Le Trou du Diable – Dulcis Succubus

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Le Trou du Daible is one of a handful of premiere breweries out of Quebec, and Dulcis Succubus is a flagship beer from the brewery.  At least, that’s what I gather based on its astronomical price.  This price comes from the fact that it is barrel aged and it is produced with wild yeasts and spontaneous fermentation, all of which has been applied to a saison or farmhouse ale base.

Saisons with brettanomyces or other wild yeasts are one of my most adored beer styles.  There are a number of great examples out there, including Upright Brewing’s Saison du Blodget which I had quite recently.  Logsdon makes world-class examples of this style as well.  I prefer Dulcis Succubus to any of the aforementioned; it’s that good.

I think this comes largely from the barrel aging:  there is a good dose of oak flavour from beginning to end.  The nose is primarily fruit and some musty fruit skin:  apricot, pear, peach.  These are also present as flavours and combine with the big oak barrel character and a gueuze-like, complex yet gentle sourness.  The acidity of this beer is quite wonderful and is more significant than most saison-brett beers.  It’s a little dry thanks to the acidity and barrel character and wonderfully crisp from the saison side of things.

It has a high price of entry, but I truly believe if you like sour saisons, this is a must-try.

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Brassneck – Stockholm Syndrome

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Saisons with brettanomyces are pretty hip these days, though I swear my love for them has nothing to do with their popularity.  Brettanomyces, henceforth referred to as ‘brett’ for ease of typing, is a rather funky member of the yeast family which gets along famously with the tart, spicy nature of the farmhouse ale.  Its function is two-fold: it adds character and complexity to the base saison, and it adds a funky sourness as well.

Four Winds Brewing recently released a brett-laden saison which was the first of the style in Vancouver.  It was very exciting.  It was also very good stuff—perhaps not quite on par with Logsdon, but a very good first effort.  Brassneck has now come through with their crack at the challenging but rewarding style.

To answer the burning question of how it turned out, I would say it turned out really quite well.  I wouldn’t place it in Logsdon territory either, but it’s got great balance and really pleasant flavour.  I took some notes, though I preface that my note-taking is not incredibly insightful stuff:

Appearance:  Densely opaque, pale tangerine with that characteristic fluffy white head that leaves plenty of lacing behind.

Smell:  I’m getting apple skins, hay, earth, and maybe some clove-forward spices.

Taste: Bready wheat and sweet grapefruit citrus dominate the first portion of the palate while the long, long finish is dominated by the characteristic earthy funk that brett leaves.  It is reminiscent of Logsdon’s Seizoen Bretta though I find the Brassneck version to come across slightly heavier or denser.

Mouthfeel:  Rich body, carbonation falls a little short of perfect but it’s by all means good.

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Four Winds Brewing Co. – Saison Brett

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It goes without saying that I was uncontrollably excited when I heard about an upcoming brettanomyces-laced farmhouse ale from Delta-based Four Winds Brewing.  I’ve already been hugely impressed with both their product and their priorities, as Four Winds has produced a good number of inventive and excellent beers with a particular focus on farmhouse style ales AND have been the second brewery in BC history to cork their beer.

I was even more excited when I heard very, very positive things about this beer.  I bought four bottles Friday, about an hour and a half after they hit the shelves at Brewery Creek (I got there as quick as I could).  I didn’t open the first bottle until tonight.  You can now chalk me up as another strong supporter of this beer.

It pours a hazy golden yellow with big puffy head.  I was hoping for nearly-uncontrollable head size off this beer and I got it.  It is a mark of a great craft saison.  Smell is of orange fruits like peach and apricot, lots of barn-straw, grass, some gentle spices, slight pepper, and wonderful brett character – not overly funky, just a great added depth of complexity to the yeast character.

Taste is much the same – it starts off as an already great, fairly malty saison and suddenly the brett breaks through with a healthy dose of straw and a damp and dirty moss-like quality… I realize that may not sound appealing, but trust me when I say I mean it in the best way possible.  Moves towards a dry oak finish after all that, with the brett still leaving its mark.

Carbonation and mouthfeel are spot-on for the style and do nothing but support the excellence of this beer.  I commend Four Winds for tackling such a difficult and fickle style so early into their existence; the fact that they hit it out of the park the first try is just icing on the cake.

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Logsdon Farmhouse Ales – Seizoen Bretta

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Logsdon is a brewery out of Hood River, Oregon that has an old world charm and method that is rarely seen outside of Belgium.  Specializing in farmhouse ales, Logsdon is indeed brewed on a small farm, a farm which grows hops and cherries used (though not exclusively) in their beers.  Logsdon has taken the farmhouse ale scene by storm, having only been brewing under the name since late 2011.  However, brewer David Logsdon has experience dating back to the mid-80s.   Found in big 750mL bottles for not insignificant prices, you get a pretty good feeling you’re investing in something special right off the bat.  Maybe it’s the waxed cap or the classy labelling, the USDA organic logo or the rather steep price tag, or it could be that the beer nerd working at the liquor store was gushing on about how excellent it is.

This stuff needs to be poured slowly – the head explodes as soon as the liquid hits the glass.  It’s not a particularly dense head and does settle out after a couple short minutes.  The smell is of apricot, citrus, and orange – some yeasty funk that reminds me of old wood, but not gym socks.  The taste… this is a unique brew.  The brettanomyces yeast come into full effect once you take a sip, creating a very complex and dry saison.  It is a little musty, which to some extent prevents it from being refreshing, but instead creates an interesting world of slightly sour citrus and orange fruit, delicates spices, earthy hops, and gentle, bready malts.  It is 8.0% ABV which is about as high of a number as you’ll see on a farmhouse ale, but the alcohol does not make itself known at any point along the way other than to perhaps offer a boost to some of the other flavours.

This isn’t a saison that is trying to fit in with the pale ales.  This is a saison that is proud of what it is and proud of its heritage, and aims to achieve its full potential as a true farmhouse ale.  If you are a farmhouse ale fan (or even if you’re not), and want to taste a truly master crafted expression of the style, Logsdon Farmhouse Ales is about as good as you’ll find.

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