Soaking Up the Suds with James Crane
Well, it happened. It is officially autumn.
The sun is going to go down a little earlier, the leaves are going to change, and your sleeves are going to start getting longer. Obviously, your beer is going to start changing too. As we creep toward the dark days of winter, they are going to follow suit, becoming bigger, bolder, thicker and also darker. Beer will take on all the qualities of a comfort food.
It used to be that I would wait all year for autumn beers. Summer beers were just a placeholder, something to drink while I waited for Oktoberfest and the onslaught of pumpkin brews. This year really seemed to change that for me, however. I found an appreciation for certain styles, many of which came from Germany or Belgium. Wheat beers and saisons paired perfectly with the hot days of summer without being bland and boring.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that while I’m excited for seasonal autumn brews, I’m not quite ready to bid my summer beers goodbye. If only there was some sort of transitional brew. Maybe something festive and malty, but with an herbal profile one might find in the heartier fare of the upcoming months. If only some brewery did something crazy, like took a saison and threw a bay leaf in it or something.
Wait, what is that? Dogfish Head did just that? Well, golly, Dogfish Head. You sure are swell.
Of course, it is more than just beer with a bay leaf floating in it. The brewery called it Biere De Provence Saison, a farmhouse beer brewed with lavender, marjoram and bay leaves. Obviously inspired by the classical spice blend of southeast France, this beer promised “a floral nose and a unique, dry spice.” This sounds like it could be a recipe for disaster concocted by an overly enthusiastic brewer. Dogfish Head’s name is attached to this one, however. It generally doesn’t go off half-cocked.
The beer poured a beautiful shade of gold with a slight head to it. The herb presence was certainly noticeable in the scent. This went along with the standard saison spicy yeast notes. It was that sort of clove and black pepper sensation. The lavender was particularly noticeable and oddly accentuated the smell of the malt.
I’m not even exactly sure how to describe the taste. It was so well-balanced that picking out individual flavors proved a bit difficult. Sure, there were the herbs, but each herbal sensation faded into the next one to where it was hard to tell where one began and another ended. There was malt up front and yeasty, dry saison spice at the end, but the middle was such a great mix. There was certainly marjoram, lavender and bay leaf, but they presented in such a non-obtrusive way that they were no more the focus than the traditional flavors of the beer.
This beer was neat. It was tasty, interesting and smooth. Best of all, it was charmingly subtle in its uniqueness. I’ve never had a saison like this before. The herbs and its 8.3 percent ABV make it a quite fitting for early autumn, while its classic saison qualities were a great throwback to the recently passed summer months. This is a great brew to dive into.