Ever so often a beer comes along and makes you reconsider what a beer really can be. It pushes the boundaries and break all limitations by incorporating flavors which are simply delicious, rather than typical. Instead of asking ‘why’, this beer asks ‘what the F not!’ It should be no suprize, that the most recent beer to fulfill this stature is a collaboration beer brewed by some of the community’s greatest minds; Stone, Victory and Dogfish Head. The Saison du BUFF is Belgian-style saison brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
BUFF: Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor. A clandestine organization commided to liberating collective taste buds, citing the dastardly and/or oppresive reign of so called ‘fizzy yellow beer’. This is the sentiment on the back neck of the bottle (something tells me it was written by Greg Koch of Stone – just a guess), and does so perfectly represent the purpose of this beer; to help people realize true flavor and break free from the shackles of oppression which have held down our taste buds for to long!
A classic Belgian Saison is a combination of light pale malts, fruity, citrus and spicy flavors with a quenching, sometimes tart mouthfeel. While spice is meant to play a potent role in this beer along with moderate hops, herbs are not supposed to. Theres that word again – supposed. Who really cares what the beer is supposed to taste like? Isn’t real and delicious flavor the real goal? And who cares how that goal is reached! Greg, Bill and Sam of Stone, Victory and Dogfish Head are the perfect trio to answer these questions, and they did with flying colors!
This saison is literally brewed with bags of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Wheat malts were also added to give this beer a delicate, floral and effervescent feeling. Also, a newer hop variety, citra, was used to add a crisp citrus and slightly earthy character to the beer. This tasting was my first bottle, which was graciously sent to me by Stone (thanks guys!), but I am going to have to hunt for more, because I am still reeling with the feeling from enjoying this amazing creation. Well done guys!
This version of Saison du BUFF comes in a 355ml Stone bottle at 6.8% abv. There will be two other versions of this beer – just last week on June 10th the collaborative geniuses gathered at Victory to create a new version there, and before then on June 6th at Dogfish Head. Take a moment to check out the trailer that these three built for this beer – in typical fashion, it is pretty amusing!
Normally, I would open a big spicy saison around cellar temperature, but knowing that this bottle is from Stone, I did anticipate a reasonable dose of quenching hops, and wanted to enjoy the crisp refreshment that I was sure it would offer me. I opened the BUFF at a cool 8C (45F) and poured it into a Dogfish Head snifter. The pour was soft and delicate forming rich carbonation in the bottom of the beer as waves of clean golden saison rushed in to build a terrificly sturdy two inch white head. It was pillowy with precise carbonation and a great cloud like appearance. The beer itself was a slightly hazy, but overall was a transparent golden yellow showing light streaks of rich straw, bright orange and glimmering copper.
This glass was a beauty to behold – I snapped several shots as fast as I could in excitement, then held the beer into the light to admire it. It has been a while since a golden beer astounded me with a rich color like this and a luscious head. As exciting as it looked, the nose broke open the shackles and out poured hugely complex streams of aromas.
Sweet pale malts and fresh wheat first float easily into my nose showing a bright and clean beer. Quickly though, huge waves of herbs, floral hops, and citrus jump right in. The fresh grassy aromas of sage, earthy and gentle thyme and parsley, and the aromatic oils of rosemary bring me to a world of flavor which I have only previously encountered in food – and never to this sort of refreshment. Gentle hop bitterness glides in showing the clear path of the citra hop with juicy citrus notes, a light floral funk and added touches of sweet lemon. Hints of ripe fruits make their way in the back and play with fresh spice and wheat.
A superbly impressive nose got me very excited for the beer itself, and I could not wait any longer. I dove in and was richly rewarded with a smooth and creamy, yet effervescent beer showing the perfect combination and balance of sweet, savory, bitter, herb, spice, fruit and tart. The pale malts bring crisp sweet favors onto your tongue initially showing hints of banana and lemon peel. Soft wheat comes in with it showing light vanilla and fresh hay fields. This malt fresh sweetness is but a brief introduction to this beer, because in less than a blink your palate is opened to the freedom of flavor.
In comes hugely aromatic and clean waves of herbs, spice and hops. They intertwine in a lively state of victory. The sage is very grassy and fresh and pairs perfectly with the crisp, citrus and slightly minty flavors of the citra hop. Bright fresh lemon sweet flavors dance on my tongue, as rosemary brings a deep oily herbal flavor into my cheeks, while parsley and thyme balance the beer with earth, light funk and freshness. Spice is blended into every aspect of this beer, and the addition of the wheat malts helps it elegantly enhance each flavor with mellow vanilla and a clean, bright freshness.
In the back I am still reaching to find all the complex layers of flavor here. The herbs are perfectly distinct, and with the hop varieties adding a delicious fresh pine, and slightly minty character to the beer. This is really perfectly quenching. The mouthfeel is rewardingly calm with precise carbonation and a smooth crisp finish. It shows light spice, fresh herbs (mostly the sage), and again the sweet, and lightly tart flavors of lemon peel at the end. I want more of it – theres no other way around it. I want more! I can guarantee you have never had a beer like this before.
I can also guarantee that this beer would pair so perfectly with a huge range of foods! I’m thinking herb lasagna, pesto, roast turkey, beef or chicken. Even hamburgers, fish and chips, chili or pizza would be an amazing accompaniment for this unique and exciting beer. I am very excited to see what the next two versions will produce!