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.
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.
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.