted a local brewery to craft a specialty beer to represent the region, and reached out to AleSmith Brewing Company CEO and brewmaster Peter Zien to do the honors. The result is this 4.2% alcohol-by-volume (ABV), session-strength Belgian-style saison. It’s the only farmhouse ale AleSmith has brewed in its 20 years of operation, making this a first for the company, the District and the City.

From the Brewer: “After 20 happy years of calling San Diego home, the brewers at AleSmith decided to conjure something special for one of the biggest champions of the local beer scene to come out of City Hall, District 6 councilmember Chris Cates. A unique ale style from the farmlands of Belgium known as “saison” was our choice to honor San Diego’s brewery-rich Sixth District. District 6 Session Saison is a light copper-colored ale with a relatively low ABV. Mildly hoppy with a tantalizing combination of spices, the aroma and flavor contain hints of lemon, citrus fruit and mild pepper. Designed for easy drinking with a complexity generated from European hops, spices and a Belgian yeast strain procured from our District 6 neighbors at White Labs, this saison pays tribute to our councilmember, our district and all of our fellow brewers within it.”—Peter Zien, CEO & Brewmaster, AleSmith Brewing Co.

NOTE: In addition to his work as Editor-at-Large for West Coaster, Brandon Hernández is also the Marketing Manager for AleSmith Brewing Co.

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Beer of the Week: URBN St. I Am Gruit

Oct 2
URBN St. Brewing's I Am Gruit

URBN St. Brewing’s I Am Gruit

From the Beer Writer: In collaborating with the team at URBN St. Brewing Co. as part of the Beer to the Rescue charity campaign raising funds and awareness for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California, I had the favorable opportunity to reunite with two cherished cohorts from my days at Stone Brewing Co.—brewmaster Callaway Ryan and co-founder Alex Carballo. Both kindly jumped into the funds-for-fermented-fluids fray (now that’s some alliterative poetry), which was very kind. I am a huge fan of URBN St.’s flagship farmhouse ale, so I was happy to hear Ryan would be employing the use of his house saison yeast. After we determined the time frame for the release of URBN St.’s Beer to the Rescue offering, he and I decided it would be good to bring in some honey and herbs to convey a somewhat autumnal flavor palate. Ryan took that and ran with it in a big way, eschewing dry-hopping in favor of heavy spicing in the style of ancient brewsters. The result is a big, Gruit-style ale evocative of something one might have come across in Germany as far back as a century ago.

From the Brewer: “I’ve wanted to brew a Gruit-style beer since I started seriously studying beer. There are so many different flavors one could put in a beer other than hops to balance out the malt. It’s an extremely old style, but at 9% alcohol-by-volume, this beer is definitely a modern interpretation. We brewed the base beer with floor-malted Bohemian Pilsner malt, Summer hops, a good deal of honey and our house saison yeast. After fermentation, I flavored the beer with tarragon, oregano, sage and ginger. We used more tarragon than anything, as its anise-like flavor plays really well with our yeast’s phenols. I’m really happy with how the beer turned out, and brewing it for a good cause only makes it better.”—Callaway Ryan, Brewmaster, URBN St. Brewing Co.

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