Four Winds – Juxtapose IPA

Of all the impressive local breweries who’ve opened their doors in the past couple years, none of them impress me more than Four Winds in Delta. I’m not alone on this. It’s not just that their beers are great, it’s that they’re great AND they’re unusual. Four Winds consistently takes on difficult styles and continues to have great success at each, including a couple different brettanomyces-infused beers now.

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Enter their Brett IPA called Juxtapose, which has been on the market for a few weeks now. Not a huge IPA at 6.5% ABV and 50 IBU but driven well into the category. Bottle conditioned as well, which is always a bonus when it comes to the feel of the beer. Plus, of course, the addition of brettanomyces, a family of yeast strains that add sourness to a beer through its production of acetic acid.

I’ve had a good number of brett IPA’s at this point, including Mikkeller’s Green Gold and Farmhouse IPA. My general feeling on the style is that it’s unique, interesting but I’d rather have a saison-brett. Just seems the saison base suits the style better, and there are incredible examples such as Dulcis Succubus with a great oak character as well. The tough thing about the IPA is that the base beer is best fresh, but brettanomyces can work wonders given time.

I don’t mean to suck up to local breweries but Four Winds has thrown a wrench into my whole assumption by producing the most satisfying brett-IPA I’ve had to date. It’s a perfect example of how brettanomyces can service an IPA: subtly. The nose is full of bright citrus with sweet grapefruit leading the charge plus some honey, and the brett character is ever-so-gently on the back end of things. Taking a sip is a mixture of pink grapefruit sweetness, light pine, and a nice modest acetic finish. It finishes with a clean acidity completely devoid of that “funk” character that wouldn’t suit the bright character of this beer anyway.

In the end, this beer drinks mostly just as a sweet citrus IPA that stops short of what most would consider a “double IPA” but absolutely does not lack in flavour. The brett only surfaces to put a little bit of an acidic touch on things and otherwise does not get in the way – exactly what I want in this style of beer. I’m all for pucker-fest beers, but this was exactly what I wanted this particular beer to be.

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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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Four Winds Brewing – Wildflower Saison

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Of all the incredible and exciting breweries that have opened their doors in the past couple years here in the lower mainland, none of them are quite as exciting to me as Four Winds.  It’s not because they are producing higher quality beers.  Yes, their beers as about as tasty as anyone’s in town but Four Winds would not be a clear winner on taste alone.  It’s because of the styles they are producing and the direction in which the brewery seems to be headed.

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Their first bottle release is corked.  Maybe to some it’s not a big deal, but to me it’s a huge deal.  Beyond the advantages of the cork (which, for a saison not meant to be aged, are debatable), it really indicates to me a set of priorities within the brewery that hit home for me.  Coming up soon is a barrel-aged saison with brettanomyces, and some time after that will be a black (or dark) sour.  From the cork onward, this is a lot of new ground for BC craft breweries.  I am terribly excited.

I visited the brewery a couple weeks ago, picking up a couple bottles of the above pictured Wildflower Saison, and I tasted all 8 beers that were on tap.  There was a standard saison (of which I brought home a 1L growler – it was really quite a good example of the style), this wildflower saison, an IPA, a white IPA, a pumpkin oatmeal ale, a sour cherry saison, and two others that aren’t springing to mind.  Every one of them was good – the white IPA stands out in my mind as it had a fantastic, big floral smell and was really tasty.  The wildflower saison was of a different batch than that which was bottled, and I was warned that the on-tap version was much more extreme on the floral qualities.  He wasn’t kidding – it tasted like a glass full of flower petals but it was really tasty.

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A friend found his bottle to be a little under-carbonated but mine poured with big head.  One thing I’ve noticed is there seems to be a lot of change from batch to batch – maybe that’s the one criticism that could be placed on the brewery at this time.  It seems though that despite the variation, each iteration is still quite delicious.

I found the standard saison to be full-bodied for the style with strong glove and spice notes (though not so much the pepper that’s commonly found in saisons).  The wildflower saison shares the same sort of malt character but pairs it with chamomile and rose petals.  It’s like a herbal tea meets a saison, but the saison is the dominant force.  In fact, the chamomile / flowery notes tend to show up in the back half of the palate.  The carbonation in my bottle is spot-on, with fine bubbles that crackle gently with each sip.

As soon as the barrel aged, brett-infused saison crops up I’ll be grabbing a few bottles and will report here.  I am quite pleased with this bottle; it did not disappoint.

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